Proposed plea deal in murder of New Jersey high school soccer star sparks protest

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Thursday, September 15, 2022
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Concern about a plea deal being considered in connection with the murder of a standout high school soccer player is sparking protest in an Essex County community. Anthony Johnson has more.

MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- Concern about a plea deal being considered in connection with the murder of a standout high school soccer player is sparking protest in a New Jersey community.

Family and friends of Moussa Fofana were joined by elected officials Thursday for a demonstration in Maplewood as his mother led a march from Columbia High School to Maplewood Town Hall.

Fofana, an 18-year-old junior at Columbia High School, was shot and killed at Underhilll Sports Complex back on June 6, 2021.

Yohan Hernandez, 20, of Newark, was arrested later that summer and charged with murder, aggravated assault and other offenses.

At a virtual arraignment later that month, his attorney claimed that Hernandez shot Fofana in self-defense, and now, a plea deal has reportedly been reached in the case.

Fofana's family and friends say the proposed agreement would allow Hernandez to serve a 15-year sentence, and they are outraged.

His mother, Hawa Fofana, said news of the plea deal was crushing.

"He was murdered, and for them to call me and tell me they're going to give the person 15 years, that was like a slap in my face," Fofana said. "I was very sad, I started crying."

Fofana said her son loved playing soccer and dreamed of a career in the sport and being able to buy his grandmother a home in the family's native land of Liberia.

She called her son the golden child who was affectionate and his tragic death has left a deep hole in her heart.

"Our life will never be the same, he was everything to me," Fofana said. "He thought I was everything to him, but he had no idea he was my everything."

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office released a statement saying:

"We have been mindful of the importance of keeping the family, through their counsel, informed of all important aspects of this case and have afforded them their right to offer meaningful input that we have considered in formulating the proposed plea."

A hearing on the proposed plea agreement is set for September 22.

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