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A repentant Robert T. Simpson was ordered Monday to spend the next 20 years in prison for fatally stabbing his roommate because the victim owed him $50.

Simpson, 34, had been jailed since his arrest hours after the fatal stabbing of Salaam T. Muhammad last Dec. 14 in their Brownell Street flat. He seemed shocked at the severity of the sentence imposed by State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti.

Rossetti found Simpson guilty of the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter at his nonjury murder trial three months ago. He credited Simpson for his courtroom admission but rejected pleas by his lawyer for a sentence only about half as long.

"Unfortunately, someone died as a result of your conduct," Rossetti told Simpson, who had already served a brief prison term in an assault case six years ago.

Simpson, who had been working at a Cheektowaga restaurant at the time of the slaying, and lawyer Andrew C. LoTempio both told the judge the death of Muhammad, 42, was a drunken accident.

"This will haunt me for the rest of my life," Simpson said.

LoTempio told the judge Simpson had always been willing to plead guilty to the manslaughter charge, but the case went to trial due to "miscommunication" with the Erie County District Attorney's office. He said the prison term will be appealed.


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