The father of an 8-year-old boy shot to death in 2007 by his 7-year-old cousin was himself back in court Wednesday, accused of joining a second man to rob a Roxbury convenience store of cash and cigarettes.
Liquarry Jefferson, 33, and James Thornton, 40, were arraigned Wednesday in Roxbury Municipal Court, where they both pleaded not guilty to armed robbery and other charges stemming from the holdup of a Warren Street store Tuesday night. The suspects used replica firearms, which looked like guns but could not fire bullets, officials said.
Jefferson’s son and namesake, Liquarry Jefferson Jr., was fatally shot inside a Seaver Street apartment on June 24, 2007, by his cousin after the children found a loaded 9mm handgun in the dresser drawer of an older cousin, Jayquan McConnico.
McConnico and Jefferson’s mother, Lakeisha Gadson, were both prosecuted by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office on charges of allowing an illegal weapon to fall into the hands of children. Gadson was acquitted by a Suffolk Superior Court jury of major charges she faced, while McConnico was sentenced to Department of Youth Services custody, which he has since completed.
At the time of his son’s death, the elder Jefferson was serving a state prison sentence, and his extended family was provided services by a Boston Foundation project. According to Suffolk prosecutors, Jefferson was recently released after completing a three-year prison term for a 2010 conviction of assault and battery, one of 14 convictions the 33-year-old Jefferson has amassed.
In court Wednesday, authorities said the two men were captured following a police chase that began near the store and ended on Maple Street in Grove Hall, where their car crashed into a parked car.
Thornton was arrested by Boston police after he jumped out of the car and tried to climb a fence, while Jefferson was arrested as he walked down the street near the crash site, authorities said.
During the arraignment of the two men, defense attorneys said police have made a mistake when they arrested their clients.
Jefferson’s defense attorney, Sandra Odiaga, said her client was merely walking near his mother’s Maple Street home when he was stopped by police. While police said Jefferson’s physical appearance at that moment linked him to the robbery — he was breathing heavily and his nose was running — Odiaga said her client had a cold.
“I saw him in the [courthouse] lockup,’’ Odiaga said. “His nose was dripping droplets. He has a cold.’’
Odiaga also said that witnesses told police the convenience store robbers were both dressed in all-black clothing. When Jefferson was arrested, Odiaga said, he was wearing blue New England Patriots clothing and blue jeans; only his sneakers were black.
“The wrong people have been arrested here,’’ Odiaga told Roxbury Municipal Court Judge David B. Poole.
She also said that Jefferson has been volunteering daily with a pastor in his neighborhood to work with children. She declined to identify the church involved, citing the pastor’s privacy.
At the request of defense attorney June E. Jensen, Thornton was examined by Deborah Peck, a court psychologist, to determine whether he was mentally competent for Wednesday court’s hearing.
Peck said Thornton has post-traumatic stress disorder from being shot several years ago. She said he has been diagnosed by other medical professionals as someone suffering from stress and anxiety and he may have bipolar disorder.
Poole ruled that Thornton was mentally competent and ordered the arraignment to continue.
Jensen told the judge that Thornton knows workers at the convenience store and was not one of the two men who robbed it.
“His involvement in these particular series of events at the convenience store was coincidental,’’ said Jensen, who vowed to explain Thornton’s innocence at a future court hearing.
Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Joseph Roseme urged Poole to set $500,000 cash bail for each man, citing their criminal histories. He said Jefferson has a record of “extreme” violence that includes an armed robbery conviction. Thornton has eight convictions, he said.
Roseme also said Jefferson was arrested on an unarmed robbery charge in downtown Boston last year and was free on $2,500 cash bail at the time of his arrest Tuesday.
Poole set bail at $25,000 cash for Jefferson on the new arrest and revoked his bail on the 2013 charge. He set bail for Thornton at $15,000 cash.
Both men are due back in court Feb. 5.