In a criminal case, defendant was convicted of two counts of grand larceny in the second degree, 17 counts of grand larceny in the third degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree. County Court sentenced him to concurrent indeterminate terms of incarceration of 5 to 15 years for each count of grand larceny in the second degree, 2 to 6 years on each count of grand larceny in the third degree and a definite term of one year for grand larceny in the fourth degree.
The Court concludes that the sentence is unduly harsh and severe. Defendant had no criminal history prior to these nonviolent offenses and has expressed remorse for his actions and their consequences. He voluntarily turned himself into authorities, confessed to the crimes and entered a guilty plea. Most of his victims contacted the court requesting that defendant not be sentenced to a term of incarceration. There were numerous letters submitted to the court by friends and family attesting to defendant’s good character and prospects for rehabilitation.
The Court exercised its discretion in the interest of justice to reduce the sentence to 2 to 6 years of incarceration on each count of grand larceny in the second degree, and 1 to 3 years of incarceration on each count of grand larceny in the third degree, for an aggregate sentence of 2 to 6 years.
In another criminal action, the People appealed from an order of the Supreme Court, Queens County, which granted the defendant’s oral application to reinspect the Grand Jury minutes underlying Queens County Indictment and reduced the count of grand larceny in the fourth degree charged therein to petit larceny.
A Queens County Grand larceny attorney said that the defendant was indicted for grand larceny in the fourth degree, jostling, and criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree after he allegedly stole a subway token and some cash from a passenger on a subway train. In response to the defendant’s omnibus motion, the Supreme Court, Queens County, inter alia, inspected the Grand Jury minutes and found that the charges were supported by legally sufficient evidence. The matter subsequently came before the same court, at which time the defendant made an oral application to have the Justice reinspect the Grand Jury minutes to determine whether the count of grand larceny in the fourth degree was supported by legally sufficient evidence. The Justice granted the application, reviewed the minutes, reduced the count to petiti larceny, and immediately accepted the defendant’s plea of guilty to that count in full satisfaction of the indictment, all over the objections of the People.
The Court reversed the decision issued earlier.
Contrary to the defendant’s contention, this appeal is not procedurally barred, since he has not yet been sentenced in this matter, and further proceedings have been stayed during the pendency of this appeal.
Turning to the merits, the People correctly contend that the Justice erred in granting the application to have the Grand Jury minutes reinspected. There is no statutory authority for reinspection, and the Justice violated the doctrine of the law of the case by reviewing a matter which already had been the subject of a binding determination by a Judge of coordinate jurisdiction. While adherence to the law of the case doctrine is not mandated in all cases, only extraordinary circumstances will justify a departure from it. Since the defendant did not make such a showing and the record otherwise fails to support a finding of extraordinary circumstances, the departure of the Justice from the law of the case doctrine was unwarranted.
Furthermore, while the Justice’s determination does not constitute the law of the case in this court, she correctly determined that the indictment is supported by legally sufficient evidence, and the Justice’s determination to the contrary is in error. Indeed, the testimony of the complainant before the Grand Jury was that the defendant inserted his hand into the complainant’s pocket and removed the items in question before fleeing. Accordingly, the evidence sufficed to establish prima facie that the defendant committed grand larceny in the fourth degree by stealing property, regardless of its nature and value, from the person of another. The Justice’s ruminations regarding another possible factual scenario under which the defendant might have come into possession of the stolen property are completely unsupported by the Grand Jury minutes and wholly speculative.
The Justice further erred in permitting the defendant to plead guilty to less than the entire indictment without the consent of the People, and in accepting the plea of guilty immediately following the reduction of the indictment in contravention of the People’s rights under CPL 210.20(6).
Given the foregoing, the count of grand larceny in the fourth degree is reinstated, and the matter is remitted to the Supreme Court, Queens County, for further proceedings, including the making of an appropriate motion by the People to vacate the illegal plea of guilty should they be so advised.
Criminal cases should be handled with utmost care since penalties will be imposed to an offender. Here in Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our Queens County Criminal attorneys make it a point that the right of an accused was properly protected. For property theft cases, we have our Queens County Grand Larceny lawyers who will help you prosecute the offenders. Call us now.