Juveniles arrested in Paterson, Clifton killings likely to be tried as adults, experts say
Two pistol shots in two neighboring cities. Two dead delivery men. Two minors, charged with their killings, looking at life
in prison.

There are eerie parallels between the summertime New Jersey slayings of Rui Zhou, gunned down in Paterson’s 3rd Ward
on July 26, and Dervy Almonte-Moore, shot near Paulison Avenue in Clifton on July 15.

Both were killed delivering food to relatively safe neighborhoods in the early-morning hours, police said. Both were the
apparent targets of failed armed robberies, and each man tried to flee but crashed after being shot in the car.
Still, key differences remain. Although authorities charged four people in the killings, including one minor in each case,
police believe the 17-year-old who allegedly shot Zhou acted alone. Meanwhile, the 16-year-old arrested in the Almonte-
Moore killing acted alongside two adults, police said.

Details like that could drive the courts to very different judgments.

But one thing is nearly certain, experts said: Prosecutors will push to try the minors as adults.

"If you're a kid, and you committed a homicide, you're getting waived up" to adult court, said Laura Sutnick, a criminal
defense attorney in Hackensack. "There are some charges that are so serious that the juvenile justice system cannot
properly address punishment and rehabilitation."

Both juveniles are being held at a detention center in Newark, said Jason Statuto, the chief assistant prosecutor for the
Passaic County Prosecutor's Office.

The court must hold what's called a transfer hearing if prosecutors want to move the cases to criminal court. But Statuto
said in an email last week that the Prosecutor's Office has not yet decided if it will do so.

The office has 60 days to make the decision. If it chooses to waive the case up, so to speak, the penalties the young men
face become far more severe.

A minor convicted of murder or felony murder in a juvenile court faces a maximum sentence of 20 years or 10 years in
prison. Their records would also be sealed after they turn 18, Sutnick said.

In criminal court, the same charges carry a sentence of 30 years to life.

Three years ago, the state passed a law raising the hurdle prosecutors must leap to prove that a juvenile case should be
transferred to adult court. It narrowed the list of eligible offenses, required prosecutors to convincingly prove that the case
should be moved and raised the minimum age at which a youth can be tried as an adult to 15, from 14.

Advocates heralded the changes as a small but important step toward reforming what they believe is the criminal justice
system's harsh handling of its youngest offenders.

But the gravity of the charges — first-degree murder for the 16-year-old and felony murder for the 17-year-old — means
there is little chance of a family court judge hearing them, Sutnick said.

"It's 100 percent," Sutnick said. "They're going to get transferred. And in addition to the punishment being so much more
significant in criminal court, the fact that you have a criminal record is even more significant."

An estimated 250,000 minors are tried, sentenced and imprisoned as adults every year across the nation, according to the
Campaign for Youth Justice.

The killings, as described by police, were particularly senseless.

Zhou, 29, lived in Paterson and co-owned Ming's Kitchen with his wife, Xiamei Liu. The couple were making the last
delivery of the night at about 1 a.m. when the still-unnamed 17-year-old allegedly fired into the car after a failed robbery
attempt.

A bullet struck Zhou, who crashed into several other cars on East 34th Street, police said. A neighbor said police and
paramedics pulled Zhou from the car and tried to give him oxygen. But he died minutes later at St. Joseph's University
Medical Center.

The Clifton killing was extraordinarily similar. Police say three teenagers shot and killed Almonte-Moore, a delivery driver
for Jumbo Pizza in Wallington, with a .40-caliber pistol after another failed robbery.