Crime

Prison sentencing adjourned for man convicted of murdering Syracuse University student

Onondaga County Sheriff's Office

Cameron Isaac, left, and Ninimbe Mitchell, right, were convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, respectively, in connection to the death of SU student Xiaopeng "Pippen" Yuan.

UPDATED: Sept. 6, 2017 at 10:10 a.m.

The sentencings for the men convicted of murder and robbery in connection to the death of a Syracuse University student were adjourned Wednesday until later this month.

Cameron Isaac, 24, of North Syracuse, and Ninimbe Mitchell, 20, of North Syracuse, were scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday morning for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery convictions, respectively, in connection to the death of SU student Xiaopeng “Pippen” Yuan.

But State Supreme Court Justice John Brunetti adjourned the sentencings until Sept. 27 after Mitchell’s defense attorney, Paul Carey, asked for more time to prepare his argument that Mitchell should receive a minimum sentence. Mitchell faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 25 for the first-degree robbery conviction.

“(Mitchell) is a young guy who’s never had a conviction in his life,” Carey said after Wednesday’s adjournment. “We think a fair sentence would be the minimum sentence.”

After granting the adjournment for Mitchell, Brunetti said he planned to go forward Wednesday with sentencing Isaac, who faces up to life in prison without parole. But Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he preferred that the two defendants be sentenced on the same day, resulting in Brunetti also adjourning Isaac’s sentencing until Sept. 27.

“I just think it would be cleaner to do them both on the same day,” Fitzpatrick said after the sentencings were adjourned.

Fitzpatrick said he has a letter from Yuan’s sister that he plans to read at the sentencing, adding that he wouldn’t mind reading it twice but would prefer to read it once.

Isaac was convicted on the first-degree murder charge last month by a jury. Authorities say he shot and killed Xiaopeng “Pippen” Yuan, an SU student from China, after robbing Yuan of marijuana one day last fall.

Mitchell, Isaac’s nephew, drove Isaac to and from the scene of Yuan’s death and was originally charged with second-degree murder in addition to first-degree robbery, as authorities said he acted as a willing accomplice to Isaac. The jury acquitted Mitchell of the murder charge but convicted him of the robbery charge.

Carey said he still plans to appeal Mitchell’s robbery conviction to an appellate court. Mitchell received the murder charge because prosecutors alleged that he participated willingly in a robbery that turned deadly. Carey believes the verdict thus contradicted itself. He has argued that once the jury found Mitchell not guilty of murder, it should have by law also found him not guilty of robbery.

Mitchell appeared in the courtroom Wednesday morning wearing a brown prison suit. Isaac did not appear in the courtroom.

Yuan was found dead on Sept. 30, 2016, at the Springfield Gardens Apartment complex in DeWitt. Authorities used circumstantial evidence to solve his murder.

This story has been updated with additional quotes. 

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