MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A Bronx man convicted of brutally strangling and robbing a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison.
Aljulah Cutts, 30, was found guilty earlier this month of torturing and killing Felix Brinkmann, a onetime New York City disco owner and Auschwitz survivor, because he refused to give up the combinations to his personal safes.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan called the crime "unjustified and shocking" before sentencing Cutts on first- and second-degree murder and first-degree robbery convictions.
Merchan said Brinkmann must have summoned the same courage that helped him survive Nazi death camps when he refused to give up the combinations, even while facing "absolute torture" and death.
On July 30, 2009, Brinkmann, who co-founded the Upper East Side nightclub Adam's Apple — a disco known for popularizing "The Hustle" — was found bound and bludgeoned to death in his apartment on East 65th Street.
Cutts and two accomplices broke four of Brinkmann's ribs, choked him with a bed sheet and fractured his eye socket as they attempted to coerce him to give up the codes, prosecutors said. A coroner testified during the trial that Brinkmann eventually died of strangulation.
Merchan, who said there was "no doubt" Cutts was the killer, called the sentencing his most difficult in his six years on the bench. He sentenced Cutts to 25 years to life, but made it clear he didn't think Cutts should have a chance at parole until he'd served at least 45 years.
During the hearing, Brinkmann's son, Rick Brinkmann, appeared in a videotaped statement that spoke of the kindness and generosity of his active father — and the utter brutality of the slaying. The victim's son, a psychologist and motivational speaker based in Oregon, posted the statement on his website.
The 90-year-old Holocaust survivor had continued to work, in spite of his age, and was remembered by relatives as a strong, fun-loving and kind-hearted man.
Throughout the more than two weeks of trial, prosecutors argued that Cutts, along with two accomplices — his brother Hasib Cutts, 33, and suspected prostitute Angela Murray, 33 — made their way into Brinkmann's apartment in order to rob from the elderly man.
Aljulah Cutts confessed to the police, cops said. But his lawyer, Daniel Scott, argued that his client's confession was coerced.
At his sentencing, Cutts told the court he was sorry for the family's loss — yet refused to accept responsibility for Brinkmann's death.
"I know I'm innocent," he said. "And I know I didn't commit this heinous crime."
Murray's and Hasib Cutt's trials are pending.