Stamford man faces over 200 years for robbery and shooting spree
STAMFORD — Rather than risk taking his case to trial, a city man who went on an armed robbery and shooting spree in Stamford and Norwalk last year pleaded guilty Wednesday to a dozen felonies and is now facing over 200 years behind bars.
Walking into the Stamford courtroom before making his pleas, Tyreik Gantt, 21, of Connecticut Avenue, spotted his mother and with a wide smile mouthed the words, “I love you mom.”
Over the next 20 minutes, Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Manning read charge after charge into the court record while Gantt, while standing next to his attorney John Thygerson, repeated the word “guilty” over and over again.
Gantt’s mother, sitting with her elbows on her knees and hands under her chin in the second row, looked on in shock and disbelief with each new charge and her son’s repeated single word response.
Gantt ended up copping open pleas to two counts each of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and attempted murder and single charges of arson, larceny and conspiracy to commit murder.
As rare as the crime spree Gantt went on with his alleged partner, Onaje Smith, of Bridgeport, it is rarer still for a defendant to make open guilty pleas to so many serious felonies without a plea agreement, which would limit his time in prison. Judge Gary White tallied up the sentences and said Gannt risked being sentenced to 206 years behind bars.
Reflecting the severity of those crimes, Gantt threw himself on the mercy of the court when he returns for sentencing Feb. 27.
Stamford police at the time said the two had been “wreaking holy hell” on lower Fairfield County during their crime jag.
Before deciding to make the guilty pleas, Gantt had planned to go to a jury trial in early January with Smith, his co-defendant who faces identical charges. Jury selection went forward for Smith, but no jurors were picked Wednesday.
“We have a very high expectation that (Gantt) will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of significantly less than the 206 years that he is facing, had he gone to trial and was convicted of all counts,” said Thygerson. “We engaged in lengthy cost-benefit analysis meetings, and the inherent risk of paying a trial tax if he were to take this case to trial was the issue.”
Thygerson declined to discuss how Gantt’s guilty pleas would impact Smith and his trial because he did not want to prejudice either the state or Smith’s case.
But Smith’s attorney, Miles Gerety, said he did not think that Gantt’s guilty pleas would present any problems for his client.
“I don’t find this particularly harmful to Onaje Smith,” Gerety said. “I’m happy to try the case without Gantt. We were going to be put into an awkward position at trial to have to point blame at the co-defendant and that never looks good. But the evidence against Gantt was pretty overwhelming. I think the state has got it wrong in my case. They are assuming my kid is a villain. We will find out at trial.”
Manning said Gantt and Smith robbed two Chinese food delivery drivers in Norwalk in January 2017, shooting one in the leg and arm and stealing his car. Minutes after one of those robberies, Gantt was seen on a surveillance camera at a Stamford gas station pumping gasoline into the back seat of the car, which moments later was found engulfed in flames on Oakwood Place in Stamford, the prosecutor said.
The two also shot at a rival gang member during a drive-by that same month, Manning said, and both were involved in following a rival 19-year-old man into a West Main convenience store and shooting him in the left temple and abdomen. The man survived.
At the end of the hearing on Wednesday, White asked Gantt whether the facts and claims made by the state were correct. “Yes,” Gantt replied.