An eleven-promising attorney who fell from grace after disbarment spent his final moments on the wrong end of a gun — killed in a roommate squabble inside a Bronx apartment building for people on the verge of homelessness, authorities said.
Jemal Deshong was gunned down by his roommate, James Charleston, 61, and another man, Louis McDonald, following a late-night argument in a Wakefield apartment that was the culmination of years of frustration, prosecutors and the landlord say.
Prosecutors in Bronx Criminal Court cited video surveillance, the suspect’s own admissions and information from witnesses as evidence against McDonald, 24, who is Charleston’s nephew.
Deshong, 46, was remembered in an obituary last month for his hard work to earn a degree from the CUNY School of Law in Queens and for his love of basketball and hip-hop. He opened a law office in Mount Vernon, working pro bono cases to provide a voice for the wrongfully accused.
But less than a decade after receiving his law license in 2002, Deshong was disbarred over a series of his own legal woes — most prominently a bizarre courtroom incident that came with a sentence of 11 months behind bars, according to court documents and news reports at the time.
More recently, according to his landlord, Deshong was feuding with his roommate, Charleston, as well as another roommate. Police were frequently called to the apartment. One of the roommates had an order of protection against Deshong stemming from an assault in their shared bathroom, the landlord said.
The Harlem-born attorney was first arrested after an obscenity-laden 2004 melee where he was charged into a Manhattan courtroom and rushed toward a sitting judge, authorities said.
“I have access!” he screamed before court officers brought him down in a scuffle that broke a courtroom table.
Deshong, who was taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, told the court officers leading him away to “be careful, I’m a lawyer, you know.”
He was eventually convicted on two counts of criminal contemplation over the unprovoked outburst.
A May 2011 disbarment document noted later legal woes: A New Jersey arrest for attempted burglary, pleaded down in 2009 to criminal trespass, and another stint behind bars. Taking a swing at an NYPD officer in August 2006 on a Bronx street. And then resisting arrest in Manhattan in February 2010.
His disbarment became official 15 months later, documents showed, after Deshong failed to respond to the complaint or even request an extension for a response to the charges.
Deshong landed in the first floor apartment in the Bronx two years ago after his mother begged the building management — and even covered his rent, according to the landlord.
But the landlord said Charleston and the other roommate wanted Deshong out. The landlord said he was refusing to take money from Deshong’s mom in hopes of getting him to leave.
“I was gonna give him to another landlord but then I’m like damn, if this dude is crazy this other landlord is gonna be very mad at me. So I had to do it myself. But I didn’t know he was gonna turn out like that,” the landlord said.
The lapsed litigator had become a nuisance, leaving the bathtub water running until it overflowed, making holes in the walls and spreading Ajax throughout the apartment, said the landlord.
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Charleston frequently complained about Deshong “fu–ing up the building,” the landlord recalled. The landlord added that he often found tenants through an emergency housing assistance program run by the city.
It wasn’t clear what sparked the shooting — or how McDonald, Charleston’s nephew, allegedly got involved.
On Tuesday, McDonald appeared in Bronx Criminal Court in handcuffs and a black hoodie, wearing a Louis Vuitton face mask and jeans.
McDonald never spoke during the court session, instead nodding as the judge detailed the charges in the slaying just after midnight on March 10. McDonald was charged with murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon for the slaying outside their home on E. 227th St near White Plains Road.
Charleston was arrested Tuesday on the same charges.
Deshong was shot in the chest and pronounced dead after he was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center.
His accused killer was quoted in court papers as insisting to police that he was with his “Uncle Charleston” when the killing occurred and had the photos to prove it, giving the same last name as his co-defendant.