MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II announced Nov. 16 that Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler sentenced Yohan Hernandez, 21, of Newark, to 15 years in prison for the fatal shooting of Moussa Fofana, who at the time of his death was an 18-year-old junior at Columbia High School in Maplewood.
In a plea hearing on Sept. 22, Hernandez pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, as well as aggravated assault and the unlawful possession of a handgun in connection to the shooting of Fofana. Under the No Early Release Act, Hernandez must serve 85 percent of his 15-year sentence before being eligible for parole. He will also likely face deportation after serving his sentence, Wigler said, because Hernandez isn’t a U.S. citizen.
After Fofana’s parents addressed the court, Wigler told them that “this is a terrible tragedy.”
“Please don’t think this 15-year sentence represents the value of Moussa’s life,” Wigler said. “There’s not a sentence or a number of years in jail I can give him that will make your lives whole again. And I’m sorry. But I’m satisfied that under all the circumstances, this plea is fair and appropriate.”
On June 6, 2021, Maplewood police were dispatched to a field near the Underhill Sports Complex on reports of a shooting. The responding officers found Fofana suffering from a gunshot wound, and later that day he was pronounced dead. A 17-year-old boy was also wounded in the leg.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force launched an investigation, along with Maplewood police, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The investigation led to the arrest of Hernandez on Aug. 6, 2021.
“The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office shares in the grief experienced by the Fofana family and the entire township of Maplewood,” Stephens said. “The interests of justice have been served, however, because this killer will not walk the streets in Essex County, and perhaps not in this nation, for years to come.”
Jacqueline Bilinkas, the assistant prosecutor who tried the case, added that this was a tragic event that resulted in the loss of a young man who truly touched his community.
“The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office believes that this sentence brought justice to the Fofana family and safety to the community,” Bilinkas said. “It is our hope that this sentence deters future senseless violence in Essex County.”