Man pleads guilty to killing childhood pal

05/27/2010 12:00 AM |

Calvin Butts

A Northampton man pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter last Thursday for fatally stabbing a Riverhead man during a brawl outside the Hampton Bays Diner last Memorial Day.

Jermaine Holmes, 26, entered a guilty plea before Suffolk County Judge James Doyle as part of a deal to have the charge reduced, said his lawyer, Susan Menu.

“He thought this was in his best interest to put this sad and terrible incident behind,” Ms. Menu said. “Bring some closure to it.”

Mr. Holmes originally pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in the stabbing of his childhood friend, Calvin Butts, after turning himself in to police last June. If convicted of that charge, he would have faced 25 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Friday they will argue for a sentence of 25 years at Mr. Holmes’ sentencing June 29. Ms. Menu said she is hoping for a sentence of 12 1/2 years.

Mr. Butts, 26, a Riverhead High School graduate, former basketball player and honor student, had just eaten at the Montauk Highway diner May 24, 2009, with his brother and friends, authorities said. The group was leaving about 4 a.m. when a fight erupted outside. Mr. Butts was knifed from behind during the melee, after which the suspects fled the area. He was transported by ambulance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead where he died.

Evidence against Mr. Holmes included admissions he made to “a civilian,” an autopsy report that revealed five stab wounds to the victim’s back and one to his shoulder and the recovery of what prosecutors believe to be a weapon, Suffolk County assistant district attorney Jim Chalifoux told the News-Review last year.

Mr. Butts’ mom said she’s praying the judge doesn’t go easy on her ourson’s killer at the June sentencing.

“I feel sorry for his mother. Jermaine was like a part of my family for years, but I just want justice for son,” Ms. Butts said. “He’ll be alive when he gets out. Our son ain’t never coming back.”