Man gets 20 to 40 years in 2015 death of Minaj crew member

A man has been sentenced to 20 to 40 years in state prison in the stabbing death of the stage manager of rap superstar Nicki Minaj outside a northwest Philadelphia bar six years ago. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 39-year-old Khaliyfa Neely was sentenced Friday on earlier convictions of third-degree murder, aggravated and simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime.

Prosecutors said 29-year-old De’Von Andre Pickett was preparing to go on tour with the performer when he was stabbed outside a bar in the East Germantown neighborhood of the city in February 2015. 

Pickett and another man wounded, in town from New York with other band members and support crew to rehearse for the European tour, had gone to the bar to see a bartender with whom the man wounded was romantically involved, prosecutors said. Trial testimony indicated that a fight began over the woman, they said.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Geer said during the sentencing hearing that Pickett, who was stabbed twice — in his heart and abdomen — was "living his dream" and going on international tours, and his life was "destroyed over absolutely nothing."

Pickett’s mother, Darcia, said she was "broken and always will be," telling the defendant that he "took my only child. She said her son had touched many lives, and people from London and Germany were present during the virtual hearing.

Ministers and friends of Neely’s told the judge that he had mentored young people, supported a youth football team, donated money to a mosque to benefit children, and was a good father.

Jurors in Neely's first trial in 2019 were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Another man was initially charged with the slaying but the charge against him was changed to aggravated assault after prosecutors said more evidence pointed to Neely as the killer.

Defense attorney Anthony Petrone argued during trial that the fight started when another man "hurled rude" comments, but he argued that the stabbings were committed by the original suspect, not his client.