Ihab Maslamani (Detroit News file)
Eastpointe — A Lebanon native, convicted of felony murder as a teenager in the abduction and death of a Chesterfield Township man, has had his mandatory no-parole term overturned.
The state Court of Appeals, in an opinion released Wednesday, said Ihab Maslamani will get a new sentencing hearing since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down mandatory no-parole sentences for murders committed by teenagers ages 17 and under.
Maslamani was convicted in October 2010 on 18 counts including felony murder in an August 2009 crime spree of armed bank robbery and carjackings that ended with the kidnapping and killing of 21-year-old Matthew Landry. Maslamani was 17 at the time. His co-defendant, Robert Taylor, was 16.
The appeals court also ruled Wednesday that Maslamani's convictions still stand.
When the now 21-year-old returns to Macomb County Circuit Court, Judge Diane Druzinski can issue the same sentence. But she now has the option of imposing a term of years or life with or without the possibility of parole.
Macomb Prosecutor Eric Smith said Maslamani's original sentence was "justified," and his office will urge Druzinski to reinstate it.
"Maslamani was the ring leader right from the start and committed so many different horrendous crimes throughout this crime spree and has a long juvenile history of crime as well. I see society as a much safer place with him behind bars for the rest of his life," Smith said. "There's nothing that would lead anyone to believe that he would be anything other than a menace to society."
No date has been set for Maslamani's resentencing hearing.
Maslamani's appellate attorney, Valerie Newman, said Wednesday she will file an application with the state Supreme Court challenging the appeals court decision to uphold the convictions.
Prosecutors said Maslamani beat and shoved Landry into Landry's green Honda Accord in the parking lot of an Eastpointe Quiznos on Aug. 9, 2009, while Taylor acted as a lookout. Landry's body was found several days later inside a burned-out house in Detroit. He'd been shot execution-style. The gun used in the killing was never recovered.
At sentencing in November 2010, Maslamani, then 18, denied killing Landry and told Druzinski: "Murder was not something I committed. I'm hurt, too. There are false allegations on me."
Druzinski, however, wasn't swayed by Maslamani's plea or claims from his trial attorney, Joseph Kosmala, that Maslamani's family and the juvenile court system failed him.
"You did have chances," she told Maslamani in 2010. "A lot of people have less than ideal upbringings. They don't do what you did."
Maslamani's case is the first to arise in Macomb County and one of few in the state to arise since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Taylor's appeal is pending. It's expected he will likely be resentenced, too.
Smith said prosecutors will also argue to preserve Taylor's sentence of mandatory life, without parole.
Kosmala on Wednesday said the concept of the U.S. Supreme Court decision is that a mandatory term with no possibility of parole is "cruel and unusual" and that children can make mistakes and, in some cases, be rehabilitated down the line.
"It changed the landscape for punishment of juveniles nationwide," said Kosmala, noting he's not spoken with Maslamani since the original sentencing hearing.
He added the state Legislature has not yet reacted to the court decision.
"They have not yet formulated a new maximum sentence for people classified as juveniles who are convicted of these capital crimes," he said.
Wayne County juvenile records show Maslamani was sent to the United States in 2000 at the age of 8.
He was neglected and abused. In the years that followed, the teen committed crimes, became involved in gangs and drugs and failed in foster and residential placements.