Jury: ‘Moo Moo’ not guilty
BRIDGEPORT — And on the sixth day Jamal “Moo Moo” Hamilton was acquitted.
The reputed gang member accused of the 2015 Trumbull Gardens mass shooting that helped change the face of the city’s administration and the way it polices housing projects was cleared Friday of all charges stemming from the killing of a Shelton man and the wounding of eight others.
“Mr. Hamilton maintained his innocence from day one,” said Michael Riley, his court appointed lawyer. “The witnesses were not credible and the jury was right in not relying on their testimony.”
On the other side, police Chief A. J. Perez said he was “extremely surprised, shocked and very disappointed” at the outcome.
“This was a great case,” Perez said. “The police officers who worked this did an outstanding job. They crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s.”
Perez said there “are no other suspects. He was the one. We had an eyewitness. ”
“I was on the scene,” Perez said. “I saw Savonie in the hospital with a bullet in his head. He did not deserve that. His family did not deserve this.”
Hamilton, 24, has been linked by some to a gang operating out of the Greene Homes housing project. He has a history of drug dealing arrests and a drug-selling conviction, authorities said.
On Friday, a jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 20 minutes before sending a note to state Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky, advising him they had finished after deliberating for six days.
Shortly after 11 a.m., the judge summoned them to the courtroom, while a team of five State Police troopers bolstered a group of judicial marshals and plainclothes police officers stationed in the courtroom.
Six police cruisers ringed the courthouse grounds, and more officers in uniform and plainclothes, on foot and on a Segway, patrolled the area.
Their presence was not required, since none of the expected tensions between families and friends developed.
“Given the magnitude of what happened, we had to make sure there was enough police presence if sentiments boiled over,” Perez said. “Thank God, nothing happened.”
Inside the courtroom, Kavanewsky told Hamilton, whose black-framed glasses and neatly trimmed hair and beard gave him a scholarly appearance, to stand. Hamilton, wearing a dark green striped shirt and brown khaki-style pants, stood and listened as the verdicts were read by the jury foreman.
The foreman answered each of the charges ranging from murder and manslaughter to first-degree assaults and carrying a pistol without a permit with a “not guilty” finding.
Meanwhile, neither Hamilton nor his three female relatives sitting in the courtroom showed any emotion.
But then Kavanewsky threw the jury a surprise. He told them they had to hear evidence and deliberate yet another charge — that Hamilton criminally possessed a pistol or revolver during the June 11, 2015, shooting spree that left Savonie McNeil, of Shelton, dead and seven others wounded.
Seven of the eight victims were in a Trumbull Gardens parking lot listening to music, talking and drinking. An eighth was in her apartment taking a shower when a bullet pierced the walls and her buttock.
The shooting prompted several federal legislators to visit Trumbull Gardens to console the residents and demand tougher gun laws.
Hamilton did not testify in his trial. Two of the shooting victims, who know Hamilton, testified that they did not recall seeing him at the scene.
The shooting sparked a battle that eventually gave Joe Ganim, a second chance citizen, the mayoral election and a second chance at running the city. Ganim quickly stole the thunder from incumbent Mayor Bill Finch by repeatedly walking the housing project, meeting with residents and renting a storefront for patrolling police officers to use as a substation.
It also led to Finch and former Chief Joe Gaudett later opening their own substation, but their delay marked the beginning of the end for both men. Finch lost to Ganim in the Democratic primary, and Ganim won the mayoral election and quickly replaced Gaudett with Perez in the chief’s chair.
The evidence the jury heard on the new charge was limited to a stipulation read by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Michael DeJoseph and agreed to by Riley. Kavanewsky then instructed the jury on the law involved in the charge.
After another half hour or so, they came back with another not guilty finding.
This time, Hamilton looked over at his three relatives and smiled.
“Thank God this it’s over,” an older relative said later. Her companions declined to comment.
Shortly after that, judicial marshals walked the 12 jurors out the rear of the courthouse onto the adjacent, nearly vacant Baldwin Plaza, where only Riley; Darnel Crosland, former State Sen. Ernest Newton’s last lawyer; two of Crosland’s clients and and media members stood.
Both the foreman and another juror declined to comment when asked questions by Hearst Connecticut Media.
He remains in custody while serving a five-year sentence for violating his probation on a 2008 drug sale charge.
On Tuesday, he will return to the Main Street courthouse, where he still faces five counts of drug sales and four counts of selling drugs within 1,500 of school or housing project.
Those charges stem from a June 4, 2015, arrest. He also faces charges of second-degree criminal trespass and interfering with an officer stemming from an April 11, 2015, arrest.