Former Sing Sing inmate convicted of manslaughter, not murder, in 1995 prison stabbing

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An Albany man was convicted Monday in the stabbing death of a fellow inmate at Sing Sing prison nearly 30 years ago, but not of second-degree murder.

Allah-Son-Allah, also known as Gwyn Cancer, in a photograph taken in Sing Sing prison on Dec. 26, 1995, two days after fellow inmate Michael "Taboo" Jones was fatally stabbed at the prison. On May 20, 2024, a jury convicted Son-Allah of first-degree manslaughter.
Allah-Son-Allah, also known as Gwyn Cancer, in a photograph taken in Sing Sing prison on Dec. 26, 1995, two days after fellow inmate Michael "Taboo" Jones was fatally stabbed at the prison. On May 20, 2024, a jury convicted Son-Allah of first-degree manslaughter.

Jurors found Allah-Son-Allah guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the Dec. 24, 1995, killing of Michael "Taboo" Jones after a little more than three full days of deliberations.

Jones, 32, of Queens, was serving a sentence for attempted murder and the killing stemmed from apparent tension between Jones and inmates belonging to the group Five Percent Nation.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility
Sing Sing Correctional Facility

State police suspected from the outset that members of the group were responsible. But it took years to solve because they were never certain which member inflicted the single stab wound to the chest and most witnesses refused to speak to investigators. It was only in recent years, after the key witnesses were out of prison, that prosecutors and investigators got them to talk.

“It was never a whodunit, it was a who’ll-testify-to-it, and that’s why it took 29 years,” Assistant District Attorney Brian Bendish told jurors in closing arguments last week.

But while jurors agreed with Bendish that the stabbing was an intentional act it disagreed that the intent was to kill him, finding instead that Son-Allah only meant to seriously injure Jones. The manslaughter charge carries a minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of 25 years. Son-Allah, 54, would have faced between 15 years to life and 25 years to life had he been convicted of the murder charge.

Westchester County Judge George Fufidio scheduled sentencing for June 27.

Son-Allah's given name was Gwyn Cancer and he went by El Son while at Sing Sing. The verdict came so quickly Monday morning that Son-Allah’s relatives who attended nearly the entire three-week trial had not returned yet from Albany after the weekend.

The trial featured testimony from several of the Five Percent Nation members who voted a day before the stabbing to attack Jones, although there was some disagreement on the precise motive.

Among them was Steven “Kaseem” Smith, who was indicted along with Son-Allah last year in Jones’ killing.

Smith pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. If he is deemed to have testified truthfully, the murder charge will be dismissed and he will be sentenced to just 3- to 6 years for manslaughter, a significant break from the life without parole sentence he could have faced for murder. He had faced a more severe murder charge than Son-Allah because Smith had a prior murder conviction.

Smith downplayed his own leadership role in the group, an offshoot of the Nation of Islam also known as the Nation of Gods and Earth. He said Son-Allah was a member of the group’s security team that acted as enforcers and that Jones had disrespected the group.

Witnesses said Son-Allah had the 007 folding knife that was used to stab Jones. It was among several sharp weapons later recovered from a light fixture in a cell belonging to another Five Percent Nation member. Only the 007 tested positive for Jones’ blood.

Defense lawyer Angelo MacDonald argued in summations last week that Smith was a “master manipulator” who set the stabbing in motion because Jones seemed to be a threat to his authority in A Block.

He assailed the sweet deal he had worked out for himself and argued that three of those who testified – former inmates known as Supreme, He-Allah and Black God, all convicted murders – were more likely to have stabbed Jones than Son-Allah, who was in prison on drug charges and was not from New York City like the rest of the group.

But Bendish said there was no evidence of that and that all the eyewitnesses had agreed on the key detail – that Son-Allah was the stabber.

The indictment did not include the manslaughter charge but MacDonald requested that jurors consider it.

Bendish, a homicide prosecutor, handled the case with Daniel Flecha, head of the DA’s Cold Case Bureau, and the trial marked the first involving cold-case prosecutors since that bureau was formed in 2021.

Its previous work included the prosecution of Wanda Veguilla, who pleaded guilty in the 2012 fatal shooting in the Bronx of her girlfriend, Pamela Graddick, whose body was dumped in Yonkers.

It has also successfully identified two murder victims previously identified as Jane Does: Veronica Wiederhold, whose body was discovered in Mount Vernon on Valentine’s Day 1988; and Meresa Hammonds, whose body was dumped in Yonkers in 1992. Wiederhold’s killing remains unsolved. Hammonds was a victim of the Long Island serial killer Robert Shulman.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Former Sing Sing inmate convicted of manslaughter in 1995 stabbing