By pleading guilty, John Staten, of Orange, avoided the murder charge he had faced, and the accompanying potential life sentence if convicted at trial. Under the terms of the agreement, Staten will receive 18 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 19 in Superior Court in Newark, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Staten admitted he beat 27-year-old Arthur Downey III with an iron just hours after they met on March 14, 2010, then covered his head with a plastic bag, prosecutors said. The cause of death was bludgeoning and asphyxiation. A roommate discovered Downey’s body the next morning in their Maplewood home.
In a statement accompanying the news release about Staten’s plea, Assistant Prosecutor Margarita Rivera said, “It is our hope that the 18-year sentence will bring some solace to Mr. Downey’s family.” The family did not comment on the telephone chat service homicide.
At the time of Staten’s arrest in October 2010, authorities said they were investigating whether the victim’s sexual orientation may have been a factor in the killing, but he was never charged with a bias crime.
Staten had also been charged with theft for allegedly stealing an Xbox console and other property valued at more than $500 from Downey’s home following the killing, then driving off in the victim’s 2007 Chevrolet. The theft charge was also dropped as part of the plea deal. – The Star-Ledger