Man sentenced for fatal attack

Published 9:58 pm Monday, November 28, 2016

A Portsmouth man was sentenced on Monday to two life terms plus 15 years for his role in a 2015 murder.

Nathaniel Charles McCoy Jr., 23, received the sentence during a bizarre sentencing hearing during which he defied the advice of his attorney not to call any witnesses — and the character witness he called was a woman who has only met him twice.

McCoy was found guilty in August after a three-day trial in the murder of 22-year-old Donta Williams.

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McCoy has two co-defendants, Tremayne Laron Johnson, 24, and Kyle Purvis, 23. According to court testimony, the three planned the attack for several days and then lured Williams onto a pedestrian bridge across a lake near the Department of Defense complex in North Suffolk off Lakeview Parkway on Jan. 20, 2015. The three beat Williams with a hammer and their fists and choked him with a hand saw before pushing his body into the water. His body was not found until almost seven weeks later.

Accounts of the motive for the attack have varied, but most testimony has accused Williams of spreading rumors within their church about the defendants and their families.

McCoy’s defense attorney, Michael Rosenberg, withdrew a motion for a new trial before Monday’s sentencing hearing. He made the motion based on a letter from Purvis saying McCoy is sitting in jail “for a crime he did not commit.” However, Rosenberg said, Purvis later sent another letter repudiating the claims he made in the first letter.

After much disagreement between McCoy and Rosenberg about whether to call witnesses, Judge Carl E. Eason Jr. allowed McCoy to call them against Rosenberg’s advice.

McCoy called Valerie Blackman, who seemed surprised to be asked to testify. She said she is a representative of the National Action Network and visited McCoy twice in jail to make sure his civil and human rights were not being violated, and that she has gotten to know McCoy’s mother.

However, she said, “I don’t know him personally.”

Before Eason imposed the sentence, McCoy spoke at length and read Purvis’ letter to the court. He also said he was simply hanging around with the wrong crowd and asked the judge to allow him to serve his sentence at a local church program.

McCoy also spoke fondly of Williams. He said Williams was his best friend and that Williams once stopped him from committing suicide.

“I lost a best man to my potential wedding. I lost a godfather to my potential children,” he said.

However, Eason rejected the suggestion that McCoy was simply hanging out with the wrong crowd.

“You were a part of that crowd, Mr. McCoy,” Eason said. He also called the fatal attack one of the most, if not the most, vicious murder he has heard of in his courtroom.

Eason imposed the same sentence recommended by the jury. At the conclusion of the hearing, Rosenberg asked to be removed as counsel, which Eason granted. Eason appointed another attorney — McCoy’s fourth since the case began — to represent him on appeal.

Purvis was sentenced in September to life plus 10 years. Johnson is set to be sentenced this Thursday.