Hennepin County prosecutors are newly alleging that the man charged with fatally shooting a motorist during a suspected road rage encounter in Plymouth had been brandishing his gun at other vehicles on his multistate route to the Twin Cities and has long been carrying out this threatening behavior.
Jamal L. Smith for "weeks and months prior to the shooting" in July of 56-year-old Jay Boughton on Hwy. 169 "pointed guns at other motorists for minor reasons while driving," the prosecution said in a filing Wednesday as part of its notice that it intends to bring up at trial a pattern of criminal behavior that is consistent with the charges leveled against Smith.
Smith also did much the same not long before his SUV pulled up along Boughton's vehicle about 10 p.m. July 6 and allegedly opened fire as the two vehicles traveled south, according to the filing, which is based on accounts from witnesses and Smith's own social media and cellphone videos.
"In the hours prior to the shooting and on the ... trip from Chicago, through Wisconsin and into Minnesota," the document read, based on one witness' account, "[Smith] brandished a firearm to five other vehicles and semi-trucks. A police report from Wisconsin also documented this conduct."
One witness, described in the charges as Smith's girlfriend, said he "always carried a gun" that he stored between the driver's seat and center console, the filing noted. This gun was used to kill Boughton, the document continued.
Smith's attorney, Emmett Donnelly, told the Star Tribune late Thursday that these are "inadmissible allegations and character assassination. The public dissemination of such allegations destroys my client's right to a fair trial."
Donnelly said the accusations are based on the word of anonymous witnesses, adding, "We have not seen one shred of evidence in this case."
Smith, of Chicago, is charged with second-degree intentional murder and aiding an offender after the fact. He was arrested in Decatur, Ill., four days after charges were filed on Aug. 20. He remains jailed in lieu of $1.5 million bail and is due back in court on Oct. 11.
According to the murder charges, Boughton's son told police that on the day of the shooting, an SUV pulled up alongside them near the Rockford Road exit, and his father "gestured" at its driver. Within 10 seconds, the son said, Boughton's driver's side window was shattered by a bullet and his father slumped over.
Plymouth Police Chief Erik Fadden said soon after the shooting that it was prompted by "some sort of traffic altercation." Smith's SUV was in the left-hand lane and trailing Boughton in the right-hand lane. The SUV's right-turn signal light came on "as if to assume [Smith] wants to merge into the right lane," Fadden said at the time.
Two experts in human behavior who have reviewed the encounter said the shooting was a clear act of road rage.
Along with accusations that Smith has long made a habit of threatening motorists with a gun, the prosecution's filing alerted the court that it also wants to present at trial that he assaulted one witness in the hours after the shooting.
"The assault contributed to [the witness'] reluctance to come forward to law enforcement ... out of fear of retaliation," the document read.
In a second filing Wednesday, prosecutors said they intend to seek an upward departure from state sentencing guidelines should Smith be convicted. They listed three reasons:
• Smith committed the crime in front of a child.
• His conduct "created a greater than normal danger to the safety of other people on the roadway."
• The shooting is Smith's third violent crime, and "he is a dangerous offender." The prosecution noted he has convictions for unlawful use of a gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482