By Joy Bergmann
In June, Brighton Montgomery, now 20, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the January 10, 2019, stabbing death of Tony McClain, 20.
On August 16th, Judge Daniel Conviser sentenced Montgomery to 12 years in state prison with five years of post-release supervision. Montgomery waived his rights to appeal as part of his plea agreement, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office confirmed to WSR.
Montgomery will also be serving a concurrent three-year sentence in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree assault for attacking a Rikers Island corrections officer and stabbing a fellow Rikers inmate during an August 2021 melee at the jail, a statement from the Bronx District Attorney’s office said.
Montgomery’s co-defendant in Tony’s murder, Jashawn Gorham, now 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in December 2019, and is currently serving a 20-year sentence.
These facts end a 43-month justice waiting game for Tony’s heartbroken family.
But, without a full trial, will Upper West Siders ever know why Brighton Montgomery and Jashawn Gorham targeted Tony on that Thursday afternoon? Chasing him up Broadway near 99th Street. Attacking him in front of multiple eyewitnesses and video cameras. Leaving him crumpled and bleeding outside Cheesy Pizza.
WSR attended 12 of Montgomery’s 55 pre-trial court appearances in an attempt to find out.
The proceedings revealed an intricate, destructive web woven by two longtime rival “crews” on the UWS: Money Comes First and Columbus Avenue Gunners.
According to hearing testimony by Sgt. James Burke, who served with NYPD’s Manhattan North Gang Unit, Montgomery and Gorham were members of Money Comes First [MCF]. MCF recruits often hail from NYCHA developments in the West 90s, including Wise Towers on 90th and 91st between Columbus and Amsterdam, the DeHostos Apartments on 93rd and Amsterdam, and buildings known as WSUR sites.
MCF’s chief adversaries? Columbus Avenue Gunners [CAG] from NYCHA’s Frederick Douglass Houses development spanning 100th to 104th Streets between Amsterdam and Manhattan Avenues.
Police and court records say CAG and MCF members have run criminal enterprises around the Upper West Side since at least 2013.
Tony McClain was not a gang member, Sgt. Burke testified.
Tony’s aunt Jinette Moore told WSR her nephew avoided all that “nonsense,” instead graduating from high school and working several jobs. He had no particular loyalties to a given turf, having grown up in both Wise Towers and Douglass, staying with grandmothers in each development, she said.
In January 2019, Tony was living in Douglass Houses. Though not a participant, he “did know people that were into stuff,” said Moore, referring to young men involved with CAG and affiliated gangs.
Social media posts, however, may have misconstrued Tony’s neutrality for allegiance. Tony had appeared in Facebook posts and a YouTube music video with Jermaine “Boogie” Johnson, a CAG member. That connection with Johnson may have cost Tony his life.
Throughout 2018, MCF and CAG beefed with each other over social media, according to exhibits shown in court. Brighton Montgomery liked posing with his pal Jashawn Gorham, throwing up MCF gang hand signs and posting under variations of his nickname B-Rah.
Lackin’ videos erupted on the scene. Crews burst into places like Starbucks, indicating firearms in their possession and taunting rivals who lacked weapons to defend themselves. Such blustering bravado on social media fueled tensions.
Things exploded on July 30, 2018, when four MCF members infiltrated Douglass Houses and were shot at by a CAG member.
On August 5, 2018, CAG member Jermaine Johnson went on the attack. He headed to MCF territory: 93rd and Amsterdam. Johnson opened fire, shooting Jashawn Gorham, then 17, in the chest.
Soon after, Gorham vowed revenge via a social media post, “The get back is real.”
Five months later, on January 3rd, 2019, Jermaine Johnson and two co-conspirators were arrested in a federal racketeering case. Its indictment included charges stemming from the July and August shootings. Johnson, now 24, ultimately pleaded guilty to assaulting Gorham with a deadly weapon as well as trafficking in counterfeit currency, “To help maintain my position in the gang,” Johnson said.
The day after Johnson’s arrest, Jashawn Gorham posted a picture on Facebook. It showed Brighton Montgomery giving the finger to the camera, with Gorham in the background. Was the duo gloating over Johnson’s incarceration or celebrating Gorham’s January 4th 18th birthday or both?
Passions continued to run high. Over the next few days, accusations swirled about possible snitches. Text messages flew. By January 10th, the theory goes, Gorham and Montgomery were looking to do a hit.
Tony McClain likely knew none of this as he walked on Broadway that Thursday afternoon. His family says he was on his way home from a uniform fitting for a new job at a movie theater.
Gorham and Montgomery appeared to have staked out the dividing line between the crews’ territories – the area around 98th Street. They had their weapons. They needed a target.
Did they follow Tony from the subway? Did they recognize him from social media as a face associated with Jermaine Johnson? Did they know anything about Tony’s actual life? Did they believe his Douglass residency was reason enough to condemn him to death?
We may never know.
Jinette Moore has her answer. “My nephew was not a gangbanger or thug, but an innocent person caught up in other people’s ignorance and violence.”
People with known gang associations should be kicked out of NYCHA units. The gang names are terrible. And it’s ridiculous that taxpayer money is being used to house gang members.
I agree with you 100 %. Why do we have to support these thugs.
Okay, but “known” doesn’t always mean legitimate due process.
And then define “gang”?
50-60 years ago the City of NY had street gang outreach units, social workers, who absolutely were NOT there to break up gangs, but to discourage felonies and other simply anti-social behavior.
Also you realize that both the NYPD and FDNY started out. as gangs?
Not helpful Jay
I can define gang. A group of people who deal drugs and guns and often use their guns. They ain’t no Boy Scouts bruh. And next time you need a firefighter or a police officer, tell them they started as gangs. That will help you.
I am the Aunt of Tony Christopher who sat in court and never missed a day and the one that is mentioned in the article You are reading a speck of the story but the full story is bigger than just these individuals being in gangs, they were terrors. You didn’t sit my shoes in that court to here how these 2 were terrorizing people for years and being let off by the state because of there juvenile status. For the two of them to kill someone they didn’t know and make fun of the fact that my nephew was murdered coming home from a job interview. It is people like you that has been living in the dark in NYC not knowing that innocent people are being killed and assaulted all around you, maybe a block or 2 from where you live because your in your little bubble. You have no idea how it felt to see his face in a video and he is walking with listening to his music and minding his business and stop to look back with other individuals wondering what is going on because you hear a door slam open from a store they ran out of. My nephew stood there because he didn’t know them and he allowed them to get close until he notice they both had knives in their hands. My nephew didn’t know these individuals and Montgomery confessed to that. They planned to kill someone almost 48 hrs before from Douglas or who they thought was from Douglas. So before you defend these animals and there gang affiliation you were not in that court to see all the Facebook post, the saved videos from their cellphones and the signs thrown up by these individuals in almost every photo, because if you were there hearing and seeing what I was hearing and seeing, you would have a change of thought. I fought for the truth and it came and my fight for accountability and change continues.
I am also very sorry about your loss. If you kill someone, you should get life without parole. All we can do is put pressure on our elected officials to change the laws.
So you didn’t read my post at all.
I said nothing about this case.
I was responding to a commenter who was advocating conviction sans trial, and just by association.
Your post made me choke up. Tony had the warmest and most wonderful smile, and I can see how much you love him. I am sickened by the loss of this young life. His death inspires me to keep working for justice. No family should have to suffer like this.
I am so sorry for your loss.
“due process” is for the justice system. the housing system does not need to operate under the same burden.
are you seriously trying to justify gangs by saying legitimate law enforcement organizations started out gangs, TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO? do you still commute on horses and burn oil lamps too?
You know what a gang is – so stop playing your game.
It’s old & stale.
These 2 criminals should have gotten life with NO parole.
And in a previous time, they should have gotten the electric chair, without the chance for appeal that can take up to 20 years.
They cut a young and promising life short.
They are beyond rehabilitation.
They lost their membership in the human race.
Gross to assert they are no longer human… no one is beyond rehabilitation.
12 years is a serious sentence and these young men should have the chance to serve their time and prove they can be welcomed back into society.
Society does not wish to welcome back such low lives murderers back into the fold.
12 years is nothing compare to the 60 years the victim most likely still had in front of him.
They are not humans and not humane.
They are killers with blood on their hands.
UWS dad – think if it was your child who was murdered.
That is because it wasn’t your child, but sit in my families shoes. We raised him to be loving, caring and non violent and because of who he knew and was related to it caused him his life. You can’t rehabilitate individuals that is going to return to be around family that condones the violence. So if I’m gross I will be that because I loss not you. 12 years is not serious because he can breath and have children when he get out He will be 30 when he gets out and most likely will continue his terror. My nephew was the icing of all the things he did because you don’t have a clue. I live in a world of reality not TV or newspaper articles. If you understand the crabs in the Barrow syndrome then you know the reality of that. After everything I saw for 3 years and 7 months in court and online court, you have the slightest idea of who these individuals are. He was also given 3 years and 1 year supervised time for assulting an officer that was all over the news on August 6, 2021. So explain who they are if you know because I do. Years of slapping risk from the state of NY until they finally killed someone. This is MY families REALITY .
Thank You for your kind words and understanding.
Unbelievable comment, truly out of touch and going out of the way to protect criminals.
So you have nothing to challenge the facts I cite about gang history in NYC.
And, sans trial or investigation, you’ve convicted as felony criminals all associated with “gangs”. But you haven’t defined gangs.
Nor, of course, did I say or imply that those convicted of gang related violence, not selling 2 joints, should not face real consequences, which means real prison time if they are no longer minors.
Yes, in some instances, after a court conviction, that could mean being banned from living and even entering NYCHA housing. But seems to me, that such a ban would have to relate to adjudicated criminal (felony) activity in NYCA housing.
comment is utterly unbelievable here? It’s not mine.
You advocate a very dangerous and extra legal approach here. What happens when someone calls your favored NYC based “club” a gang? What privileges of life in NYC are you willing to give up without making your case in court?
Whose comment is utterly unbelievable here? It’s not mine.
Whose comment is out of touch, with anyone but defenders of Rudy in 2022? It’s not mine.
Yes yes we all recognize your virtue.
Who cares if they were gang members? Do you really feel the need to defend these murderers on a technicality??
The relevance of the gangs reference is obvious from the comment/s I have responded to here.
Nowhere have I said anything about the merits of this case.
Nor did I cite anything like a “technicality” to “defend” the convicted parties here.
In fact, even more broadly I didn’t comment on this case, including trial specifics.
You’re the one who brought up whether they belonged to a gang or not and how it had a bearing on if they deserved to live in NYCHA housing.. Sounds like you have no problem with these two murderers living off of our dime just because they don’t belong to a gang. The fact that you post such a defense and not mentioning Tony McClain or his family once tells me where your allegiance lies. Shame on you!
One gets 12 the other 20? Did Judge Conviser sentence both men?
Why the disparity?
Other than that disparity (the reason for which may be unknowable) this was a great article, lifting the curtain a little bit on an aspect of a heretofore unknown world right in the middle of “our” own.
Kudos to you, Joy Bergmann.
The actions of these gangs is a continuing and possibly mortal danger to this neighborhood and a tragedy, finally, for everybody mentioned in this article.
Judge Clott sentence the first individual Jashawn Gorham to 20 years in prison and 5 years parole
due to a plea deal and Brighton Montgomery was sentenced to 12 years prison time and 5 years parole with an addition consecutive 3 years prison time and 1 year parole for assault on an officer while he was awaiting trial, which change into a plea deal his lawyer requested after saying his client did not have anything to do with my nephew murder but turned out to be the master mind.
Thank you. WSR was not privy to how the plea agreements were negotiated for Gorham and Montgomery. A different judge was on the case in 2019. Earlier reporting indicated Gorham may have struck the fatal blow to Tony McClain. — Joy Bergmann
Horrifying, absolutely horrifying if the police and parents know what is happening.
Are the parents also in gangs?
A turf war between the working poor children who live in the projects. What a sad, sad situation for the kids. How do you stop this madness?
I call the police in the middle of the night when I heard gangs of boys and girls screaming and running on Columbus Avenue near 91st St. 92nd St.
I live in Rio de Janeiro where 1/3 of the population are under control of drug gangs living in territories without the State presence. How can be that New York knowing who these young people are, where they live and how they act, no alternative is given to break this situation before things get worsen?
Folks, this article discusses known criminal gangs on our doorsteps. It is not advisable to post with your real name
I am the victims Aunt who is mentioned in the article and I have no fear. Fear is the reason why these KIDS are going around killing and hurting innocent people because of individuals like you who fear. If you are born and raised in NY you have no fear. God has a path for everyone and fear is the reason why people are afraid to walk it. This has been on your door step for decades why fear now. I fear nothing but God himself and I will continue to fight for accountability and change.
Thank you Ms. Bergmann, too. Terrific, conscientious reporting. Rather than “throwing residents out” (creating more homeless) why not start thinking hard about how to fix up these kids — like jobs? America’s answer to every problem is to kill it. NYC’s bureaucracy —police, social workers, housing— have clearly known of these gangs for *years* & what remedy(ies) have they come up with? Meanwhile, a judge throws two young spirits into the cauldron of the infamous U.S. incarceration cartel to what avail? Shame. Assuming the guys survive repeated rapes, shivs, and inedible food, they only come out ill-educated, mean as six snakes, and prepared for neither work nor civilian life. Better to send them to Army. We’ve always got a new enemy on the horizon, and at least they’d learn a skill — yes, at taxpayer expense, but surely that’s a better use of our dollars: off the streets, re- (if not originally) educated, and disciplined about where to direct their anger.
You’re as deranged as the guy who wants us to define gangs. These creeps will never be rehabilitated. I hope they get everything that’s coming to them in prison.
Why in the world would you think it’s a good idea to send convicted murderers to the Army??? They would have access to even more guns, and power, and uniforms, and they would be responsible for others’ lives — both fellow soldiers and civilians where they are stationed! What kind of working environment would that create?
Many of my family members, both men and women, have served in the army when they were very young, and I would want none of them to have had to work with and sleep next to convicted murderers.
People are always quick to say what needs to be done in a community filled with issues but no one ever takes action. These 2 spirits you talk about took my nephew spirit from this world and jail is to good for them. They follow in the footsteps of people before them so when are people on the side line going to hold the people accountable that needs to be accountable. These 2 planned to kill someone almost 48 hrs before time and the someone ended up being my beautiful educated nephew, who by way they didn’t know. They had parents and they condoned the violence and one murder’s parent was being lied to that my nephew attacked him but the judge had to tell her otherwise. She claimed she had no idea what her child was doing in the streets.. And I will never forget the look on my nephew’s face when he was fighting them for his life. Have you ever seen a face of WHY, well I have and that was the question I have asked for 3 years because my nephew was loved from NYC to out of state. Because he was a person of peace and avoided violence sometimes he was called a punk from the so called people who claimed they loved him. So please don’t make excuses because it seems that people from the upper westside who live in a bubble a block or 2 away really doesn’t know what goes on or cares what goes on. All your suggestions have been considered for years but it has to start in the home and ignorance with a lot of these individuals is bliss. And just to let know Joy was invited by myself to attend my nephew’s proceedings because some information originally printed in the first story the day he died was false and readers where saying my nephew deserved dying because he was in a gang, so I invited her to here the truth that was already know by myself and my family because we raised him and knew who he really was and what was going on at the place he was residing for the moment. 55+ hearings in court and online and I didn’t miss one. I did the victim impact Statement for both pleas so until anyone sits in my shoes this blow you will never understand or comprehend. Accountability is the first step to stop the madness. I am a Army Veteran for 10 years and out due to injuries and I’m also a govt employee who will never serve with these two because trust plays a major roll in combat and these individuals would have never been trusted.
Dallas, I think you’re on to something here. Send them into military service. It’s taxpayer expense either way. We should get something for our money.
Yes, by all means pollute the ranks of our hard working men and women of the armed forces. It’s bad enough they get sent to senseless wars. Now they have to worry about who they share quarters with. Great idea!
Agree. Children are not born violent. Children are not born with guns in their hands. What causes children to become violent? Why is it easier to get a gun than a quality education? Why do children go into gangs? Maybe they want to belong, just like everyone else? Maybe all they can hope for Is survival. The cold hard criminals are the people making money off of violent crime. It’s no coincidence that crime has gone up with increased gun sales. Go after the gun industry. Hold your electeds accountable. Invest in greener spaces and safer neighborhoods. And perhaps take a walk over to the housing projects and ask how you can help.
Dallas – you sound more like Beverly Hills.
We are taking about cold blooded murderers.
Real justice would be served if they meet their victim again.
Two young spirits? A person is dead because of them.
It is a progressive city.. The same people get voted in. The only people who have the right to complain about something like this are the ones that vote Republican
Bill, Are you referring to the Republican voters who voted in the ultra-criminal, Donald Trump?
not aware of Donald Trump shooting anyone on Columbus Avenue. Or cleaning out local businesses with industrial level shoplifting. Perhaps you have different information?
They are moving to red states as the Governor requested
Those who voted for Hoylman blame yourselves.
How is this manslaughter and not murder?
It was murder but they took a plea deal. Manslaughter is murder but with a an excuse. I fought for 3 years and 7 months for justice and the one who did the fatal stabbing got 20 years and the one who assisted and came up the the plan to kill got 12 in a plea. God is not finish with them yet.
Jinette, we are sorry for your loss. In your opinion, what should be done to prevent these types of crimes from happening in the future?
It starts in the home. When there are individuals such as these 2 turning a blind eye isn’t the answer. There is people such as my family that are raising kids to work hard and be productive in life along with respect and humility, but you have parents that want to be friends instead of parents. These 2 boys had very destructive histories and the courts keep allowing them to be released with slaps on the risk. Parents need to be accountable, laws in NY need to change and people need to not be afraid. My nephew would have never been murdered if these boys never received the slap on the risk they received less than 90 days before. They had years of history in the juvenile system for assault and other charges so they came to the point of being murders, which was inevitable. This type of behavior has been in NYC for decades and as long as people feel like it’s not their family or that ii will never happen to them they are mistaken. My family never thought in a million years this would happen to us but it has and any innocent person can be next if people don’t step up. Thank you for you condolences.
I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your painful story. You do honor to your nephew by speaking his truth.
It’s really hard to stomach the people who post here. “Save the children! Send them to the military! Two spirits! What causes this?”
1. No home training
2. No consequences for their actions- ever.
If you think these 2 will be rehabilitated, you need to take your medicine.
I’m very sorry for the loss of this young man. I’m not going to argue with his grieving family members, either. However, his killers remain human beings. This shouldn’t be controversial. It’s gross to see comfortable white people grabbing for a reason to feel good about dehumanizing others when you wouldn’t have given this kid the time of the day on the street, either.
Hard to call these two human beings after what they did. It’s ignorant to call out everyone here as “comfortable white people” I’m getting tired of people like you using the race card for every problem that arises. And who the heck feels good here??
It’s gross to see anonymous commenters ignorantly assuming everyone not agreeing with her to be “comfortable white people”.
WHAT CAN ONE comment when guns and knives proliferate on the UWS and young men are drawn into conflicts perhaps not of their making. ? We need to look more closely into what WAS happening and to getting rid of weapons. Where could this young man have turned for help? Did he know he was a target? How about the fact that the young man who pleaded guilty received 11 years for murder? That’s a slap on the hands, it seems to me!
If these gangs have been involved in criminal activity since at least 2013, hopefully plenty of these members have been taken off the streets since then.