ALLENDALE, N.J. -- Lawyers for two Paterson men charged with causing the heroin overdose death of a 21-year-old Allendale man failed yesterday to bring Bergen County's top judge into plea negotiations.
Attorneys for Kaleik Easton, 20, and Timothy Volpe, 21, wanted Presiding Superior Court Judge Susan J. Steele to privately “conference” with all involved to get their clients a better deal.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer countered that her offer of seven years in prison each -- with no parole eligibility for six years -- is reasonable enough.
Both are charged with strict liability for a drug-induced death — along with manslaughter and conspiracy to distribute heroin — for selling 22-year old Brendan Cole the drugs that killed him on Jan. 4, 2014.
Grootenboer has cited support and cooperation from Cole’s family, many of whom have attended the court hearings, and said she wasn’t about to go back on her word to them.
Attorney Dianne D’Alessandro, who represents Volpe, told Daily Voice that both men are willing to take five years — of which they'd have to serve four years and three months. She and attorney Gayle Hargrove pressed the judge by citing comments she made at a recent bar association meeting.
Steele advocated a broader role for criminal court judges in resolving cases and said that Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli agreed, they argued.
Steele said she believes judges could help move cases faster, particularly older ones, but that she wouldn’t enter talks without both sides agreeing to it.
She set a Nov. 9 deadline for a plea or a trial begins in March. Easton and Volpe remained held on $575,000 bail each in the Bergen County Jail.
A third defendant in the case took a deal in March that allows him to walk away with probation for his testimony against both.
Eric “Big D” Carter, 20 — whom authorities consider ‘peripheral” to the case — admitted driving both men to a meeting with Cole at the Garden State Plaza the night before he died. He said he didn’t know what was in the package they gave Cole.
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