Teen arraigned in connection with DPW worker's death

Casimir Snyder

A judge has set bail for a teenager accused of falsely confessing he was the sniper who fatally shot a Syracuse man.

Ja-Le Johnson, 16, was arraigned Wednesday before Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey on felony charges of criminal facilitation, hindering prosecution and perjury and a misdemeanor count of criminal possession of a weapon.

Johnson had been charged with second-degree murder by police who now say he misled them by falsely claiming he shot Casimir Snyder on Jan. 4.

On Tuesday, authorities charged Shawn Rhines, 15, with second-degree murder in Snyder's death. They said both youths eventually confessed to being the gunman, but police charged Rhines based on forensic evidence.

Defense attorney Marsha Hunt declined to comment on why Johnson lied to authorities, but said, "I don't believe he was somehow playing games as Mr. Fitzpatrick suggested."

At a news conference Tuesday, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said investigators had audio evidence indicating Johnson "was almost playing a game with (police) to see what the other teenager would do."

Fitzpatrick also suggested Johnson may have planned to wait until "the 11th hour" to reveal he was not the killer to see if that would disrupt the prosecution of his case.

Snyder, 47, a city public works employee, was shot once in the neck just after he got into his car to pick his wife up from work. He was able to get back into his house to tell his four children he had been shot and to call police, but he was pronounced dead less than an hour later at a hospital.

Johnson's brother lived in a house across the street. Johnson and Rhines told investigators they would often hang out in the brother's attic and fire rifles at objects and small animals. Fitzpatrick said the teens' target practice escalated into the attack on Snyder. Police recovered two rifles from the attic.

Rhines was being held without bail.

Fahey set bail at $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond for Johnson, rejecting Hunt's request to release her client to the probation department's Pretrial Release Program.

"I think the bail is excessive given the charges filed by the grand jury ... however, the judge, obviously, had a different opinion on that," said Hunt.