Tyler Godfrey, 21, of Stillwater, is facing three years in state prison after admitting he was drunk, high and sleep deprived when he told his co-defendant to stab and kill a Stillwater man.
SUPERIOR COURT - Had it not been for drugs, alcohol and lack of sleep, Tyler Godfrey would have never instructed his friend to stab and kill Timothy Martin in Stillwater during the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 2017, according to Godfrey's attorney.
That, according to John Breslin, who spoke on behalf of Godfrey during the 21-year-old's anticipated sentencing on Friday, is why Godfrey should not be sentenced to serve time behind bars. However, Assistant Prosecutor Sahil Kabse argued that because Godfrey took a plea deal to a second-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated assault charge in April and a three-year prison deal, he is statutorily required, under state law, to a presumption of imprisonment.
Godfrey, of Stillwater, pleaded guilty to a second-degree crime subject to the No Early Release Act which requires him to serve 85 percent of his term. While Godfrey was offered a prison term in the lower end of the third-degree range - three years - he is mandated to imprisonment since he pleaded guilty to a second-degree crime, according to New Jersey criminal law.
On Friday, Sept. 13, Judge Thomas J. Critchley made the decision to withhold Godfrey's sentence, stating that he would like to explore a “legal way to do a little better than what the law under the current structure requires.”
“I have the sense, and most people agree one way or another, although (Godfrey) messed up substantially, he's remorseful and it was an aberration in his life,” Critchley stated at the end of the roughly hour-long hearing.
Godfrey will return to court in October for his sentencing.
On Friday, Breslin, in arguing for Godfrey to serve no time in state prison, argued that Godfrey had been smoking marijuana, doing cocaine and had been up for two or three days before he became “paranoid” the morning of the incident and told his co-defendant, 22-year-old Kyle Chirip, of Fredon, to stab Martin.
“Because of the state of mind and sleep deprivation, Godfrey (and Chirip) thought the victim was an undercover informant,” Breslin said.
In April, Chirip was convicted of stabbing Martin six times and sentenced to three years in prison. Martin was airlifted to Morristown Medical Center but survived his injuries, speaking at the court hearing on Friday.
Martin thanked Godfrey for “coming forward and telling the truth” about what happened, stating that he was “now permanently disabled for no good reason.” Chirip, at his sentencing, was adamant that Martin had sexually assaulted him, a statement that Martin has denied.
Martin, who was living in his car behind Godfrey's house in Stillwater when he was stabbed around 7 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2017, said he was “glad” Godfrey, who initially was facing first-degree charges, “got off with three years.”
“I would have no problem if he was released from prison today,” Martin stated.
“We need to change the laws, we gotta stop putting people behind bars for drug addiction, it's a mental health issue,” Martin added.
Breslin indicated that between the time of the incident in 2017 and May 2018, Godfrey had admitted himself into a drug rehabilitation center and had sought mental health treatment. Godfrey had battled his own demons prior to the incident, Breslin said.
“Tyler found his father dead on the front lawn two years prior to this incident,” Breslin said, saying later that Godfrey's father has died from a heart attack. Several months after finding his father deceased, Breslin said Godfrey attempted suicide by crashing his vehicle into a tree, leaving him in a coma was serious facial injuries.
“He self-medicated with drugs and alcohol,” Breslin said. “He is now on medication to help him and I think it would be a serious injustice to put Tyler in prison when he was suffering prior to this incident mentally and physically.”
Godfrey, wearing a bright yellow prison jumper, stated in court he was “truly sorry” for what had happened and took “full responsibility” for his actions.
“I never meant for any of this to happen but my drug abuse got the best of me along with my mental health issues,” he said, adding, “The combination of them together is not who I truly am. I am trying very hard to better my life.”
Godfrey had worked for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company prior to his arrest and his employer, who spoke in court Friday, said “he always has a job with me.”
“I beg of you to return him to me so he can catch up,” the employer stated.
Godfrey's mother, Susan Godfrey, called her son “very caring and loving,” and stated that he has the support of his family.
Tyler Godfrey told the judge he wanted to put the incident “behind him” and move forward, with hopes of one day owning his own home.
“I give you my word, as a man, I will never see one of these circumstances again,” Godfrey told the judge, adding, “Please suspend my sentence and bring me home to my family.”
Godfrey, who has been incarcerated since May 18, will receive credit for time served at the time of his sentencing. Like Chirip, he will be mandated to pay restitution to Martin and the New Jersey Victim's of Crime Compensation Office.
Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.