COVINGTON - A man who authorities say shot and killed a convenience store owner last year pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon in Newton County Superior Court.
The defendant, Carronis Neville Hurst, 20, pleaded guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault, theft by receiving and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the slaying of 46-year-old Aslam Muhammed.
Judge Horace Johnson Jr. sentenced Hurst to life in prison plus an additional five years.
Muhammed was found shot to death behind the counter of the Pure Food Mart located at 50 Morningside Drive, near Ga. Highway 162, on the evening of Aug. 3.
Hurst was taken into custody less than a week later after being turned in by his father at a residence on Mote Road.
Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon asked the judge to impose a sentence of life in prison plus an additional 25 years due to the nature of the crime and the fact that he was potentially facing two consecutive life sentences if the case went to trial.
"(The victim) did not resist or in any way try to put up a fight ... and he shot him in the head," Zon said. "There was no provocation."
Assistant Public Defender Teri Smith, who represented Hurst in the case, argued, however, that her client should receive a sentence of life plus five years based on the fact that he owned up to the crime.
"He's taking responsibility for his actions," she told the judge.
During the plea hearing, Zon pointed out to the judge that Hurst had written on his jail shoes the words "thug life" and "Trillville," which she believes was representative of the type of lifestyle the defendant adheres to. "Trillville" refers to the name of an Atlanta rap group.
"This is the reason you keep seeing these young defendants before you, judge," she said. "Because of that junk, a man is dead."
Though the judge was disturbed with what Hurst had written on his shoes, he told the
prosecutor that he believed those slogans were part of a "cultural fight" that we as a society have to deal with.
"I hope you will take the opportunity to grow up while you're in prison," Johnson told Hurst.
According to Zon, Hurst will have to serve a minimum of 30 years of his sentence before he can become eligible for parole.
"I'm glad this case is resolved quickly for the sake of Mr. Aslam's family. However, the defendant's decision to enter the courtroom wearing county issued jail shoes he had altered to endorse a "thug life" and a gangster rap group whose lyrics notoriously glorify violence, drugs and crime is still disturbing," Zon said following the hearing. "The statement he made coming into court wearing those words on his body show an apparent lack of remorse for the family of the victim. In this case of murder and armed robbery, the defendant's "thug life" resulted in a sentence of life plus five years in prison.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.