A Brockport man who claims he had a shotgun pointed at his head by a local resident testified today that he couldn't get State Police to even consider his side of the story before he was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief.
After the charge against Micheal Crooks was dismissed (under what's called an ACD -- adjudication in contemplation of dismissal), he did what a trooper and attorney labeled "cop shopping."
Crooks went to the Sheriff's Office and found that Sgt. Ron Meides was willing to listen to his side of the story. As a result, John Robinson, of North Lake Road, Bergen, was arrested by Deputy Matthew Butler and charged with menacing, 2nd.
The attorney for Robinson, Kevin DeCarolis, has requested Justice Donald Kunego dismiss the charge against his client "in the interest of justice."
Kunego held the hearing today as part of the motion process. He will issue a written ruling at a later date.
He's already received written arguments from both DeCarolis and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell on the motion.
The case stems from a confrontation Jan. 13, 2013. Crooks contacted both the State Police and the Sheriff's Office about pursuing charges against Robinson in November 2013. Robinson was arrested in April of this year.
Trooper Eric Daigler, who arrested Crooks based on a complaint by Robinson that Crooks damaged his screen door while trying to get into his house, testified today that he was confused and angry when he learned Butler was about to arrest Robinson.
He said typically, law enforcement officers don't involve themselves in cases that have been handled by other agencies.
He felt the case had been closed in January 2013 with the arrest of Crooks.
"I was dumbfounded," Daigler said. "First and foremost, it's common practice not to take on other agencies cases. We refer to it as 'cop shopping.' It happens. Usually, we are pretty good at stopping people who are just trying to get the right answer. They are looking for the answer they want. That's usually the Sheriff's Office policy."
Daigler said it was his position at the time of the incident that Robinson was doing exactly what he's allowed to do under the law -- protect his property and himself.
"He didn't conduct himself in a manner that should be arrested," Daigler said. "He was in his home. He armed himself and he called 9-1-1 and informed dispatchers he had armed himself. He was well within his rights in his own home when a man he never met came to his door and was yelling and screaming."
Daigler consulted with his supervisor, Sgt. Ron Lobur, and other troopers, who all concurred, arrest Crooks, but not Robinson.
Since the arrest of Robinson, Daigler said, everybody he's spoken to in the local law enforcement community, with the exception of Meides, are bothered that Robinson was arrested.
"I've had 10 members of the Sheriff's Office come to me independently and voice their displeasure with the case," Daigler said.
Crooks testified that Daigler never even asked for his version of events before telling him he would be arrested.
Contrary to prior reports, Crooks said he didn't try to hide from troopers before being contact. He said he didn't even know that in his "assertive" knocking he damaged the door, and to this day, he isn't convinced that he did.
After the confrontation, he said he went to a job site in Brighton -- he's a construction manager -- and then went home and discovered he had a message from Daigler that evening. He immediately returned the call, and when he didn't get a call back after an hour, he called again.
When he spoke to Daigler, Daigler told him to meet him at the Batavia barracks. When he asked why, he said Daigler told him he was going to be arrested on a criminal mischief charge.
At that point, Crooks said, he decided he wouldn't make a statement without an attorney present.
On the advice of his attorney, he didn't pursue charges against Robinson until after the term of his ACD expired (six months).
Crooks was upset, he said, because he believed Robinson was involved in some sort of relationship with is wife.
He said he first became aware of the relationship some time around October of 2012.
He thought it had ended, but on Jan. 12, he said, his wife went to a party with their two daughters, ages 11 and 14.
His wife became drunk at the party, he testified this afternoon, and placed numerous calls to Robinson.
The girls became aware of what was going on and tried to get her to stop. That led to a physical confrontation between mother and daughters, he said.
That was what really upset him, he said, and convinced him he should talk with Robinson about not having further contact with Mrs. Crooks because of the stress it was causing for his daughters.
He testified that he didn't make any verbal threats to Robinson. That the only thing he yelled once he figured out Robinson was in fact at home Jan. 13, 2013, was "come out you coward."
He said after about two minutes, when it was clear Robinson wasn't going to come out, he decided to leave.
He testified that as he walked down a sidewalk close to the house he caught some movement through a window and turned to look.
"There was Mr. Robinson," Crooks said. "He was holding a shotgun and he rushed right towards the window and screamed absolutely bloody murder that he was going to blow my fucking head off."
He said the barrel was only inches from the window.
"My heart stopped," Crooks said. "I've never looked down the barral of a gun that wasn't removed from a gun that closely in my life. I've been around guns my whole life. I own guns. I've owned guns since I was 19. I'm not afraid to be around guns."
Under questioning by DeCarolis, Crooks admitted that despite this mortal threat, he didn't call police.
When Finnell asked him about why he didn't call police, Crooks said he dialed 9-1-1 and had his finger on the button, but then changed his mind.
"I was exhausted," Crooks said. "I was emotionally drained. I wanted this to be over. I just wanted to go to work and do what I had to do."
In closing arguments, Finnell urged Kunego to take into the account of events provided by Crooks. He didn't fault Daigler for arresting Crooks. Since he didn't have a statement from Crooks, he could only go on the information available to him at the time of the arrest. But now, he said, Kunego has just as Medies had, Crooks' version of events. He said the case should proceed based on Crooks' account.
DeCarolis dismissed the testimony of Crooks as vindictive and self-serving.
Daigler, he said, did something very unusual -- he testified for the defense rather than the prosecution. That never happens and that should carry a lot of weight with court, he said. Daigler's testimony should weigh heavily in favor of Robinson because he has nothing to gain from his testimony.
The testimony of Crooks is another matter, however.
"His action, his tone, his disposition all show he has a very significant animus against Mr. Robinson," DeCarolis said. "It's very clear he was cop shopping. I would ask, your honor, that you evaluate his testimony in that light."
Kunego set a follow-up appearance for Nov. 19, but said he will likely issue a written decision on the motion to dismiss "in the interest of justice" before that date.
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