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People v. McFadden

Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department

March 31, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,
v.
RONELL L. MCFADDEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          BRIDGET L. FIELD, ROCHESTER, FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          RONELL L. MCFADDEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT PRO SE.

          SANDRA DOORLEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ROCHESTER (DANIEL GROSS OF COUNSEL), FOR RESPONDENT.

          PRESENT: CARNI, J.P., LINDLEY, DEJOSEPH, TROUTMAN, AND SCUDDER, JJ

         Appeal from a judgment of the Monroe County Court (James J. Piampiano, J.), rendered March 7, 2013. The judgment convicted defendant, upon a jury verdict, of rape in the first degree and criminal sexual act in the first degree (two counts).

         It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from is unanimously modified as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice by directing that the sentences imposed on counts two and three shall run concurrently with each other and consecutively to the sentence imposed on count one and as modified the judgment is affirmed.

         Memorandum: Defendant appeals from a judgment convicting him upon a jury verdict of rape in the first degree (Penal Law § 130.35 [1]) and two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree (§ 130.50 [1]). Defendant contends that the evidence is not legally sufficient to support the conviction because the only evidence connecting him to the crimes is DNA evidence taken from a vaginal swab and there is no physical evidence supporting the counts for criminal sexual act. Defendant failed to preserve that contention for our review inasmuch as his motion for a trial order of dismissal was not" specifically directed' at the error[s] being urged" here (People v Hawkins, 11 N.Y.3d 484, 492; see People v Gray, 86 N.Y.2d 10, 19). In any event, the contention is without merit. "Although the victim was unable to identify her attacker at trial..., the DNA evidence alone established defendant's identity beyond a reasonable doubt' " (People v Burroughs, 108 A.D.3d 1103, 1106, lv denied 22 N.Y.3d 995). Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, including the DNA evidence and the victim's testimony, and giving the People "all reasonable evidentiary inferences" (People v Delamota, 18 N.Y.3d 107, 113), we conclude, "as a matter of law, [that] a jury could logically conclude that the People sustained [their] burden of proof" with respect to each count (id.; see People v Danielson, 9 N.Y.3d 342, 349; see generally People v Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495). Upon our independent assessment of all of the proof (see Delamota, 18 N.Y.3d at 116), and viewing the evidence in light of the elements of the crimes as charged to the jury (see Danielson, 9 N.Y.3d at 349), we further conclude that the verdict is not against the weight of the evidence (see generally Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d at 495).

         We reject the contention of defendant in his main and pro se supplemental briefs that he was denied his constitutional right to due process based upon the nearly six-year preindictment delay. We conclude that County Court properly determined that the People met their burden of establishing good cause for the delay (see generally People v Decker, 13 N.Y.3d 12, 14; People v Singer, 44 N.Y.2d 241, 254). We note that the original indictment with respect to these crimes was dismissed after DNA evidence excluded as the perpetrator the person who had been accused of the crimes. Thereafter, the District Attorney's office was notified that the DNA results generated a "hit" for defendant in the Combined DNA Index System database; defendant, however, was not charged until nearly six years later when he voluntarily provided a DNA sample. The evidence at the Singer hearing established that much of the delay was caused by the fact that indicted cases were given priority over unindicted cases requiring additional investigation; that a DNA sample from defendant was required to prosecute this matter; that requests were made to the police in 2006 and 2007 to locate defendant; and, from June 2011 to April 2012, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case was unable to locate the victim. In determining that the People met their burden, the court properly applied the factors set forth in People v Taranovich (37 N.Y.2d 442; see Decker, 13 N.Y.3d at 15), i.e., "(1) the extent of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the nature of the underlying charge; (4) whether or not there has been an extended period of pretrial incarceration; and (5) whether or not there is any indication that the defense has been impaired by reason of the delay" (Taranovich, 37 N.Y.2d at 445). It is undisputed that the underlying charges, class B violent felony offenses (see Penal Law § 70.02 [1] [a]), are very serious offenses and that defendant was not incarcerated. At issue here are the extent and reason for the delay and whether defendant was prejudiced by the delay. Although the six-year delay is a factor that weighs in defendant's favor, it is well established that the extent of the delay, standing alone, is not sufficient to warrant a reversal (see Decker, 13 N.Y.3d at 15; see also People v Vernace, 96 N.Y.2d 886, 888; People v Chatt, 77 A.D.3d 1285, 1285, lv denied 17 N.Y.3d 793), and defendant asserted no impairment of the defense as a result of the delay. We conclude that the People's explanations constitute "acceptable excuse or justification" for the delay (People v Staley, 41 N.Y.2d 789, 793; cf. People v Wheeler, 289 A.D.2d 959, 959-960).

         We reject defendant's contention that the court abused its discretion in permitting the People to cross-examine him with respect to four prior convictions, none of which are similar to the charges herein, inasmuch as those convictions were probative of defendant's willingness to place his interests " ahead of principle or of the interests of society' and thus may be relevant to suggest his readiness to do so again on the witness stand' " (People v Bennette, 56 N.Y.2d 142, 148, quoting People v Sandoval, 34 N.Y.2d 371, 377).

         Defendant contends in his pro se supplemental brief that counts one and three were rendered duplicitous by the victim's testimony. Although defendant failed to preserve that contention for our review (see People v Allen, 24 N.Y.3d 441, 449-450; People v Symonds, 140 A.D.3d 1685, 1686, lv denied 28 N.Y.3d 937), we note that at the time this case was tried, preservation was not required (see People v Snyder, 100 A.D.3d 1367, 1367, lv denied 21 N.Y.3d 1010). We therefore exercise our power to review defendant's contention as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice (see CPL 470.05 [2]). We nevertheless conclude that the contention is without merit. With respect to the rape count, "the briefly interrupted act of sexual intercourse... was part and parcel of the continuous conduct' that constituted one act of rape" (People v Watkins, 300 A.D.2d 1070, 1071, lv denied 99 N.Y.2d 659; cf. People v Cox, 145 A.D.3d 1507, 1507-1508). We reject defendant's contention that our decision in People v Black (38 A.D.3d 1283, 1284, lv denied 8 N.Y.3d 982) compels a different result. In Black, our conclusion that there were "two separate acts of sexual intercourse, " which "were separated by only a brief period of time" (id.; cf. Cox, 145 A.D.3d at 1507-1508), is based upon the record facts in that case. Those record facts established that each act concluded with defendant's ejaculation, thereby distinguishing the facts in the instant case and in Watkins. We reject defendant's further contention that the victim's testimony with respect to count three related to two acts of criminal sexual act and conclude that her testimony described acts that were " part and parcel of the continuous conduct' that constituted one act of [criminal sexual act]" (Watkins, 300 A.D.2d at 1071).

         We reject defendant's contention in his pro se supplemental brief that he was denied effective assistance of counsel based upon counsel's alleged failure to object when the court stated it would accept the verdict before providing a readback of testimony requested by the jury in its prior note. Defendant failed to allege the absence of a strategic or other legitimate explanation for counsel's allegedly deficient conduct in acceding to the court's intention to accept the verdict (see People v Caban, 5 N.Y.3d 143, 154; Symonds, 140 A.D.3d at 1686; see generally People v Mack, 27 N.Y.3d 534, 543). We reject defendant's further contention he was denied effective assistance of counsel by defense counsel's alleged failure to object to the testimony of the victim with respect to the duplicitous counts issue (see generally Caban, 5 N.Y.3d at 154). Indeed, "had defense counsel objected during the trial [a]ny uncertainty could have easily been remedied' through a jury charge" (People v Smith, 145 A.D.3d 1628, 1630).

         Finally, we agree with defendant's contention in his main brief that the aggregate sentence of 60 years, which is statutorily reduced to 50 years (see Penal Law ยง 70.30 [1] [c], [e] [vi]), is unduly harsh and severe, particularly in light of the court's commitment days before the trial to a 10-year term of incarceration for a plea to the rape count. We therefore modify the sentence as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice by directing that the sentences imposed on ...


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