Bascus arraigned, pleads not guilty
The second suspect in the case involving the shooting death of Seton Hall sophomore Jessica Moore was arraigned in the Essex County Veteran’s Courthouse on Wednesday.
Marcus Bascus pled “not guilty” to murder and weapons charges.
His attorney, Clifford Lizzaro, entered the plea to Judge Michael A. Petrolle, who was filling in for Judge Peter J. Vazquez, who was not in court for unidentified reasons.
During the hearing, which was delayed over two hours due to Vazquez’s absence, Lizzaro began to deny his client’s involvement in the shooting that occurred in East Orange on Sept. 25.
Lizarro stated that his client did not provide a weapon of any kind to Nicholas Welch, the alleged shooter in the case.
Welch pleaded “not guilty” during his arraignment on Sept. 30. He is currently being held on $2 million bail.
Petrolle responded by saying that “this was not the forum” for this argument.
Similar to Welch’s case, the assistant prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo filed a motion to obtain a buccal swab, which is a form of DNA testing where a cotton swab is inserted into the person’s cheek to obtain a DNA profile.
The defense opposed this motion and a hearing is set for Nov. 4.
“The affidavit that was submitted on behalf of the state I believe is deficient,” Lizzaro said. “They are indicating that a lot of blood, from multiple individuals, was recovered at the scene of the shooting. They are indicating that Welch’s blood was recovered at the scene of the shooting.”
Gerald Salutti, Welch’s attorney had no objections to the prosecutor’s motion during his arraignment on Sept. 30, stating that it is a normal occurance.
Sukhdeo said that DNA testing is a “great exonerator” but also a “great convictor.”
Lizzaro also submitted two motions on Bascus’s behalf.
The first motion was for a “probable cause” hearing. This is a proceeding where the prosecution has to present parts of their case in front of a judge to determine whether or not there is enough evidence for the case to go to the Grand Jury.
“They are indicating in a very general vague fashion that a witness allegedly observed Marcus Bascus providing a weapon to Nicholas Welch,” Lizzaro said.
“They are not disclosing the name of this witness. We seek to find the name of this witness. I don’t believe that there is a witness at this time that observed my client providing a weapon of any kind.”
Assistant Essex County prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo said that there is also a protection order on the case, which means no discovery has been released.
Furthermore, Sukhdeo said that it is “quite curious that his (Lizzaro) client was arrested in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Lizzaro said that this was a previously planned vacation and that no flight occurred.
This hearing is set to be heard by Vazquez on Nov. 10.
“We filed a motion for a probable cause hearing because we believe the proofs against him are weak at best at this time,” Lizzaro said. “We don’t believe the state will ever be able to make its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt.”
The second motion was for bail reduction.
Bascus’s bail was set at $2 million following his Sept. 30 arrest.
There is no date for this motion to be heard as of press time.
“He never provided a weapon of any kind to Nicholas Welch,” Lizzaro said. “He didn’t attend the party where this off-campus Seton Hall University shooting occurred. He is completely innocent of these charges. He had no role or involvement in this case.”
Following the hearing, Leslie Bibilari-Vanterpool, mother of victim Nakeisha Vanterpool, said that the families of the shooting affected all of the Seton Hall community, not just the three that were shot.
She said, “Both the Moore and Bibilari-Vanterpool families will be very active in seeking justice for all the students affected, that’s all the students at Seton Hall because more than just our children have been affected.”
Tim LeCras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.