The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office recently offered a plea agreement to a man from Totowa, New Jersey who is currently facing charges for first-degree murder, third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.
During the arraignment hearing of 20-year-old Totowa resident Jonathan Lafontaine, which was held in Passaic County Superior Court, prosecutors proposed a sentence of 30 years of incarceration in connection with charges stemming from a July 2013 incident in which Lafontaine is accused of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Brian Topoleski.
According to law enforcement officials, Lafontaine assaulted and subsequently murdered the victim with a steak knife after an altercation occurred between two groups of friends on July 15, 2013 in Little Falls. The defendant has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.
Per the terms of the aforementioned plea agreement, Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael DeMarco offered to downgrade the first-degree murder charge, which is the most serious of the three charges Lafontaine is facing, to aggravated manslaughter. In addition, prosecutors would agree to dismiss the charges related to weapons possession in exchange for a guilty plea.
If he accepted the agreement, LaFontaine would be sentenced to 30 years in New Jersey State Prison, with a 25.5-year period of parole ineligibility, required under The No Early Release Act (NERA). If he is found guilty of the murder charges, which are governed under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, he will be subject to a sentence ranging from 30 years to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 30 years that must be served before he is eligible for parole.
Ultimately, LaFontaine rejected the prosecution’s offer, claiming that he was acting in self-defense during the incident. His defense attorney also stated that he will submit several alternatives to the state, as he does not believe they have the necessary evidence to prove the murder charges.
Passaic County Superior Court Judge Donna Gallucio has scheduled a status conference with attorneys on both sides to be held on April 7th. Whether or not the opposing sides are able to reach an agreement suitable to both parties in lieu of a trial remains to be seen.
For more information pertaining to this case, access the following article: Prosecutors offer 30-year plea deal to Totowa man charged in stabbing death of Cedar Grove teen