By Michael Morton
Cooper was convicted of murder and criminal possession of a weapon Feb. 4 in the shooting death in Holliswood of Kimberly John, 22, in March 2001.
During the sentencing in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, Judge Richard Buchter said Cooper's actions were those of a “soulless killer,” one for whom he would not recommend parole.
“At the same time he's professing his love for Ms. John, he's plotting her death,” Buchter said.
According to testimony during the trial, Cooper, a former home health aide, and John, a customer service representative with Verizon, were married in February 2001. But the relationship soon fell apart and John kicked Cooper out of her co-op apartment just 10 days after the wedding.
Prosecutors said Cooper was enraged that John threw him out and then refused to take him back, so he arranged for a friend, Lenwood “Smoke” Evans, to drive with him to John's apartment and for Evans to shoot John once they arrived.
During his trial, Cooper testfied that John died as the result of a drug deal gone awry five weeks after they were married.
But the jury went on to convict Cooper, and Buchter said “this trial was a web of lies” as he sentenced him to 25 years to life behind bars.
Before Buchter imposed the sentence, the prosecution and John's family emphasized once again that she had not been involved with drugs and denounced the attempt to sully her reputation.
“It's not fair,” Cecil John, the father of the victim, said of the drug allegations as he addressed the court. He described his daughter as someone who went out of her way to help people and said, as he fought back tears, “maybe she felt sorry because she thought he needed help. What did he do? He took advantage of her.”
John's family attended every hearing about her murder.
When Hazel John, the victim's mother, spoke during the sentencing, she read letters from a niece and a nephew of her daughter and said“she trusted people, always looking for the best in people – unlike the element she became involved with.”
Turning to Cooper, she pulled a framed portrait from her bag and, gripping it with both hands, said she wanted the image to haunt him every night.
“I want you every night to feel the pain and anguish that you left this family in,” she said. “What did she do that you needed to kill her?”
Assistant District Attorney Jack Warsawsky, who prosecuted the case, became choked up while reading a letter from the victim's brother to the court. “I've been trying emotional cases for 20 years this November and it's incredible the amount of suffering I've seen for no good reason,” Warsawsky said.
Cooper, dressed in a white Michael Jordan jersey, did not speak at the sentencing, but his lawyer maintained Cooper's innocence and said they would appeal the conviction.
“He didn't want her killed; he wanted her scared,” Stephen Murphy said. “She opted to marry him – could he be that bad of a person that she would marry him?”
The trial of Evans, the accused shooter, is underway in State Supreme Court in Queens. The sentencing of a third man, Frederick Hamlet, who pleaded guilty in July to tampering with evidence in the case, was scheduled for April 29, the DA's office said.
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.