NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A judge sentenced a career criminal to life in prison Wednesday for a brutal home invasion beating caught on a nanny cam after listening to the victim describe how the attack left her with physical and psychological scars.
Shawn Custis said nothing during the hearing and held a folder of papers in front of his face during the proceeding to block photographers from taking his picture. The woman, who testified against Custis during the trial, gasped and sobbed in the gallery after state Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler pronounced the sentence and referred to the 45-year-old man as “vicious, depraved and evil.”
The 2013 attack lasted several minutes and started while the woman was sitting with her daughter watching television, with her infant son sleeping upstairs. The woman was punched and kicked repeatedly and thrown down a flight of stairs. The children weren’t physically injured.
Approaching the bench to describe how the crime has affected her, the woman said she suffered a fractured bone in her back and facial injuries and remains so traumatized that she has been unable to return to work and has had to move her family.
“I carry a personal alarm even when I am in the comfort of my own home,” said the woman, who prosecutors asked not be identified. “I am in my own prison. I haven’t opened a window in my house in two years.”
A jury convicted Custis on June 1 of aggravated assault, child endangerment, robbery, burglary, criminal restraint and theft. But the panel acquitted him of the most serious charge, attempted murder. Wigler added an additional five years to Custis’ life sentence for the child endangerment conviction. Custis won’t be eligible for parole for more than 60 years.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for the Newark resident based on a criminal past Wigler termed “rather staggering.” It included 38 arrests and 17 felony convictions before the 2013 attack in Millburn, a suburban town several miles from Newark.
One of the previous convictions was for a 1990s home invasion similar to the attack in Millburn, according to Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Jamel Semper. “Half-measures of leniency haven’t worked to deter this defendant,” Semper told the judge. “He has almost as many arrests as he’s had birthdays.”
Custis’ attorney argued during the trial that the police investigation was biased because a white officer responding to the crime scene was heard on video using a racial slur. Custis is black. Prosecutors countered that four women who knew Custis identified him after seeing the video of the attack on television, and DNA tests showed blood found on his jeans belonged to the victim.
Defense attorney John McMahon said Custis maintains his innocence and plans to appeal.