In May of 2001, the defendant allegedly assaulted a woman because she had helped police with a drug investigation that involved the defendant’s brother. The investigation was multicounty in the scope and revealed a distribution network that implicated the defendant’s brother. The Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force appointed a District Attorney from another county who was the Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the task force as an Assistant District Attorney for this case. The defendant was charged with intimidating a witness in the second degree and assault in the third degree. The District Attorney from the other county presented the case to the Grand Jury and obtained the indictments.
The defendant moved to dismiss the indictments saying that the District Attorney from the other county was not a person authorized to present the case or to obtain indictments. The County Court dismissed the indictments in agreement with her. The State appealed the decision.
They stated that while the District Attorney from the other county had limited jurisdiction to present cases which dealt specifically to those crimes being investigated by the Task Force, he would also have authority to present crimes involving any person with a close connection to a named person. That unnamed person’s acts would then have to be “incident to” the crimes that the named person was alleged to have committed or was planning to commit. Since the connection between the person who was named in the authorizing letters was the brother of defendant, there is a surface connection. That relationship is not enough. The relationship of import is that his brother was named in the multijurisdictional drug investigation. The woman had provided assistance to police regarding the investigation of the brother. Defendant knew that his brother was under investigation and that the woman was a potential witness in the case. Defendant then assaulted the woman because he knew of her cooperation and with the intent to coerce her to stop assisting the police. The Supreme Court finds that the connection that was demonstrated is sufficient to connect the multijurisdictional criminal activity with the incident and thus give authority to the Task Force to present the case to the Grand Jury. The Supreme Court stated that it is not unheard of that persons involved in investigation such as those that the Task Force was enacted to prosecute would attempt to intimidate a witness. It is clear that the assault on the witness was related to the prosecution of the case. It is clear that the defendant knew that the woman was testifying against his brother and that his intent was to intimidate her to keep her from testifying in the upcoming case. The Court further stated that they recognized that criminal gangs often try to insulate themselves from the criminal justice system by using violence and intimidation to keep witnesses from testifying against them. In fact, it is just that type of intimidation of an organized manner that the Task Force was created to eliminate. It is well known that organized crime associations will frequently attempt to intimidate a witness if they believe that it will work to prevent a prosecution of a case involving one of their own. The Court stated that “In our view, an assault knowingly made upon a potential witness in a multijurisdictional drug investigation is sufficiently ‘incident to’ the alleged multijurisdictional crimes to fall within the authority given.. .” to the task force. The Court stated that it was due to all of these reasons that they believe that the prosecution of this kind of conduct falls within the boundaries of the governors’ authorizing letters.
The indictment is reinstated.
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