Courtroom commotion delays sentencing in fatal headphones robbery

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Arkel Garcia

PHILADELPHIA -- A man convicted in a west Philadelphia slaying that police say was over expensive headphones had his sentencing delayed Tuesday following some courtroom commotion.

As 21-year-old Arkel Garcia stood to have a mandatory life term imposed Tuesday, his chair tipped over and a confrontation with a deputy sheriff began.

Garcia was subdued by deputies and a police officer escorted him from the courtroom. But some of his relatives began crying and accusing authorities of beating Garcia, and the courtroom was cleared.

Sentencing was rescheduled for March 5 and is to be held in a high-security courtroom.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours over two days before convicting Garcia in the November 2013 shooting death of 21-year-old Christian Massey. Massey told police before losing consciousness at a hospital that someone grabbed his new Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, which cost at least $200, and he was shot after trying to grab them back.

Prosecutors said Garcia told detectives eight days later that he and two other men planned to rob Massey and he had no idea Massey would be gunned down.

But defense attorney Joshua Scarpello said his client gave the statement out of exhaustion after 24 hours in custody, but authorities said he never asked for an attorney or a phone call after being held overnight. The defense argued that Garcia had nothing to do with the robbery and shooting.

Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the courtroom melee Tuesday "gave us a little window into his mindset."

"This was a robbery pure and simple," O'Malley said. "I think we can assume he's done this type of thing before."

Massey was from West Philadelphia's Carroll Park neighborhood but attended a special-needs school in Delaware County and was later enrolled in Marple Newtown High School, where he played football, basketball and lacrosse.

"He thrived in that environment," O'Malley said, adding that Massey had hoped to become a nursing assistant.