The sentencing of two Buffalo teenagers convicted of robbing and killing a popular cab driver last year on the city’s East Side was postponed Thursday so that one defendant’s father who lives in California can attend.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia rescheduled the sentencing of Sean Austin and Maurice Howie, both 17, for June 4 over the objections of Assistant District Attorney Paul Parisi.
The prosecutor told the judge that the family of the 55-year-old victim, Mazen M. Abdallah, had traveled from Rochester to attend Thursday’s scheduled sentencing of the two defendants, who were 16 at the time of the March 6, 2013, fatal holdup.
“They have a significant interest in seeing the sentencing today,” Parisi said.
He also noted that the sentencing originally was scheduled for last week but was adjourned to Thursday and that the defense attorneys had known about the new sentencing date for a month.
Jeremy D. Schwartz, Austin’s attorney, said his client’s father, who attended the February trial, couldn’t travel here before May 28 for his son’s sentencing.
He said that given the length of the prison sentence that Austin faces – more than 100 years to life if the judge orders the sentences to run consecutively – his father wants to be in court, and Austin doesn’t want to proceed without his father.
The courtroom was filled with family and friends of both defendants and the victim as well as more court officers than usual.
Before taking up the case, the judge told the spectators that there had been an outburst at the sentencing Wednesday of one of two co-defendants who were charged with robbing other cab drivers and fast-food deliverymen.
He noted that as a result of that outburst, courtroom security was increased. He said the court officers were instructed that if there were any outburst Thursday, the offenders would be taken into custody and face possible contempt charges.
There were no outbursts during the proceeding.
Austin and Howie, a star football player at South Park High School who held school records in every category for a quarterback, were convicted by a jury of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery in the shotgun slaying of Abdallah.
He was found in a pool of blood in the back seat of his cab on Norfolk Avenue near Kensington Avenue, where they had left him after taking his wallet and cellphone.
They also were convicted of another count of first-degree robbery in a Feb. 9, 2013, holdup of another cabbie.
In addition, Austin was convicted of six other robbery counts in connection with holdups involving two other cabbies, a pizza deliveryman and a Chinese takeout deliveryman.