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Supporters dismayed at killer's sentence
LOCKPORT - The killer of a Grand Island teenager in a drug-related robbery was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday, to the gasps and sobs of about 25 of his supporters.

"It's not fair," one man said as Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza announced the sentence for Nicholas P. Hernandez, 21, of North Park Avenue, Buffalo.

The sobs and protests of the audience were so loud that Sperrazza had to shout over them, but she made no attempt to call for order.

Meanwhile, the parents and brother of the victim, Eric H. Lloyd, stalked out of the courtroom after muttering obscenities as Hernandez tried to apologize to them. Lloyd's brother stared angrily at one man in the crowd, who stood up and pointed back at him.

Moments earlier, Jeffrey D. Cornman, 22, of Brinton Street, Buffalo, had been sentenced to 10 years for his role in the case. Lloyd, 18, died March 9, 2004, in Erie County Medical Center, from wounds he suffered when he was shot Jan. 27, 2004, in a room at the Pelican Motel in Niagara Falls. Police said three men entered the room and tried to rob Lloyd of about two pounds of marijuana.

Lloyd's father, Larry Lloyd, declined to speak at the sentencing but asked Second Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma to convey his views. Sloma said Lloyd thought his son's death was "an assassination."

"He was shot twice in the back at close range," Sloma said.

Hernandez admitted pulling the trigger.

Hernandez and Cornman had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, as did a third man, Peter Longo Jr., 19, of Ward Park, Grand Island. He is to receive seven years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 10.

Cornman's sentence was part of his plea bargain, but in Hernandez's case 20 years was only a prosecutor's recommendation.

Defense attorney Leigh Anderson sent Sperrazza a mountain of evidence of Hernandez's character, including perfect attendance certificates from school.

Anderson asked for a 10-year sentence, noting that Hernandez pleaded guilty first and testified against Cornman and Longo before a grand jury.

But Sperrazza noted that if he had been convicted at trial of committing a murder while carrying out another felony, Hernandez would have faced life in prison. Sperrazza said avoiding that was enough of a benefit for his plea and cooperation.