Two Men Arraigned In Woman's Stray-Bullet Killing In Boston

BOSTON (AP) - One of the men charged in connection with the death of a New York City woman shot during an exchange of gunfire could have been behind bars the night of her death, but was free because of a plea deal struck with prosecutors in 2005, according to court records.

Manuel Andrade, 33, and Casimiro Barros, 20, both of Boston, were ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to the murder of Chiara Levin, a Kentucky native, during their arraignment in Dorchester District Court on Monday.

Barros was a passenger in a car pulled over in August 2004 in which police found two handguns and crack cocaine, according to the court records. He was charged with unlawful possession of guns and ammunition and drug charges.

Had he been convicted, he would have been sentenced to a minimum of three years.

But in October 2005, prosecutors agreed to sentence Barros to one year behind bars, with credit for the 215 days he spent in jail awaiting trial. In exchange, he pleaded guilty to the gun charges, court records show.

Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office, said prosecutors agreed to the deal because they did not think they had enough evidence for a conviction.

"As in every case, we had to weigh the seriousness of the allegations against our ability to prove them in court," Wark told The Boston Globe.

Levin and two friends met Andrade at a downtown bar in the early hours of March 24, and he invited them to an after-hours party in Dorchester, prosecutors said.

A fight broke out at the party, and Andrade shot one man inside the house, Assistant District Attorney Edmond Zabin said during the arraignment. That man survived.

As Andrade returned to the car in which Levin and her friends were waiting, Andrade and Barros exchanged gunfire, prosecutors said. Andrade, who was standing by the car, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.

Levin, 22, was struck in the head by a bullet and was pronounced dead at Boston Medical Center later that morning.

Authorities think Barros fired the shot that struck Levin, Zabin said, although Massachusetts law allows prosecutors to hold both men responsible for her death.

The defendants were arrested Saturday based on witness statements after a month-long investigation, authorities said.

Andrade's lawyer, Rosemary Scapicchio, called the prosecution's case weak.

"They have no idea who shot who and if these two people were even involved," Scapicchio said after the arraignment.

Levin, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, was a Danville, Ky., native who had moved to New York City to take a job as a booking agent. She was visiting Boston for a family celebration.

Levin's mother, Grazia Levin, watched the arraignment but left without commenting to reporters.

In addition to the murder charge, Andrade also faces two counts of armed assault with intent to murder - one for shooting the other man at the party and one for firing at Barros. He is also charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Barros also is charged with armed assault with intent to murder and unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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