A change of plea hearing has been set for Sept. 30 in the case of Brittany J. Smith—the former Harvard student charged as an accessory in the May 2009 killing of a Cambridge drug dealer.
Smith appeared in court today for the continuation of sentencing negotiations with the prosecution, as she may choose to plead guilty and not stand trial.
“We expect the case to be resolved at that time [Sept. 30] or a trial date to be set,” said Assistant District Attorney Daniel J. Bennett ’85, a prosecutor on the case. Bennett could not confirm whether the sentence was the issue of contention holding up the case.
Smith’s attorney John P. Osler did not immediately return a request for comment.
It has been reported that Smith and her attorneys are currently in the midst of plea negotiations with prosecutors, but it is unclear what progress has been made during those talks and what type of sentence Smith might face if she agrees to a deal.
Today’s decision to schedule another hearing at the end of September gives Smith another three weeks to make a decision over whether to accept a deal.
Smith was just two weeks away from graduating when, on May 18, 2009, her boyfriend Jabrai Jordan Copney and two accomplices shot and killed Cambridge resident Justin Cosby in the basement of Kirkland’s J entryway.
Copney, an aspiring songwriter from New York City, was found guilty of felony murder of the first degree at the conclusion of his trial in April. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
His accomplices Blayn Jiggetts and Jason F. Aquino pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter prior to the start of Copney’s trial in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution. Aquino was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set for Jiggetts.
A senior in Lowell House at the time, Smith allegedly saw Jiggetts load the gun in her room before the shooting. Prosecutors say she then gave Copney her Harvard ID to gain access to Kirkland, where he was to meet with Cosby as part of a “drug rip.” Cosby was shot in the entryway and died from the bullet wound to his abdomen.
Upon Copney’s return from the scene of the shooting in Kirkland, Smith allegedly hid the gun in her blockmate’s room. She then called a taxi to help with the defendants’ getaway to South Station, where the four boarded a bus to New York. Smith returned to Harvard the next day.
Smith entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the district attorney’s office in July 2009, but prosecutors say she broke the terms of the agreement by lying to investigators and misleading a grand jury.
Smith’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the violation, but that motion was denied by Superior Court Justice Diane M. Kottmyer in June. The prosecution has since continued to pursue Smith’s case.
Smith, a native of Harlem, is the only Harvard student to be charged for any involvement with the murder. She, along with Chanequa N. Campbell, a senior in Kirkland House at the time who was also implicated in the murder but never charged, did not receive Harvard diplomas. Campbell also signed a non-prosecution agreement in exchange for her cooperation with the investigation.
Smith’s father and many members of her family were present in the courtroom, as well as Denise Cosby, the victim’s mother.
—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.