Sheldon Johnson, the ex-con who claimed to be a criminal justice reform activist and palled around with VIPs like Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and podcaster Joe Rogan, pleaded not guilty to murder in a Bronx courtroom Tuesday before the judge ordered him held without bail.

The 48-year-old became an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform after his parole last year and began working with the Queens Defenders, a criminal defense firm in Forest Hills.

Now, he’s accused of gunning down a 44-year-old rival named Collin Small in a Bronx apartment, then chopping up his remains and hiding them in multiple locations, including a storage bin and a freezer.

Responding officers at first found only Small’s headless torso. Then they discovered his disembodied feet beneath it in a plastic bin at the scene. In Johnson’s apartment in Harlem, police allegedly found Small’s head, legs and one arm stuffed into a freezer.


Surveillance video from Small’s apartment building showed a man, alleged to be Johnson, coming and going multiple times after the slaying.

He changed his clothes and at one point allegedly wore a blonde wig as a disguise.

Johnson appeared in a New York courtroom Tuesday wearing a tan sweatsuit with the shirt inside-out and his hands cuffed behind his back. He spoke only to enter his plea of not guilty.

Sheldon Johnson and Alvin Bragg Instagram handshake


Neighbors overheard a man begging for mercy shortly before two gunshots rattled the apartment building, where Johnson was allegedly seen coming and going multiple times in different disguises after the murder, according to the New York Post.

Colin Small in the hallway of the apartment building where his torso was later found

“Please don’t,” a man said, according to the paper. “I have a family.”

Colin Small mugshot

Just weeks earlier, Johnson appeared on Rogan’s podcast.

The suspected killer got out of prison last year after supporters lobbied for his release.

Sheldon Johnson in the hallway of the apartment building where Colin Small's torso was later found

On his Instagram, Johnson shared a photograph of himself smiling and shaking hands with Bragg.

Sheldon Johnson in the hallway of the apartment building where Colin Small's torso was later found

New York Department of Corrections records show Johnson and Small both served prison time, but it was not immediately clear how they knew each other.

In another photo, Johnson appears to pose alongside the CFO of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, and in another, he gestures in front of a sign that reads, “Jail increases the risk of recidivism…at the expense of actual public health and safety.”

Sheldon Johnson appears in a courtroom at the Bronx Supreme Court

Johnson said on “The Joe Rogan Experience” in February that he was released from prison in May 2023 after 25 years and five months behind bars for a string of armed robberies.

Although he claimed to have risen to the top of the inmate hierarchy, he said he reformed himself in prison. 

After his release, while flying on an airplane for the first time, he claimed to have had an epiphany.

“I had this analogy in my head when I was up in the clouds, and I’m looking down, and I said to myself, I said, ‘I just came from the bowels of hell, spending 25 years in prison, and now I’m in the sky above the clouds in heaven.'”

Sheldon Johnson Queens Defenders Selfie

Now, he is being held without bail in a New York City jail on a second-degree murder charge.

A spokesperson for the Queens Defenders told Fox News Digital the organization had no comment on Johnson’s arrest Friday.

Bragg’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

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