The man charged with killing a then-rising University of Richmond sophomore in 2014 has pleaded guilty to all seven charges against him, including terrorism and felony murder.
Ali Muhammad Brown, 34, of Seattle, Washington, shot and killed Brendan Tevlin, 19, in New Jersey on June 25, 2014.
Brown made his plea on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, during the fifth day of jury selection in Newark, New Jersey, thereby removing the need for a trial. His sentencing is scheduled for May 1.
Tevlin was driving home at night from his friend’s house in June 2014. As he was stopped at a traffic light in West Orange, New Jersey, he was shot multiple times by Brown. Brown then drove and abandoned Tevlin’s Jeep Liberty at a nearby apartment complex with Tevlin dead inside it. Brown also stole personal items from the car.
According to a confession he gave to Essex County detectives one month after the shooting, Brown ambushed Tevlin from his hiding spot at the intersection, dressed in camouflage military fatigues and a scarf around his face. He had been waiting in the bushes for about 30 minutes, waiting for a target that was not a woman or child, he said.
Michaela Tevlin, Brendan Tevlin’s younger sister and a junior at UR, said she did not have any thoughts on Brown.
“I don’t really think of him ever, and me and my family don’t talk about him,” she said. “It wasn’t really relevant to who my brother was."
Tevlin, a native of Livingston, New Jersey, is remembered by his family, friends and the UR community as having been endlessly optimistic -- he was often seen around with his signature “Tev-style smile.” His love of music – he played the bagpipes – was remembered his friends. He was also involved in athletics and played club lacrosse at UR.
Michaela Tevlin said that hearing news of the plea had given her and her family closure.
“It’s definitely brought a huge sense of closure for me and my family just because it has been three years of this kind of un-knowing,” she said.
In an email interview, Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College said: “I am very relieved for Brendan’s family and friends that his killer has admitted guilt and that there will not be a lengthy trial. I know that Brendan’s death is still being felt by many of us in the spider family, and this plea will not change that. My hope is that we can all focus on the memories of the positive impact Brendan had in his brief time here at the university.”
Brown, a self-identifying Muslim, said that his act had been one of vengeance for the lost innocent lives during U.S. Military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran, according to The Star-Ledger, which cited court documents filed in Washington in August 2014.
This statement led to him being the first person charged with terrorism in New Jersey in a murder case.
Brown pleaded guilty to terrorism, murder, felony murder, carjacking, robbery and two weapons offenses, Assistant Prosecutor Jamel Semper said. The plea was made without a formal agreement with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, he added.
This means that Brown, who is currently serving a 36-year prison sentence for another armed robbery in West Orange, will be spending the remainder of his life in prison.
“I think he will, without question, spend his entire life in prison,” Michaela Tevlin said. “And I think that was just the thing that he mainly deserved.”
During his plea on March 6, Brown repeatedly said that he had been “stupid” and had been following a mistaken ideology, according to The Star-Ledger.
Semper told the Tevlins that Brown’s rambling was futile, according to The Star-Ledger.
“He’s trying to make himself a martyr,” Semper told them. “But it doesn’t matter what he says. He’ll never see the light of day.”
In a later interview, Michaela Tevlin said, “Obviously, I don’t think that it was a mistake. What he did changed my life, my brother’s life and everybody around him’s lives forever. But it also changed Brown’s life as well. And because he’s only human, I can’t blame him when he was in that position.”
Brown also pleaded guilty to the murders of three other men in Washington, and the charges remain pending in that state. Brown is also a registered sex offender there.
Michaela Tevlin said that she had nothing to say to Brown but that she would take her brother as a role model.
“My brother played such a big part of my life,” she said. “And when he passed away, it allowed me to grow as a person and become so resilient. It definitely helps me when I’m here thinking about him and thinking about the person he was and who I want to be. I definitely try to model my life after how he did.”
Contact news writer Arrman Kyaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.