Case against alleged State Street burglar presented to jury
All the facts in the case against 37-year-old Reginald M. Wilson were presented to a jury today. The jurors will reconvene tomorrow morning at 10 to hear closing arguments and then deliberate the fate of the Rochester man accused of burglarizing a home on State Street and stealing the homeowner's car.
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman promised the all-white panel of four men and 10 women that he would prove that Wilson willingly entered the home of an 86-year-old woman with the intent to steal. One of the items taken was her 2001 Saturn, which Wilson was allegedly found driving around Batavia the next day.
Three others have also been charged in the case: Quentin L. Gibson, 25; Joseph D. Dash, 24; and Dillon M. Brito, 18. Brito testified today for the prosecution. The other two men have signed statements saying Wilson was not involved in the thefts.
A number of other items besides the four-door sedan were taken during the crime, which occurred sometime after 11 p.m. Sept. 1 or early Sept. 2, including brooches, medication, an heirloom ring, even Popsicles from her freezer.
Defense Attorney Fares Rumi said he would offer evidence that no one saw Wilson enter or leave the woman's house. Moreover, he told the jury that the prosecution is relying on the testimony of a man who admitted to burglarizing this home and others, and is to be sentenced later today.
"(Wilson) never knew the car was stolen," Rumi said. "He did not act like someone who knew the car was stolen. He was perfectly calm. He did not know the car was stolen until he was arrested after someone reported it stolen."
The first witness called was the victim, who has lived at 222 State St. in Batavia all of her life. She lives there alone.
The woman entered the courtroom wearing navy blue pants, Mary Jane-style comfort shoes, a white jacket, and aided by a metal cane. She is maybe 5-feet tall and weighs probably less than 100 pounds. Her soft-spoken testimony was clear and concise.
She said she went to bed around 9 p.m. and read until the 11 o'clock news came on. After the program ended, she took her hearing aid out and went to sleep. She woke up about 7 the next morning and found things in disarray and items missing.
"I noticed the top drawer on my chest of drawers was open," she said. "After I got up, I looked on the dresser and two containers of jewelry were gone."
Her purse, which she kept by the side of her bed, was also missing. Two other bedrooms on the second floor had been ransacked. Downstairs, she noticed the south living room window was open and the air-conditioner was laying on the ground. In the dining room, was her desk with papers scattered all about and things taken from it. In the kitchen, she noticed her blood pressure and allergy medications were gone.
She said she called her niece and nephew first, but before she could call police, a guy from National Grid called her to say he'd found her wallet. Her money was gone but her driver's license was still inside. She called police and then her niece arrived and told her the car was missing from the garage.
That night, Sept. 2, a detective called and told her the car had been found. It was returned to her the following day.
At some point, a detective called and asked her if anything was missing from her freezer. She checked, and sure enough, her Popsicles were gone.
Her testimony included the story of the miraculous return of her ring, the only piece of jewelry she got back.
She had talked to her insurance carrier and was asked to have new locks put in her vehicle. She called a car dealership and spoke with a woman there about ordering the parts. As the two chatted about her ordeal and the theft of her jewelry and all, the employee said her father-in-law had found a ring while he was out in his yard blowing leaves. The witness described the ring and, incredibly, it was her stolen ring.
When questioned by Rumi, the victim said she never saw anyone enter her home.
After leaving the witness stand, she sat in the gallery with four relatives and/or friends.
The next witness called was orange-clad and shackled Dillon M. Brito, who is incarcerated and pled guilty to the burglary.
Brito, who is 18, glanced over at Wilson several times and seemed a bit nervous. He was told to speak up a couple of times but it was still hard to hear him. (The attorneys, practiced orators, used a microphone to be heard, but the witnesses spoke unaided.)
Brito testified that he was at a friend's house on State Street and Wilson, whom friends call Miguel, was there and told him about a burglary plan, "a house where they could get some money out of, said an old lady lived there."
Brito said he told Wilson he wasn't interested, but when he saw Wilson at the same friend's house the next day, he agreed to serve as a lookout during the burglary "for 25 minutes."
Brito testified that he never entered the victim's house. He said Wilson and Dash went to "get in the house" and Gibson was up the street. Later Wilson and Dash were driving in the gray Saturn and they told Brito they were going to Rochester to pawn the jewelry and take the car to a "chop shop." Brito said he and Gibson were asked if they wanted to go along and they said no.
Throughout the proceedings, the jury appeared attentive. The solidly built Wilson, wearing a tan shirt, black slacks and shoes and an earthtone-striped tie, chewed his gum from time to time and wiggled his left foot. His dreadlocks were tied back in two stout ponytails, and later restyled into one large, loosely banded ponytail.
Rumi brought up the plea deal offered by the D.A.'s office, wherein Brito's three burglary charges (including crimes in Monroe County) would be reduced to one count and he'd get sentenced as a youthful offender, in exchange for his testimony against Wilson.
"You only took a deal to save your own skin," Rumi said. "You have a history of criminal charges. Why should this jury believe you?"
Next to take the stand was Toni White, who said she was the aunt of Wilson's niece. She testified that they saw each other driving while she was headed to the college. He was in a gray Saturn and followed her to the college and then to her house where they talked. Her truck was acting up and she took it in for repairs. Wilson followed her there to drop it off.
He took her to an appointment to get a tattoo.
But "my tattooist was running late," White said, so they drove here and there on errands, with her 3- and 4-year-olds in tow.
As they headed back to the tattoo parlor, White testified that she started receiving text messages that the car she was riding in with Wilson was stolen. He dropped her off at the tattooist's. She saw Wilson later that day and followed him in her car. She then confronted him and told him the car he was driving was stolen and that she was upset that he'd been driving her around in a stolen car.
"He said no, it wasn't stolen, his friend Joey gave it to him," White said, then Wilson started "playing around and acting crazy."
He took off and she followed him and called 9-1-1. The police came and pulled him over on Lehigh Road and he was arrested for criminal possession of stolen property.
Rumi said White has been convicted of petit larceny and disorderly conduct and stated that the "reason you testified today is to save your own skin," a puzzling argument because she has been in no way linked to the crimes Wilson is accused of.
The People's next witness was Dana Barrett, a sales manager at a local car dealership, whose testimony centered on the value of the victim's vehicle. With 30 years in the car biz, he appraised her car last October at $4,500 retail. There was a lot of minutiae back and forth about car appraisals, the upshot being Fumi sought to prove the car had less value than the D.A.'s witness, based on an appraisal he obtained a few days ago. Judge Robert Noonan said Rumi's brand-new appraisal was useless.
The final witness for the prosecution was Sgt. John W. Peck, a 26-year veteran of the Batavia Police Department. He testified that sometime before 8 p.m. on Sept. 2 he was on duty and received a report of a stolen vehicle. He went to the location and found Wilson driving the Saturn. Wilson immediately pulled over when the officer approached and was cooperative. When asked about the car, he told Peck that it was his friend, Joey's. He was arrested without incident.
After a lengthy lunch break, the jury returned but the victim and her supporters did not. The People rested their case and the first defense witness called was Jacob Camarerera, who carried his right arm stiffly up to his chest as though it were broken and wore a long-sleeved gray shirt and dark slacks.
He testified that he saw Wilson about 9:30 a.m. near Pringle Street on the day in question and that they hung out together all day. They went to a friend's house and played video games, and at 10:45 that night, Wilson left with two friends to get his sister's car in Rochester.
On cross-examination, Friedman brought out that Camarerera could not actually recall the day, the month or even the year that he spent hanging out with Wilson.
"I was incarcerated with (Wilson) and he told me I was with him on the night the burglary happened and asked me to be a witness for him," Camarerera told the jury.
When Friedman again tried to pin him down on when he spent the day with Wilson, Camarerera said "It was some time before I was incarcerated, some time last year. If I'm correct that would be '09."
In addition to his memory, Camarerera's credibility was also called into question, with Friedman noting he had been convicted of criminal contempt in the second degree, possessing marijuana, six petit larcenies and resisting arrest.
The second defense witness was Elizabeth Fuchs, whose sister is Wilson's girlfriend. Wearing her hair in a single plait and clad in a simple black dress, she testified that on Sept. 2 at about 10:30 a.m. she talked with Wilson on the front porch of her State Street house for about an hour.
She said there was a silver car parked on one side of the double driveway, which she shares with her next-door neighbor -- the aforementioned friend Wilson and his buddies like to visit. She said police drove down the street a couple of times and Wilson had no reaction to them whatsoever.
Friedman asked her if she had talked with Wilson since he was jailed. She seemed puzzled and said yes. When asked what they talked about, she said it concerned what occurred that day. Asked if they discussed any testimony for court, she answered no.
The third and final witness called by the defense was Elizabeth's sister, Wilson's girlfriend. She wore her hair up, a navy blue dress with small white print, and four-inch-high blue-suede pumps. She testified that she saw Wilson at her sister's house and he had the silver car, they talked nearly an hour, and cops drove by and Wilson paid them no attention.
Friedman asked if she'd seen him during his stay in jail. She said yes, "numerous times."
"Like about 50?" Friedman asked, who'd obviously checked the jail visitors' log.
He asked her what they discussed.
"We talked about our relationship on that date (of the crimes)," Fuchs said.
"Never once in all those times did you talk about what you would testify to at this trial?" Friedman asked.
"We talked about that ... up to a point," Fuchs said.
Friedman also quizzed her about a previous statement in which she said Wilson was not her boyfriend on Sept. 2. I thought you just said you discussed your relationship on that date, Friedman said.
She said she wasn't in a relationship with him at that time. Friedman asked if she was dating Wilson. She asked him to explain what he meant by dating. He asked her to define dating.
Then she said their relationship was purely sexual and later grew into a relationship. She said she might therefore describe her sexual encounters with Wilson as dating.
One of the men on the jury smiled broadly at the surprising exchange between the prosecutor and the witness.
Lastly, Rumi asked the judge to dismiss both charges against his client because two witnesses offered factual evidence, via their testimony to the jury, that they saw Wilson with the car, and the police drove by and Wilson didn't act like someone who'd stolen a car.
The judge denied the motion to dismiss the charges.
If convicted, the D.A. could ask that Wilson get life in prison because of prior felony convictions (five). He turned down the District Attorney's pre-trial offer of two to four years in state prison for a conviction on one count of felony possession of stolen property.
As for Brito, he was sentenced late in the afternoon to one to three years of incarceration as a youthful offender, with his time running concurrently with his other burglary convictions in Monroe County and including his current incarceration. He will be required to pay more than $2,000 in restitution, at a rate of $50 a month, starting 60 days after his release. He was also barred from contacting six individuals, including the victim, until Sept. 9, 2020.