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November 12, 2021 - 5:18pm

Defense attorney barred from using client's out-of-court statements in pending trial

posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

NOTE: If you're scheduled for jury duty next week, you shouldn't read this story. If you do, you will likely need to disclose that fact in court.

sponauglemug2020.jpg devonwrightmug2020.jpg
Jacob Sponaugle Devon Wright

When Devon Wright's trial starts on Monday, in a rare two-defendant case, with Jacob J. Sponaugle also facing felony charges stemming from the same incident, his attorney wants to mount a defense that says Wright had no intention to buy a gun on July 22 when he interacted with Sponaugle and another man at the Days Inn Hotel in Batavia.

Nathan Chase indicated not only did his client not intend to buy a gun that night when Sponaugle and the other man (who was subsequently shot during the encounter) approached him, Wright flatting refused to buy the gun.

To help make that case, Chase wants to introduce into evidence a body camera recording of Wright talking with a Batavia police officer when he apparently makes a statement that substantiates his claim that he didn't intend to buy a gun.

Based on New York's rules of evidence he won't be able to use that video recording during the trial.

Wright is charged with attempted criminal possession of a weapon 2nd and attempted criminal possession of a weapon 3rd.

Sponaugle is charged with attempted murder, assault, 1st; criminal use of a firearm; aggravated criminal possession of a weapon, 2nd; criminal possession of a weapon, 2nd; and criminal sale of a firearm, 3rd.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman had previously withdrawn an exhibit a statement by Wright that incriminated Sponaugle, agreeing with Sponaugle's attorney, Joseph Lobosco, that the statement was inadmissible from a co-defendant and that it amounted to hearsay.  As a co-defendant, Wright can't offer anything he said outside of court that is potentially incriminating to Sponaugle.

If he testifies (defendants are not required to testify at their own trials), Chase can ask him about his intentions that night.

Chase pressed hard to try and get Judge Charles Zambito to allow the statement to be presented to the jury but for every statement offered by Chase, Friedman returned to the rules of evidence.

Chase's view of the case, "Two people showed up with a gun my client didn’t want and one of them got shot.  We don't know if the shooting was accidental or not but we do know how (Wright) responded at the scene."

The Days Inn incident is one of the multiple times over the past two years that Wright has come into contact with law enforcement and wound up facing felony charges.  For more on his prior arrests, click here.

Jury selection starts a 9 a.m., Monday.  Friedman says he expects the case will fill full days every day for the week. The goal is to complete the trial by the end of the day Friday but given the complexity of the case and the nature of a two-defendant case, it could stretch into the following week.

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