Judge Thomas Breslin

 People v. Billups, 845 N.Y.S.2d 873 (2007)


This is a Third Department reversal of a jury verdict in a burglary and stolen property case.

[874] "Charged with committing a series of burglaries, defendant sought to preclude testimony at his jury trial that, during interrogation, he had stated that he had previously pleaded guilty to an earlier, unrelated charge of burglary. Finding that the statement fell within the state of mind or intent exception to the [Molineux rule]...County Court allowed the testimony. After the interrogating officer testified, County Court denied defendant's motion for a mistrial...

"The Molineux rule requires that evidence of a defendant's prior bad acts or crimes be excluded unless it is probative of a material issue other than criminal propensity and its probative value outweighs the risk of prejudice to the defendant...As is pertinent here, a defendant's state of mind and the element of intent are recognized exceptions to the Molineux rule...[875] In making its ruling, however, County Court erroneously focused on defendant's state of mind during his interrogation rather than at the time he allegedly committed the crimes charged...[E]vidence of the prior conviction would only tend to establish defendant's propensity to commit burglary...Had County Court correctly weighed these factors, the conclusion would have been that the potential prejudice of the evidence of the prior conviction far outweighed its probative value."

from Records and Briefs of the case:

Breslin, pre-trial, to prosecutor: "I'm going to preclude your use of the phrase burglary in the second degree in terms of questioning should [Billups] decide to testify."

Billups' first trial ended in a mistrial, due to juror misconduct.

Billups at sentencing: "I'm glad that I was convicted because now I can see for myself firsthand how corrupt and perverted the system is. I used to think that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharp ton, and Louis Farrakhan were troublemakers when they spoke out against the injustices of this racist system. But now I truly see how perverted this system is...because it systematically breaks its own laws by overlooking the constitution when it comes to a particular race or creed. I guess that's politics at its best, right? Whenever an African-American stands before the judge in a criminal court, the first thing that is brought up is his criminal history; his history supposedly showing a propensity for the current charge he is being charged with. Therefore he is determined to be guilty before he is even tried. I went to trial [rather than accept a plea bargain] because I was sure that my constitutional rights would be protected and upheld by the courts but none of that was so. I did not testify at trial but yet my criminal history was brought up at trial even though I did not testify. That violates my fifth amendment and God knows how many more rights. Many minorities such as myself in this case are targets of opportunity because of police fallacy and their incompetence to solve a case. Therefore, if they are looking for a person to put some charges on just to close this case, if your history says you did it, then you did it, right? That's how it was in this case. I was under the impression that this country was based upon a democracy and I had constitutional rights that would protect me from such injustices...If this were true, then why would two Albany detectives be allowed to come to my home in Savannah, Georgia and break into my pastor's private home, search through my belongings, beat me up, tase me with fifty thousand volts of electricity several times, sodomize me with the Bible, squeeze my testicles to try to get me to give a confession, injuring me severely...But still, Judge Breslin did not suppress a supposed statement that this said Detective [Ryan] unconstitutionally took from me in another state. Why was I convicted on burglary, six counts based on only what a co-defendant said, direct testimony with no corroborating evidence? Even after my co-defendant admitted to perjuring himself on the stand, when he admitted that he lied about everything he said about me in his two written statements. Yet the indictment against me still was not dismissed. He was even given a chance to change his story on the stand twice. This is ridiculous. Nothing corroborates any burglaries that he said I committed with him. No witnesses. No DNA. No fingerprints and no other accomplices, even though he claimed in his statement that he denied that there were two accomplices, but then he admitted on the stand that he was lying about that. What makes you think he's not lying about me? He testified that he lied to me and my family about his age, him being sixteen years old when he was really twenty, about his name being Gary Love when it was really Wyatt Zimmerman. He lied to us all. He claimed on the stand, because he was a fugitive from justice in Queens, New York, wanted for burglary and various larceny charges before I even met him. It is clear that I became a target of opportunity for him to testify against so that he could get very little or no time at all...and he's the real criminal. All he had to do was implicate me, and implicate me he did. He used me as a scapegoat. While I face 20 years in prison, he was only sentenced to two years [Zimmerman had not been sentenced as of that time; he was promised that he would receive a sentence of not more than 5 years], even though he admitted to burglarizing all those people's homes. He got over on me, and he got over on all of you in this Court, including Mr. Farley [the prosecutor]. I was convicted on that one burglary that he claims I was with him even though you've seen evidence that I was being arraigned in court for a misdemeanor that day. But he was smart enough to fool all of you and get only two years.

Wyatt Zimmerman was wanted for burglary two years before I met him, and he'll be wanted again in another two years when he comes home. He's a deceiving, conniving crook. His ingenuity earned him two years and earned me twenty. I haven't been convicted of a felony in almost ten years. I did so good on parole that I was dismissed on early release. I have attended two colleges, held a career and got ordained as a youth minister which was my main relationship with Wyatt Zimmerman. I am far from a bad person. By me coming home and attending college and becoming a professional, this does not show a propensity for someone who intends to burglarize peoples' homes again like I did when I was a teenager...I am now 28 years old with two children to be a father of two. If I had burglarized somebody's house, there would be evidence to corroborate what Wyatt Zimmerman said. And, why did he have to change his testimony so many times, and admit the perjury, and [yet] was never charged with perjury? I do not regret taking this case to trial because I'm innocent, and I will be back on appeal."

And indeed he was.

Also see People v. Bryce in Judge Karen Peters section.

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