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Suspects In Fatal Carjacking At Short Hills Mall Plead Not Guilty

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Four men charged in the fatal carjacking of a Hoboken attorney at an upscale New Jersey mall have pleaded not guilty.

Hanif Thompson, 29, of Irvington; Karif Ford, 31, of Newark; Basim Henry, 32, of Newark; and Kevin Roberts, 33, of Newark, are all charged with murder, felony murder, carjacking, conspiracy, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.

Prosecutors said all four men, all childhood friends, were involved in the carjacking outside The Mall at Short Hills on Dec. 15 that left Dustin Friedland, 30, dead.

“We’re not going to discuss who the shooter was at this time,” Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said. “However, we are satisfied of the roles each individual played.”

Friedland and his wife were leaving the upscale shopping center when they were confronted by two armed men as they were getting into their 2012 silver Range Rover on the third-floor parking deck, prosecutors said.

A struggle ensued when the men allegedly demanded the keys to the couple’s Range Rover, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

Friedland may have been trying to protect his wife, who was already in the SUV when the suspects put a gun to his head, sources said.

Friedland was shot in the head. His wife was unharmed.

Friedland’s Range Rover was found the next morning at an abandoned and boarded-up house on Renner Avenue in Newark, about 11 miles from where the fatal shooting took place. Its rear windshield was shattered.

Prosecutors have said the couple was targeted because of their expensive vehicle.

The four suspects have been in custody since their arrests. Each continues to be held on $2 million bail.

One of the suspects, Henry, was on supervised release from prison following a bank robbery conviction.

Each man answered simply yes or no to direct questions asked by the judge. None looked into the audience, where family and friends were packed onto benches.

Those closest to the accused call it a tragedy, but even they couldn’t say with certainty whether their friends are innocent, or guilty, Brown reported.

“People get murdered all the time,” said friend Reginald Gadsden. “There are people who get murdered … that you don’t hear about in the paper, so, yes, I feel it was overhyped. If you’re going to hype up one murder, hype up all the murder.”

When Brown asked Gadsden if he thought the suspects were guilty, he replied: “I don’t know.”

If convicted, all four men face life in prison.

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