Tevlin’s murderer pleads guilty in court

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NEWARK, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino announced March 6 that Ali Muhammad Brown pleaded guilty to the 2014 murder of Livingston teenager Brendan Tevlin.

Brown, now age 34, fatally shot Tevlin, 19, while he was waiting at a stop light in West Orange on his way home to Livingston. In his court statement, Brown said that the killing, in addition to three others in Washington State three weeks before, were a part of what he called a “jihad.”

Tevlin, a University of Richmond student home on summer break, was driving at approximately midnight on June 25, 2014, when a vehicle carrying several people, including Brown, pulled up behind him at a traffic light at the intersection of Walker Road and Northfield Avenue.

According to the ECPO, Brown exited his vehicle and approached Tevlin’s, shooting into Tevlin’s car through the passenger window 10 times, striking Tevlin eight times and killing him. Brown then entered Tevlin’s Jeep Liberty, moved his body to the passenger seat and drove to the Ron Jolyn apartment complex on Northfield Avenue. Brown left the vehicle there after stealing some of Tevlin’s personal items.

This case was the first time the New Jersey terrorism statute has been used in connection with a homicide; Brown faces a mandatory life sentence under the terrorism statute alone. During the investigation into Tevlin’s murder, Brown, a self-described devout Muslim, had told investigators that he killed Tevlin as “vengeance” for the “millions of lives” lost “every day” in places such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, according to court documents. Brown is not believed to have been affiliated with any particular terrorist group though, according to previous statements made to the West Orange Chronicle by the ECPO.

Jury selection was already under way for a trial, which will not go forward now that Brown has pleaded guilty. He pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler. He also pleaded guilty to first-degree terrorism, first-degree felony murder, first-degree carjacking, first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

“We did not negotiate with this defendant. From the beginning, our position has been that he had to plead to all the charges or we would go to trial and let the jury decide,” Laurino said March 6. “Today, this defendant, in open court, admitted to the heinous acts he committed the night he took Brendan Tevlin’s life. Because of his admission, we expect that when he is sentenced on May 1, it will mean that he will never be a free man again.”

Brown is currently serving a 35-year sentence in a New Jersey state prison for an armed robbery he committed in West Orange before he killed Tevlin. On July 10, 2014, Brown emerged from a wooded area, where he had set up a campsite, and robbed the West Orange victim using a 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun. Brown threatened the victim, robbed him and ultimately forced the victim into the trunk of the victim’s vehicle. Following a two-week trial in November 2015, a jury found Brown guilty of robbery, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of hollow-point bullets, also called “cop-killer” bullets, which are illegal to carry in New Jersey.

Brown’s crimes in Washington are still open investigations and will be prosecuted there, according to ECPO spokeswoman Katherine Carter in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on March 8. If tried in Washington State, Brown could face the death penalty — unlike in New Jersey, which abolished capital punishment in 2007.

The sentence Brown will receive for Tevlin’s murder and associated crimes will be in addition to what he is already serving, and Carter said it is expected to be a lengthy sentence. In addition to the crimes in West Orange, Brown was previously convicted of bank fraud by the federal authorities. In Washington, he was convicted of sexual contact and aggravated assault, in addition to an open robbery case in Ocean County.

“Ali Muhammad Brown randomly targeted and executed an innocent defenseless teenager, and admitted in open court to doing the same to three other young men in Washington. He grievously harmed families and terrorized entire communities across the country,” Assistant Prosecutor Jamel Semper said; Semper was trying the case with Assistant Prosecutor Purva Deshpande. “This defendant is no martyr; he’s just an admitted terrorist who will now spend the rest of his life in prison. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Tevlin family, and all those affected.”