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Woods v. Bradt

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 22, 2017

WESLEY WOODS, Petitioner,
MARK L. BRADT, Superintendent, Respondent.


          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Proceeding pro se, Wesley Woods (“Petitioner” or “Woods”) filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that he is in state custody in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Woods is presently incarcerated based on a judgment entered against him on July 23, 2008, following a jury verdict in Monroe County Court (Geraci, J.) of New York State, convicting him of Murder in the Second Degree (felony murder) (New York Penal Law (“P.L.”) § 125.25(3)) and Robbery in the First Degree (P.L. § 160.15(4)).

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History

         A. The Crime

         The convictions here at issue stem from the robbery of a grocery store at 1037 North Street in the City of Rochester owned by Saleh Saeed Abo-Ali (“Abo-Ali”), and the fatal shooting of Abo-Ali during the course of that robbery.

         On December 2, 2007, at approximately 7:35 p.m., Woods, Keon Anderson (“Anderson”), and Stefan Lewis (“Lewis”), entered the store wearing what the store's sole employee, Fadel El-Naham (“Naham”), described as “black clothing, big coats, hoodies that cover almost the whole side of the face”. (T.326, 343). Anderson and Lewis pointed their guns at El-Naham and yelled at him that they would shoot him if he “call[ed] for the guy upstairs.” (T.326, 331-32). They ordered him to come out from behind the counter and get on the ground.

         El-Naham got on his knees with his hands behind his head. He observed that one of the men (later identified as Anderson) was wearing pants with yellow stripes on the back and flowers on both of the back pockets. (T.335). One of the other men (later identified as Lewis) went behind the counter and stole money, cigars, cigarettes, and other items.

         Meanwhile, Woods, who was armed with a .45-caliber handgun, went to the back of the store where a door led to a second-floor apartment occupied by Abo-Ali and his wife. When Abo-Ali came downstairs, he was met by Petitioner and Anderson, who had a silver .357-magnum handgun. According to El-Naham, he heard four to five gunshots that sounded as though they were fired from more than one gun. Abo-Ali was struck in the torso by a bullet that was later determined to come from the .357-magnum used by Anderson during the robbery.

         Woods, Anderson, and Lewis fled the store, but El-Naham followed them outside and saw them run across Bernard Street. He called 911, and Rochester Police Department (“RPD”) Officer Otto Harnischfeger (“Officer Harnischfeger”) responded to the scene. El-Naham provided descriptions of the intruders and turned over the VHS tape containing surveillance video of the store to Officer Harnischfeger. (T.261-63, 328). RPD Officer Patrick Carney's K-9 partner scent-tracked Woods, Anderson, and Lewis to a house at 466 Bernard Street, where multiple footprints in the snow led to the side door. Back-up was requested and officers began to set up a perimeter outside the house. RPD Sergeant Robert J. Wilson (“Sergeant Wilson”) spoke to a woman who lived across the street, and asked her to call the occupants at 466 Bernard. She did so and Sergeant Wilson eventually spoke to a woman who lived at 466 Bernard. She told him no one was inside the house, and then gave the RPD permission to enter the house, and gave Sergeant Wilson the house key.

         Sergeant Wilson entered the house at 466 Bernard with Officer Carney, Officer Cuyler Mooney and his K-9 partner, and Officer Richard Gerbino. They announced their presence and the presence of a police dog. They went upstairs to the attic and again announced their presence. Officer Carney and Sergeant Wilson observed a crawl-space in the attic with a black jacket and silver gun. They yelled out that they knew people were hiding inside the attic because they saw the gun and jacket, but no one responded. Officer Carney saw someone moving behind the drywall towards the silver gun and the opening of the crawlspace. Officer Mooney's dog apprehended the man later identified as Anderson and Officer Carney grabbed the gun. Another man, later identified as Woods, said, “Don't let the dog bite me. I give up.” (T.377). He showed his hands as he came out of the crawlspace and was placed in handcuffs. The officers tore down some dry wall and pulled out the third suspect, later identified as Lewis. Officer Nickolas Romeo patted Woods down and found a pair of black gloves in his left back pants pocket.

         Petitioner was taken to the precinct briefly and then driven to the corner of North and Bernard Streets for a show-up procedure with El-Naham.

         Also in the attic, the police found a cigar box, cigars, cigarettes, two one-dollar bills, clothing, and three guns. An investigator for the Monroe County District Attorney's Office returned to the house later and located $410 in cash in the attic crawlspace. Bullets and casings recovered from the grocery store were found to match two of the three guns seized from the attic of 466 Bernard Street. Woods' fingerprints were found on one of the guns used in the robbery.

         B. Petitioner's Statements to Police

         After show-up identification procedure, Woods was driven to the Public Safety Building, and arrived there just after 10:00 p.m. He was placed in an interview room and handcuffed to the table.

         At 5:20 a.m., Investigator Glenn Weather and Sergeant Mark D. Mariano joined Woods in the interview room. Investigator Weather read Woods his rights, and Petitioner agreed to speak with the police without an attorney present. Over the next hour, Woods repeatedly denied any involvement in the ...

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