Ex-con Kenneth Minor, the Harlem man who helped Woodmere motivational speaker Jeffrey Locker kill himself in 2009 as part of a bizarre suicide-for-hire insurance scam, told a judge on Monday that he was sorry as he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
"In 2009, I had the chance to do the right thing and I didn't," Minor, 41, told Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Laura Ward. "? I failed Mr. Locker that night because of my own greed. I'll never let that happen again."
Minor was convicted of murder in 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in the stabbing death of Locker, who was deeply in debt and hoped his death would allow his family to collect on life insurance. Minor claimed he held a knife while Locker thrust his body on it.
The conviction was reversed in 2013 due to incorrect jury instructions on assisted suicide, which is only second-degree manslaughter in New York. Minor finally pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, but can appeal the way prosecutors went about re-indicting him.
He will get credit for the five years he has already served in prison, and will likely be released after serving about five more years if his appeal fails, said his defense lawyer, Daniel Gotlin.
Locker, according to trial testimony, recruited Minor off the street on a trip to Harlem on July 16, 2009, giving him an ATM card in payment. Locker had $18 million in policies, including $12 million acquired just before his death that would not pay out for suicide.
Minor objected to any suggestion that he was used by Locker. "Every choice I made, I made myself," he said. His wife Dawn told reporters he was a "changed man" who had spent his time in prison praying and going to services.
Gotlin read Ward an anonymous letter he received from a person identifying themselves as an acquaintance of Locker, describing Locker as "someone with a big ego who thought he could manipulate other people ? and live a life he did not have the means to do."
The letter also objected that Locker's family lived well while Minor paid the price. "Look at the Facebook page the daughter and mother have - recent trips to Italy all smiles while a man that was manipulated by Jeff Locker sits in jail?" it said. "Where is the justice?"
The judge said that, while Gotlin had the right to make a statement, the 12-year sentence was already agreed, and she didn't see the value in an anonymous letter. Prosecutor Peter Casolaro said the letter "was an excellent example of why testimony is taken under oath."