Kenneth Minor, 36, had been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 52-year-old Jeffrey Locker. Minor argued that Locker asked to be killed in exchange for an ATM card.
A tearful Minor blurted out "S---!" when Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman announced the sentencing, the New York Daily News reported.
Moments beforehand, Minor briefly addressed the courtroom.
"In the end, Mr. Locker is where he wanted to be -- can't take that back now," Minor said, according to the newspaper. "But I ain't no animal."
Locker was found dead on July 16, 2009, inside his 2007 Dodge Magnum, which was parked at an East Harlem housing project. A cord was wrapped tightly around his neck, and he had suffered multiple stab wounds that pierced his heart, lungs and liver. Minor was arrested the following week, after police obtained surveillance footage that showed him withdrawing $1,000 from several ATMs using Locker's bank card.
Minor admitted to killing Locker but claimed Locker had approached him at random and asked him to do it, in exchange for his ATM card. Minor said Locker told him he was deeply in debt and wanted to die so his family could collect on an $18 million life insurance policy.
"It had to look like a robbery so that his family could get what they deserve," Minor said, according to court papers.
Minor said he attempted to choke Locker with a wire but it kept breaking, so Locker instructed him to use a knife.
"He said to hold it against the steering wheel with the blade facing him. I did that, and he leaned forward into the knife three to four times while I held it," Minor said. "He then told me to move the knife over to the other side where his heart is. I moved the knife over and he leaned forward into it a couple of more times. At that point, he was alive and breathing heavily. I got out of the car and threw the knife."
Last year, Minor's defense attorney, Daniel Gotlin, asked Berkman to order a grand jury to consider downgrading his client's murder charge to a lesser charge of manslaughter. The request was denied.
When the case went to trial last month, jurors listened to three weeks of testimony in the case. The evidence entered at trial showed Locker was in substantial debt and that he had recently purchased life insurance policies.
Gotlin referred to Locker as "the ultimate con man" who "used another person" to end his life. Gotlin said the case was not murder but assisted suicide.
The jury ultimately sided with the prosecution and, after four hours of deliberation, found Minor guilty of second-degree murder.
"This was murder for money, not a mercy killing, which is why we prosecuted the case as an intentional murder," District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a press release. "We believe the jurors got it right with their verdict, and thank them for their service."
Gotlin told reporters he will file an appeal.