On Friday, May 6, County Court Judge Don Williams sentenced Mattis and co-defendant Gary “G-Money” Griffin to life in prison without the possibility of parole for their role in the February 2010 murder of Charles “C.J.” King Jr. Both men were convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy, intimidating a witness and other crimes following a high-profile trial that exposed the workings of the Sex Money Murder Bloods gang set to which Griffin and Mattis allegedly belonged. In addition to the life sentences, both men received sentences ranging from 25 years to five years of five lesser counts contained in the indictment.
The crime, which police believe was the culmination of a conspiracy to prevent King from testifying against Mattis’ brother, Jarrin “Phat Boy” Rankin, merited the strongest possible punishment, Williams told the unrepentant Mattis and Griffin, who vehemently proclaimed their innocence throughout an emotional, at times chaotic, sentencing hearing.
“What is most chilling about this crime is how you did it,” Williams told Mattis before pronouncing sentence. “You conspired with others … you stalked the victim on the night of the shooting and then callously shot C.J. King in the back of the head while he wasn’t even facing you.”
The sentencing came three weeks after the men were convicted on all counts following a five-day trial. The hearing played out before an audience which included King’s family, family and friends of the convicted men and cameras from TV station YNN and the Times Herald-Record which received permission from Williams to record the proceedings.
Mattis, 23, entered the courtroom appearing cheerful and animated in an orange jail-issued jumpsuit and handcuffs. Griffin, 30, looked more somber as he was led to the defense table, carrying a thick law book which he paged through during the proceedings.
The hearing began with Mattis’ attorney James Winslow and John Cobb, who represented Griffin, filed motions to set aside the jury’s verdict. Winslow claimed that District Attorney Holley Carnright had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest — the fact that he had represented Mattis’ co-defendant in a 2004 robbery and assault case. Winslow also claimed juror misconduct, based on a local newspaper’s interview with a man who served on the jury. Winslow claimed that the man admitted that jurors ignored Williams’ admonition not to draw conclusions or make inferences based on questions which were cut off based on objections or answers stricken from the record.
After hearing out the attorneys’ arguments, Williams allowed members of King’s family to read statements to the court. Debbie Webb, King’s aunt, described her nephew as a “comical, fun-loving child” and lamented the impact of graphic courtroom testimony on King’s mother.
“The last moments she has to cherish with him are pictures of him lying lifeless and the video, knowing that something was about to happen to him,” said Webb, referring to autopsy photos and security camera footage which showed King with Mattis and Griffin moments before he was gunned down. King’s stepfather, Dewayne Stokes, recounted the awful realization that his stepson was dead and the prospect of telling his 9-year old half-sister that he had been murdered.
“The people who took his life made this a lose-lose situation,” said Stokes. “Hopefully … they will look back on this senseless act with regret,” said Stokes as Mattis and Griffin looked on impassively. “Unfortunately, C.J. will not be able to experience this.”
Arguing for a sentence that would offer his client some hope of returning to society, Winslow told Williams that “it’s easy to throw away the key” and asked for a sentence that “gives him an opportunity, one day, to prove to society, prove to a parole board and prove to the victim’s family that he has rehabilitated himself.”
Cobb, arguing on behalf of Griffin, said that it was unfair that his client, who was accused of giving Mattis the gun used to kill King and directing the getaway and disposal of the murder weapon, should face life in prison while other members of the conspiracy who made deals with the prosecution in exchange for their testimony were let off the hook.
“It just seems that there is a wide differential between what some of the co-conspirators are facing and what my client is facing.”
Not sorry in the least
Given an opportunity to address the court, both defendants denied their guilt and blamed an overzealous prosecution and a biased legal system for their convictions.
“[Carnright] don’t care about this man, King Jr.,” said Mattis. “He just want a win here.”
Griffin, meanwhile, noted that he had been convicted largely on the word of two co-conspirators, alleged gang associated Amanda “Blazer Bitch” Miller and Dametria “Meaty” Kelley who made deals with the prosecution. Griffin also suggested that Carnright, who is up for re-election this year, wanted a high-profile conviction.
“He chose to take me and let the girls go, because he thought I was a further threat,” Griffin said. “I feel like I was railroaded and bamboozled, especially with these political things coming up.”
Both men continued their arguments as Williams pronounced sentence, repeatedly interjecting their complaints. When Williams noted Griffin’s gang ties, the alleged leader of the Kingston Bloods set interjected, “I’m guilty because I’m a gang member? That’s illegal, bro!”
Mattis, meanwhile, made a more vulgar interjection directed at Williams, which led to his being briefly hauled out of the courtroom by members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team. In his remarks, Williams dismissed both men’s protestations and cited their denials as one more reason why they were unworthy of mercy. Addressing Mattis, he said that his own words, recorded in phone conversations with the jailed Rankin, were the strongest evidence of his guilt.
“The proof in this case of your guilt, whether you want to hear it or not, is overwhelming — not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond all doubt,” said Williams, who added that if the death penalty were on the books, he would have imposed it. “You don’t know when to shut up; you don’t know when to close your mouth. The most damning testimony didn’t come from the lips of people [Carnright] cut deals with; they came from your own mouth.”
Turning to Griffin, Williams said that his role in King’s murder was in some respects “More offensive and more heinous” than Mattis’. Griffin, Williams said, carried out the execution not just to silence King but “to foster and continue to feed an atmosphere of intimidation and fear in this community.”
“You pulled the strings here,” said Williams. “And you hid behind the violent acts of others.”
DA: They deserved it
This week, Carnright, who requested the maximum sentence, said that he was gratified by Williams’ decision. Carnright noted that Mattis had a history of violent crime going to back to age 15, when he was committed to the care of the state Division of Youth and Family Services. Just months after he was released, the 18-year-old Mattis beat and robbed a woman outside the Broadmoor apartments earning a five-and-a-half year prison sentence. He had been back on the streets for just three weeks when he murdered King.
“He should not be amongst society,” said Carnright. “I don’t see how he is a person who should ever be released.”
As for the broader impact of the verdict, Carnright said that hardcore gang members might not be deterred by the effective entombment of Mattis and Griffin in state prison, but he hoped residents of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods would take heart.
“I hope that if anyone’s receiving the message, it is the honest citizens of Kingston,” said Carnright. “If people stand up for their rights and follow the police department and the District Attorney’s Office, we will get justice.”