Infant’s tragic murder spotlights courthouse misery
A Brooklyn judge imposed yet another severe sentence yesterday for a defendant who was convicted for murdering a child.
In June 2017, Tammy Lewis dropped off her 16-month-old daughter, Nylah Lewis, at her father’s Coney Island apartment. Shaquan Taylor, then 18, was expected to spend time with his daughter for Father’s Day.
That Sunday, annually dedicated fathers across the country, turned deadly when Tammy Lewis received a text from Taylor alerting her that their baby was having trouble breathing, prosecutors said.
“I was speed walking over there hoping she was okay,” wrote Tammy Lewis, 18, in a victim impact statement that was read by Assistant District Attorney Frank DeGaetano to Justice Vincent Del Giudice yesterday.
When Tammy Lewis arrived back to the West 32nd Street building, she was horrified to see her infant daughter unconscious on the couch with bruising from head to toe.
Lewis hurried Nylah out of the apartment, but an aggressive Taylor followed behind and began beating her. Taylor paused his rage outside of the building, passed their unconscious baby to a stranger and continued his assault on Lewis.
Nylah was admitted to Coney Island Hospital with a fractured skull, loss of oxygen to the brain and bruising all over her body. She was later transferred to Maimonides Medical Center, where she remained in a coma for five days.
“When I had to make a decision to take her off of life support, it’s like a part of me died too,” wrote Lewis, who was comforted by her grandmother, Janice Mumford, in the audience.
Nylah died from her injuries on June 23, 2017.
“I don’t ever want to have kids anymore, because I will also wonder if the same thing will happen, how will I explain who Nylah is to her brother or sister?” wrote Tammy Lewis. “She’s never coming back,” she cried.
Despite the violent crime at hand, Brooklyn prosecutors suggested — before closing arguments during the jury trial — that Justice Del Giudice agree to allow Taylor to plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter charges in exchange for 17 years in prison, said defense attorney Jonathan Fink.
But the deal did not pan out. “The Court did not believe this case warranted a manslaughter conviction,” responded Justice Del Giudice.
Eighteen at the time of the crime, Taylor was ineligible to receive youthful offender treatment because he already received the label for a prior violent case, the details of which are sealed as a condition of the status.
According to the state’s Unified Court System’s website, a youthful offender is “a person charged with a crime alleged to have been committed when he/she was at least sixteen years old & less than nineteen years old. Youthful Offender status is granted at sentencing in the interest of justice & is meant to relieve the eligible youth from the onus of having a criminal record.”
Taylor, who is taking plumbing classes while on Rikers Island, was completely silent as the judge handed down a sentence of 25 years to life, further aggravating Taylor’s father, whose anger called for several court officers to separate him from the Lewis family.
“I’m a victim too! That’s my grandbaby that’s gone too,” screamed Taylor’s father as he and other relatives were escorted off the 21st floor of Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Like Justice Del Giudice, judges throughout the Downtown Brooklyn courthouse often hand severe sentences to men and women — sometimes teenagers — for causing the death of children.
In October 2016, Leila Aquino, then 20, received a second chance to turn her life around after her 2-year-old daughter died in a fire while home alone. Justice Deborah Dowling gave Aquino a community service plea bargain in exchange for staying out of trouble. Less than six months later, when Aquino violated the conditions of the plea, Justice Dowling sent her to prison for up to four years.
In October 2017, Justice Ruth Shillingford sentenced Kareem Potomont to 24 years in prison after Potomont opened fire on two men in the middle of the street on a Sunday afternoon in April 2014, a stray bullet hitting 13-year-old Gama Drioville, who lost his eye.
Christen Dale was sentenced to 24 years in prison in June 2017 by Justice Miriam Cyrulnik for beating her 4-year-old nephew, Ethan Ali, to death. Dale told the police that the beating had been a disciplinary tactic, after the toddler had incorrectly spelled a word during a spelling lesson.
Justice Del Giudice sentenced Daniel St. Hubert to 50 years to life in prison in May 2018 for knifing two children P.J. Avitto and Mikayla Capers, ages 7 and 8, respectively, inside an East New York elevator.
Each criminal case finds its own conclusion based on its facts and evidence. In the death of Nylah Lewis, Justice Del Giudice was particularly affected by the youth of those involved. “This was an unspeakable tragedy,” he said yesterday. “A baby is dead at the hands of another child.”
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