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Hakeem Bey sentenced to life in prison

A Philadelphia jury this afternoon sentenced convicted killer Hakeem Bay to life in prison.

A Philadelphia jury this afternoon sentenced convicted killer Hakeem Bay to life in prison.

The 12-member Common Pleas Court jury began deliberations at 2:30 p.m. after getting instructions in the law from Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes.

Before the judge began her charge, the jury heard about an hour of testimony and argument from the prosecutor and defense attorney about whether Bey, 26, should live or die because of his first-degree murder conviction in the Sept. 24, 2000, ambush shooting of Moses Williams.

Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega urged the jury to impose the death penalty, arguing that Bey showed no mercy to Williams when the latter man visited him in 2000 to try to obtain a truce in a neighborhood shooting war that trial witnesses said began when Williams disrespected Bey's brother.

"Look at him," Vega said, referring to the shackled Bey seated at the defense table. "Strong, powerful, arrogant. 'I control the world, you don't control me.' "

Defense attorney Joseph Santaguida asked the jurors to "help me save a life."

Referring to the street violence that has marked Philadelphia for several years, Santaguida added, "When does it stop? Shouldn't it stop with us? With sensible God-fearing peole like ourselves?"

Bey was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder in the Williams slaying.

The jury also found Bey guilty of aggravated assault and weapons charges in the wounding of Brencis Drew, who drove the car in which Williams rode; and the Dec. 26, 2000, wounding of Duane Clinkscales, a back-seat passenger who saw the shooting and incriminated Bey.

The trial involved the Sept. 24, 2000, slaying of Williams as he rode in the front passenger seat of a car carrying four others celebrating the recording contract of a local rapper.

According to trial testimony, Williams, 23, was a member of a neighborhood gang from 27th and Tasker Streets who was embroiled in a dispute with a 23d Street gang dominated by the Beys.

Witnesses testified that Williams had disrespected Hakeem Bey's brother, Paul Saleem. Shots were exchanged and Hakeem Bey decided to move the dispute to the next level.

With no physical evidence against Bey, prosecutors got the judge's permission to introduce evidence that Bey engineered the Jan. 19 murder of protected witness Chante Wright to show Bey was acting with a "guilty mind."

Wright was a passenger in the car with Williams' and identified Bey as the shooter. She later recanted, telling investigators Bey threatened to kill her if she testified against him.

Last year, after prosecutors agreed to reduce Wright's boyfriend's drug sentence and get her into the federal witness protection program, Wright changed her mind and agreed to testify against Bey.

On Jan. 19 Wright, 23, left witness protection in Jacksonville, Fla. to visit her seriously ill grandmother in Philadelphia. Within seven hours she and girlfriend Octavia Green, 23, were shot to death.

A South Philadelphia man, Laquaille Bryant, 26, has been charged with the murders and is awaiting trial. At Bey's trial, Vega introduced evidence of cell phone traffic involving Bryant, Bey and a middleman in the minutes before and after Wright and Green were killed.

Bey, however, has not been charged in Wright's murder.