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Rockaway man convicted of Christ the King HS slay

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After deliberating about two hours, a jury in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens found Charles Sealey, 22, guilty of murdering Tommy Johnson, 17, outside his Arverne home on Jan. 10, 2001.

Sealey will be sentenced on Feb. 23 and faces up to 25 years in prison.

Johnson, who lived in Far Rockaway Beach, was a senior at Christ the King High School and was an all-Catholic League running back and captain of the school's football team, Several Ivy League colleges were trying to recruit him prior to his death.

Justice Ronald Hollie would not allow prosecutors in the case to reveal to the jury that Johnson had received recruitment letters from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Bucknell and Columbia and excelled academically at the prestigious high school in Middle Village, according to a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney.

Prosecutors focused on the fact that Sealey had argued with Johnson and his cousin shortly before the fatal shot was fired, the spokeswoman said.

The day of his death, Johnson and his cousin had approached Sealey on Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway Beach and had argued about a cell phone that Johnson's cousin said Sealey had stolen. The cousin told police that the two of them walked away from Sealey when he revealed he had a gun.

Johnson and his cousin were about 150 feet away from Sealey when he fired seven shots, one of which struck Johnson in the head, the DA said.

Sealey pleaded innocent to killing Johnson. His attorney, Edwin Schulman, told the jury Monday that Sealey had pretended to have a gun and did not shoot Johnson.

Johnson's death rocked the community and Christ the King High School, where his football jersey was retired.

Shortly after Johnson's death Queens officials, community members and Johnson's family set up the Thomas Kareem Johnson Jr. Foundation intended to create community resources for teens.

Johnson was buried wearing his football uniform before a crowd of hundreds of mourners.

Reach Reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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