Jorge Suarez received the maximum possible sentence of 25 years to life in prison for hunting down Freddie Dizon on May 20, 2016, and shooting him while he was at work in the kitchen of the Anchor Bar.
Suarez, 26, who continues to profess his innocence, was convicted earlier this month by an Erie County jury.
Before sentencing Suarez on Thursday, Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk referred to the security video from the restaurant. In it, a man with the same build as Suarez enters through the back entrance with a T-shirt wrapped over his head and easily navigates through the crowded kitchen until he goes out of view to the area where Dizon was fatally shot in the chest. Suarez once worked at the Anchor Bar.
"It's clear the individual knew exactly where he was going, exactly who he was looking for and exactly what he was going to do," Franczyk said.
Prosecutors Colleen Curtin Gable and John Feroleto presented evidence that Dizon was targeted because he accused Suarez of molesting his 4-year-old son. Social services caseworkers did not find enough evidence to substantiate the claim. Nevertheless, Dizon still believed it to be true. Furious that Suarez – a cousin of the child's mother – was still in the neighborhood, Dizon took to social media accusing him of being a child molester and, in harshly profane language, to challenge him to a confrontation, to "do something."
"Freddie Dizon, to his ultimate detriment, took it upon himself to call you out," the judge told Suarez on Thursday. "And he paid for it in a way I'm sure he never expected."
The long sentence was a relief to Dizon's family. His mother, Herminia Gonzalez, told the judge before sentencing that Dizon was a good son and a good father to his three children, and that life has been hard without him. She thanked police, prosecutors and the judge for their help in getting justice for her son, and she told Suarez that she would never forgive him for what he did.
The case of Suarez's co-defendant, Gregory Ramos, will be handled by another judge because Franczyk is retiring.
Ramos, who also is charged with murder in Dizon's death, is accused of being the driver who took Suarez from a West Side party to the Anchor Bar, waited in the car while Dizon was shot, and then drove Suarez from the scene. He is currently serving a sentence in Sing Sing for beating up his girlfriend the night Dizon was killed, when she allegedly confronted him about his possible role in the crime.