NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Federal prosecutors don't appear likely to seek the death penalty for an alleged Hub City hitman who is charged with killing two people in connection with a prostitution gang, according to court records.
Wilmer Chavez-Romero, 27, was initially set to appear in federal court in Newark this morning to face charges related to racketeering, murder and other crimes. But late last month, U.S. District Judge William H. Walls signed an order delaying the trial through Feb. 7., a move agreed upon by attorneys for both sides.
“The discovery in the case is expected to be voluminous,” Walls wrote in his letter, “consisting of, among other things, autopsy reports and crime scene evidence from multiple murders.”
Under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, the case against Chavez-Romero, a New Brunswick resident who goes by the street name “Charmin,” qualifies as “unusual or complex,” according to the judge.
Considering that, he wrote, the 60-day deferral will best serve the interests of the public and the defendant. The decision gives the defendant's attorney more time to review the evidence against him and mount a proper defense, according to the court.
Chavez-Romero has pleaded not guilty to one count each of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to harbor aliens resulting in death. He has also pleaded not guilty to two counts each of murder in aid of racketeering and the use of a firearm for violent crime.
Chavez-Romero’s alleged crimes make him vulnerable to the death penalty. But last month, his federal public defender, Kevin Carlucci, wrote in a letter to the court that the government’s decision to rescind the appointment of another attorney as “learned counsel”—legal jargon for an attorney who handles death-penalty cases—suggested capital punishment was off the table.
Although New Jersey has outlawed the death penalty, it remains legal on the federal level. The last time a criminal was executed in the state was in 1963.
Chavez-Romero allegedly worked for a prostitution gang made up of undocumented immigrants from March 2011 through September 2014. The criminal enterprise allegedly operated in several New Jersey counties and municipalities, including New Brunswick.
The gang used violence—and murder—to protect its territory and fend off operators of rival brothels, according to the indictment.
Chavez-Romero is accused of killing two people over gang business.
The first alleged murder occurred on Sept. 4, 2012, in Mercer County, where he used a gun to kill his victim, according to the indictment. The next slaying took place on Jan. 23, 2013, also in Mercer County, where Chavez-Romero is again alleged to have shot and killed someone.
He allegedly worked as the “house manager” for a brothel in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, according to the indictment.