| Plush Dozier
Plush Kevin Dozier, a 23-year-old Monroe County resident facing a possible lengthy prison term on arson and attempted murder charges, now has a chance to make bail after appearing in Genesee County Court today for the first time in 2020.
New state rules on bail for defendants who have not yet been convicted of a crime took effect Jan. 1, requiring judges to release detainees without bail unless they're accused of a qualifying offense. In those cases, the judge must set the least restrictive amount of bail or bond possible.
What is "least restrictive" is for the judge to decide.
Dozier is charged with qualifying offenses but is now entitled to some opportunity to make bail.
In this case, Judge Charles Zambito set bail at $100,000 cash, $100,000 bond, or $200,000 partially secured bond.
Previously, Dozier was held without bail, and since his arrest in June, Dozier's confinement has been eventful. He reportedly became more than the Genesee County Jail could handle, so he was transferred to Attica, where he was reportedly held in solitary confinement.
During his confinement, Dozier allegedly damaged jail property and a patrol vehicle, following an outburst in court, and is facing new criminal charges stemming from those alleged incidents.
Dozier is accused of setting a fire at a residence on Maple Street, Batavia, on June 15, and attempting to kill one of the residents there.
The bail review for Dozier followed a hearing where defense attorney Thomas Burns challenged the sufficiency of the grand jury hearing that led to Dozier's indictment on attempted murder and arson. The hearing in July 2018 was during a period of time when a court stenographer was improperly making audio recordings of grand jury proceedings.
The stenographer was using a device on her machine that allowed an audio recording to activate while she typed on her stenography machine. Even though she has 33 years of experience as a court reporter, the technology she was using was fairly new and the issue had never been raised with her before.
The fact that she was recording the proceedings was discovered by happenstance when Assistant District Attorney Shirley Gorman inquired about a transcript on a particular case and the stenographer mentioned she had an audio recording she could check. Gorman immediately informed District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.
The discovery led Friedman to notify the attorneys for a number of defendants. Some of the attorneys have challenged the grand jury proceedings. In all cases so far, Zambito has denied motions to vacate the grand jury proceedings.
Burns had a novel argument today, however. He elicited testimony from the stenographer, Susan Ryckman, that there is a small mic, about the size of a dime, attached with a wire to her machine. That mic would then be potentially visible to witnesses and grand jurors, which might cause them to wonder if the proceedings were being recorded. There is also apparently a mic on her laptop that may actually be the one activated when she is taking stenography.
Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret and the identities of witnesses protected.
After questioning whether, under the circumstances, the transcript from the Dozier proceeding could be relied on as accurate, Burns argued that witnesses might not testify as truthfully if they thought their statements were being audio recorded, or that grand jurors may ask different questions, or not ask questions, because their voices might be recorded.
There is no way of knowing, Burns said, if witnesses and jurors noticed the potential for recording and, if they did, if that altered their behavior in any way.
"The very presence of an electronic recording device could have a negative effect and a detrimental effect on the grand jury process," Burns said.
Burns acknowledges he was being speculative but he said Friedman would also be speculating to argue otherwise.
Friedman said there was no speculation on his part.
"Our position is based on the facts," Friedman said. "The court reporter has 33 years experience and even she doesn't know where the microphone is (on her laptop) and she indicated there is no light on the mic when it's on. There is no evidence to support that speculation. Otherwise, we rely on the court's numerous other rulings."
Zambito said he will make his ruling at a later date.
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