R J was charged with one count of first degree robbery and one count of fourth degree weapon possession. The indictment was based on an incident that occurred on September 22, 1979, in which Mr. J allegedly stole money from a bread delivery man. According to the victim’s statement, Mr. J used a weapon in the commission of the crime.
On November 7, 1979, Mr. J gave separate statements to police and to a Bronx County Assistant District Attorney in which he admitted the robbery but denied the use of either a real or replica gun. Mr. J’s attorney moved for a Huntley hearing and opted for a nonjury trial. The hearing and the nonjury trial were held on March 19, 1980 and March 20, 1980 respectively.
According to trial records, the robbery victim, John , was employed by Wonder Bread Bakeries. At approximately 1:00 pm on September 22nd, 1979, Mr. Duffy had double-parked his bread truck on Laconia Street near the intersection of Laconia Avenue and 225th Street. He made a delivery to a nearby deli then got back into the delivery truck from the right-hand side. He started the engine and was about to drive back into traffic when he saw a man enter the truck also from the right side. Mr. D observed that the man had a small black gun in his right hand. The man ordered Mr. D to drive to the Edenwalk Project and upon arrival, the man stole approximately $500.00 in delivery receipts and personal cash from him.
Mr. D testified that he did not see the gun after the man had entered the delivery van. He was able to give the court a description of the robbery as a black male, at least 6’2″ or 6’3″ in height, weighing around 190 pounds, lacking hair in the front and sporting a moustache. He described the gun as having a round, straight barrel approximately 3 to 4 inches in length. He also testified that at no time was the gun ever held to any part of his body.
Christopher, a 12-year-old resident of the Edenwald Project, observed Mr. J entering Mr. Duffy’s bread truck with a gun in one hand. He couldn’t accurately say in which hand Mr. J held the gun but he did state that it was black. Haynes began walking back to the Project where he saw the same bread truck stop and Mr. J get out. He said that the driver got out of the truck and began walking in one direction and that Mr. J walked toward where he and another boy were standing. Haynes said that Mr. J gave them each $1 and told them to not to say anything about what they had seen. H and some other boys then proceeded to steal several loaves of bread from the truck. He then began walking back toward his apartment carrying a loaf of bread. As he passed under a window on the second floor of one of the Project buildings, Mr. J pointed a gun at him and ordered him to throw the loaf of bread up to him. Following this event, H reported the incident to the police.
Mr. J and his mother were contacted by a police detective and set up a tentative date to discuss the allegations against him. On November 7, 1979, Mr. Johnson voluntarily appeared at the 47th Precinct and asked to speak with one Detective S.
S told Mr. J that he was suspected of a number of crimes, including the robbery of the bread truck. Mr. J was read his rights, which he chose to waive. He then confessed to two robberies, including the one involving the theft of Mr. D’s monies but he denied using a gun. He stated that the weapon in his hand was actually a contractor’s T-square.
Following the interview, Mr. J agreed to be questioned by an Assistant District Attorney later that evening. The interview was conducted in the presence of an official court stenographer and Mr. J offered the same story as before in detailing the events of the robbery.
At trial, Detective S denied having any knowledge of a pending charge against Mr. Johnson for criminal trespass. He also stated that if he had known that Mr. J was represented by a criminal defense attorney in that matter, he would have had him contact him immediately. Mr. J stated that the criminal trespass charge was discussed during the November 7th interview. The court held that the detective’s testimony was credible and that the police were, in fact, unaware that there were pending charges associated with crimes other than the robbery or that Mr. J was represented by a criminal defense lawyer. The ADA also testified that he did not see Mr. J’s rap sheet prior questioning him.
Mr. J’s defense attorney moved to suppress the statements made to both Detective S and the ADA on the grounds that his client was represented by counsel at the time the interviews occurred and that he could not have legally waived his Miranda rights. The Bronx County Supreme Court was charged with determining whether or not Mr. J’s right to avoid self-incrimination had actually been infringed upon.
In People v. Rogers, the court held that once an attorney has entered the proceeding, a defendant in custody cannot be subjected to further questioning without his attorney present. The Court of Appeals ruled that defendants are protected from being questioned about crimes for which he is represented by counsel and for other criminal acts, whether they are related or not. The Supreme Court argued, however, that such a narrow interpretation could effectively prevent the prosecution of future crimes. The court concluded that in Mr. J’s case, the questioning that occurred on November 7, 1979 was not a violation of his rights since he was not technically represented by an attorney for the September 22nd robbery and he was not questioned about any other criminal acts that had taken place prior to the robbery.
The court denied Mr. J’s motion and held that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he had committed the forcible theft of the bread delivery receipts and Mr. D’s personal funds using what appeared to be a handgun. Accordingly, the court found him guilty of robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. The court also ordered that the weapon charge should be included as a lesser offense of robbery in the first degree.
Had detectives believed that Mr. J had committed the larceny without the use of a weapon, he may have only faced a lesser charge of robbery in the third degree. His defense attorney may choose to appeal the court’s decision in handing down a first degree robbery conviction.
This case demonstrates how important the aid of an experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorney is if you’ve been charged with robbery or a similar crime involving theft. The law firm of Stephen Bilkis and Associates provides expert legal representation to criminal defendants and is committed aggressively defending your rights. If you’re facing a conviction for robbery or another serious crime, such as burglary, you need to call 1-800-NY-NY-LAW today to speak with a member of our criminal defense team. Alternately, you may visit one of our New York area offices to discuss your case in person. Don’t hesitate to get the legal help you need to fight a New York robbery charge.