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Life term for Connecticut killer after brother got death row

(Reuters) - A Connecticut man who admitted taking part in a bludgeoning triple murder has been sentenced to life in prison, six months after a federal jury gave his brother the death penalty in the same case.

District Court Judge Stefan Underhill in Bridgeport sentenced Azikiwe Aquart, 32, on Monday to a mandatory life term on each of three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, U.S. Attorney spokesman Thomas Carson said on Tuesday.

Aquart had previously pleaded guilty to the same counts in the 2005 killing.

His brother, Azibo Aquart, 30, was tried last spring and prosecutors alleged he founded and led a violent drug-trafficking gang in Bridgeport that used threats and assaults to maintain control over narcotics dealing at a city apartment complex.

According to court documents, the gang got involved in a dispute with Tina Johnson, a resident of the complex who sometimes sold smaller quantities of crack cocaine without Azibo Aquart's approval.

Prosecutors say the brothers and at least two co-conspirators entered Johnson's apartment on August 24, 2005, bound her, her boyfriend James Reid and friend Basil Williams with duct tape and beat the victims to death with baseball bats.

With Azikiwe Aquart's guilty plea, prosecutors say he admitted to participating in what he thought was a robbery, during which he murdered James Reid, while the others killed Johnson and Williams.

Carson said that Azibo Aquart is believed to have let his accomplices out of the apartment, then drilled shut the apartment door and escaped through a bedroom window.

In June, a federal jury in New Haven voted to impose the federal death penalty against Azibo Aquart for his involvement in the murders -- the first such decision since the U.S. federal death penalty was reinstituted in 1988, prosecutors say.

Azibo Aquart has not yet been formally sentenced by District Court Judge Janet Arterton, Carson said.

A third defendant, who has pleaded guilty in the case, awaits sentencing, and a fourth man is set for trial in February, Carson added.

(Reporting by Zach Howard. Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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