A state appellate court has reduced the sentence of a man who was convicted of robbery and criminal sexual act for his role in a notorious gang rape in Bay Shore 11 years ago.
Terrance Terrell, now 28, was one of three men who attacked a couple out on their first date in December 2005.
High school homecoming king Douglas Payton, now 28, and Reginald Dugue, now 29, pleaded guilty to multiple charges including rape and robbery. Payton is serving 15 years in prison and Dugue — the acknowledged ringleader of the attack — is serving 20.
Terrell, a high school basketball player at the time, was the only who went to trial. He was acquitted of rape, but found guilty of taking part in other aspects of the attack. Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn sentenced him to 38 years in prison, more than the other two combined, who admitted raping the woman.
Terrell’s appellate attorney, Louis Mazzola of the Suffolk Legal Aid Society, argued in February to the Appellate Division Second Department in Brooklyn that Terrell did less than Dugue and Payton. Mazzola said his client had no idea what they intended to do when they found the couple at a scenic Bay Shore cul-de-sac and saw his friends pull on ski masks.
In a two-page decision, the court reduced Terrell’s sentence “in the interest of justice” to 20 years, finding that Kahn’s sentence “was excessive.”
A spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office declined to comment on the ruling. Mazzola could not be reached for comment.
Another part of the appeal concerned whether Kahn responded properly when one juror informed her that other jurors appeared to be deliberating and forming an opinion of the case even before testimony had finished. Kahn discussed the issue with attorneys in her chambers without Terrell present and opted to take no action, deciding that jurors had not improperly prejudged the case.
The appellate court ruled that Kahn acted properly when she discussed the issue with attorneys without Terrell present because the issue of a juror’s qualification is a legal issue that doesn’t require a defendant’s presence. Terrell’s absence from the discussion had no effect on his ability to defend himself at trial, the court concluded.
Further, the court ruled that Kahn was correct when she concluded that “the overheard comments [by jurors] were innocuous and that the comments did not indicate that any of the jurors possessed a state of mind that would prevent the juror from reaching an impartial verdict.”