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A New York City teenager accused of shooting and killing a man in a case of mistaken identity last year was released from jail by a judge on Tuesday, according to a report.
Bronx Supreme Court Justice Naita Semaj-Williams dismissed the indictment against Steven Mendez, 17, who allegedly shot Saikou Koma, 21, in the head in a gang-related incident when Mendez thought Koma was another man, according to the New York Post, citing the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
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The judge didn’t give a reason for the decision.
Mendez had been previously released on five years’ probation last May after pleading guilty to a 2020 armed robbery in which prosecutors sought the maximum sentence of four years in prison.
A victim in that incident was shot in the leg. Mendez was charged as a “youthful offender.”
Then-Bronx Supreme Court Justice Denis Boyle didn’t think a prison sentence was appropriate for a “crime committed as an accomplice at the age of 16,” a court spokesperson told the Post of the armed robbery charge at the time.
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“When I hear the judge say, ‘Release him.’ To be honest, I had to stand up,” Koma’s mother Haja Kaira told the Post of watching the proceeding remotely. “I could not believe it. I said out loud, ‘What! Release him?!’ The judge believes my son’s life means nothing. This is why they will keep killing because they know there are no consequences.”
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Mendez’s criminal history also allegedly includes slapping his mother and holding her at gunpoint when she wouldn’t give him money, the Post reported.