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08/29/2011

Connecticut man pleads guilty in 2005 triple murder

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A Bridgeport man pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of murder in aid of racketeering for his role in the 2005 murders of three Bridgeport residents. The case is being investigated jointly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Azikiwe Aquart, 31, also known as "Z" and "Ziggy," pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill.

Court documents, statements and evidence introduced during the trial earlier this year of Aquart's brother, Azibo, identified him as the founder and leader of a drug trafficking group that primarily sold crack cocaine out of an apartment building located in Bridgeport. Azibo Aquart and his associates allegedly participated in acts of violence, such as threats and assaults, to maintain their control over the group's drug distribution activities at the apartment building.

In the summer of 2005, Azibo Aquart and his associates allegedly became involved in a drug trafficking dispute with Tina Johnson, 43, a resident of the same apartment complex who was accused of selling smaller quantities of crack cocaine without the approval of Azibo Aquart.

On the morning of Aug. 24, 2005, Azibo Aquart, Azikiwe Aquart and others allegedly entered an apartment and murdered Tina Johnson, 43, her boyfriend James Reid, 40, and a friend identified as Basil Williams, 54. All three victims were bound with duct tape and brutally beaten to death with baseball bats.

In federal court Friday, Azikiwe Aquart specifically admitted that he had agreed to participate in what he believed would be a robbery with his brother and others. He also admitted entering the apartment where he committed the murder of James Reid, while other participants in the crime murdered Tina Johnson and Basil Williams.

During the trial of Azibo Aquart, the government offered extensive forensic evidence gathered from the apartment, including fingerprints and evidence that contained DNA from the Aquarts and others, in addition to witness testimony,

Judge Underhill has scheduled Azikiwe Aquart's sentencing for Nov. 14, 2011. He faces a mandatory term of life in prison on each of the three counts of murder in aid of racketeering.

On May 23, 2011, after a month-long trial, a federal jury in New Haven found Azibo Aquart guilty of the murders of Johnson, Reid and Williams. On June 15, 2011, the jury unanimously determined that Azibo Aquart should be sentenced to death for committing both the racketeering murders and drug-related murders of Johnson and Williams. The jury could not reach a unanimous decision on an appropriate penalty of life imprisonment or death for the racketeering murder and drug-related murder of Reid.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton will schedule a sentencing date for Azibo Aquart after the submission of post-trial motions.

ICE HSI was assisted in this investigation by the FBI, Bridgeport Police Department, Connecticut State Police, Connecticut Department of Correction's Intelligence Unit, United States Marshals Service, Bridgeport States Attorney's Office and U.S. Attorney's Office.

David B. Fein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, announced that this case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Dayton, Peter D. Markle, Alina P. Reynolds of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut, and Jacabed Rodriguez-Coss, a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.