July 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Attorneys: Defendants in Clinton Twp. party store owner's death didn't mean to shoot him

Darius Diaz Gaskin, 24, left, Kenneth Hill, 26, Jomar Robinson, 25, and Clinton Rayshawn Grayson, 24, are accused of killing Basim 'Basil' Sulaka, 51, as he was closing his Moon Lite Party Store in Clinton Township. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Clinton Township — Attorneys for the men accused of gunning down a Clinton Township party store owner during a robbery in March said Monday that prosecutors failed to show they intentionally killed him.

Despite attorneys’ arguments, the four men were ordered by a 41-B district judge to stand trial. Clinton Rayshawn Grayson and Darius Diaz-Gaskin, both 24 and from Detroit, and Kenneth Hill, 26, and Jomar Robinson, 25, both of Clinton Township, are accused of killing Basim “Basil” Sulaka, as he was getting ready to close his Moon Lite Party Store on Harper.

The four are scheduled to be arraigned in circuit court on July 21.

The men are charged with murder, armed robbery, felony firearm possession and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. If convicted of the homicide charge, they each face life in prison without parole.

They are being held in the Macomb County Jail without bond.

During a preliminary examination for the men Monday, attorneys claimed police violated their clients’ rights and said the prosecution failed to show they intentionally killed Sulaka.

“My client wasn’t armed and he had no intention of being part of a plan but he’s been charged with felony murder,” David Cripps, who represents Robinson, said. “We will pursue motions in that regard at the circuit court level.”

“ ... The discharge of the gun may have been accidental,” he said. “How my client could be held accountable for someone else’s accidental discharge of a gun to the level of felony murder is what we strongly dispute.”

Friends and family of the victim and defendants were at the hearing. They declined to speak to the media.

Police said the men entered Sulaka’s store around 11 p.m. March 28 and jumped the counter. Two emptied cash registers while another shot the Sterling Heights man. The incident, which lasted one minute and 44 seconds, was recorded by the store’s security cameras.

Clips of the videos were shown during the hearing. At one point, sobs could be heard coming from the gallery.

Clinton Township police detectives Bryan Gilbert and Daniel Quinn testified that the four men met before the robbery at Hill’s apartment and drove to Sulaka’s store to rob it.

The detectives said the suspects told them the store was picked because there weren’t any cars in the parking lot and the store appeared to be empty.

The detectives also testified that Diaz-Gaskin said he accidentally shot Sulaka with a semi-automatic handgun when the store owner confronted him during the robbery. Diaz-Gaskin told officers he didn’t think he’d had his finger on the gun’s trigger and that he thought he’d had the gun’s safety on, police said.

Grayson and Robinson also entered the store, according to police, but only Grayson was armed. Robinson allegedly filled an orange bag with money from the store’s cash registers.

The four men argued about the shooting after they returned to Hill’s apartment, where they divided the money, police said. Each man got about $200, detectives testified.

Gilbert also said police received a call from an informant April 10 that led to the suspects.

Monday’s hearing had been scheduled for May 21, but was delayed to give attorneys time to review the Macomb County prosecutor’s evidence.

Meanwhile, authorities charged Grayson and Hill with robbing a Harrison Township liquor store in February. They face additional charges of armed robbery, felony firearm and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery are felonies punishable by life in prison.

Grayson is alleged to have entered Captain’s Party Store on North River Road armed with a revolver, according to the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

After threatening the store clerk, he’s accused of stealing more than $3,000 and a bottle of Hennessy cognac, police said.

Hill waited outside and drove the getaway car, according to officials.

cramirez@detroitnews.com
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Basim 'Basil' Sulaka