Robbery Trial Ends in Acquittal
Jury Acquits Man Of Armed Robbery
Jury Acquits Man Of Armed Robbery
Plaintiff and defendants told two different stories to a Nassau County jury over a nine-day robbery trial earlier this month, but it took only 20 minutes for jurors to return a verdict of not guilty.
The case thwarts the Nassau County District Attorney’s stated goal of bringing virtually every case to a positive conclusion.
The plaintiff claims that he was walking to his home in Freeport after having dinner with friends on the night of February 16, 1999. One man put a gun to his head; the other stuck a knife to his side and they demanded his money. After he told them he had no money, they forcibly took him down a driveway into a deserted parking lot.
At that moment, an unmarked police car pulled up. The victim saw one of the men throw something over a fence. He immediately reported an armed robbery.
The police officer testified that while on patrol, he saw two black males forcibly escorting a male hispanic to a parking lot. He saw neither a gun nor a knife but didn’t have enough light to see everything. It looked to him like a robbery. He pulled up to them, held the suspects at gunpoint as the alleged victim reported a robbery, and waited for back up. He also observed the defendant’s car with no one in it. A detective testified that he searched the area the victim pointed to and found a pellet gun, which looked exactly like a real gun. The knife was not recovered. A fingerprint check was inconclusive.
Defendants Rashaan Davis and Lamont Jones tell a different story. They say that they pulled their car into the parking lot to go to the bathroom. Davis then went to the corner where there was a pay phone to return a page from his fiancé. That’s when he says he bumped into a male hispanic with a red bandanna. Words were exchanged and fearing the male hispanic was in a gang, Davis called for Jones. The defendants then forcibly escorted the complainant to the parking lot, just to get him off the corner, because he was making a scene. They were going to leave him there and get in their car just as the police drove up. Davis testified that he saw the male hispanic do something by the fence, but he didn’t see what he did.
The defense argued that the gun belonged to the complainant, theorizing that since he was an illegal alien who could be deported for having a hand gun, he threw it away and made up the story of the robbery because he was angry at the way the defendants were bullying him.
Defendant Davis admitted that he has been previously convicted of two other armed robberies. The jury learned the details of these prior robberies.
The defense also argued that the victim was intoxicated. The police insisted that the victim was, at the most, slightly intoxicated. The defense also contended that the police officer’s observations were consistent with the defense, but he never saw a gun to anyone’s head.
Both defendants were on parole at the time of the incident. They each faced 15 years, plus two more for the parole violation. The case was tried before Judge Abbey Boklan. The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes — before returning verdicts of not guilty for each charge: attempted robbery in the first degree and two counts of attempted robbery in the second degree.
Defense attorney Ernest Peace represented Rashaan Davis. William Petrillo represented Lamont Jones.
Bill Petrillo and Ernie Peace Win Acquittals
By Richard Barbuto Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association Newsletter
In a case tried before Judge Boklan, Bill Petrillo and Ernie Peace won acquittals for their clients wherein both defendants were Predicate Violent Felony Offenders on parole who faced 15 years if convicted.
Cross examination of the complaining witness revealed that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the alleged robbery and cross examination of the arresting officer revealed flaws in his ability to observe.
Despite a Sandoval ruling, which allowed the prosecution to question the defendants about prior robbery convictions and the underlying facts of the robberies, one of the defendants testified.
The defense theory of the case was that the defendants had merely picked on the complaining witness and that he concocted the story of the robbery because he was mad at them.
The jury acquitted in 20 minutes.