Criminal Court of the City of New York, Richmond County
The People represented by: Daniel M. Donovan Jr, District Attorney Richmond County, Of Counsel: Assistant District Attorney Patrick Nelligan
The Defendant, Jason Mathurine represented by: Duane C. Felton, Esq.
Hon. Mario F. Mattei, Judge of the Criminal Court.
The issue before the Court is whether the People may use the defendant's allocution from a guilty plea in a previous case to show the defendant's knowledge of an element of a charge at trial in the instant case without first providing the defendant with a notice pursuant to CPL § 710.30(1)(a).
On March 8, 2011, the defendant was arrested and charged with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle in the Second Degree [VTL § 511(2)] under docket 2011RI002208.
On March 9, 2011, the defendant pled guilty to VTL § 511(2)(a)(4) and received a sentence that included 7 days jail and a $500 fine.
At the time of his plea the defendant was represented by counsel. During his allocution the defendant admitted that on March 8, 2011, he was operating a motor vehicle while he knew that his privilege to operate a motor vehicle was suspended for having at least three suspensions on three or more dates. The defendant indicated that he understood that he was giving up his right to a trial and to any and all possible defenses he may have had. The defendant said he was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol and that he was physically and mentally able to proceed at the time. He indicated that he had had enough time to speak to his attorney and that he was satisfied with his representation. Significantly, the defendant indicated that he was pleading guilty of his own free will and that he was giving up his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.
On December 9, 2011 and February 18, 2012, the defendant was again arrested and charged with VTL § 511(2) under dockets 2011RI011027 and 2012RI001658. These cases were consolidated to be tried jointly.
Prior to trial the People indicated that they intended to introduce, as evidence in chief, the allocution from the guilty plea on docket 2011RI002208 to show the defendant's knowledge that his license was suspended at the times of the new arrests. Defense counsel did not consent to the introduction of the allocution but allowed that a certified copy of the minutes would suffice if the allocution was admitted.
During trial, the People moved to put the allocution from docket 2011RI002208 into evidence to show the defendant's knowledge that his license was suspended.
Defendant's counsel objected. Among the reasons cited for his objection, counsel indicated that there was no notice pursuant to CPL § 710.30(1)(a) for these statements. He also conjectured that without a Huntley hearing there was no way of knowing if the statement, that is the plea of guilt, was voluntarily made. Defendant's counsel did concede however that the defendant had not appealed the previous plea and sentence and had not sought any other post sentence relief by way of a CPL § 440 motion or other litigation.
CPL § 710.30(1) states that:
Whenever the People intend to offer at trial (a) evidence of a statement made by a defendant to a public servant, which statement if involuntarily made would render the evidence thereof suppressible upon motion pursuant to subdivision three of section 710.20, or (b) testimony regarding an observation of the defendant either at the time or place of the commission of the offense or upon some other occasion relevant to the case, to be given by a witness who has previously identified ...