Brian Fielding was charged with and convicted of multiple counts of sodomy, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. His criminal defense attorney challenged his conviction with the New York Court of Appeals, on the grounds that the testimony of his victims was insufficient to prove his guilt in connection with the sex crimes.
Specifically, Mr. Fielding argued that the testimony did not meet the corroboration requirement as set forth under New York law. Section 60.22 of the CPL and Section 130.16 of the Penal Law preclude a conviction for sex crimes based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice or victim.
The court of appeals noted that the corroboration requirement for consensual sodomy is the same as that needed for accomplice testimony. The court held that since Mr. Fielding’s victims were minor children no older than 14, the sex offenses could not be considered consensual within the scope of the statutory requirements.
Under Section 60.22, an accomplice is defined as any witness to a criminal act who also participated in the crime as demonstrated by the evidence. This rule was created to expand on older laws, which classified an accomplice as a principal actor in the crime or an accessory before the fact. Under the new law, a person could be charged as an accomplice, regardless of whether he or she had a substantial role in the crime or acted as an accessory. The person would, however, have to face some type of legal penalty for their participation in the crime to qualify as an accomplice.
In Mr. Fielding’s case, the sexual abuse victims were children under the age of 17 and were therefore considered incapable of offering consent under New York law. As such, the appeals court held that they could not have been subject to any type of criminal charge for their participation in the sodomy or other sex acts that occurred. Therefore, the court found that no complicity was present on the part of the children.
Under Section 130.15 of the Penal Law, a sex offender could not be convicted solely upon a victim’s uncorroborated testimony. The court found that this rule did not apply in Mr. Fielding’s case since no less than seven boys testified that he had committed inappropriate sexual acts with them on different occasions. In summary, the court of appeals held that since the victims did not qualify as accomplices under the statutory definition, there was no reason to discredit their testimony as uncorroborated. Furthermore, the testimony itself connected the sex crimes to one another and to Mr. Fielding. As such, the court chose to affirm his conviction.
In Mr. Fielding’s case, his New York criminal defense lawyer attempted to appeal his conviction for sodomy and sexual abuse, albeit unsuccessfully. Navigating the legal system can be a complex and intimidating process and one that should not be undertaken alone.
The law firm of Stephen Bilkis and Associates offers criminal defense services to individuals in the New York area who’ve been charged with sex crimes, including statutory rape, and stalking. If you or someone you love has been arrested for committing an inappropriate sex act, you need to call 1-800-NY-NY-LAW today to discuss your case. You can also visit one of our New York area offices to speak with one of our criminal defense experts in person.
A sex crime conviction can have devastating consequences but you don’t have to face the judge and jury alone. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today to get the experienced legal representation you need to protect your rights.