Man Pleads To Manslaughter In High School Athlete's Death

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — A judge has allowed a man to pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the shooting death of a New Jersey high school soccer player despite pleas from the victim's family that the proposed 15-year sentence was too lenient.

Yohan Hernandez, 21, of Newark was charged with murder in the slaying of 18-year-old Moussa Fofana, a junior on the Columbia High soccer team shot on a field outside the Underhill Sports Complex in June 2021. A 17-year-old youth was wounded. Hernandez also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and a weapons charge.

Fofana’s mother tearfully objected to the plea deal at Thursday's hearing attended by dozens of friends and relatives of the victim, saying the sentence would not be long enough.

“Since he was killed, I can’t sleep. My life will never be the same,” Hawa Fofana said to Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler. “Please, I’m begging you. Fifteen years? I would have nightmares.”

Yasshe Fofana, Moussa’s father, wept in front of the judge as he pleaded for “justice for my son.” Others in the courtroom also cried and consoled Hawa and Yasshe as the judge accepted the prosecutor’s plea bargain.

Wigler said families “should never, ever, ever equate a number to the value of their loved one," because such bargains are based on what attorneys believe are the strengths and weaknesses of the case.

Hernandez, who is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 16, will be required to serve at least 85% of his prison sentence, or almost 13 years, before he’s eligible for probation, officials said. He will likely face deportation after that because he is not a U.S. citizen, the judge said.