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PEOPLE STATE NEW YORK v. JOHN LEO (01/23/69)

COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK 1969.NY.40266 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 245 N.E.2d 705; 23 N.Y.2d 556 decided: January 23, 1969. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,v.JOHN LEO, APPELLANT People v. Leo, 29 A.D.2d 844, affirmed. Counsel Patrick M. Wall for appellant. Burton B. Roberts, District Attorney (Herbert Ouida and Daniel J. Sullivan of counsel), for respondent. Scileppi, J. Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Burke, Bergan, Keating, Breitel and Jasen concur. Author: Scileppi


People v. Leo, Scileppi, J. Chief Judge Fuld and Judges Burke, Bergan, Keating, Breitel and Jasen concur.

Author: Scileppi

 In the latter part of July, 1963, 247 new General Electric refrigerators were delivered to a recently completed New York City Housing Authority project in The Bronx. On August 1, 1963, 16 refrigerators were found missing and on August 26, another 10 could not be accounted for.

In December, 1963, the appellant, a New York City police officer, was indicted with four other men on multiple counts including grand larceny in the first degree. The indictment was dismissed as to defendant Quatron and pleas of guilty to the misdemeanor of petit larceny were entered by defendants Baker and Nuro, who were the guards at the project when the refrigerators were first reported missing. Thereafter on November 18, 1964 the appellant and defendant Cuomo went on trial and were found guilty as charged. However, Justice Postel set aside the verdict as to Cuomo on the ground that the verdict was contrary to the law and the weight of the evidence, apparently because the prosecution had failed to establish the requisite corroboration as to Cuomo (Code Crim. Pro., ยง 399).

Franz Schmitt testified that he was appellant's next-door neighbor and had known him for about three years. Sometime during the summer of 1963 appellant offered to sell him a refrigerator for $85, and told him that he could view the refrigerator on his (appellant's) porch. When asked if the refrigerator was new or used Schmidt responded: "It was used. The tag was still on it". He told appellant that he did not need one, but that he knew a neighbor who might. Appellant asked him to tell the neighbor about it because he would give anybody a break.

Rudolph Schmidt testified that he was the son-in-law of Franz Schmitt and lived with him in the house adjacent to that of appellant. During the summer of 1963, after a conversation with his father-in-law, he went to the porch of appellant's house and saw a taped refrigerator which he identified as a General Electric, although admitting that he noticed no brand name or other mark indicating its make.

Both Cuomo and the appellant took the stand in their own behalf and related substantially the same story as they told Detective Duffy.

Jerry Cuomo, a cousin of defendant Cuomo, testified that during July and August he twice loaned to Cuomo and the appellant a green truck. However, he stated that the truck bore the name "Jericho Roofing Corporation".*fn1

This is substantially all of the relevant testimony given at the trial.

Justice Postel as part of his charge to the jury stated: "In order to convict the defendants * * * the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the refrigerator seen on the porch by the son-in-law of the next door neighbor Schmidt was one of the refrigerators stolen from the [project]; and if there is any question in their minds whether it was so stolen from the [project] then the jury must necessarily acquit both defendants."

At the trial Nuro testified that late in July, 1963 Quatron told him that he wanted to take two of the refrigerators that had recently arrived at the project. Nuro allowed him to do so receiving from Quatron $20 for each refrigerator, a sum he split with Baker, the other guard at the project. Quatron told him that he would return with a good customer for the refrigerators.

Nuro further testified that late one afternoon, the following week, Quatron returned with two men who were identified by Nuro as the appellant and Cuomo. Appellant said that he wanted refrigerators and, having been told by Nuro that he could take some, promised that he would return that night. Later that night, Quatron, Cuomo, appellant and two others returned in a green truck bearing the words "Southern Boulevard Roofing", and took nine refrigerators, paying Nuro $180, a sum he split with Baker. Near the end of August, the appellant and Cuomo returned, took nine more refrigerators and gave Nuro another $180 which he again split with Baker. Baker testified substantially to the same effect.

Having sufficiently established a theft by the testimony of those who had participated in it, the prosecution next sought to supply the required corroboration of the accomplices' testimony by calling the detective assigned to investigate the theft and two of the appellant's next-door neighbors.

Detective Duffy testified that as a result of a conversation he had had with Nuro and Baker, his investigation led him to the Jericho Roofing Company. There he saw Cuomo and four green rack-type trucks. When questioned, Cuomo denied the thefts but stated that on one occasion he and the appellant had gone to the housing project in question to get scrap lumber needed for repairs on the appellant's house and that the guards there had allowed them to take some of the lumber. Detective Duffy also spoke to the appellant on the same day. He also denied any participation in the theft and gave substantially the same story Cuomo had given about having obtained some lumber for repairs on his house.

The appellant argues that this portion of the court's charge to the jury specifically limited the evidence possibly supplying corroboration to the testimony of the son-in-law Schmidt and, therefore, all other evidence which might be used in determining the sufficiency of the corroboration cannot be considered because the charge of the court, whether right or wrong, ...


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