NEWARK, NJ — In the case against Ali Muhammad Brown, who was charged with the murder of 19-year-old Brendan Tevlin of Livingston, acting Essex County prosecutor, Robert Laurino announced on Tuesday that Brown pled guilty before Hon. Ronald Wigler, judge of the Superior Court.
Brown fatally shot Tevlin at a stop light in West Orange on June 2014 after the Seton Hall Prep alumnus was hanging out at a friends house and was on his way home to Livingston. Brown, 34, of Seattle, initially told investigators that this was an act of vengeance for innocent lives lost in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“One thing the public can be assured of: this serial killer will never be allowed to walk the streets again,” said Laurino. “This has been an extraordinarily difficult time for the Tevlin family, and our thoughts are with them. We hope that this plea provides them with some degree of closure.”
Yesterday, jury selection was underway when Brown indicated that he was willing to plead guilty to the following charges: first-degree murder, first-degree terrorism, first-degree felony murder, first-degree carjacking, first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Laurino held a press conference in Newark on Tuesday afternoon, where it was announced that this is the first time the New Jersey terrorism statute has been used in connection with a homicide. Brown will face a mandatory life sentence under the terrorism statue alone, according to Laurino.
"We did not negotiate with the defendant," he said. "From the beginning, our position has been that he had to plead to all the charges or we would go to trial and let the jury decide. "Today the defendant, in open court, admitted to the heinous acts he committed the night he took Brendan Tevlin's life. Because of his admission, we expect that when he is sentenced on May 1, it will mean that he will never be a free man again."
West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, who, along with his wife Sheila, are friends of the Tevlin family, said that although there is "nothing good to this situation," he is glad the trial is over and that Brown will never be a threat to society again.
"I hope this small step provides the Tevlins some solace," said Parisi. "Despite this evil, it has done nothing to diminish the memory and legacy of Brendan's life and all he meant to everyone that knew him."
West Orange Police Chief James Abbott also extended condolences to the Tevlin family, stating that Brendan is "irreplaceable" and will be sorely missed.
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura added that this guilty plea brings closure to "one of the darkest chapters in Essex County crime history."
Brown has already been serving a 35-year sentence in New Jersey state prison for armed robbery. He was also previously convicted by federal authorities of bank fraud and in Washington state, convicted of sexual contact and aggravated assault.
In addition, Brown has an open case in Ocean County and three homicides in Washington State. These currently remain accusations and Brown is considered innocent of those charges until he is convicted in a court of law or enters a guilty plea.
"[Brown] randomly targeted and executed an innocent defenseless teenager, and admitted in open court to doing the same to three other young men in Washington," said assistant prosecutor/director James Semper. "He grievously harmed families and terrorized entire communities across the country. This defendant is no martyr, he's just an admitted terrorist who will now spend the rest of his life in prison. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Tevlin family, and all those affected."
On behalf of the Tevlin family, Laurino read the following statement on behalf of the Tevlin family:
“On this difficult day, the Tevlin and McNulty families are grateful for the continuing expressions of love and support we receive on a daily basis from our families, friends and countless others in the community. At this time, we appreciate your understanding of our need for privacy as we remember Brendan and prepare to speak on his behalf at the sentencing.”
The families also expressed their gratitude to the members of all the law enforcement agencies who “worked so tirelessly on Brendan’s behalf.”