Former Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja, the first Florida cop convicted for an on-duty killing since 1989, was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for the death of Corey Jones. Raja fatally shot Jones, a 31-year-old local drummer, on the side of I-95 in October 2015.
Raja's case seemed to be a slam-dunk for prosecutors, even in Florida, where it's typically next to impossible to convict cops for anything they do on-duty. But Raja's crime was that egregious: A jury convicted him of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder last month. His sentence is actually the shortest amount of prison time he could have received, because he was facing a max sentence of life behind bars. The Sun Sentinel first reported the news of his sentence.
During the trial, prosecutors presented a boatload of evidence showing that Raja rolled up to Jones' SUV in 2015 and instigated a confrontation. Jones' silver Hyundai Santa Fe had broken down on the highway near the PGA Boulevard exit. His brother had offered to pick him up, but Jones didn't want to leave his drum set. Instead, he called AT&T roadside assistance to wait for a tow.
While he was talking to AT&T, Raja — in plainclothes and an unmarked van — rolled up and asked if Jones was OK. The conversation that followed was recorded by AT&T through Jones' phone.
"You good?" Raja asked.
"I'm good," Jones replied.
"Really?" Raja sarcastically replied. "Really?" Then suddenly he began yelling. "Get your fuckin' hands up! Get your fuckin' hands up!"
Jones started running. As he sprinted away, Raja fired three shots, which hit Jones in the arms. The drummer had been carrying a .380 pistol that he legally owned. But Jones dropped the gun after the first wave of bullets tore into his flesh.
Raja then fired three more shots. This time, they landed square in Jones' chest and pierced his heart. There was no evidence that Raja ever identified himself as a cop, and Jones all but certainly died without ever knowing Raja was a police officer.
During the trial, Raja tried to use the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law to argue he had been acting in self-defense. But the court rejected that argument. Instead, Raja was convicted on both felony charges.
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Since the Raja case, multiple Miami cops have skated through trials without being convicted. Days after Raja was found guilty, a North Miami officer accused of attempted manslaughter in a separate case, Jonathan Aledda, was acquitted of one culpable negligence charge after he shot unarmed behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey in 2016. A jury was unable to reach a verdict on three other charges against Aledda.
And yesterday, a Miami-Dade County judge acquitted Miami Police Officer Mario Figueroa, who last year was videotaped taking a running football-punt-style kick at a handcuffed, defenseless suspect's head. He was charged with assault. But Judge Michael Barket acquitted Figueroa halfway through the trial in a move that stunned even Figueroa's lawyers. Some observers in the courthouse believe Barket didn't actually realize what he'd done.
After the Raja case concluded last month, Jones' relatives announced they were at least beginning to feel some level of closure after the drummer's death.
"The jury saw that this disgraced officer killed an innocent man, and it’s only right that he now faces the consequences of his horrendous actions," the Jones family said last month. "Though the Jones family will miss Corey for the rest of their lives, they can finally start to heal knowing that justice has finally been served.”