Plea deal rejected in murder of Highland Park man - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Plea deal rejected in murder of Highland Park man

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Provided Photo | Lake Co. Sheriff's Office Provided Photo | Lake Co. Sheriff's Office
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Michael Coffee, one of three defendants in the shooting death of 20-year-old Colin Nutter last summer, rejected a negotiated plea offer from the state Monday, the News-Sun is reporting.

Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Reginald Mathews said prosecutors headed into the weekend believing a plea deal on the murder charges against Coffee was close to complete, but were informed by Coffee’s attorney that his 18-year-old client had rejected the offer.

Mathews told Judge Victoria Rossetti that no more offers would be made to Coffee, who could be sentenced to 35 to 75 years in prison if convicted. Coffee faces an enhancement charge because prosecutors claim he was the shooter in the case.

Coffee’s attorney, Michael Krejci, said his client had discussed the offer with his family and had decided not to accept it.

Judge Rossetti asked Coffee to confirm that he was rejecting the offer and Coffee confirmed. Rossetti set July 15 as the next status hearing for Coffee.

Mathews said that under the plea deal, the enhanced charges against Coffee would have been dropped in return for a sentencing range of 20 to 32 years in prison. Coffee would have agreed to testify in the cases of the other two defendants, if needed.

Coffee was charged with first-degree murder in the case, as were Benjamin Schenk, 20, of Highwood; and Philip Vatamaniuc, 18, of Highland Park.

According to police, Schenk, Vatamaniuc and Coffee arranged to buy marijuana from Nutter, a Highland Pafrk resident, the morning of the murder. The meeting took place in Nutter’s car, where authorities say he was shot and died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Nutter’s body was found near the Edens Expressway on June 3, 2013.

In an unusual situation, both Coffee and Vatamaniuc were charged as the shooter in the case and face enhanced sentences if convicted. Separate potential witnesses have identified both men as being the shooter, authorities said.

In another development Monday, Mathews filed a motion to dismiss defense attorney Robert Ritacca as Vatamaniuc’s attorney, claiming that it is a conflict of interest for him to represent Vatamaniuc in the case.

Mathews said Ritacca was also representing a witness in the Nutter murder case on separate, unrelated criminal charges.

Rossetti was considering that motion Monday morning.

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