STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — In the early-morning hours of Oct. 18, 2018, singer Rachel Velazquez fatally stabbed her husband, Fidel (Phil) Velazquez, at their West Brighton home.
Now, after almost four years and dozens of court dates, the case has finally been resolved.
In a near-empty courtroom on Friday, Rachel Velazquez pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter to satisfy all charges against her.
In exchange, the defendant, who is in her early 40s, will be sentenced on Aug. 25 to five years in prison and five years’ post-release supervision in accordance with Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.
The law allows the court to impose a lesser, alternative sentencing range for victims of domestic violence in those cases where the abuse was a “significant contributing factor” to their criminal behavior.
Under the act, a defendant can be sentenced to anywhere from one to five years behind bars for first-degree manslaughter.
To qualify, the defendant was required to show she had been subjected at the time of the crime to “substantial” domestic violence inflicted by a member of her family or household.
In addition, she had to demonstrate the abuse significantly contributed to her criminal behavior and that, considering the circumstances, a sentence under existing guidelines would be unduly harsh.
Outside of the act, the minimum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is five years; the maximum is 25.
State Supreme Court Justice Mario F. Mattei said he would need to hold a hearing at sentencing to determine if Velazquez qualifies for the reduced sentence under the act.
Mattei has said he believed that would not be a problem based on the documentation which defense lawyer Jeff Chabrowe and prosecutors have provided him.
“The district attorney’s office has agreed that she is being sentenced under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act after we provided evidence of years of abuse by her husband,” said Chabrowe outside court. “We thank the district attorney’s office for recognizing the history of extensive abuse perpetrated against Rachel.”
“It’s tragic that Fidel lost his life after attacking her that night,” Chabrowe said. “We’re happy that this nightmare for her has come to an end. She looks forward to moving on with her life, free from domestic abuse.”
In a statement, District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said: “Following a rigorous investigation which revealed an extensive domestic-violence history between the defendant and victim, this office, in consultation with the court and defense, contemplated and agreed to this outcome in the interest of justice and in accordance with the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.”
“Today’s guilty plea ensures this defendant faces accountability for her actions, taking all facts and evidence into consideration while acknowledging the very noteworthy domestic-violence history that existed in this case,” said McMahon. “My thanks to Tuesday Muller-Mondi, executive assistant district attorney for special victims and pathways to justice, and Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Netterville for their dedication and passion in making sure justice was served on behalf of the people of Staten Island.”
The resolution came two weeks after Mattei suspended Velazquez’s original plea hearing when she said she had accidentally killed her spouse.
Mattei said he needed to give Chabrowe time to talk to the defendant about the possibility that the killing was accidental or done in self-defense.
On Friday, Chabrowe told the court he and Velazquez have since discussed those scenarios and decided against pursuing them.
“We don’t believe there would be a valid defense that we would choose to avail ourselves at trial,” said the attorney.
In entering her plea, Velazquez, who stated her name as Rachel Walsh Velazquez, admitted she had intended to seriously injure the victim and in doing so caused his death.
The dark-haired defendant potentially faced up to 25 years to life in prison if she went to trial and was convicted of second-degree murder, the top charge against her.
She has already spent most of her anticipated sentence behind bars while awaiting the case’s resolution.
Velazquez must abide by certain conditions as part of her post-release supervision. They include seeking intensive mental-health and alcohol-abuse outpatient counseling.
According to police and a criminal complaint, the deadly events unfolded at around 4:30 a.m.
The defendant stabbed her husband in the abdomen causing a large wound and bleeding, said police and the complaint.
Police responded at 4:40 a.m. to what sources called a drunken dispute at the couple’s home.
Fidel Velazquez, 43, was found bleeding and lying face up in front of their residence and liquor store on the 700 block of Henderson Avenue.
He was taken to Richmond University Medical Center, West Brighton, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
Neighbors said the couple, who owned Love Liquors and Wine on Henderson Avenue, were known for their explosive altercations over the years.
The store is situated on the ground floor at the same address where they live.
An NYPD spokesman confirmed multiple domestic-related incidents at the address.
Outside of the business, Velazquez for years pursued a career in the music industry under the stage name “Angel.”
She released a 2012 album on iTunes and Spotify and gained 70,000 followers on social media.
An artist bio on Top40-Charts.com said, “She is a great inspiration to many great geniuses from famous musicians to famous brands.”
Meanwhile, the defendant has a bombshell million-dollar lawsuit pending in state Supreme Court, St. George, against the city and NYPD.
Her civil complaint and notice of claim allege police “stole” more than $150,000 in jewelry, as well as sheet music and audio recordings of songs she had written, from a safe in her home.
The sheet music and recordings have a purported value of at least $1 million.
Police allegedly removed the safe during their investigation into Fidel Velazquez’s fatal stabbing.
Afterward, cops told Velazquez’s criminal defense lawyer they had opened the safe and it was empty, alleges the civil complaint.
“That means that after the police confiscated the safe, they appropriated its contents, since when the police took the safe it contained the items described in (the civil complaint),” the suit alleges.
The jewelry consisted of expensive diamond chains, rings, bracelets, earrings and other items, said the complaint.
Besides her own valuables, police took her husband’s $3,000 black leather bag which contained another $40,000 in jewelry, alleges the complaint.
The suit was filed in state Supreme Court, St. George, in January 2020 under Velazquez’s maiden name, “Rachel A. Walsh.”
It seeks at least $1 million in “general damages,” plus punitive damages of at least six times the amount of any general damages awarded.