PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A judge has denied post-trial bond for former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who was convicted of killing musician Corey Jones on Interstate 95.
Raja was fighting to be released from prison while he appeals his conviction.
In a written order filed on Friday, Judge Joseph Marx expressed concerns with Raja being a possible flight risk if he's granted bond, writing:
"The substantial length of Defendant's sentence and Defendant's vulnerable status in the prison as a former police officer are circumstances that the court finds would be very tempting and motivating to Defendant to remove himself from the court's jurisdiction."
Judge Marx added Raja has lived a large portion of his life in the Middle East and has significant ties to the Middle East, an area the United States does not have a strong relationship with.
🔽 READ JUDGE'S ORDER DENYING BOND 🔽
Last month, Judge Marx sentenced Raja to 25 years in prison. He's currently in state custody at the South Florida Reception Center in Doral. Raja will remain behind bars while a Florida appellate court decides if it will grant his motion for a new trial.
"I would hope that he can come to terms with himself and find some peace in himself and stop fighting whatever lies that he’s going through," said Rahein Jones, Corey Jones' cousin, on Friday. "Whatever it is he’s going through, I hope that he would just come out and be truthful to to himself, to the community, to his family"
Raja's attorney, Richard Lubin, released this statement Friday about Judge Marx's decision to deny bond:
"We were disappointed that the Court denied Mr. Raja's request for an appellate bond. The Court acknowledged that the appeal of Mr. Raja's conviction is debatable and taken in good faith. Nouman Raja has no signficant ties to any of the countries in the Middle East and the undisputed testimony at the bond hearing was that he has not traveled there for 18 years. The court has possession of Mr. Raja's passport and the defense offered to surrender Mr. Raja's passport as well as those of the Raja children. Mr. Raja has strong ties to Palm Beach County and there has been NO evidence presented that he is a flight risk. We will immediately appeal the denial of the bond."
"(Raja's) family should know exactly what happened. They don’t know," said Rahein Jones on Friday. "And that’s why they’re fighting for him the way they are. They love him, just like we love Corey, and they’re going to fight for him in a way that any family would fight for a family member, a dad, a wife.
Jones' family released this statement Friday following the judge's decision:
"Our respect for the court and the court process has not changed. The maternal family of Corey Jones is built on the power of prayer and we have experienced that power. Through that power of prayer we have seen a fair court of Justice in this court process. We truly believe that the murder of our grandson, nephew, godson, cousin and uncle was committed and pronounced in the judgment of the court so our faith in the system will not waver. We feel that our family member Corey Jones will not have died in vain and we respect the power of the court. We are thankful!"
"(Raja) is the piece that’s connecting everything together, you know?" said Rahein Jones. "He can bring peace to a lot of people. That would be the message to Raja. You could bring peace to a lot of people, your family and our family."
At at hearing earlier this week, Jones' family, as well as Raja's wife, addressed Judge Marx in court.
Jones' stepmother, Kattie Jones, read a statement to the judge. She said Raja was looking for any way to escape serving his sentence.
"To release him now would mean being an accessory to this crime," said Mrs. Jones.
Judge Marx took offense to that comment and addressed it in open court.
"Mr. Jones, I just have to tell you that I'm very sorry for your loss, but I would be remiss not to say I'm a little taken aback by your comment that if I was to release Mr. Raja, I'm not saying I'm going to, that I'm somehow an accessory. I don't appreciate it," said Judge Marx.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office said Jones' vehicle had broken down on an I-95 off-ramp on Oct. 18, 2015.
Raja, who was an on-duty police officer at the time, approached Jones’ vehicle in an unmarked van. He was dressed in plainclothes, but never identified himself as an officer.
Prosecutors said Raja acted so aggressively, Jones must have thought he was about to be carjacked or killed. That caused Jones, who had a valid concealed weapons permit, to pull out his .38-caliber handgun and run.
Raja fired several shots, killing Jones, according to the State Attorney's Office.
Raja told FBI investigators Jones pulled a gun on him, and that's why he opened fire. The FBI said Jones' weapon was never discharged.
As part of their appeal, Raja's attorneys are expected to argue several issues including:
- Failure to instruct the jury on justifiable use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer
- Insufficient evidence of attempted first-degree murder
- Lack of proof of an essential element of manslaughter by culpable negligence