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May 26, 2010 11:00 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Holmes pleads guilty to 2009 stabbing in front of Hampton Bays Diner

May 26, 2010 11:00 AM

Jermaine Holmes, the Northampton man charged with killing a Riverside man during a fray outside the Hampton Bays Diner one year ago, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter last week, and for the first time prosecutors were able to shed new light on the fatal encounter—which resulted from a dispute involving their brothers.

Mr. Holmes, 26, was originally charged with second-degree murder for fatally stabbing 26-year-old Calvin Butts during a fight on May 24, 2009.

His guilty plea, entered before Judge James F.X. Doyle in Suffolk County Criminal Court last Thursday, May 20, was part of a bargain to have the charge reduced, according to Mr. Holmes’s defense attorney, Susan Menu.

“If convicted of the murder, he would have faced 25 years to life in prison, and it was just too big a risk. So he consented to the plea bargain,” Ms. Menu said. She said she would not be able to comment further until after Mr. Holmes’s sentencing on June 29.

Mr. Holmes faces 12 and a half to 25 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors will recommend the maximum, according to Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

The events leading up to the fatal encounter between Mr. Holmes and Mr. Butts remained largely unclear over the past year, and investigators have said that they didn’t know what started the fight. But in an e-mail sent earlier this week, Assistant District Attorney James Chalifoux said the two men were drawn into a confrontation that began with their respective brothers in the diner’s parking lot.

According to Mr. Chalifoux, in the early morning hours of May 24, 2009, Mr. Holmes’s 32-year-old brother, Jimmy Dean, started a fight with Mr. Butts’s younger brother, Chris Butts. The district attorney’s office does not have a record of Chris Butts’s age because he was not arrested, according to Mr. Clifford.

“From what we learned, the fight was because Jimmy Dean felt that Chris Butts did not give him his ‘proper respect,’” Mr. Chalifoux wrote. “We heard rumors about other things but could not confirm anything.”

Chris Butts was getting the better of Mr. Dean in the scuffle, he said, and some of Mr. Dean’s friends jumped in. It was unclear exactly how many people were involved in the altercation, he wrote.

Prosecutors believe that Calvin Butts, a 2001 graduate of Riverhead High School, was trying to break up the escalating fight when he was stabbed multiple times. Mr. Butts was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, where he died.

Mr. Chalifoux wrote that there were rumors of gang involvement in the fight, although Mr. Holmes and Mr. Butts are not believed to have been gang members. “The only thing we can confirm is that Jimmy Dean is associated with many gang members and, thus, some may have been present,” he wrote.

Mr. Dean was jailed in 2002 on a charge of second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony, according to corrections records provided by Mr. Clifford. He was on parole for that charge at the time of the stabbing, prosecutors said.

Mr. Chalifoux described Chris Butts only as a “scholarship lacrosse player.”

Witnesses tied Mr. Holmes to the scene, according to Mr. Chalifoux. Mr. Holmes turned himself in to authorities on June 1, about a week after the incident, after he learned that investigators were looking for him, according to authorities. At the time, Ms. Menu said she believed that her client would eventually be vindicated of the charges.

But in recent months, Ms. Menu said she was struggling to find witnesses to come forward—a situation that she described as a “conspiracy of silence.” The defense had not found any witnesses by the day Mr. Holmes issued his plea, Ms. Menu said last week.

Mr. Chalifoux wrote that no witnesses voluntarily came forward to prosecutors either, and that “very few” spoke openly once they were tracked down. Most of the witnesses were friends of Mr. Dean, according to Mr. Chalifoux.

Last year, witnesses said Mr. Butts had been at the Whitehouse nightclub on Saturday night, and that he was involved in a confrontation there that followed him to the diner parking lot. The nightclub is in Hampton Bays, just a couple of miles east of the diner.

“We heard that rumor but were never able to confirm it,” Mr. Chalifoux wrote last week.

Mr. Holmes and Calvin Butts knew each other, possibly for 10 or more years, he said.

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NO COMMENTS BECAUSE EAST 27 DID NOT JUICE UP THE STORY. THEY STILL HAVE WRONG INFORMATION PRINTED. AGAIN THAT'S EAST 27 NEVER HAVE ALL THE FACTS. ONCE THIS CASE IS OVER I WILL GO BACK TO NOT BUYING YOUR 'TRASH'
By Faith (10), Riverhead on Jul 15, 10 7:16 PM
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