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Drug dealer who shot customer for using fake cash can't dodge murder conviction

Even though he didn’t fire the fatal shot, a Philadelphia drug dealer is responsible for the killing of a customer who was gunned down for using fake money, a state Superior Court panel has ruled.

So Jimmy Santos, 32, must keep serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence on his third-degree murder conviction for the death of addict Abba Abukanan, Judge Victor P. Stabile concluded in a state court opinion issued this week.

Santos’ journey to jail began on Oct. 25, 2012 when Abukanan tried to use bogus cash to buy drugs from Santos and another dealer, William Colon, at Fifth and Cornwall streets in Philadelphia. The dealers chased Abukanan off the block and told him not to come back.

When Abukanan came back that same day to again try to buy drugs, Santos and Colon started shooting, court records show. Police said Santos shot Abukanan in the wrist and thigh before his gun jammed. Colon then shot Abukanan in the back of the head, killing him.

The same jury that convicted Santos of third-degree murder convicted Colon, 33, of first-degree murder. Colon is serving a life prison sentence.

On appeal to the state court, Santos claimed his murder conviction is unjustified because the bullets he fired at Abukanan weren’t fatal.

Not so, Stabile found. Because he participated in the shooting spree that led to Abukanan’s death, Santos is responsible for the killing under the legal theory of accomplice liability, the state judge concluded.

Santos’ “actions were part of the same criminal episode in which he worked in concert with Colon to shoot and ultimately kill the victim,” Stabile wrote. “The fact that (Santos) did not deliver the fatal shot does not absolve (Santos) from culpability.”

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