Thursday, July 9, 2009

NYC bouncer sentenced to LWOP for rape-slaying of graduate student

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former nightclub bouncer convicted of brutally murdering a graduate student from Boston was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole. Darryl Littlejohn was convicted of first-degree murder last month for the 2006 killing of criminal justice student Imette St. Guillen in a case that spurred a crackdown on nightlife security.

Littlejohn, wearing the dark glasses he wore during the trial, sat stoically as the sentence was read and didn't speak. The 44-year-old already is serving 25 years to life for kidnapping another woman. The sentences will run consecutively.

Defense attorney Joyce David said Littlejohn maintains his innocence and she will appeal the conviction.Brooklyn state Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges offered condolences to St. Guillen's relatives, saying he grieved for them as a father.

"The loss of such a precious young life is horrendous,'' he said, his voice shaking. "If there was truly, truly justice, I would have the power to bring her back to you.''

St. Guillen's mother, Maureen St. Guillen, and sister, Alejandra St. Guillen, sat side by side during the proceedings and made tearful statements before the judge imposed the sentence.

"No one replaces my little Imette, my baby girl, who was with me through the hardest of times, except for this one,'' Alejandra St. Guillen said, speaking of how it felt to be an older sister, having Imette looking up to her.

Maureen St. Guillen read aloud a letter Imette St. Guillen wrote that catalogued her 24th birthday, her last, on March 2, 2005. The almost mundane details of her day, which included shopping, lunch out and an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show,'' brought the slain woman to life in the courtroom.

The mother also mentioned her last memory of her daughter: She was leaving after a visit with her parents, turned back to catch her mother's eye, waved and mouthed, "I love you, Mom.''

"I'm leaving it up to you and to your good judgment'' Maureen St. Guillen told the judge.

Imette St. Guillen, capping a night out, went to a Manhattan bar called The Falls early on Feb. 24, 2006. The bar is owned by the family that ran Dorrian's Red Hand, the tavern where ``preppie killer'' Robert Chambers met Jennifer Levin before strangling her during rough sex in the 1980s -- a connection Littlejohn's lawyers emphasized in his trial.
St. Guillen stayed at The Falls past closing. Witnesses said she was asked to leave and Littlejohn escorted her out.

At sentencing, the judge criticized the bar workers. "If one of them had the common decency to call a taxi, we might not be here today,'' he said.

Bar manager Danny Dorrian has denied having anything to do with St. Guillen's killing but has acknowledged that because of his family's history with the Chambers case he initially wasn't forthcoming with investigators about kicking out St. Guillen.

Later on Feb. 24, St. Guillen's body was found wrapped in a quilt along a desolate road in Brooklyn. She was bound and gagged, and she had been beaten and sexually assaulted before being asphyxiated.

Prosecutor Kenneth Taub said he felt the sentence was appropriate, and he agreed with the judge's harsh words for the bar workers.

"I thought of the last moments of Imette's life, the torment and suffering she endured, knowing, as she was bound and gagged and taped and sexually assaulted, that she was going to die,'' he said during the hearing.

At the trial, Littlejohn was portrayed as a sexual predator with a propensity for pretending he was a law enforcement officer. Prosecutors said the nature of St. Guillen's abuse was eerily similar to attacks on two other women who say Littlejohn attacked them. Littlejohn was charged and convicted in one of those attacks, but both women testified during his trial in St. Guillen's death.

David, the defense attorney, pinned the slaying on the bar's manager and argued Littlejohn was framed in a cover-up. She said after the hearing that Littlejohn didn't speak because it wouldn't be genuine to apologize as he maintains his innocence.

As for his courtroom demeanor, she said: "He spent quite a bit of his life in jail, and he's become somewhat stoic. It's not that he's stone cold. He's actually very warm and caring.''

St. Guillen had been studying criminal justice at John Jay College in Manhattan. Her death was part of a string of incidents that prompted scrutiny of nightlife safety and new measures to require security cameras at club doors and to make it easier to close businesses that sell fake identification.

Club owners agreed to back voluntary guidelines for improving security, including using scanning machines to record IDs and screening patrons for weapons.

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