One of the six suspects in a drug-induced robbery scheme that largely targeted NYC gay bars was sentenced to nine years in state prison on Monday.

Ashley grew-up in the city. He said that he worked to earn a certificate of employment as a high-school dropout before being sent to Rikers. He lived with his grandmother, who was elderly, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Ashley admitted, “I was going through a lot before.” “I was trying my best to put things in order.”

He said that on May 14, 2022 Ashley went to The Ritz, the same bar Ramirez had been seen at a month earlier, looking for a hookup. He claimed to have been there two or three other times.

The prosecution said Ashley left the pub and went to the apartment where the man’s phone and wallet Ashley later stole. Ashley claimed that he did not recall going to the apartment of the man, but he remembered having never met him before. He described the man in his 20s as Latino.

Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

According to prosecutors, police obtained surveillance footage showing Ashley using the victim’s phone to pay via Apple Pay for Taco Bell on that morning. Ashley claimed he did not remember buying Taco Bell, but that the victim may have purchased him food.

Ashley was arrested in April and charged with robbery (including the encounter from May 2022), grand larceny (including the theft of identity), and petit larceny for four incidents between October 2021 and August 2022. This included the encounter that was connected to the larger crime scheme. He was sent to Rikers Island because he couldn’t pay bail.

Ashley changed his plea after nearly seven months to guilty in order to serve time elsewhere. Since years, criminal justice activists and legislators from across the country have been scrutinizing the huge jail complex for its allegedly ” unhumane conditions.”

Ashley’s only word for his stay at Rikers was “rough.”

He added that he had been involved in a few fights, and “maybe two or three altercations involving officers’ use force.”

He said that being in prison has taken a huge emotional toll. He was in prison when his grandmother died.

He said that, regardless the other crimes, the encounter in May 2022 had a large impact on his sentence because it was connected to the larger scheme.

According to prosecutors, Ashley was not accused of murder. He was also not present at the time Ramirez or Umberger died. He claimed that he learned about the larger crime scheme only after he was arraigned and obtained an attorney.

He said, “I knew that it was nothing to do me” when referring to victims who died after being drugged.

The prosecutors claim that Hamilton, another of the six suspects who had been charged with murder for the deaths of Ramirez as well as Umberger, were present the night Ashley committed her robbery. This was in May 2022. Hamilton was accused by prosecutors of giving Ashley’s victim a unknown illicit substance outside a bar, and then using the victim’s phone to steal $2000 from his bank account. Hamilton’s attorney declined to comment.

Ashley says he remembered Hamilton at the bar on that particular night. However, he insists that he did not see Hamilton dope anyone. Ashley refused to reveal how he was acquainted with Hamilton, citing Hamilton’s ongoing legal case. However, he did say that they were not close friends. He denied knowing the other defendants.

Ashley ended the meeting after 15 minutes of sitting in the Rikers Visitors’ Hall, a room with a capacity for hundreds.

Ashley, when asked by the authorities if she was connected to a larger scheme that resulted in the deaths of two men and walked away, said “I don’t care anymore.” “It’s all behind me.”

People hold signs in preparation for a memorial vigil in New York, June 2022. Julius Constantine Motal/. NBC News

The crime that has lasted for years is difficult to forget, especially for the families of those who have died.

NBC News spoke to many victims who described their apprehension at reentering the nightlife of New York City.

He said that he has only been outside once or twice in the past two years since being robbed. He is afraid his attackers — who, he says, do not seem to be any of those arrested in the past few months — may recognize him.

He said, “I work straight away and then go home.” “I always look around, I’m suspicious of everything.”

Michael has said that he’s slowly trying to get back into New York nightlife after being abandoned by his friends in East Harlem.

Michael replied, “My therapist told me to be more selective around people. It’s a good defensive mechanism, but it’s not something I like.” “I am happy with who I am.” It would be a shame if this experience permanently altered my ability to be friendly, trusting, and open.

Michael returned to The Eagle NYC last month for the first. Michael went to happy hour early in the evening instead of a late-night out.

NBC News spoke to all but one of the survivors who said that they had facial recognition software installed on their phones for convenience. Others say that the greater issue is being drugged regardless of whether criminals can steal money from a victim’s phone or not.

Carlos Ramirez said that the Ramirez family didn’t celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving last year and they don’t plan to do so either this year. Carlos said that he missed his best friend.

“When I have good news to share and he is not present, I cannot do so. Carlos said that it kind of took away from the experience. “That’s really difficult.”

Clary hasn’t had the courage to search through the belongings of her son in his Washington, D.C. apartment. She’s been to New York City a few times to attend the court appearances for suspects accused in her son’s death.

Clary is enjoying her new role of grandmother. She said that even this role has at times been difficult.

She said, “That entire experience is diminished by John not being here.” “At some stage I will have to let John go and trust God’s plan. This life, which we consider to be everything, is nothing compared to eternity.”

She said that when she is in New York she enjoys visiting some of her son’s favorite Manhattan restaurants: The Waverly Inn, Minetta Tavern, Greenwich Village, and La Goulue, on the Upper East Side across from the apartment in which her son was killed.

Clary replied, “It’s a ridiculous and illogical thing.” “But you go to places where he liked to be because you think, ‘Yeah this is as close as you can get to him being there.'”

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