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Convicted murderer rejects plea in robbery; uncooperative witness charged with contempt

Jaylin Wiggins, convicted last week of second-degree murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, turned down a plea offer Monday that would have resolved an earlier robbery case against him.

Instead, he wants another trial.

Wiggins, 19, still is awaiting sentencing on his murder conviction for the fatal shooting of Laron Watkins, 21, on Aug. 4, 2016, and other charges connected with another shooting that night. He faces 50 years to life in prison if Judge Michael Pietruszka opts to have the sentences run consecutively.

Wiggins also is charged with armed robbery and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with a March 13, 2016, incident. However, the District Attorney's Office on Monday said in Erie County Court it would agree to a five-year sentence in that case, to run concurrent with his sentences on the other convictions, if Wiggins pleaded guilty.

Wiggins, who previously rejected a plea offer in the murder case that would have come with a 15-year sentence rather than life, is now scheduled to go to trial June 26 in the robbery case.

If convicted of that violent felony, he could be sentenced to anywhere from five to 25 years in prison, to run consecutively to his sentences in the murder case.

Dorian Johnson is charged with contempt for refusing to testify in a murder trial.

A 21-year-old who reportedly was an eyewitness to the shooting of Watkins was arraigned in State Supreme Court on Friday on three counts of criminal contempt in the third degree. The charges carry sentences of up to two years if he is convicted.

Dorian Johnson Jr. of Buffalo had been subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution in Wiggins' murder trial, but he didn't appear. He was found after the judge issued a witness warrant and, after meeting with the prosecutors, said that he would testify.

Johnson was issued an ankle monitor by the Erie County Department of Probation to prevent another disappearance, but he reportedly cut it off and did not show up for court as scheduled. He eventually was found again with assistance from the U.S. Marshals and other agencies, but he said he no longer would agree to testify.

Johnson was taken into custody, but refused to come willingly to the courtroom. He was brought to the courtroom by jail officers twice, but refused to be sworn in or to answer whether he was with Watkins on Aug. 4, whether he saw Watkins killed or whether he could identify the gunman.

Between one and two dozen friends and supporters of Wiggins were regulars in the courtroom during the trial, nearly filling the courtroom when civilian witnesses and the other surviving shooting victims were testifying.

Investigators have speculated that Wiggins set out to "settle some scores" the night that Laron Watkins and three other people were shot, because he knew his bail in the robbery case was being revoked the next day and he was heading to jail.

On Friday, Justice John L. Michalski also ordered that Johnson be remanded on $25,000 cash or bond. He is scheduled to return to court May 30.

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