20 years for Belleville strip club homicide


Under a plea agreement, an Elizabeth man has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison for the fatal shooting of another man outside a Belleville strip club in 2015, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced Friday, May 5.

Defendant Yanafi Mojica, 33, pled guilty in February to first-degree aggravated manslaughter. In exchange, the state agreed to recommend the 20-year term, which was handed down last week by Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin.

Under the No Early Release Act, Mojica must serve 85% of that sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Mojica, who has been incarcerated at the Essex County Correctional Facility since his arrest Oct. 22, 2015, reportedly will receive credit for that time served.

Authorities said the victim, Michael Williams II, 28, of Newark, was killed Oct. 8, 2015, outside Wet, a “gentlemen’s club” on Belleville Ave., after getting into a dispute with Mojica and two other men. Williams reportedly was running from Mojica when he was fatally shot in the back.

Mojica, who admitted to being the shooter, was originally charged with murder and weapons offenses along with co-defendants Nathaniel Garcia, 23, and Armand Padron, 30, both of Elizabeth.

Under the terms of their plea, Garcia and Padron pled guilty to hindering apprehension. After 491 days in jail, Garcia was sentenced to time served and was placed on three years’ probation last Thursday. Padron was scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wells, who handled the case, said the state agreed to Mojica’s plea because the defendant did not have a history of violent crime prior to this incident but noted that the 20-year sentence was the minimum necessary to serve as a deterrent for Mojica and others. Mojica reportedly had two prior drug convictions and one eluding conviction as an adult.

Said Wells: “The cowardly act of the defendant in choosing to use a gun to settle an argument is inexcusable, but this plea will allow Mr. Williams’ loved ones to move toward closure while incarcerating the defendant for a lengthy period of time.’’ 

Karen Zautyk

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