- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) - The trial of four men accused of killing a Bronx cab driver may be a year away because federal prosecutors first have to decide whether to seek the death penalty, lawyers in the case suggested Thursday after the defendants pleaded not guilty.

With their hands cuffed in front of them and shackled to their waists, Takiem Ewing, 22; Tyrone Felder, 25; Kareem Martin, 26; and Tommy Smalls, 26, all of the Bronx, entered the not guilty pleas.

They are accused in the Aug. 12 slaying of driver Aboubacar Bah, 62.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gerber said Bah “was shot in the head and his body dumped on the street.” A video showing the body being tossed out of Bah’s livery cab before the Toyota Camry is driven away is among the evidence in the case.

The charge, carjacking with intent to cause death, carries a maximum sentence of death, but prosecutors can choose to seek life in prison instead. Before any trial, they have to consider not only the evidence they have but also whatever arguments the defense makes against capital punishment. Each defendant has an extra lawyer, an expert in capital punishment law, for the process.

A final decision would be made by the U.S. attorney general.

Felder’s attorney, Andrew Patel, told federal Judge Vincent Briccetti it would be “a year before we know what the Department of Justice wants.” The judge asked Gerber if he disagreed and Gerber said no.

Some of the time before trial will also be used to share evidence, which Gerber said includes the video, DNA tests, rap sheets, and a boot impression.

Briccetti set Dec. 12 for both sides to meet with him for any updates.

The judge asked about the killing of another Bronx cabbie, Maudo Kane, on Aug. 5, which is mentioned in the criminal complaint. No one has been charged in Kane’s death, and Gerber said the investigation continues.

The complaint said different guns were used to kill the two cabbies, but both guns were used in a May 29 shooting in the Bronx.

New York City police Commissioner William Bratton has said Bah’s killing was “senseless and motivated by greed.”

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