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Final NJ triple murder defendant gets 195 years

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The final defendant convicted in a brutal schoolyard attack that killed three college-bound friends and left a fourth seriously wounded was sentenced Wednesday to 195 years in prison.

Gerardo Gomez was one of six men and boys who pleaded guilty or were convicted in the execution-style murders in a Newark school playground in 2007.

A jury convicted Gomez last November on multiple counts including robbery, murder and attempted murder.

Attorney Michael Robbins had argued at the sentencing that Gomez, who was 15 on the night of the murders, should receive a shorter sentence because of his age and because he didn't wield a knife or gun used in the attacks.

Four other defendants are serving multiple consecutive life sentences. The fifth received 30 years in exchange for his testimony.

Gomez's attorney had argued that he was a bystander at the Mount Vernon School playground, but prosecutors contended that he never tried to leave the scene and acted as a lookout while the victims were robbed.

After robbing the four, the defendants led three of them down a set of steps and forced them to kneel against a wall before shooting them, according to the suspects' statements and the survivor's testimony. One of the victims suffered numerous slash wounds from a machete before the shooting.

The outcry following the killings fast-tracked numerous anti-crime measures in Newark including surveillance cameras and gunshot detection systems.

Gomez's conviction isn't the final legal proceeding stemming from the killings. A lawsuit filed by the victims' families, accusing the school district of negligence for leaving the playground open at night when it was a known gang hangout, is in jury selection this week.

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