A Staten Island man pleaded not guilty on Tues., Dec. 18 for brutally cracking the skull of an off-duty firefighter and causing his “almost instant death” during a road rage incident.
If convicted, Joseph Desmond, who has been charged with murder, faces up to 25 years to life in prison in the death of 33-year-old Faizal Coto on Dec. 9 around 4:40 a.m. on the Belt Parkway.
Desmond, 29 of Staten Island, used an unknown blunt object to strike the left side of Coto’s head violently, causing his temple to fracture, after getting into a fender-bender with the firefighter, said Assistant District Attorney Andres Palacio in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
“There is no place on the streets of Brooklyn for such mindless violence. We will now seek to get justice for the victim and his heartbroken loved ones,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
Coto, who was a firefighter for three years and was on the brink of restarting his music career, was left for dead near Exit 4 in Bath Beach with bleeding to the brain which caused “almost instant death,” Palacio said.
Coto was taken to Coney Island Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Desmond jumped back into his 2006 Infiniti G35 and fled to the Circle Motor Lodge in South Amboy, N.J. where he was arrested on a parole warrant, according to newly released court documents obtained by this news organization.
“Wow, I was just going to surrender Wednesday,” Desmond said to detectives on Dec. 10. “Man, I was gonna surrender Wednesday. My car has been all over the news and I was going to visit parole on Wednesday anyways.”
Desmond is on parole for a September, 2012, assault-as-a-hate-crime during which he walked up to a man at Gates and Fairview Avenues, “shoved a black object to his chest” and called him a homophobic slur, according to court documents.
The black object let out electric current into the middle of the man’s chest, the court documents read.
Desmond was sentenced in September, 2014, to one to three years in prison.
In the current murder case, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice remanded Desmond to Rikers Island.
Desmond had been led out of the 62nd Precinct, 1925 Bath Ave., earlier in the afternoon, while a crowd of firefighters watched.
Last week, friends, family and fellow firefighters came together at both a wake and a funeral held at Leone Funeral Home in Sunset Park.
Coto was remembered as “everybody’s best friend,” “the hardest worker in the firehouse” and a “phenomenal human being.”
He was off-duty at the time of his death.
Additional reporting contributed by Meaghan McGoldrick.