Brooklyn man who served police capturing for 19 years has overturned his conviction
BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) – A man who served nearly 19 years in prison for shooting police officers on New Year’s Day in 2000 was overturned Wednesday after a review found problems with the investigation.
Phillip Almeda, 42, now known as Kadafi Ala, was jailed for attempted serious assault on police officers before being paroled in 2018.
The Conviction Review Unit (CRU) investigation found that prosecutors ignored inconsistencies between the police officers’ reports and the ballistic evidence of the weapon found.
“Re-investigation of this case has shown how a confirmation error can lead to a false conviction,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Despite testimony contradicting the ballistic evidence, this crime was presented to a jury as a ‘simple case’ and a man wrongly spent nearly two decades in prison. We move to overturn this conviction because our review of all available evidence, including one A re-examination of the ballistics by an expert has shown that the defendant could not have committed the shooting as described in the trial. This discharge is another example of my CRU’s continued commitment to correct legal errors without fear or courtesy. “
This is the 30th discharge after re-examination since the CRU was founded in 2014.
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The re-investigation looked at the shooting that took place on January 1, 2000 at around 12:15 p.m. in front of 1320 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.
Four plainclothes policemen watched a 16-year-old man fire a revolver in the air and possibly at them, returned fire in his direction and saw him flee into the building. +
This teenager, whose gun was never found, was later tried and convicted as a juvenile offender.
The officers’ reports of Almeda’s actions varied. Two of them claimed that when they responded to the gunfire, they saw him shoot in their direction before coming out of a right-hand courtyard.
No one was hit and nine spent shell casings were recovered from the sidewalk.
The then 20-year-old defendant was arrested immediately and a weapon was recovered from an adjacent courtyard.
Some of the officers alleged that he made apologetic statements when he was arrested.
Almeda was tried in February 2001 and officials testified in accordance with the reports described above.
The defense presented a number of witnesses who knew the defendant and claimed that he had no weapon. They testified that a group of people watched fireworks when the 16-year-old fired a revolver and another person shot a semi-automatic weapon in the air, paused and fired again before police responded and shot in his direction.
They said no one returned fire on the officers.
Almeda was acquitted of attempted murder and other charges, but was sentenced to three consecutive terms of seven years in prison for attempted aggravated assault on a police officer.
The CRU examined documents, interviewed personnel involved in the investigation and hired an independent expert to whom the weapon recovered after the shooting, a 9mm semi-automatic Lugar pistol, was made available.
His report came to the conclusion that, due to the location of the cartridge cases and cartridges of the recovered weapon, it was highly unlikely that they came from the defendant’s reported firing position.
In order for all nine cases to end up on the sidewalk and none in the yard, all of the cases would have had to jump through bushes, a chain link fence and over a two-foot high brick wall, which was practically impossible for the defendant to commit the shooting as described at the trial.
The shooter was most likely standing on the sidewalk, the expert noted.
In addition, the gun was recovered just behind the gate of the left courtyard and there was no plausible explanation as to how the defendant could have placed the gun there before it was arrested after emerging behind the right courtyard.
These questions were never investigated before the jury at the trial, and there was no forensic evidence linking the pistol to the defendant.
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The CRU also concluded that the testimony of the defense witnesses was more in line with the ballistic evidence, as it unwittingly took into account the location of spent grenades, as well as the location of two unfired cartridges salvaged from the sidewalk.
Finally, a review of pre-trial police reports recorded shortly after the incident found inconsistencies with incriminating statements attributed to the defendant at trial, suggesting that his statements were not accurately described to the jury after his arrest.
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