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People v. Nunez-Garcia

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

December 24, 2019

The People, etc., respondent,
v.
Jose Nunez-Garcia, appellant. Ind. No. 708N/14

          Argued - October 9, 2018

         D57394 G/afa

          N. Scott Banks, Hempstead, NY (Tammy Feman and Marquetta Christy of counsel), for appellant.

          Madeline Singas, District Attorney, Mineola, NY (Daniel Bresnahan and Judith R. Sternberg of counsel), for respondent.

          LEONARD B. AUSTIN, J.P. SHERI S. ROMAN JOSEPH J. MALTESE HECTOR D. LASALLE, JJ.

          DECISION & ORDER

         Appeal by the defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Helene F. Gugerty, J.), rendered July 19, 2016, convicting him of rape in the first degree, rape in the third degree, and sexual abuse in the first degree, upon a jury verdict, and imposing sentence. The appeal brings up for review the denial, after a hearing pursuant to a stipulation in lieu of motions, of the suppression of physical evidence and the defendant's statements to law enforcement officials. Justice Maltese has been substituted for former Justice Sgroi (see 22 NYCRR 1250.1[b]).

         ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed.

         We agree with the Supreme Court's determination denying suppression of physical evidence and the defendant's statements to law enforcement officials. The credible evidence at the suppression hearing established that the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant (see People v Williams, 127 A.D.3d 1114, 1115-1116).

         Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution (see People v Contes, 60 N.Y.2d 620, 621), we find that it was legally sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, in fulfilling our responsibility to conduct an independent review of the weight of the evidence (see CPL 470.15[5]; People v Danielson, 9 N.Y.3d 342, 348-349), we nevertheless accord great deference to the jury's opportunity to view the witnesses, hear the testimony, and observe demeanor (see People v Mateo, 2 N.Y.3d 383, 410; People v Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495). Upon reviewing the record here, we are satisfied that the verdict of guilt was not against the weight of the evidence (see People v Romero, 7 N.Y.3d 633).

         The defendant's contention that the indictment was fatally defective because it did not adequately inform him of the factual allegations against him and because the charges in the indictment were multiplicitous and duplicitous is unpreserved for appellate review (see CPL 470.05[2]) and, in any event, without merit. An indictment must contain "[a] plain and concise factual statement in each count which, without allegations of an evidentiary nature, . . . asserts facts supporting every element of the offense charged and the defendant's or defendants' commission thereof with sufficient precision to clearly apprise the defendant or defendants of the conduct which is the subject of the accusation" (CPL 200.50[7][a]). Here, each count of the indictment placed the defendant on notice of the conduct that was the subject of the accusations against him with respect to the illegal conduct in which he engaged on a particular day with a single victim (see id.). To the extent that certain language was omitted from the count charging the defendant with rape in the third degree, such omission was a minor defect which did not prejudice the defendant as the missing language appeared before the "to wit" clause for that count.

         "An indictment is multiplicitous when two separate counts charge the same crime. Multiplicity does not exist where each count requires proof of an additional fact that the other does not" (People v Saunders, 290 A.D.2d 461, 463 [citations and internal quotation marks omitted]). The count of rape in the first degree required an element of sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion (Penal Law § 130.35[1]), while the count of rape in the third degree required an element of sexual intercourse without consent of the victim (Penal Law § 130.25[3]). The third count of sexual abuse in the first degree was not premised upon an act of sexual intercourse, but rather, upon other non-intercourse sexual contact committed by the defendant. Thus, all three counts of the indictment were distinct and required proof of an additional fact that the others did not, so that a conviction on one or more of the counts would not be inconsistent with an acquittal on another (see People v Barber, 133 A.D.3d 868, 869; People v Saunders, 290 A.D.2d at 463).

         "An indictment is duplicitous when a single count charges more than one offense" (People v Alonzo, 16 N.Y.3d 267, 269). Here, the count of sexual abuse in the first degree was not duplicitous since the sexual abuse occurred during a single uninterrupted course of conduct (see id. at 270; People v Kelly, 148 A.D.3d 585, 585).

         The defendant's contention that the prosecutor committed misconduct before the grand jury is without merit. The prosecution was under no obligation to present evidence that was not entirely exculpatory and would not have materially influenced the grand jury's investigation (see People v May, 138 A.D.3d 1024, 1024). Moreover, the prosecutor's use of leading questions during certain, sensitive parts of the examination of the complainant before the grand jury did not render this evidence incompetent and did not undermine the integrity of the grand jury proceedings (see People v Brownlee, 121 A.D.2d 553, 554; see also People v Kurth, 82 A.D.3d 905, 906).

         The defendant is correct that, as his counsel had requested during the trial, the prosecutor was required to correct the knowingly false or mistaken trial testimony of the complainant's boyfriend that he had not testified before the grand jury or spoken to the prosecutor prior to trial (see People v Colon, 13 N.Y.3d 343, 349; People v Steadman, 82 N.Y.2d 1, 7; People v Spruill, 164 A.D.3d 1270, 1277). However, "[w]here a prosecutor elicits or fails to correct such inaccurate testimony, reversal and a new trial are necessary unless there is no 'reasonable possibility' that the error contributed to the conviction" (People v Colon, 13 N.Y.3d at 349, quoting People v Pressley, 91 N.Y.2d 825, 827). Here, the failure to correct this testimony constituted harmless error, as there was overwhelming evidence of the defendant's guilt and no reasonable possibility that the defendant would have been acquitted if not for the error (see People v Colon, 13 N.Y.3d at 349; People v ...


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