WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A former South Florida police officer was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday for killing a stranded black motorist.
Palm Beach County Judge Joseph Marx sentenced Nouman Raja to 25 years on each count of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder. Both sentences will run concurrently.
Raja was convicted last month in the 2015 fatal shooting of Corey Jones, who was stranded on the side of an Interstate 95 exit ramp in Palm Beach Gardens after his SUV had broken down.
Defense attorneys argued during trial that Raja, 41, shot Jones in self-defense. Jones, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled a gun.
Prosecutors claimed Raja instigated the confrontation because he was working undercover and never identified himself as a police officer, leading Jones, 31, to believe that Raja was a robber.
A now-bearded Raja entered the courtroom for Thursday afternoon's sentencing hearing wearing a jail uniform. He kept his head down most of the time, tearing up during his wife's testimony.
Marx denied a motion for a new trial last week. Raja's attorneys argued the "court erred in the decision of matters of law arising before and during the course of the trial" and "erroneously instructed the jury on matters of law and refused to give a proper instruction requested by the defendant."
Raja, who was fired by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department shortly after the shooting, received a lesser sentence than what the state and Jones' family were seeking.
In a letter written on behalf of Jones' family, his uncle asked Marx to sentence Raja to life.
"He hunted down an innocent man and killed him," Marc Johnson wrote, reading the letter aloud in court. "He ruined the lives of Corey Jones' family, as well as his own. And still he shows not an ounce of remorse."
Johnson went on to say that Raja "should not have the opportunity for parole" and should "spend the rest of his life trying to atone for his wrongdoing."
"At least he will have the opportunity to apologize to his wife and children for deceiving them," Johnson wrote. "At least he will have the opportunity to simply wake up everyday. Corey Jones will never have the opportunity to do anything ever again."
Marx also heard testimony from Jones' father, niece and aunt.
Clinton Jones said he still keeps his son's cellphone number in his phone for therapy.
Corey Jones' aunt, Sheila Banks, noted that Raja hasn't expressed any remorse for the shooting, instead asking for leniency during his house arrest while awaiting trial and filing appeals.
Raja's wife, brother and best friend testified on his behalf.
Adnan Raja, a deputy with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, told Marx he believes the issue of race was the motivating factor for the state to prosecute his younger brother.
"But I just don't feel this is right," he said. "It's politically motivated."
Adnan Raja pointed out how his brother was a good police officer, a proud American Muslim and a scapegoat for a racial storyline.
"Today he's being labeled a murdered and a racist," he said. "I just don't feel right about it."