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Suffolk judge rules against allowing murder defendant to see internal police report

The murder prosecution of Shawn Lawrence, 42, of

The murder prosecution of Shawn Lawrence, 42, of North Amityville, is one of several complicated by the fallout from the shooting of cabdriver Thomas Moroughan. Photo Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

A Suffolk judge has denied a murder defendant's motion to see a police internal affairs report that may question the credibility of the detectives who investigated him.

State Supreme Court Justice William Condon ruled that the report and personnel files of Det. Ronald Tavares and Det. Sgt. Charles Leser would not be relevant at the trial of Shawn Lawrence because the Suffolk district attorney's office has said it doesn't intend to call the detectives as witnesses.

The defense said it is entitled to any report about a discredited statement these detectives took in an unrelated case, from a cabdriver shot by an off-duty Nassau police officer in Huntington Station four years ago.

The case against Lawrence, 42, of North Amityville, is one of several murder prosecutions complicated by the shooting of cabdriver Thomas Moroughan. A Nassau County police internal affairs investigation in July 2012 found that Tavares and Leser got Moroughan to sign a statement they wrote admitting to aggressive acts before since-fired Nassau police Officer Anthony DiLeonardo shot him. The internal affairs report concluded that events described in the statement couldn't have happened.

Lawrence's attorney, Joseph Hanshe of Sayville, said jurors should be able to assess the credibility of Tavares and Leser and the quality of their work. He said Suffolk prosecutors don't want that to happen in this or any case.

"Right now, I think they [prosecutors] are just protecting cops," Hanshe said. "They should be honest about it. . . . I think the system has got to change."

The district attorney's office declined to comment.

Lawrence is charged with shooting James Terry to death in a North Amityville parking lot on Jan. 12, 2010, after an argument over whether a man allergic to seafood was served a shrimp dinner. Hanshe sought any reports concerning Tavares and Leser under a legal principle known as the Brady rule, which generally requires prosecutors to turn over information they have that is favorable to the defense.

Police say Tariq Burwell, 34, signed two witness statements, one describing the shooting and giving the attackers' street names and another, written by Leser, identifying Lawrence as one of the men.

But Burwell, an admitted drug dealer and parole violator, testified at a pretrial hearing that he never saw the shooting. He also testified that he didn't sign either statement.

"This guy [Lawrence] faces 25 years to life and swears he wasn't there," Hanshe said.

In June, state Supreme Court Justice Martin Efman threw out the murder conviction of Gabriel Hubbard, ruling that if jurors had known Tavares and Leser got Moroughan to sign a false statement while he was in the hospital and screaming for an attorney, they would have been more skeptical of the confession the detectives got Hubbard to sign. Hubbard is awaiting a retrial.


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