Three people who had been charged with murder in connection with a Flanders home invasion were sentenced Wednesday to 8 years or less in prison as a result of prosecutorial misconduct in the case.
“The prosecution of these defendants was compromised by the actions of the previous trial prosecutor,” said Janet Albertson, chief of the Homicide Bureau for the Suffolk district attorney’s office.
She was referring to the murder trial of Messiah Booker, 32, of Farmingdale, which fell apart in May when defense attorney Brendan Ahern of Hauppauge realized that Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock had withheld evidence that other people had confessed to the crime and witnesses identified other people involved in the crime.
Kurtzrock was forced to resign and Booker’s murder charge was immediately dismissed. He was allowed to plead guilty to attempted burglary instead. He was sentenced in June to 5 years in prison.
Booker and others were accused of bursting into a Flanders home looking for drug-dealing money and shooting Demetri Hampton, 21, to death.
Albertson said the same misconduct affected the cases against Booker’s co-defendants: Corry Wallace, 42, of Riverhead; Michael Parrish, 28, of Coram; and Danielle Hall, 22, of Calverton. Wallace had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but was allowed to substitute that plea with an admission to burglary.
State Supreme Court Justice John Collins sentenced Wallace and Parrish to 8 years in prison; Hall got 3 years. All four defendants faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
“What occurred in this trial was worse than I could have imagined and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” Ahern said Wednesday. “Evidence was surgically removed and withheld not just from my client and me, but the attorneys for the three co-defendants. As a former homicide prosecutor, I was stunned. That is the definition of an intentional injustice.”
All agreed that Hampton’s family members, who were not present Wednesday, were treated unfairly.
“They didn’t do anything wrong,” said Wallace’s attorney, Richard Stafford of Bohemia. “I’m sure, from their point of view, they hardly got justice for their son.”
Yet he said the resolution of the case was appropriate, adding, “If the penalties for illegal and unethical behavior aren’t severe, what’s going to stop them from doing this again in the future?”
Hall’s attorney, Ira Weissman of Central Islip agreed. “The criminal justice system depends on each participant doing their job . . . within the bounds of the law,” he said. “When one participant fails to do that, the system fails.”
Parrish’s lawyer, Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge, said the episode “presents an opportunity for the next district attorney of Suffolk County to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Neither Parrish nor Wallace said anything in court. Hall said she was deeply sorry for her role.
“If I had the opportunity, I would do everything different,” she said. She vowed to come out of prison a better person.
“That’s a very poignant statement you made,” Collins said. “I hope it’s true.”
Attorneys for all three defendants made a routine request for $375 court costs to be imposed as a judgment, so they’d have money in their commissary accounts in prison.
Collins denied the requests. “Everyone’s gotten their break already,” he said.