The New London Superior Court sentenced a man to 14 years in prison today, five years after his involvement in a robbery that left a storekeeper dead and three years after he entered a plea.
Cosmo Frieson, 24, must also serve six years of special parole. Frieson entered an Alford plea to attempted robbery in the first degree on June 30, 2009. The plea does not admit guilt but acknowledges that the state would likely be able to prove the case at trial.
The sentencing resolves the cases related to the murder of 46-year-old Jared Silva on Oct. 12, 2007. Silva, the owner of Jared’s Packy at 129 Ocean Ave., was shot in the head after closing the store.
Gary Clarke, 25, was sentenced on Aug. 2 to serve 40 years in prison, suspended after 25 years, after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm. He entered the plea on May 16 at the start of a second trial on a murder charge, following a hung jury at his first trial.
Judge Patrick J. Clifford described the murder as the “senseless, tragic death of a totally innocent person.” Clifford said he thought both Clarke and Frieson should have received stiffer sentences, but acknowledged that the sentences reflected both Frieson’s cooperation with prosecutors and difficulties in proving the state’s case.
“I’m sure everyone’s going to agree it’s not a perfect sentence,” said Clifford. “It’s far from that.”
Cooperation in Clarke case
Both Clarke and Frieson were originally charged with murder in the commission of a felony, and first-degree robbery. Frieson’s sentencing was put off to a later date following his plea, which included an agreement to testify as a state witness at Clarke’s trial. The agreement capped his prison sentence at a maximum of 20 years.
According to a New London Police Department affidavit, Frieson said he and Clarke planned to rob Silva and that Silva fought back and called for help during the robbery. Frieson said he punched Silva and knocked him to the ground at which point Clarke shot him.
Frieson said at trial that he obtained the weapon, .357 Magnum revolver, from a friend who stole it from an unlocked vehicle. He said Clarke shot Silva during the robbery because he became nervous.
Clarke’s defense attorney, Jeremy Donovan, argued that there were several inconsistencies between Frieson’s initial statements to police and his testimony at trial. He also suggested that Frieson or several other witnesses could have shot Silva. Clarke’s trial in January of 2011 ended in a hung jury, with jurors 11-1 in favor of acquittal on the murder charge and 9-3 in favor of conviction on the robbery and murder in the commission of a felony charges.
Clarke was initially unaware that he could enter a plea to a reduced charge and did so shortly after his second trial began.
At Clarke’s sentencing, Silva’s family members remembered him as a generous man who used his store to connect with the neighborhood, lending people money and giving advice. His family attended Frieson’s sentencing as well, and Frieson turned to read a statement to them prior to his sentencing.
Frieson apologized for his actions, saying he has thought about Silva’s death constantly.
“Most nights I lie awake thinking how it must feel losing a loved one at the hands of some kids,” he said.
Frieson, who was 19 when the robbery occurred, said he has grown to realize that he must take responsibility for his actions.
“I am here before you to ask for forgiveness,” he said. “These mistakes will be on my conscience for the rest of my life.”
Frieson’s sentencing was further delayed after Clarke’s sentencing to allow for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. Clifford said this identified issues such as a “dysfunctional” childhood, limited employment, mental health issues, and substance abuse problems. However, Clifford said he did not consider them to be mitigating factors in the sentencing.
Clifford noted Frieson’s cooperation and that his version of events was similar to Clarke’s, who ultimately gave a statement saying that the gun went off by accident during the struggle with Silva. He said the state was also obligated to honor its agreement with Frieson and that the sentence would have to be significantly shorter than Clarke’s.
Clifford said the hung jury demonstrated the state’s burden of proof and the difficulties involved in proving who shot Silva. However, he said he believed longer sentences would have been more appropriate for both Clarke and Frieson and that he considered that Clarke’s 25-year sentence was “probably inadequate.” Clifford said he would have preferred to sentence Clarke to between 50 and 60 years.
“I know it was an unintended consequence that Mr. Silva died here, but it’s a horrendous consequence,” said Clifford.