Category Archives: New York State

Cyril Smith

On August 23, 2006, Cyril Smith was charged in nine counts with narcotics trafficking and the drug-related contract murders of Sanford Malone, Jamal Kitt, and Terrence Celestine in the Bronx, New York.

The jury trial was from May 14, 2007 to May 30, 2007. Cyril was convicted on eight counts, and acquitted on count four, which was killing Kitt while engaged in drug trafficking, nevertheless he was convicted of killing Kitt through the use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

The State’s case (  from Governments-response-to-appeal-2011  ) is that Cyril murdered Jamal Kitt and Terrence Celestine three weeks apart in July 1998, using the same nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, at the behest of Bronx drug dealer Edgardo Colon, who wanted Kitt and Celestine dead because they were interfering with Colon’s drug business. Colon solicited Cyril to commit the murders by promising to give Cyril drugs to sell on his own. Cyril committed both crimes with his close associate Rafael Ramos, who testified about the murders and the conflicts giving rise to them under his cooperation agreement.

An issue is that Ramos’s account of the murder of Kitt on July 5, 1998,  was contradicted by Keisha Lespierre, Kitt’s girlfriend at the time of his death, who testified that the person who shot Kitt was a light-skinned Spanish man, and not the Spanish man’s black companion.

The murder of Celestine was on July 30, 1998. A ballistics expert testified that the 9mm shell casings were fired from the same gun as those recovered from the scene of the Kitt murder.  According to Charisma Adderley, Cyril admitted to her that he shot Celestine a few days later.

Sanford Malone, who was shot to death on February 14, 2000, was the leader of a large-scale retail drug organization. Two other people were seriously injured. The State alleges that Cyril killed Malone on behalf of Edwin Avilez who was the leader of a competing retail drug organization; and Charisma Adderley assisted Cyril in carrying out the murder, which was solicited and procured by Avilez and Ramos.

According to supporters, police questioned Adderley three times about the murders and she said she knew nothing, only after police told her they would take her kids and lock her up did she say what they wanted her to say, and  Charisma recently apologized to Cyril’s mother at a parade in New York.

Further, according to a review of the transcript by “AC4L”, the three principle witnesses Ramos, Adderley and Avilez were all coerced and/or impeached.

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Angelika Graswald

Angelika Graswald was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Vincent  Viafore, whose body was recovered from the Hudson River in April 2015. 

Prosecutors said Graswald removed a nickle-sized drain plug on the top of the kayak to allow it to fill with water, however experts say the amount of water entering a small hole on the top of the kayak could be minimal compared to the amount of water splashing into Viafore’s open cockpit.

In a nearly 12-hour taped interrogation by police 10 days after Viafore disappeared, Graswald repeatedly denied killing her fiance and said her desperate calls to 911 were real.

Graswald also said during that interrogation, which she punctuated with yoga and hopscotch, that she was “OK” with Viafore’s death and “wanted him dead.”

Graswald told ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas in a November 2015 jailhouse interview that she was at her “breaking point” during the taped interrogation.

“Well they kept me asking me the same questions like a hundred times. I knew that I was innocent,” Graswald told Vargas. “I was at my breaking point. I just, I had it so I just gave ’em what they wanted.”

She also denied in the interview that she removed the plug from Viafore’s kayak with the intent to kill him, saying, “No, I did not.”

Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, said in a court hearing that Graswald may have miscarried a baby during an interrogation. He also claimed that his client asked investigators who “Miranda” was after she was read her Miranda rights, according to The Associated Press.

Sources:

Trial is set for February 14, 2017.

See also “Death on the Hudson“, 48 hours, Sep 12, 2015.

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Timothy Burchard

On October 5, 1997, the body of a woman was found in the burned remnants of her home in the Town of Veteran, Chemung County, her husband was out of town.

In late 1999, Timothy Burchard called 911, to report that Eric Weiskopff had shot a man in the head. Weiskopff then accused Timothy of the 1997 murder, but DNA tests showed that Weiskopff had raped the victim, and excluded Timothy. Weiskopff claimed that Timothy had obtained the key days earlier from the victims car, parked outside her home, however the evidence shows this to be a lie – see the Retrial Affidavit points 8 to 17.

Weiskopff when questioned told police that Jeremy Onsager was the getaway driver. Onsager was given complete immunity from prosecution for testifying that Timothy took part in the crime. When initially questioned, Onsager did not mention Timothy, only implicating him much later after detectives brought up his name.

There was no reliable evidence linking Timothy to the crime, or even placing him with Weiskopff or Onsager who was the driver, or even any truthful account of how he met up with Weiskopff or Onsager prior to the crime.

Instead, Weiskopff and Onsager told conflicting stories which are clearly untrue.

Jailhouse informants also told stories that were clearly fabricated, as they incorporated the untrue claim that Timothy had the key days earlier.

The prosecution, over sustained objections, repeatedly brought up that Weiskopff failed polygraph tests, apparently in an attempt to convince the jury that his final version of events was the truth. However Weiskopff’s final version of events was false and incredible.

The only credible witness, Timothy’s ex-girlfriend, who had no detailed knowledge of the murder, and who previously had no suspicion that Timothy committed the murder, was apparently “turned” by detectives lying to her, and testified against Timothy. The defense were denied information about how she was turned against Timothy, and a wire-tapped conversation she had with him was withheld. See this Memo.

In summary : there is a complete absence of credible evidence showing that Timothy committed the murder, and those with knowledge told conflicting untrue stories about his involvement, and could give no account of how they met with him – inexplicable if he was really there.

The only rational conclusion is that Timothy played no part in the murder and is innocent.

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Andrew Krivak

Anthony DiPippo and Andrew Krivak were arrested in July 1996 after DiPippo’s ex-girlfriend, Denise Rose, claimed she had been with them in a van and saw them rape and kill Josette Wright. She told police the men gagged Wright with her underwear and dropped her body off in the woods in Fields Lane in Patterson, which was where police had found her remains. DiPippo and Krivak were both found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree rape in 1997. Krivak is serving a 25-to-life sentence in state prison and isn’t eligible for parole until 2021. DiPippo was acquitted by a jury after three trials in October 2016.

Krivak signed a lengthy statement in which he admitted raping Josette but not killing her and implicating DiPippo in the murder. Krivak did not testify at his own trial but has always insisted he fabricated the confession under pressure from the investigators.

In September 2016, Krivak filed to introduce the new evidence that led to DiPippo’s acquittal. “New evidence shows that Krivak is likely innocent of the crimes, that false evidence was used at his trial and that he deserves a new trial,” one of his lawyers, Adele Bernhard, wrote in court papers. Bernhard, a former Pace Law School professor, teaches at New York Law School, where she supervises the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic.

Krivak’s filing relied on several of the details that got DiPippo his new trial — particularly that Putnam sheriff investigators coerced witnesses and that a Connecticut sex offender, Howard Gombert, is Josette’s killer and implicated himself in statements made to a fellow inmate in 2011. At DiPippo’s trial on in September 2016,  Joseph Santoro testified as a defense witness how Gombert claimed to have sex with Josette at the time she disappeared and that he suggested he had gotten away with murder because two “suckers” were convicted.

On Tuesday December 20, 2016 Krivak’s motion was denied by State Supreme Court Justice Victor Alfieri, who said Krivak and DiPippo’s cases are different, and the new evidence isn’t likely to change the verdict because of Krivak’s “detailed, voluntary confession” to the police after his arrest in 1996.

Krivak’s attorney, Adele Bernhard, called the judge’s ruling “surprising” and “disappointing.”, and said that Krivak’s confession has “the hallmarks of a false confession.” The new evidence, his lawyers say, points to Howard Gombert, who is serving time in Connecticut for sexual assault, as the girl’s likely killer, not Krivak and DiPippo, who were convicted of the crime in separate trials in 1997.

“One of the things the police are supposed to do in trying to get them to confess is to get them to talk about evidence that isn’t already known,” Bernhard said. “So for example, if they can get the suspect to say the victim was wearing purple underwear and no one knows that except police. But everything in the alleged confession was already known from the crime scene.”

Bernhard said the defense team will file an appeal of the judge’s decision early in 2017.

“We’re going to ask the appellate division to review the judge’s decision, and I’m sure that they will,” she said. “We just want to give the jury an opportunity to consider all the evidence. The jury didn’t get to do that.”

The Putnam Sheriff’s Investigator, Daniel Stevens, that helped secure Krivak’s disputed  confession through the use of a lie detector was the same detective that gave Jeffrey Deskovic the lie detector test that preceded his false coerced confession. Deskovic was exonerated by DNA evidence and the taped confession of the actual perpetrator.

Sources: News reports 30 September, 201620 December, 2016DiPoppo Exoneration Report at the National Registry of Exonerations.

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John Giuca

John Giuca was convicted on a charge of second-degree felony murder in the death of 19-year-old Mark Fisher in 2003. Giuca was arrested a year after the murder, he was found guilty along with Antonio Russo; both were given a sentence of 25 years to life.

In the early morning hours of October 12, 2003, Mark Fisher accompanied a college acquaintance, Angel DiPietro, to a house party at Mr. Giuca’s home in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn.

Fisher had started off the evening barhopping in Manhattan with a different group of friends, but after unexpectedly running into Ms. DiPietro and taking a liking to one of her friends, Meredith Denihan, he found himself happily separated from his original group. Fisher, Ms. DiPietro and Ms. Denihan then met up with another friend of Ms. DiPietro’s, Albert Cleary, the son of a prominent member of the Brooklyn GOP, who was out with his buddy, John Giuca. When the group had trouble getting into another bar, Mr. Giuca invited them to party at his house, as his parents were out of town.

According to what investigators were able to piece together, the group arrived at Mr. Giuca’s place around 5 a.m. and began smoking and drinking. At some point, other people joined the party, including Mr. Russo, who was a nearby neighbor. At 5:23 a.m. Fisher, accompanied by Mr. Russo, withdrew $20 from a nearby ATM and both returned to Mr. Giuca’s home within minutes. At some point, Fisher and Ms. Denihan fell asleep and Ms. DiPietro and Mr. Cleary, who lived about three blocks from Mr. Giuca on Argyle Road, left Mr. Giuca’s house.

At about 6:40 a.m. Fisher was shot five times about 50 feet across the street from Mr. Cleary’s driveway on Argyle Road. Cops arrived on the scene within minutes and found his body lying atop a blanket they later confirmed came from Mr. Giuca’s home. Fisher’s wallet was missing but an ATM receipt in his pocket revealed his identity. Only two of five shell casings were recovered from the scene.

Several witnesses saw or heard a vehicle speed down Argyle Road following the shooting. Antonio Russo went to a neighbor’s house at approximately 7AM, asking him to cut off his braids, a style he’d worn for years. Russo also fled to California. Three witnesses told police that they saw Russo with a gun in his waistband both before and after the murder,one was even threatened by Russo with a gun.

At trial prosecutors alleged that the murder was the result of a robbery attempt by Russo, and that John Giuca supplied him the murder weapon (which was never found).

The conviction was based on the testimony of four main witnesses, three of which have since recanted, two of them accusing the trial prosecutor of coercion and intimidation. The fourth witness has been completely discredited.

Nevertheless, appeals have been denied.

Late in 2014, Giuca’s lawyers sent Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson a petition seeking to overturn their client’s conviction, saying they have irrefutable evidence that shows that Giuca didn’t receive a fair trial.

“I am confident John will be exonerated because the case has been exposed as a house of cards propped up by prosecutorial misconduct,” one of his lawyers, Mark Bederow, told The New York Post.

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Johnny Hincapie

On September 2, 1990, 18-year old Juan Carlos “Johnny” Hincapie was part of a large group of teenagers leaving a Midtown subway for a concert. Unbeknownst to Johnny and the group, six of the youths ran back into the subway, robbing and murdering 22-year old Brian Watkins. Johnny and his friend Luis Montero, who were last seen leaving the subway while the crime took place, were brought to the precinct, and beaten in an effort to force them to make a false confession. At the subsequent trial:

  • • The six culprits had said no one else was involved
    • No witness could positively place Johnny at the crime
    • No physical evidence – no blood, no weapon, no fingerprints
    • The Watkins family could not identify Johnny during multiple line-ups.
    • Luis Montero, who was kept in prison for 18 months after refusing to make a false statement, was exonerated.
    Johnny’s false confession was used as evidence against him.

Post conviction numerous witness statements, physical evidence, and Luis Montero’s key testimony has been obtained. These key pieces, along with the contested forced confession, form the basis of Hincapie’s actual innocence claim.

Here is some newspaper coverage of the hearings thus far:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/man-prison-subway-murder-support-witness-article-1.2122087

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/new-witness-johnny-hincapie-article-1.2161036

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/inmate-claims-cops-beat-admitted-1990-murder-article-1.2128301

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Judge Orders New Trial for Johnny Hincapie, Convicted in 1990 Subway Killing Oct 6, 2015

John Hincapie’s exoneration shows false confessions and convictions can be prevented, say advocates Oct 7, 2015

Charges dropped Jan 25, 2017

Jon-Adrian Velazquez

Jon-Adrian “J.J.” Velazquez was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life for the shooting death of Albert Ward at the illegal gambling parlor the former NYPD officer operated. On Jan. 27, 1998, about half a dozen people, nearly all drug users or dealers, were inside the gambling parlor when two men came in and announced a robbery. Witnesses told police that one of the men had a gun; the other started binding people with duct tape. A struggle ensued and Ward, the former cop, was shot once in the head.
Velazquez, who said he was at home speaking on the phone with his mother at the time of the robbery, has always maintained his innocence. His case and new information suggesting he may have been wrongfully convicted were the focus of a “Dateline NBC” investigation last year and his innocence has been championed by actor Martin Sheen.
The initial descriptions of the gunman was entirely incomatible with Velazquez.
The witness who first identified Velazquez, now says that when he was brought in by police to look at photos, he had 10 bags of heroin in his possession. He also said that police pressured him to make an identification. Only after he picked someone at random – who turned out to be Velazquez — was he allowed to leave the precinct station, he said, adding that he was allowed to take the drugs with him.
A second witness, who had identified Velazquez in court, also recanted, saying “I told police that this was the guy and I was sure, but this was not the truth.” The witness, who was facing a drug charge of his own at the time, said, “I felt pressured because the police were threatening to arrest me.”