Jury Imposes Death Sentence Against Bridgeport Drug Dealer for Murdering Three People in 2005

David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, announced that a federal jury in New Haven today voted unanimously to impose the federal death penalty against AZIBO AQUART, 30, of Bridgeport, for murdering three Bridgeport residents on August 24, 2005.

“We thank the jury for their diligent and attentive service over both the guilt and sentencing phases of this case,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “They have made a significant sacrifice from their daily lives as they fulfilled an important duty of citizens of our country.”

On May 23, 2011, after a month-long trial, the jury found AQUART guilty of the murders of Tina Johnson, 43, James Reid, 40, and Basil Williams, 54. According to the evidence disclosed during the trial, AQUART, also known as “Azibo Smith,” “Azibo Siwatu Jahi Smith,” “D,” “Dreddy,” and “Jumbo,” was the founder and leader of a drug trafficking group that primarily sold crack cocaine out of an apartment building located at 215 Charles Street in Bridgeport. AQUART and his associates participated in acts of violence, such as threats and assaults, to maintain their control over the group’s drug distribution activities at the Charles Street Apartments. In the summer of 2005, AQUART and his associates became involved in a drug trafficking dispute with Tina Johnson, a resident of 215 Charles Street who sometimes sold smaller quantities of crack cocaine without the approval of AQUART. On the morning of August 24, 2005, AQUART and others entered Johnson’s apartment, bound Johnson, her boyfriend James Reid and friend Basil Williams with duct tape, and brutally beat the victims to death with baseball bats. AQUART and others then drilled the front door of the apartment shut from the inside.

In addition to witness testimony, the government offered extensive forensic evidence gathered from Johnson’s apartment, including fingerprints and evidence that contained DNA from AQUART and his co-conspirators. AQUART’s fingerprint was found on a piece of duct tape recovered from the crime scene.

AQUART was found guilty of conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering and committing the racketeering murders of Johnson, Reid and Williams. The jury also found AQUART guilty of committing three counts of drug-related murder. Finally, AQUART was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack cocaine”).

Today, the jury unanimously determined that AQUART should be sentenced to death for committing both the racketeering murders and drug-related murders of Johnson and Williams, but could not reach a unanimous decision as to an appropriate penalty, life imprisonment or death, for the racketeering murder and drug-related murder of Reid.

This is the first time since the federal death penalty was reinstituted in 1988 that a federal jury in Connecticut has found that a defendant should be sentenced to death. United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton will schedule a sentencing date after the submission of post-trial motions.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bridgeport Police Department, Connecticut State Police, Connecticut Department of Correction’s Intelligence Unit, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, United States Marshals Service, Bridgeport States Attorney’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Dayton, Peter D. Markle, Alina P. Reynolds of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, and Trial Attorney Jacabed Rodriguez-Coss of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Capital Case Unit.