It boggles the mind, according to attorney Brian Decarolis, that his client, John Laverne Robinson, has been charged with menacing in the second degree.
The 51-year-old Bergen resident is accused of pointing a shotgun out the window of his home on North Lake Road at another man who seconds earlier had been banging on his door.
"I think it's ridiculous," Decarolis said this afternoon after Robinson was arraigned in Town of Bergen Court, where he entered a not guilty plea. "I've never seen anything like it. I'm a former prosecutor. I do exclusively criminal defense work. I've never seen it, never heard of it. It's something I've never dealt with before."
The case is unusual, Decarolis said, because not only was Robinson defending himself against an intruder, the District Attorney's Office had declined in November to prosecute Robinson.
Robinson was arrested last month by a deputy after the man who did the door banging, 46-year-old Michael S. Crooks, of Salmon Road, Brockport, took his complaint to the Sheriff's Office when he couldn't convince a state trooper to arrest Robinson.
The charge should be dismissed, Decarolis said. Either the charge is dismissed outright or the case is going to trial, he said.
Decarolis noted Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell, who is handling the case, has the power to seek a dismissal, but in case that doesn't happen, Decarolis is preparing a motion to deliver to Justice Donald Kunego asking that the charge be dismissed "in the interest of justice."
The former Monroe County prosecutor said he's talked to a lot of people in and out of the criminal justice line of work since Robinson became his client and people are flabbergasted by the arrest.
"I've talked to people involved in the case who are surprised," Decarolis said. "I've talked to people not involved in the case who are surprised. I've talked to law enforcement contacts that I've built up over the years, relationships from being in the DA's office, being a defense attorney, I haven't heard one person who said this is right, this sounds like what should happen. Everyone is stunned. Everyone is surprised."
The charge stems from a Jan. 13 incident when Crooks went to the home of Robinson because he suspected Robinson of communicating with Mrs. Crooks.
In a statement to police, Crooks said he just wanted to talk, but he admitted to yelling at Robinson, who was inside his house, that he was a coward for not coming out.
"He was essentially beating down the front door in an attempt to get into the house," Decarolis said.
He hit it hard enough to damage it, which is why a trooper decided to arrest him on a criminal mischief charge.
After his apparent unsuccessful attempt to break down the door, Crooks walked around the house looking for another entry. When he peered into a window he found himself staring down the barrel of a shotgun.
That frightened him, he said.
"He goes to my client's house and is causing a rukus," Decarolis said. "He's a stranger to my client. The State Police come out and they investigate it and they determine that Mr. Crooks is the only person who should be arrested. That's normal. My client thinks he's a victim. He is."
Robinson was on the phone with 9-1-1 dispatchers, who had told him, according to reports, to warn Crooks that he had a shotgun.
Today, Kunego signed an order requiring the Sheriff's Office to turn over the 9-1-1 tapes to Decarolis. Finnell did not oppose the order.
According to Decarolis, his client thought the case is over with the arrest of Crooks, but after Crooks has the charge against him dismissed on an ACD (adjudication in contemplation of dismissal), Crooks starts making noise about having Robinson arrested.
"The State Police call him up and say this guy's crowing about charging you with a completely justifiable act," Decarolis said. "The State Police do a little more investigating, consult with the District Attorney's Office, the same office that is now prosecuting this case, and they say, we're not charging you. We're not doing anything. You shouldn't be charged. You were justified doing what you did on the day in question. Then out of nowhere, a different police agency that has never, ever been involved in this case, charges my client."
If the case does go to trial, the troopers involved in the arrest of Crooks will be expected to testify, Decarolis said.
"I think that would be on the defense witness list as opposed to the prosecution's, and you don't hear about that every day," Decarolis said.
The whole thing is unfortunate, Decarolis said.
"This guy's going through a heck of a stress," he said. "He's wasting time. He should be at work on a Wednesday afternoon, not coming to court for this kind of stuff."