WEST ORANGE, NJ — Four years after 19-year-old Brendan Tevlin was killed at a stoplight in West Orange while on his way home to Livingston, his killer, Ali Muhammad Brown, was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole by Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler in Newark on May 1.
In March, while jury selection was under way, Brown entered a guilty plea to charges that included first-degree murder, first-degree terrorism, first-degree felony murder, first-degree carjacking, first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose, according to a press release from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Brown is the first defendant to be convicted under New Jersey’s terrorism statute in connection with a homicide — a conviction that carries a life sentence by itself.
Brown asked the judge and Tevlin’s family and friends, who sat in the courtroom, to see him as a human being in a long statement before he eventually admitted that he did not regret his actions. Before Brown received his sentence, members of Tevlin’s family made statements asking for a harsh sentence.
“I’m going to move off script for a moment to comment on what I heard this morning,” Tom Tevlin Sr., Brendan Tevlin’s grandfather, said when making his statement. “The defendant said with empty apologies that he doesn’t regret what happened. That says it all.”
Tom Tevlin Sr. described Brendan Tevlin’s ability to play the bagpipes and his time playing baseball and lacrosse at Seton Hall Prep, from which he graduated in 2013.
“Brendan showed us at an early age that he was destined to be a special person,” Tom Tevlin Sr. said. “We all marveled at Brendan’s ability to speak, communicate and understand adults.
“None of us know how far Brendan would have gone with his life or if his dreams would have come true,” he continued. “But all of us in the Tevlin and McNulty family know he would be a big success, always helping those less fortunate.”
Brendan Tevlin’s younger sister, Michaela Tevlin, also spoke at the sentencing.
“I was naive to believe that there is absolutely nothing that could cause enough pain and desolation to break a person’s heart — that was before June 26, 2014, at 4:30 a.m. when three detectives stood at our door to tell us that my older brother was murdered,” she said. “When Brendan’s life ended a part of mine did as well. Even my happiest moments have not been and will never be complete because Brendan will not be there. He should have been the first person to hug me when I was accepted to his college, the University of Richmond. Brendan was the one who should have been sitting alongside me when I skydived for the first time because it was all he ever wanted to do; it should have been him who took me out to celebrate my 21st birthday. When I graduate next May, when I get my first job, when I’m walking down the aisle at my wedding and when I have my first child, these are all milestones that I will never be able to fully enjoy knowing that Brendan will not get to experience any of it alongside me.”
Brendan Tevlin’s parents also stood in the courtroom in front of the judge, and his mother, Allison Tevlin spoke about her son and the crime committed against him.
“My son Brendan was an amazing human being. His smile could light up a room and put anyone at ease. He was handsome, athletic, smart, kind, faithful, generous and a sincere good soul. He brought people together and he was inclusive and caring toward everyone. He was an amazing son and a perfect role model to his younger sister and brothers,” she said.
Allison Tevlin added that she and her family are choosing to remember Brendan Tevlin’s own life motto.
“We choose to carry on our beautiful son’s legacy of kindness and compassion and hope to continue his good vibes and easy living,” she said.
When speaking about Brown, Allison Tevlin said he should never be released from prison.
“He doesn’t deserve to see the light of day ever again,” she said. “I don’t believe he deserves to have any type of human interaction for the rest of his life because of the many lives he has ruined.”
According to the ECPO press release, “Assistant Prosecutor Jamel Semper, who handled the case with Assistant Prosecutor Purva Desphande, called the murder ‘senseless, shameless violence, premeditated and unnecessary.’ He urged the judge to imposed three consecutive life sentences for the terrorism, murder and carjacking to deter not only Brown but others who might consider committing similar acts.”
In addition to the sentence connected to Tevlin’s murder, Brown is currently serving a 35-year sentence in New Jersey State Prison for an armed robbery he committed in West Orange. He is scheduled to be sentenced on another robbery charge in Ocean County on May 11, and faces three other counts of murder in Washington State.
“I have been a judge for over eight years and this is clearly one of the most, if not the most, heinous, horrific and brutal crimes that I have ever presided over,” Wigler said. “I sat here listening to the friends and family of Brendan Tevlin and I can’t imagine their courage in coming up here and expressing their feelings toward Brendan, how they muster the strength to get up here. There’s probably nothing more terrible than living every day without their beloved son.”
Wigler told Brown he hopes he thinks about the crimes he committed, adding that Brown’s time in prison will ensure he is no longer a danger to anyone else in the country.