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Schenectady teen's killer gets 30 1/2 years to life

Judge has harsh words at sentencing

Thursday, June 20, 2013
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James Wells, center, his attorney, Cheryl Coleman, left, and Katy Conklin listen during Wells' sentencing in Schenectady County Court on Thursday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
James Wells, center, his attorney, Cheryl Coleman, left, and Katy Conklin listen during Wells' sentencing in Schenectady County Court on Thursday.

— Eddie Stanley’s killer was sentenced Thursday afternoon to a total of 30 1⁄2 years to life in prison, with the judge adding some harsh words.

Judge Michael V. Coccoma imposed the sentence on James Wells after listing Wells’ many wrongs, including coming to Schenectady to spread the “cancer of drugs and guns.” Coccoma said he took into account that Wells ran a drug operation and was a gang member. Then, he got to the heart of the case.

“Most importantly,” Coccoma told Wells, “the sentence I impose is for the cold-blooded killing of Eddie Stanley and for putting at risk numerous other young people in that building.”

Wells, 33, of Brooklyn, was convicted in March of the June 2011 shooting of the promising young Schenectady High School basketball player.

Stanley was shot as he attended a party for teenagers, where the much older Wells was ostensibly providing security, but ultimately opened fire on unarmed teens in a dispute over missing keys.

Stanley’s mother, Tanisha Stanley, gave an emotional statement to the court, saying how proud she was to be Eddie’s mother and asked for as long of a sentence as possible for the man who killed him.

She said that she prays that her son’s killing haunts Wells for the rest of his life. She also prays that her son is in a better place, that she will see Eddie again and that Eddie watches over his family.

“I’m just happy that justice was served,” Tanisha Stanley said outside the courtroom. “I’ve been waiting for so long. It’s been a long time coming.”

The trial jury found Wells guilty of 11 separate charges, including second-degree murder. Coccoma sentenced Wells to the maximum on each, including 25 years to life on the murder charge.

Coccoma also found two of the counts could run consecutively, bringing Wells’ total sentence to 301⁄2 years to life. That means that, with time already served, Wells would be 62 years old before he will even go before a parole board.

When Wells does come up for parole, though, Coccoma told him the parole board will have Wells’ own testimony to consider directly.

The judge said he took the unusual step of ordering a copy to consider himself, noting how many times Wells referenced guns. Coccoma then said he was filing it to ensure the parole board in 30 years will have it, too.

In his own statement to the court, prosecutor Philip Mueller recounted the life that Eddie Stanley could have had, “but for James Wells.”

Stanley, Mueller noted, would have been due to graduate from high school this year.

Mueller also recounted the many choices Wells made that all led to the killing of the teenager at a party for those half Wells’ age.

Then Mueller recounted Stanley’s final moments, when Wells took out his gun and fired at Stanley as he and others tried to leave. Wells then ordered the lights out and fired again.

“He finished Eddie off,” Mueller told the court. “That was a deliberate and unthinkable choice that he made.

“When that was done,” Mueller continued, “even then, nothing changed in his world. He chose to run like the coward that he is.”

Wells also chose to tamper with evidence and get his fellow Blood gang members to try to intimidate witnesses.

Wells gave little visible reaction throughout the proceedings, including Tanisha Stanley’s statement and arguments by prosecutor Philip Mueller.

In his own statement to the court and to Tanisha Stanley, Wells, who has maintained his innocence, said both his family and Stanley’s family have suffered as a result of what happened.

“But,” Wells said, “I did not take your son away from you.”

Wells was represented by attorney Cheryl Coleman.

In the courtroom gallery were nearly two dozen friends and relatives of Stanley, including his mother and father, Eddie Stanley Sr.

As Tanisha Stanley gave her statement to the court, Eddie Stanley Sr. stood behind her in support.

Outside the courtroom, the elder Stanley said he believes Wells got what he deserved.

As for his son, he said he keeps his memory alive every day. He wore a button-down shirt to court honoring his son with the words “Forever in our hearts, always in our memories.”

“I keep him here,” Eddie Stanley Sr. said, touching his chest. “When I wake up, when I’m doing stuff, he’s there.

“I can’t see him, but I know he’s right here.”

 
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