Modus Operandi Taken Into Account in Appellate Court
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York heard the case of The People of the State of New York, Respondent v. Reginald S, Defendant-Appellant on August 25, 2011. The Supreme Court convicted him of two counts of rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree (three counts), burglary in the second degree (three counts), robbery in the third degree (two counts) and attempted robbery in the third degree. He was convicted by a jury on May 24, 2007 and sentenced as a persistent violent felony offender to 150 years to life for these sex crimes.
On July 15, 2005, the defendant was charged with multiple counts of forcible rape, forcible criminal sexual act, burglary, robbery, and attempted robbery. These incidents supposedly took place over a two week time period on the upper west and east sides of Manhattan. They occurred around the same time on three separate dates. Three different women were attacked and robbed during these sex crimes. In all of these cases, the women had either had a cushion placed over their faces, and one woman was told to blindfold herself.
In each of these cases, the sex crime offender entered the women’s homes through an open window. None of the victims were able to identify the defendant. There was a palm print found at the home of the first victim that matched the defendant’s palm print. In addition, semen left at the second site matched the defendant’s DNA. There was no physical evidence available at the location of the third sex crime. The Court allowed the defendant’s identity as the perpetrator of the third sex crime through the use of his modus operandi.
The defense argued that the defendant’s behavior was not unique enough or similar to each other in the three sex crimes, but the Court found this argument meritless. The sex crimes occurred within 15 days of each other and were incidents in which the assailant entered the victim’s premises through a window at night. Other similarities in the three cases were that he covered each of their faces with a pillow or cushion and forced the other victim to cover her eyes with clothing found nearby. He also told all three to “Relax” demanded money, and threatened to kill them if they did not cooperate. He also forced each one to perform oral sex and either forced sexual intercourse upon them or attempted to do so.
The jury also found the defendant guilty of the sex crime against the third victim based on his unique modus operandi. Also, the Court did not have access to the defendant’s extensive criminal record, so any potential prejudice was avoided. The Court ruled that the defendant’s sentence should not be reduced, but that in fact, it should be capped at 50 years. He was sentenced as a persistent violent felony offender, so the cap imposed does not warrant reduction of the sentence. The Court rejected the defendant’s pro se speedy trial claim as well.