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People v. Grant

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE DIVISION SECOND JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT


March 17, 2009

THE PEOPLE, ETC., RESPONDENT,
v.
WILBUR GRANT, APPELLANT.

Appeal by the defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Orange County (Kiedaisch, J.), rendered November 16, 2007, convicting him of harassment in the second degree, after a non-jury trial, and imposing sentence.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

ROBERT A. SPOLZINO, J.P., MARK C. DILLON, ANITA R. FLORIO, DANIEL D. ANGIOLILLO, JJ.

(Ind. No. 07-00226)

DECISION & ORDER

ORDERED that the judgment is reversed, on the law, and the matter is remitted to the Supreme Court, Orange County, for a new trial.

Although the trial court is granted broad discretion in making evidentiary rulings precluding or admitting evidence addressing collateral issues (see People v Aska, 91 NY2d 979), "[a] court's discretion . . . is circumscribed by the rules of evidence and the defendant's constitutional right to present a defense" (People v Carroll, 95 NY2d 375, 385, citing People v Hudy, 73 NY2d 40, 57, abrogated on other grounds by Carmell v Texas, 529 US 513). "Proof aimed at establishing a motive to fabricate is never collateral and may not be excluded on that ground" (People v Ocampo, 28 AD3d 684, 685; see People v Hudy, 73 NY2d at 57; People v Barney, 277 AD2d 460, 461; People v McKnight, 144 AD2d 702, 703). Here, the excluded evidence—which included testimony as to statements the complainant was alleged to have made threatening to "get" the defendant—went directly to the credibility of the complainant (see People v Ocampo, 28 AD3d at 686; People v Ashner, 190 AD2d 238, 247-248). Under the circumstances of this case, we cannot say the error was harmless (see People v Crimmins, 36 NY2d 230, 241; People v Ocampo, 28 AD3d at 686).

Accordingly, the judgment must be reversed and a new trial ordered.

SPOLZINO, J.P., DILLON, FLORIO and ANGIOLILLO, JJ., concur.

20090317

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