Eddie Ashley, who is behind bars for his alleged involvement in a string of robberies at gay bars last year, pleaded guilty on Monday, October 23 to grand larceny, robbery, and identity theft charges, NBC News reported.
Ashley, who had previously pleaded not guilty, was one of six suspects arrested in the alleged scheme that targeted gay bars in 2021 and 2022, leading to the deaths of John Umberger, 33 and Julio Ramirez, 25, and put the city’s nightlife on edge. The two men were last seen walking out of separate Hell’s Kitchen gay bars, one month apart.
Prosecutors allege the suspects incapacitated their victims by drugging them, and used their faces to unlock their phones using facial recognition technology, before robbing them. Ashley’s guilty plea is tied to an incident in the overall drugging and robbery scheme, but not Umberger or Ramirez’s deaths, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told Gay City News.
“Everyone should be safe when they go out and experience Manhattan’s vibrant nightlife, and this multi-year prison sentence makes clear we will not tolerate this type of dangerous conduct,” District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a written statement provided to Gay City News.
Of the four charges Ashley pleaded guilty to, one was connected to the citywide robbery scheme that targeted gay bars, prosecutors said.
The other five suspects in the case, Jayqwan Hamilton, Robert Demaio, Jacob Barroso, Andre Butts and Shane Hoskins, have pleaded not guilty and are in police custody awaiting trial, according to NBC. The first three are facing charges including murder.
Terrence J. Grifferty, Ashley’s attorney, told NBC his client was expected to be sentenced to nine years in state prison on November 20, and confirmed his guilty plea.