LOCKPORT – Darrell J. Belton Jr., a Niagara Falls marijuana dealer who was convicted of fatally shooting a dissatisfied customer over a $10 bag of pot, was sentenced to the maximum of 40 years to life in prison Wednesday by State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.
Belton, who turned 19 last week, was convicted June 11 of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon for the Sept. 23, 2014, slaying of William A. Reilly, 30, in the victim’s home on Pierce Avenue in the Falls.
Kloch told Belton, “I’m telling you man to man, eye to eye, face to face, I think you’re dangerous.”
Belton didn’t say anything because he’s planning to appeal, co-defense counsel Michael G. Putzak said. His colleague, Jeremy D. Schwartz, told Kloch, “I don’t think it’s in his legal best interest to make a statement about the facts.”
Amanda Weeks, Reilly’s older sister, expressed anger at Belton. “He showed no remorse or any emotion,” the victim’s sister said.
Before the trial, Belton had rejected a prosecution offer of a flat 25-year sentence if he would plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann asked for the maximum, which included adding 15 years to the 25-to-life murder sentence for the gun-possession conviction. “I am pleased with it,” Hoffmann said after sentencing.
Kloch also gave Belton, of Whitney Avenue in the Falls, a concurrent one-year sentence for a separate arrest for possession of crack cocaine that occurred 11 days before the murder.
Testimony at the trial featured Reilly’s girlfriend, Tiffany Garcia, who witnesses the shooting and immediately called 911. On the tape, she could be heard telling the dispatcher that Reilly had been shot by “Flock,” which she said was Belton’s street nickname.
Niagara Falls Police Officer Joseph Scibilia testified that he overheard Belton tell a fellow prisoner in a Police Department holding cell, “I’m in here for murder. … He asked me to shoot him.”
Belton crashed a car while fleeing police after the shooting, and officers found live .22-caliber ammunition in the vehicle – the same type of bullet as that removed from Reilly’s body. Belton was caught in a foot chase the next day.
Evidence showed that Reilly had phoned Belton about an hour before his death, asking for a $10 marijuana delivery.
However, Belton didn’t show up quickly enough to suit Reilly, so he called and texted Belton, threatening to call another dealer. But Belton finally did arrive, and, after a quarrel, Reilly was shot twice in the upper body.
Garcia said another man whom she didn’t know walked into the house a few minutes after Belton’s arrival, and the defense tried to argue that an unidentified man was the real killer. That man reportedly told Belton before the shooting, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“I find it impossible to believe this was all over a $10 bag of marijuana,” Schwartz told Kloch.
He argued against consecutive sentencing, pointing to Belton’s youth and the shooter’s failure to kill the witnesses.
“I don’t think Darrell Belton is a coldblooded killer,” Schwartz said. “If he was a coldblooded killer, there wouldn’t be a witness alive to testify against him.”
Weeks also demanded the maximum sentence. But she acknowledged, “Murder is permanent. It’s forever. No sentence will bring Billy back.”
Weeks told Kloch, “He wasn’t old. He wasn’t sick. It wasn’t an accident. He is dead, because a choice was made. That choice was made by Mr. Belton.”
Breaking down in tears twice during her statement, Weeks recalled her ride to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where Reilly was pronounced dead after the shooting.
“All the way there, I kept yelling, ‘Billy, don’t die on me,’ ” Weeks recalled.
She wondered what might have going through her brother’s mind as he bled out. “Was he scared? Was he in pain? Did he know he was going to die?” Weeks asked.
Wearing a black T-shirt with her brother’s photo on it and the caption “Forever Broken,” Weeks said, “In order to write this, I’ve had to reflect on the worst moments of my life. … I’m doing this to honor Billy, to be his voice, because his has been silenced.”