NJ court orders judge reconsider prison sentence for VFW 'Ladies Night' shooter

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TRENTON — A man serving 20 years in state prison for shooting a pair of security guards at a crowded “Ladies Night” event in Willingboro has a chance at a reduced sentence, thanks to an appellate court decision that denied him a new trial.

Former Trenton resident Brandon M. Washington, now 37, is an inmate at Northern State Prison in Newark. The security guards recovered from their wounds.

Police and court records state the incident took place at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4914 on Feb. 16, 2017.

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The appellate ruling, issued on August 4, does not say the original sentence is not fair or suggest an alternative. However, it notes, a judge is expected to explain in detail their reasoning for consecutive sentences.

The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office declined on Friday to comment on the ruling.

Defense attorney Robin Kay Lord did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.

Records show Washington was convicted on two counts of second-degree passion provocation attempted murder.

The trial judge sentenced him in April 2019 to consecutively serve 10 years in prison on each count. Washington also must serve at least 85 percent of each term to become eligible for parole.

Leading up to the shooting, witnesses said at the trial, a security guard had forced Washington outside after the two had a physical altercation. Washington had been told to leave but refused. Witnesses said the guard immediately returned inside the post, where more than 150 people were gathered

Witnesses said Washington reentered within seconds, took a pistol from his waistband, and opened fire.

Mark Peterson, then 67, a VFW member working security that night, was shot in the right arm.

William Matthews, then 56, also working security, was shot in the left hand and in the head. It was Matthews who forced Washington out of the building, according to testimony.

Police said they did not find Washington at the scene. He was arrested on Feb. 21, 2017 at a home in Willingboro. The pistol used in the shootings was not recovered.

This article originally appeared on Burlington County Times: Man convicted in Willingboro VFW 'Ladies Night' wins court appeal