The alleged mastermind of a marijuana robbery scheme that ended in the shooting death of a Kingston man was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison last week. County Court Judge Donald Williams said he would have given Maurice Stansberry Sr., 39, of Kingston even more prison time, but said prosecutors had failed to lay the groundwork for a stiffer sentence.
Stansberry Sr., formerly of Washington Avenue, was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges in a jury trial this summer. Prosecutors believe Stansberry Sr., a reputed member of the Bloods gang, shot and killed Mark Lancaster, 39, after Lancaster confronted him and two accomplices in the aftermath of the Dec. 1, 2018 marijuana robbery at the Sawkill Trailer Park. At trial, prosecutors argued that Stansberry Sr. led a robbery crew that included his son, Maurice Stansberry Jr., and Kevin Gardener, both 17 at the time.
On the morning of Dec. 1, 2018, authorities say, the trio went to the Sawkill Road Trailer Park purportedly to buy two ounces of marijuana from a teenage acquaintance. Lancaster, accompanied by his 16-year-old son Jashi Quiles and another teen, drove to the trailer park to conduct the deal. Instead of cash, Stansberry Sr. produced a 9mm handgun and stole the marijuana then fled in a car driven by his son, with Lancaster in pursuit. Lancaster, accompanied by Quiles and another teen, caught up to the robbers’ car on Sawkill Road. Police believe Lancaster was attempting to pull Stansberry Jr. out of the vehicle when Stansberry Sr. fired a single shot from the backseat that left Lancaster mortally wounded. Gardener, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July, would later tell the court that he fired the fatal shot after Stansberry Sr. handed him the gun. But prosecutors say forensic evidence shows Stansberry Sr. was the triggerman.
At an Oct. 4 sentencing hearing, Lancaster’s parents spoke of the pain of losing their son and their grandson’s ongoing trauma. Donna Quiles said that her grandson was haunted by the image of his father bleeding to death by the side of the road while pleading for help. Quiles called her son a loving person and free spirit who left behind seven children, including daughter who was just three months old when he died.
“No mother should have to endure their son going before them,” said Donna Quiles. “But for him to go like this, left to die by the side of the road is just unbearable.”
In his own remarks, Senior Assistant District Attorney Emmanuel Nneji noted that the family’s pain had been compounded by Stansberry Sr.’s supporters. On social media, Nneji said, associates of the convicted killer had not only defended him, but denigrated Lancaster in personal terms. Nneji called Stansberry Sr.’s online supporters “senseless, insensitive criminals.”
“It’s like you commit a crime and you become a hero in the community,” said Nneji. “But if you’re the victim of a crime, nobody gives a damn.”
Nneji also blasted Stansberry for leading his two teenage accomplices, one of them his own son, into a life of crime. Gardener is facing a maximum term of 25 years to life when he is sentenced later this month. Stansberry Jr. who cut a deal with prosecutors and testified at his father’s trial is expected to plead guilty to robbery and receive a term in state prison.
“He took his failure beyond what you would normally expect in a failing father,” Nneji told the court. “He taught them how to commit crimes, not just crimes, armed robberies.”
Nneji also asked Williams to take into account Stansberry Sr.’s criminal history, which includes arrests or convictions for drugs, assault, child abuse, theft and resisting arrest dating back to his teens. Assistant Public Defender Russell Schindler meanwhile argued for leniency based on Stansberry Sr.’s support from his family and difficult personal history, including abandonment by his parents at age 7. Stansberry Sr. declined to make a statement.
Nneji asked the court to consider sentencing Stansberry Sr. to a consecutive term on the single weapons possession charge contained in the indictment against him, which could have added up to 15 years to his prison sentence. But Williams ruled that prosecutors had failed to establish that Stansberry possessed the pistol at some time prior to formulating the robbery plan, making it a separate offense and thus eligible for a consecutive sentence.
Instead, Williams imposed the statutory maximum of 25 years to life in state prison on the murder charge, along with maximum sentences of 25 years on multiple robbery counts and 15 years for weapons possession. All of the prison terms will be served concurrently.
“You orchestrated this, you manipulated two 17-year-olds to commit these crimes to insulate yourself from responsibility … you chose selfishly to put your own son in peril by introducing him to the world of drugs and guns,” said Williams. “You simply have forfeited your right to live among the innocent.”