Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Carney said that each of the six defendants convicted of involvement in the 2010 murder of Matthew Chew have a certain responsibility in the 25-year-old New London man’s death; for Brian Rabell, Carney said the culpability was a result of what the defendant didn’t do.
“He seems to be the one who had the intelligence and had the fortitude to stop it,” Carney said at Rabell’s sentencing on Tuesday. “But for some reason, he didn’t.”
Judge Susan B. Handy also questioned Rabell’s failure to speak against the group’s decision to attack a random person or try to help Chew after he had been stabbed six times. She noted how Rabell had been accepted into the Marines and would have shipped out three months after the murder.
“You were so much better than this, Mr. Rabell,” she said.
Rabell, 21, was sentenced to 16 years in prison, suspended after eight years, with five years of probation. During the probationary period, he must obey the law, have no contact with his co-defendants or members of Chew’s family, pay the family $4,200 in restitution, not possess any weapons, undergo psychiatric and substance abuse evaluation and treatment if necessary, pursue his education, complete at least 15 hours of community service each week if not employed, and have no contact with drug users, drug dealers, gang members, of convicted felons.
Rabell is the third person in the case to be sentenced by the New London Superior Court.
A "life sentence"
Carney said there were several mitigating factors in Rabell’s case, including his graduation with honors from Grasso Tech, his apology to Chew’s family at co-defendant Idris Elahi’s probable cause hearing, and his decision to cooperate with investigators with no promise of a reduced sentence in return.
“He really seemed to show genuine remorse, and at some risk to himself he came forward and assisted the state,” said Carney.
However, Carney also said Chew’s murder was a senseless one and that the actions of the group had a far-ranging impact on the perception of New London and residents’ safety.
“It was a tremendous setback to this city,” said Carney.
At each sentencing in the case so far, Chew’s parents—Richard and Marilyn Chew—have given a statement to the court, along with Laura Lonardelli, the mother of Chew’s girlfriend Lindsay Krodel. They have also shown each defendant a slideshow of family photos of Chew, ranging from his childhood to more recent photos.
“It was important to me that they understand who Matthew was, and what kind of person he was, by seeing these pictures,” said Marilyn.
Marilyn said it has been difficult for her to cope with Chew’s death, saying she is still suffering from his loss. She said he heard Rabell’s earlier apology, but was not yet prepared to accept it.
“I do know that I will not get over this, and this pain I feel will last until my dying breath,” she said.
Richard said Chew had a “remarkable gift of connecting with people and making all who know him feel special.” He said he hopes the sentences will serve as a deterrent against similar crimes and that the defendants will reflect upon the harm they have done.
“Matthew’s friends and family have received a life sentence,” he said.
Lonardelli spoke of the close relationship between Krodel and Chew. She read a statement Krodel made on an anniversary of the murder, which said Chew wouldn’t have wanted people dwelling on whether the sentences were adequate but rather working to find ways to reduce violence in the world.
“I love you Matt, and I will miss you forever,” the statement concluded.
Apologies to the family
Thomas Simones, Rabell’s defense attorney, said that when he first met Rabell he was scared about the future that lay before him after the murder. He said Rabell told him he should have been a stronger leader and that he was willing to serve whatever prison sentence the court felt was appropriate.
“He wants to help you find some sort of closure and atone for his sins,” said Simones.
Nancy Charlemagne, Rabell’s mother, said she could not defend her son’s actions. However, she said he was answering for the crime and that she felt the punishment was adequate.
“I still love him. He’s my son, and I know he will do good once he gets out,” said Charlemagne. “He has feelings, and he’s not a bad man.”
Rabell also turned to speak to Chew’s family, apologizing for his actions to the family, New London Police Department, and New London community. He said he did not consider himself a bad person, saying he had a brighter future before his role in the crime, and vowed to do what he can to help the community upon his release from prison.
“When I do get home, I will get back on the path of righteousness,” said Rabell.
Rabell in the attack and in court
Some of the defendants have told the court and police investigators that they went to the house of Idris Elahi, now 19, on the evening of Oct. 29 to play video games and decided to go into New London to assault a random person after becoming bored. Rashad Perry, now 19, dared Elahi to stab someone and the two started to “dap it up”—or make an oath committing to the act—before two members of the group stopped them.
After deciding not to attack some people they saw downtown, the group ultimately surrounded, assaulted, and stabbed Chew as he was walking to his Washington Street apartment from his job as a chef at 2 Wives Pizza. Chew died of his injuries early the next morning after being taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
According to a police affidavit, Rabell was one of two defendants in the case who identified Chew’s assailants. He initially denied involvement in the attack, and his girlfriend told police he had been with her on the evening of Oct. 29. The affidavit states that she later admitted she had lied to protect Rabell, saying he told her he had been at the scene of the murder and instructed her what to say to investigators.
Rabell was also one of three people to testify at Elahi’s probable cause hearing. He said he was one of the people who stopped Perry and Elahi from completing the oath, but admitted to taking part in the assault on Chew.
Elahi, the defendant accused of stabbing Chew, entered an Alford plea to murder on Feb. 22, 2012, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison on May 23. Perry was sentenced to 20 years in prison, suspended after 15 years, and five years of probation on Monday following his Alford plea to the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter on Dec. 10.
Rabell, who was initially charged with accessory to murder, entered an Alford plea to first-degree manslaughter on Dec. 12 in order to accept the state’s sentencing offer. An Alford plea does not admit guilt, but recognizes that the state would be likely to win a conviction at a trial.
Aside from Elahi, each of the defendants accepted an agreement to plead to manslaughter. Carney said it was his belief that the other five men did not intend to commit murder and that their roles in the homicide were more aligned with the legal definition of manslaughter. The maximum sentence for this charge is 20 years.
“You owe it to Matthew Chew and his family”
Handy said Rabell missed a chance to try to prevent the stabbing or help Chew, and that he would have to face the consequences as a result. She said he was responsible for his own decisions on the evening of the murder and afterward.
“We teach them right from wrong, but we can’t make the choices for them,” she told Charlemagne.
However, Handy also said she considers Rabell’s apologies sincere and told him to listen to the Chew family’s recommendations to reflect on his actions and strive to be a better person.
“You owe it to Matthew Chew and his memory, and his family, to do better,” she said.
After the sentencing, Handy added, “I don’t expect to see you back here ever again, Mr. Rabell. Because what I said—“You’re better than this”—I sincerely meant that.”
The sentencings in the case have been scheduled for the remainder of this week so that Chew’s parents, who live in California, do not need to make multiple trips to Connecticut for court dates. The remaining sentencings include Tyree Bundy on Wednesday, Matias Perry (no relation to Rashad) on Thursday, and Marquis Singleton on Friday.