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Dibble: Probable cause for arrest in Bergen shotgun case, now it's up to the courts

There was probable cause to arrest John Laverne Robinson, Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble said about the case involving Robinson, a man from Brockport, and a shotgun pointed through a window on Jan. 13, 2013.

So Robinson was arrested and it's now up to the courts to determine the eventual outcome of the case.

It's been 15 months since the incident, and Robinson's arrest two weeks ago raised some interest locally about how a man some believed was just exercising his right to defend himself in his own house could be charged with a crime.

"There's no black and white on these things and there's a lot of gray area on how far you can go and whether your actions are justified," Dibble said. "The deputy looked at the circumstances and looked at the law and consulted with the District Attorney and felt there was probable cause to make an arrest and then let the courts handle it."

Police officers don't determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant, Dibble said. They make an arrest based on probable cause and then let the courts decide.

"There's always two or three sides to every story," Dibble said. "In this case, there's Mr. Crooks' account and then there is Mr. Robinson's account. In the business we're in, absent any other witnesses, it gets down to what one person says against the other and then let the courts sort it out."

Often, Dibble said, cases aren't as clear-cut as people imagine.

"In this system, some cases by their nature, are not always black and white and in the gray areas is where law enforcement and the courts often find themselves in the middle of controversy," Dibble said.

The incident last year was initially handled by the State Police, who arrested 46-year-old Michael S. Crooks, of Salmon Road, Brockport, on a charge of criminal mischief, 4th.

Last week, The Batavian reported that there was no confirmation of an arrest of Crooks because Trooper Victor Morales said there was "no record" of that arrest. Morales was not with Troop A -- he's now Troop A's spokesman -- at the time of the incident 15 months ago and because a judge ordered the criminal case against Crooks sealed, Morales could only respond that there was no record of his arrest.

After learning of the sealed case file, The Batavian confirmed the arrest and charge against Crooks by obtaining a copy of orders of protection he signed Jan. 13 and on Jan. 16, 2013. Crooks was barred for one year from contacting Robinson.

Eventually, Crooks obtained an adjudication in contemplation of a dismissal ruling from the Bergen Town Court, which is why his case is sealed.

The events leading up to the alleged gun-pointing incident began when Crooks became aware -- according to his sworn statement in the Robinson case -- that Robinson and Crooks' wife were communicating with each other. His statement doesn't say whether it was by phone calls or by text or how Robinson and Mrs. Crooks know each other.

Crooks said he told his wife to stop communicating with Robinson, but one afternoon while Mrs. Crooks was out shopping with their children, Michael Crooks went online and checked phone records and found evidence of further communication with Robinson, he wrote in his statement.

According to the statement, Crooks went over Robinson's home on North Lake Road and wanted to speak with him and ask him to stop communicating with his wife. He claimed he intended no harm to Robinson.

Robinson did not answer the door, but Crooks believed Robinson was in fact home.

Crooks said he yelled for Robinson to come out and called him a coward for not coming to the door, according to his own account of events.

Deputy Matthew Butler, in his charging document, says that Robinson told him he called 9-1-1. He said he had a shotgun. He said a dispatcher told him to yell out that he had a shotgun.

Still unsatisfied that Robinson hadn't answered the door, Crooks walked around the house and looked into a window. That's when he saw Robinson pointing a shotgun at him, he said.

He claims Robinson screamed, "get out of here or I'm going to you're (sic) your f---ing head off."

"When I saw that shotgun pointed at my face," he wrote, "I was scared to death that John was going to shoot me."

Robinson is charged with menacing in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

During the course of the incident on North Lake Road, Robinson's front door was damaged, according to a family member, which is the apparent reason for the criminal mischief charge against Crooks.

Asked about the right in New York for residents to protect their home and themselves, Dibble said that's true, but the law has gray areas and that's where this case falls.

"The law also says you can walk up to anybody's door and knock on the door," Dibble said. "That's part of general business law."

Dibble said a deputy investigated the case because Crooks filed a complaint. It's not known why Crooks went to the Sheriff's Office rather than the NYSP with his complaint or why troopers didn't charge Robinson back in January 2013 after the initial investigation into the case.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said his office has yet to determine how it will proceed with the case.

"The best I can say is the Sheriff's Department did an investigation and made an arrest and that's what they do," Friedman said. "We haven't determined what the disposition might be. We didn't do the investigation. We don't do investigations. They came to the conclusion that the charge was appropriate and (Assistant DA) Kevin Finnell will look at the case. We have full discretion on what we feel is an appropriate disposition, whether not to prosecute it or to take it to trial or anything in between."

Robinson's next court appearance is 3 p.m., May 21, for arraignment on the charge.

Click here for an article about New York's "Castle Doctrine."

Bob Harker
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If some guy came around my house, shouting and looking in windows, he'd see an AR pointed at him - not a shotgun - and there would only be one side of the story for law enforcement and/or the courts to hear.

Brett DeKruger
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Bob, as a legal, law abiding gun owner and proponent of the second amendment, I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you that you are an idiot. It's people like you,making statements like the one you just made, that makes law abiding gun owners look like ignorant, knuckle- dragging rednecks to foes of the second amendment. People like you DO NOT help the cause !! Your comment serves no purpose and does not help in any way whatsoever.

Doug Yeomans
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I "second" the sentiment. (See what I did there?)

Bob, seriously?

Bob Harker
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First of all, by attacking me personally for stating things you don't agree with reveal your personality. They are not appreciated, and your arrogance is second only to your immaturity.

Second, I too am a law abiding citizen (except SAFE act) and have owned weapons since 1973.

Redneck? Probably. Knuckle dragging? Hell, at my age I have a hard enough time bending over to tie my shoes. Ignorant? Hardly. My unwillingness to bend when protecting my faith, my family, that which I own INCLUDING my guns is unwavering - unlike you - and stem from the deteriorating society around us. Obviously, you are ignorant of the facts as to what is on the horizon for our once great nation.

Have a nice day.

Bob Harker
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VERY seriously, Doug.

Doug Yeomans
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I understand why Mr Crooks would want to confront Mr Robinson, but when Robinson yelled out to Crooks that he had a shotgun, why would Crooks go around the house and look in the window?

I hope the entire case is dismissed. Don't mess with another man's wife or he may want to "talk" to you about the matter. Don't put your husband in a situation where he has to do something to retain his own self respect.

Brett DeKruger
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Bob, Bob, Bob. You know not of what you speak. I am unwavering as well, however there is a way to present your beliefs without sounding like an idiot. Comments like your initial one only serve to strengthen the anti's stance. I'm not sure if you're a tattoo guy or not, but if you are a Yosemite Sam would be very appropriate for you. Good day.

Doug Yeomans
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He earned that one...if the shoe fits.....

Kyle Couchman
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The conclusion I come to is the sherriff's office became involved because if Crooks had gone to the State Police they already have the details of the case. Including the charges Crooks got for harassing Robinson.

As others pointed out this whole thing is obvious. I dont think Robinson has much to worry about after all if the 911 operator heard enough to tell him to get his shotgun and shout to Crooks that he was armed. Crooks had to be pretty stupid to start looking into windows after being told that the homeowner was armed through a shut door. If there were other circumstances I think the SP would have charged Robinson back during the original incident.

My thinking is that Crooks waited til his stuff was done and sealed then made the complaint to the Sherriff's dept just to keep this thing going (and to be vengeful) I hope they end up screwing Crooks over in the legal system for wasting LE time and resources.

Brett DeKruger
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"Which you well know". And Howard, how is that? You make it sound as though I have a history of name calling on this site. Please fill me in, as I don't recall ever being reprimanded for name calling.

Jeff Allen
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Kyle, based on what we have to this point, your assessment sounds the most plausible.

Julie A Pappalardo
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I'm with Doug on this. Stay away from other men's wives and they won't be confronting you at your house! As for the wife.....If you are unhappy, get a divorce! What ever happened to being true to your vows?

Julie Morales
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“….Robinson and Crooks' wife were communicating with each other. His (Crooks’s) statement doesn't say whether it was by phone calls or by text....”

Hm. I didn’t know marriage vows forbid calling or texting someone other than your spouse. Maybe that’s a law now, too…?

This guy sounds like a vindictive, insecure hothead. I pity his wife.

Frank Bartholomew
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Wow Julie, you just wrote a new definition for, 'jealous husband' .

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