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Hearing in murder retrial on possible coercion of teen

Gabriel Hubbard was convicted in 2012 of shooting

Gabriel Hubbard was convicted in 2012 of shooting to death Jaquan Jones on July 5, 2008, in Wyandanch, when Hubbard was 15-years-old. A new trial was ordered when a court reversed his conviction on legal grounds. Credit: SCPD

A hearing began Monday to determine whether a Wyandanch teenager’s confession to murder was coerced, almost two years after a Suffolk judge threw out a conviction in the case.

State Supreme Court Justice Martin Efman reversed the second-degree murder conviction of Gabriel Hubbard, now 23, because prosecutors had failed to alert the defense that the same detectives who got Hubbard to sign a confession had produced a discredited confession from a cabdriver shot by an off-duty Nassau County officer in Huntington Station.

Prosecutors intend to retry Hubbard, so state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen ordered a new pretrial hearing on the admissibility of a statement Hubbard gave to police.

Hubbard is accused of shooting Jaquan Jones to death in July 2008 as part of a gang dispute. At his trial in 2012, eight of the nine notes that jurors sent out during deliberations focused on the signed statement Det. Ronald Tavares took from Hubbard and whether it was voluntary.

There is no physical evidence tying Hubbard to the crime. During arguments last year that resulted in the Appellate Division’s Second Department upholding Efman’s decision to order a new trial, Justice Jeffrey Cohen said, “It’s a rather weak case without the confession. Without the confession, there’s no case.”

Defense attorney JoAnn Squillace of Jamaica, Queens, said she hopes this time the statement will be suppressed, resulting in the case being dismissed. Assistant District Attorney Peter Timmons declined to comment.

In a motion filed last week in U.S. District Court in Central Islip to get a copy of Tavares’ deposition in a civil suit filed by Huntington Station cabdriver Thomas Moroughan, Squillace’s co-counsel Stephen Drummond argued that Hubbard’s statement was coerced.

“Gabriel Hubbard was in tears and was requesting an attorney while Detective Tavares was yelling at him and telling Gabriel that was not getting an attorney,” Drummond wrote.

That echoes what Moroughan says happened to him after an off-duty Nassau police officer shot him during a roadside dispute in 2011. He said he was screaming for an attorney in Huntington Hospital, but Tavares instead had him sign a since-discredited confession indicating he threatened the officers. As a result, Moroughan was charged with assault. The charges were later dismissed.

On the witness stand Monday, Tavares said there was no yelling and that Hubbard never demanded an attorney while he and his partner questioned him in Greensboro, N.C., where Hubbard moved shortly after Jones was killed. The questioning and Hubbard’s subsequent arrest was in 2010.

Instead, Tavares said he showed Hubbard a witness statment identifying him as the shooter about an hour after they started talking.

“At the completion of the statement, he put his head down and began to sob,” Tavares said. “He said, ‘This is bad.’”

That’s when Hubbard admitted shooting an assault rifle at the house, where Jones was, not intending to hurt anyone but killing Jones, Tavares said.

“I didn’t mean to. I was shooting at the house,” Hubbard said, according to Tavares. “It was a stupid thing to do.”

The hearing, which will likely touch on the Moroughan case, continues Tuesday.

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