Drug dealer gets life in prison for baseball bat killings

A Connecticut drug dealer whose federal death sentence was overturned in the baseball bat killings of three people during a 2005 dispute over crack cocaine sales was resentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Dressed in a tan prison uniform, Azibo Aquart, now 40, apologized to the victims’ families during a federal court hearing in New Haven, after relatives testified about the pain and trauma they continue to suffer and their quest for justice.

Aquart was one of four men convicted in the killings of Tina Johnson, James Reid and Basil Williams, who were bound with duct tape and beaten to death with baseball bats at Johnson’s apartment in Bridgeport on Aug. 24, 2005. Prosecutors said Johnson had been selling crack cocaine in Aquart’s drug turf without his permission.

Aquart killed Johnson and Williams, and Aquart’s brother — who also was sentenced to life in prison — fatally beat Reid, prosecutors said.

“I just want to apologize to Tina’s, Basil’s and James’ families for all the pain they’ve had to endure over the years since the loss of their loved ones,” Aquart said. “They’ve gone through something truly tragic that no one should ever have to go through. ... I hope one day you’ll find my words here today sincere and be able to accept them.”

Relatives of the victims told Judge Janet Bond Arterton the killings were horrific and their loved ones did not deserve to die.

“I need you to know it was very personal,” Latavia Whittingham, Johnson’s daughter, said to Aquart. “All you have left is jail. You will forever be known as a murderer. Every time your cell door slams shut, may it be a reminder of what you did, taking her life and the others. There was absolutely no justification for murdering my mother. Death is final. You don’t deserve the privilege of being a free man ever again.”

Aquart was convicted of murder and drug charges and sentenced to death in 2012. But a federal appeals court overturned the sentence in 2018 and ordered a resentencing, after finding prosecutorial misconduct during the cross-examination of a now-retired FBI agent. Federal prosecutors decided against seeking the death penalty again.

Arterton imposed the life sentence. She said she considered the brutality of the crimes, as well as Aquart’s traumatic childhood that included neglect, abandonment and sexual abuse.

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