NEW YORK -- A judge Tuesday sentenced a crack gang lieutenant to the maximum 25 years to life without parole for murdering rookie Officer Edward Byrne, noting the killer and his henchmen brazenly carried out a jailed druglord's orders to 'ice a cop.'
Philip Copeland, 23, showed no emotion as state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Demakos angrily gave him the toughest sentence allowable in New York in the death of Byrne, whose police badge has been presented to President Bush.
'Can it not be said thatthis vile act was also a deadly declaration of war against the very foundation of our society and a defilement of the cornerstone on which our criminal justice system is based?' Demakos said.
'First we see how witnesses are stalked ... and a police officer is killed. Who will be next -- prosecutors, lawyers, maybe a judge?' said Demakos, who is under 24-hour guard because of threats traced to jailed druglord Howard 'Pappy' Mason.
Whoops of satisfaction rose from the sea of police officers who packed the courtroom as someone began chanting 'Bye, bye!'
'Have a nice life!' another spectator shouted.
The rookie police officer's father, retired detective Matthew Byrne, appeared grim as his wife wept quietly at his side.
Copeland, Scott Cobb, 25, and Todd Scott, 20, were convicted March 29 of second-degree murder and weapons charges in the death of Byrne, who was gunned down Feb. 26, 1988, as he sat alone in a patrol car guarding the South Jamaica home of a witness in a drug case.
Demakos put off Cobb's and Scott's sentencing until June 6.
Cobb's lawyer, Michael Fishman, will be trying a New Jersey case through May. Scott's lawyer, Salvatore Alosco, said his client dismissed him early Tuesday, but the judge said he would continue to consider him as Scott's attorney.
A fourth defendant, alleged triggerman David McClary, 22, faces trial on the same second-degree murder charges. A jury was empaneled late Monday in that case.
Demakos sentenced Copeland to 25 years to life in prison without parole on the murder charge and 5 to 15 on years for the weapons count. The lesser sentence is to run concurrently.
Demakos accused Copeland of masterminding the slaying on orders from Mason to intimidate the public and the criminal justice system.
'There is no doubt that of the three, Copeland is the worst. He was the lieutenant in charge while the druglord was in prison,' Demakos said.
'The order to ice a cop was transmitted to him by Pappy Mason.'
Prosecutors argued that Mason ordered the killing from his Rikers Island jail cell to avenge his incarceration a day earlier on a gun charge.
Federal prosecutors offered 10-year reductions in the defendants' prison sentences in exchange for their testimony in a murder-conspiracy case against Mason, but each refused to cooperate. The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn is believed preparing an indictment against Mason charging he ordered Byrne's killing.
Copeland, a Rastafarian who wears his hair in dreadlocks, sat stony-faced and silent while sentenced and later walked from the courtroom with a defiant bounce in his step.
Copeland's attorney, Frank Hancock, asked the judge to admit into the record a letter from Copeland's imprisoned cousin, which Hancock said showed there are 'people upstate lying in wait to victimize Mr. Copeland.' Copeland's cousin reported hearing jailhouse rumors that prison guards hoped to deal harshly with the defendant.
Uniformed and plainclothes cops exploded in tumultuous cheers at the suggestion Copeland might have a rough time in the prison system.
Demakos rejected the letter and suggested it be given to parole authorities.
Demakos will be long retired in 25 years when Copeland is eligible for parole, but he said his last judicial act will be to urge the parole board to deny Copeland his freedom.
Prosecutor Eugene Kelly echoed Demakos's concerns.
'We are going to recommend that this defendant never be allowed to walk the streets again,' Kelly said. 'The message was to police and all of society that they (the drug gangsters) are above the law.'