A fight broke out Wednesday outside the Erie County Courthouse among family and friends of two Buffalo teenagers just sentenced to life terms in prison for robbing and fatally shooting a popular cab driver last year.
The fight at Delaware Avenue and West Eagle Street led to the arrests of 10 people, including the sister of one of the defendants.
The fight started at about 10:30 a.m., after Sean Austin and Maurice Howie were sentenced in the March 6, 2013, shotgun slaying of Mazen M. Abdallah, 55. Both defendants were 16 at the time,
Austin, now 17, was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison. Howie, who is 18, was sentenced to 35 years to life.
Before sentencing, State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, mindful of an outburst in his courtroom at the sentencing of a co-defendant last month, warned those in the courtroom against any outbursts. No one disrupted the court proceeding, but after the sentencing, the fight started outside the courthouse.
Tanya Austin, 31, Sean Austin’s sister, was among nine people charged with disorderly conduct. She and another person, Dewanda Grey, 29, were given appearance tickets, according to City Court records.
Luis Colon, 19, was charged with inciting a riot, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was released to the supervision of the Probation Department along with seven others charged with disorderly conduct: Isaiah Bolden, 18; Lamar Bolden, 16; Kenneth Lowe, 19; Augustus Smith, 17; Larrone Williams Sr., 41; Larrone Williams Jr., 23; and Richard Lowe, 25.
Immediately after the sentencing, Tanya Austin had made an emotional statement to reporters in a courthouse hallway.
“I’m Tanya Austin, Sean’s sister. I love him to death. I don’t care about the time they give him. He will be home. Forget anybody who think he did anything ‘cause he didn’t. Forget the 12 jurors. Forget the judge. And forget anybody who has anything negative to say about my brother, period, and that’s that.”
A jury in February convicted Austin and Howie of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery.
Abdallah was found in a pool of blood in the back seat of his cab on Norfolk Avenue near Kensington Avenue, where the two had left him after taking his wallet and cellphone.
The two also were convicted of first-degree robbery for 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 and two deliverymen from pizza and Chinese food establishments.
The holdups started in December 2012 and ended in March 2013.
The judge cited Austin’s involvement in “a violent crime wave that terrorized a neighborhood.”
Buscaglia said Howie was involved in two of the six holdups, while Austin was involved in all of them.
The judge said comments from a police detective in a presentencing report about Howie smiling and laughing when he was questioned about the holdups and slaying played no role in determining his sentence.
Abdallah’s niece, Wedade Abdallah, told the judge the family was praying for their loved one’s soul and looked to the court for justice.
She said her uncle was a kind and generous man who loved life and his family. It was his first call for a cab ride that day when he picked up the two defendants at Commodore Perry Homes. His body was found in the white Lincoln town car he drove for Airport Taxi.
“He did not deserve to have his life cut short in the way it was,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Paul Parisi sought the maximum sentences because the pair preyed on hard-working people like Abdallah.
“He ended up dead for no other reason than to satisfy their greed,” Parisi said.
“Taking a life is just a joke to Howie and Austin,” he said.
“They are killers who deserve no leniency,” he said.
Jeremy D. Schwartz, Austin’s attorney, asked for the minimum sentence. He said his client was 16 at the time of the crimes and that he lacks maturity but has potential and wants to make something of himself.
Michael L. D’Amico, Howie’s attorney, said his client doesn’t take this case lightly and was respectful throughout the trial.
Although Howie was at the murder scene, he didn’t pull the trigger, D’Amico said.