Most people view the courts and judges as very strict and unmerciful robots. They are the hand of the law and although the law is cruel, it is the law. Our source though shares a case in which the law, in a decision that is originally thought to be unfair, was already quite merciful.
Gary di Leonardo was charged with 1st and 2nd degree robbery, criminal possession of a weapon in the 4th degree and brought before the Trial Court. What series of events brought him to this place?
The prosecution’s case rests on the testimony of Leslye Gachelin, the complainant. According to him, on May 15, 1982, he was on Hillside Avenue when he was approached by nine men. He identified one of them as di Leonardo . Di Leonardo grabbed Gachelin’s waist and chest while another man covered his mouth. A third man pulled out a knife. The three men searched him and took around $975, a watch, and his car keys. They then left. According to reports, di Leonardo was caught by the police not soon after.
During the hearing, the Trial Court asked di Leonardo and John J. Santucci, Gachelin’s lawyer, if they wanted any lesser charges included. After this, the court then named the offenses it would consider. They did not mention robbery in the third degree. Our expert notes that informing both parties of the charges that will be brought up is important. This helps them prepare for the trial.
Reports state that given the evidence, “that the People had proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that di Leonardo, together with other persons, stole property. The Trial Court’s final decision however, was that di Leonardo was guilty of 3rd degree robbery.
According to our expert, 3rd degree robbery is when a person takes another person’s property by force. Second degree robbery, is when a person takes another person’s property by force, with the help of another person.
Santucci argued that di Leonardo could not be charged with 3rd degree robbery because he was not charged with 2nd degree robbery. Also, the Trial Court did not include 3rd degree robbery in the list of charges that would be brought up. Furthermore, he said, based on the facts established during the trial, it would be illegal to convict di Leonardo of 3rd degree robbery. Santucci and di Leonardo then decided to appeal to a higher court.
The Court of Appeals reviewed the Trial Court’s decision and the facts presented during the trial. It found that based on the evidence, it was clear that di Leonardo had robbed Gachelin and that he was helped in this by other people. Thus, he could clearly be found guilty of 2nd degree robbery. What is interesting though, is why the Trial Court convicted him of 3rd degree robbery instead.
There is an inconsistency in the findings, based on evidence, and the verdict of the court.
Our reporter finds that this unusual sentence seems to be the Trial Court’s way of showing mercy to di Leonardo. Third degree robbery is considered a lesser violation and has a lighter penalty but still a felony.
The Court of Appeals said that although this is not the sort of thing they encourage, it cannot be challenged. Nothing in the Constitution stops judges from being too lenient. Di Leonardo cannot say that he was untreated unfairly and that the court gave him a wrong sentence because the court did find him guilty of 2nd degree robbery but instead decided to give him a lesser charge and sentence.
Also, even if it was true that the Trial Court should have included 3rd degree robbery in the list of included charges, there was no harm done. Therefore, the Court of Appeals decided to reject di Leonardo’s appeal .
Not only can court cases be very confusing, they also include a lot of surprising elements. The office of Stephen Bilkis & Associates, together with its New York Robbery Lawyers, is always ready to offer its support and guidance in whatever difficult situations you might encounter. It also has offices located throughout New York so visiting one is very convenient.