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Plea deal for two in Harvard killing

Defendants agree to lesser charges

Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bennett shows stuffed animals, taken from a Harvard dorm room, to Cambridge Police Officer John Crowley in court yesterday. Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bennett shows stuffed animals, taken from a Harvard dorm room, to Cambridge Police Officer John Crowley in court yesterday. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / March 19, 2011

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WOBURN — Two of the three men charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 slaying of a Cambridge man at a Harvard dorm will plead guilty to reduced charges and cooperate with prosecutors in the case against the third defendant.

Blayn Jiggetts and Jason Aquino reached the agreement in court yesterday with Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.’s office, freeing prosecutors to direct their full attention on Jabrai Jordan Copney, who allegedly shot Justin D. Cosby inside Kirkland Hall on May 18, 2009. All three men are from New York City.

Aquino’s attorney, Matthew A. Kamholtz, said yesterday that his client will be in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn Thursday to formally acknowledge his role in the death of Cosby.

“There will be a change of plea to manslaughter,’’ Kamholtz said of Aquino.

For Aquino, the maximum sentence he now faces for manslaughter is 20 years behind bars; first-degree murder carries a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Jiggetts is also facing prison time, but his attorney, George Murphy, declined comment.

Jiggetts assumed his new role yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court yesterday when he took the stand as a prosecution witness against Brittany Smith, Copney’s former girlfriend, who is accused of hiding the murder weapon in a Harvard dorm and helping all three men return to New York City in the hours after Cosby’s death.

On the stand, Jiggetts gave a brief summary of the events that ended with the death of Cosby. He said that he and Copney had stolen some high-quality marijuana from a pair of Yale students at gunpoint in 2008 and then had decided to pull off a similar robbery at Harvard, where Smith was a senior.

At Jordan’s request, he said, he brought a handgun with them to Cambridge and he convinced Aquino, a childhood friend, to join in the plan to rob Cosby, whom authorities have identified as a drug dealer, of drugs and money.

Jiggets testified that he and the two other men first went to Smith’s Harvard dorm room where, in the presence of Smith, he loaded the semi-automatic pistol that would soon end Cosby’s life.

Under questioning by Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bennett, Jiggetts said all three went to the Kirkland House intending to rob Cosby.

“Who shot him?’’ Bennett asked.

“Jabrai,’’ Jiggetts replied.

Authorities have said that Cosby was fatally shot when he tried to get away.

The victim’s mother, Denise Cosby, listened to the testimony yesterday, but said she will wait to comment until after any trials.

Jiggetts also said on the stand that Smith’s close friend and Harvard classmate, Chanequa Campbell, gave him $500 in cash in 2009 as an investment. He was supposed to use the money to buy cocaine for a lower price than she was able to get in Cambridge. He said he did not have time to use the money, however, because of the shooting of Cosby.

Campbell later took the stand and insisted that she never sold, possessed, or used cocaine at Harvard. However, she acknowledged that she gave Jiggets the money and testified that she had expected to at least double her $500 by financing Jiggetts as he made a drug deal.

She also said that one of the Yale students robbed in 2008 by Copney and Jiggetts was a friend of hers. She testified that she complained to Copney about stealing from her friend, but then admitted she purchased an ounce of the stolen marijuana at a reduced rate from Copney.

Smith’s defense attorney, John Osler, tried yesterday to persuade Superior Court Judge Diane Kottmyer to throw out all criminal charges against Smith, who had signed a nonprosecution agreement that hinged on her telling authorities everything she knew about the crime.

Prosecutors allege she reneged on that promise.

Kottmyer took Smith’s request under advisement.

Campbell, who also reached a nonprosecution agreement and does not face criminal charges, testified yesterday that she knew in advance that Copney and Jiggetts were planning to rob a drug dealer.

John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.