Federal Judge Overturns NY Man’s Arson/Fraud Convictions

Citing prosecutorial misconduct and insufficient evidence a federal judge has reversed convictions against an Oneida man. The business owner was initially convicted of urging his son to burn down the family business in order to collect insurance money. But due in part to the prosecutor’s show at trial, the man is now free.

According to The Syracuse Post-Standard, the father and business owner initially went to prison for insurance fraud, scheme to defraud, using fire to commit fraud, and aiding in the arson of his business, National Casket Company in Oneida.

The son pled guilty to setting the fire that burned the business and served two years in prison. He maintained that his father “ordered” him to set the fire. The father initially faced charges at the state level, though those were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

At the federal level, however, prosecutors were said to have acted out of line when leading the jury to believe that the son violated an agreement to assist in the case against his father when he refused to testify at the federal hearing.

Also, the federal appeals court judge ruled that there may have been evidence that the father helped to cover the arson after the fact, but that he was not charged with this offense and was instead formally accused of assisting with the arson, not the concealment after the fact.

In all, the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict, despite a federal jury having already done so. The prosecutions “misconduct” was believed to have unreasonably tainted the jury on several points, by misleading them and at one point suggesting either the father was guilty or all of the police officers in the case lied (not leaving much of an option for the jury to acquit).

Appeals at the federal level and the state level have many similarities. But, from case to case no two appeals are alike. The reasons for appealing a criminal conviction are many but often lie in mistakes made by the prosecutor or violations of the rights of the defendant.

A criminal defense attorney is the defendant’s advocate from the beginning, helping to ensure these sort of constitutional violations don’t happen in the first place and then using them to the defendant’s advantage if they do.

For instance, if evidence is seized in an illegal search it is the job of the defense attorney to move to have the evidence thrown out of court. If the evidence makes up a bulk of the prosecutor’s case, the illegal search could result in a dismissal of all charges.

If you are facing criminal charges and are unsure of your options and the likelihood that you’ll be convicted, contact our offices today.

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