AP NEWS

Bridgeport man convicted of violent crime spree in Stamford and Norwalk

January 26, 2019

STAMFORD — After two days of deliberations, a Stamford jury late Friday afternoon convicted a Bridgeport man of two armed robberies in Norwalk, an attempted murder in Stamford and torching a car on Stamford’s West Side.

After being found guilty of more than a dozen felonies, Onaje Smith, 20, could be sentenced to up to 206 years behind bars when he returns to the Stamford courthouse for sentencing on April 5.

Smith is also facing a separate murder charge in the shooting death of Stamford resident Shane Slinsky in Bridgeport in August 2016.

The conviction came after a two-week trial prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Manning, who put up dozens of witnesses and exhibits to gain the guilty verdicts. She was not at the courthouse Friday and could not be reached for comment.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Manning told the jury they had more than enough evidence to convict Smith on all counts.

Smith’s defense attorney Miles Gerety did not immediately return a call for comment on Saturday.

Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin congratulated Manning for her work on the case.

“Smith was part of a group of individuals whose violent crimes had a big impact on the region. We want to congratulate Ms. Manning and her investigators on their successful prosecution,” Conklin said. “We were really happy to apprehend this group because they were on a real tear throughout the region and involved in a lot of violent shootings.”

A month before the trial began, Smith’s co-conspirator in the case, Tyreik Gantt, 21, of Stamford, decided to not go to trial and to instead make open guilty pleas to identical charges in the case. He also faces up to 206 years in prison when he is sentenced in Stamford on Feb. 27. Apparently feeling confident of her evidence in the case, Manning would not offer Smith a plea agreement.

Gantt’s defense attorney John Thygerson said he fully expects his client to receive far less prison time than what Smith will get from Judge John Blawie, who presided over the trial.

“There is a truism that defendants are charged a premium, at sentencing, for having gone to trial and lost rather than avail themselves of a plea bargain,” Thygerson said. “These types of cases are never easy for defense counsel. The charges are serious, the crimes sometimes brutal, the evidence graphic and the offers to resolve the cases made by the state involve periods of incarceration young defendants simply cannot get their heads around.”

Gerety, former lead public defender at the Danbury courthouse, is an experienced trial lawyer, Thygerson said.

“Clearly, he and his client had lengthy discussions regarding the nature of the evidence the state was prepared to present. And I can only surmise he made an analysis of that evidence and presented it to his client, who ultimately had to make the decision to go to trial or not go to trial,” Thygerson said.

Smith and Gantt were involved in a large crime spree in 2017, with the Stamford police at the time saying that the two had been “wreaking holy hell” on lower Fairfield County.

At Gantt’s plea hearing, Manning said the two robbed two Chinese food delivery drivers in Norwalk in January 2017, shooting one in the leg and arm and stealing his car. Minutes after one of those robberies, Gantt was seen on a surveillance camera at a Stamford gas station pumping gasoline into the back seat of the car, which moments later was found engulfed in flames on Oakwood Place in Stamford.

The two also shot at a rival gang member during a drive-by that same month, Manning said, and both were involved in following a rival 19-year-old man into a West Main Street convenience store in Stamford and shooting him in the left temple and abdomen. The man survived.

Smith is held at Cheshire’s Manson Youth Institution on $2.685 million court appearance bond as he awaits sentencing.

AP RADIO
Update hourly