By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - A New York appeals court has
upheld the conviction of a man accused of threatening to behead
a judge who presided over two of his prior criminal cases.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, on Wednesday
unanimously rejected an appeal from Pal Lleshi, 46, who is
serving a seven-year prison term for threatening Rockland
Supreme Court Justice William Kelly.
In 1996, Kelly, who was a judge in Rockland County Court at
the time, sentenced Lleshi to six months in prison for a felony
weapon possession charge. In 2003, Kelly sentenced Lleshi to two
to four year in prison for assault.
After Lleshi was released from prison, he went to the
Rockland County Bar Association seeking information about the
judge and jurors who were involved in his 2003 conviction,
according to the prosecution's appellate brief. He began ranting
about the case in front of several bar association employees,
saying he wanted to behead Kelly, whom he blamed for putting him
Lleshi was charged with making terroristic threats against
the judge and convicted by a jury in 2011.
On appeal, Lleshi argued that prosecutors had prejudiced
jurors by sharing details of his two previous criminal
Prosecutors said these details helped establish Lleshi's
motive and explained why Kelly would fear for his safety, given
Lleshi's violent past.
The Second Department sided with the prosecution.
"To have limited the evidence as the defendant proposed
would have demonstrated that the defendant had a motive to
commit the threatened crimes against the judge, but it would not
have demonstrated why the judge reasonably feared that the
defendant would imminently carry out his threat," the court
A Rockland County assistant district attorney who tried the
appellate case, Itamar Yeger, said the decision "sends a strong
message that threats to those in the criminal justice system
will not be taken lightly."
A lawyer for Lleshi said he was reviewing the decision.
Kelly declined to comment.
The case is People v. Lleshi, New York Supreme Court,
Appellate Division, Second Department, No. 2011-01647.
For the people: Dominic Crispino and Itamar Yeger.
For Lleshi: Michael Paul.
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