By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Dec 31 (Reuters) - A New York appeals court
has ordered new trials for a man who was tried and convicted of
counterfeiting checks drawn in the name of the Monroe County
A five-judge panel of the Appellate Division, Fourth
Department, on Friday said that judges in two upstate counties
committed a series of errors during the prosecution of Isiah
(CQ) Williams on charges of grand larceny, identity theft and
The Fourth Department found that two of the trials should
not have gone forward because Williams did not have an attorney
to represent him. The court also found that a Monroe County
judge should have suppressed a witness's identification of
Williams and that a trial court in Ontario County committed a
technical error on the verdict sheet.
Williams was convicted on three separate occasions in 2009
and 2010 of using the fake checks, which allegedly were created
with computer software.
"The tainted proceedings adversely impacted defendant,
thereby warranting ... reversal of the (convictions)," the court
wrote in an unsigned memorandum.
The panel included Justices Henry Scudder, Eugene Fahey,
Edward Carni, Stephen Lindley and Rose Sconiers.
Williams in 2009 was convicted in Ontario County Court of
grand larceny and possession of a forged instrument. Two months
later, he was convicted in Monroe County of possession of a
forged instrument and possession of stolen property. The
following year he was convicted of similar crimes as well as
identity theft, again in Monroe County.
The Fourth Department said that during both trials in Monroe
County, Williams made "baseless accusations" against his
court-appointed lawyers before Monroe County Judge John Connell
allowed him to proceed on his own.
Connell "erred ... inasmuch as (he) did not undertake a
searching inquiry to insure that (Williams) was aware of the
dangers and disadvantages of proceeding without counsel," the
Fourth Department wrote.
The court also said that Connell erred by failing to
suppress the in-court identification of Williams by a witness.
That identification, the Fourth Department said, was the result
of an "unduly suggestive" police photo array.
In the Ontario County trial, the jury was given a verdict
sheet, which lists the charges against the defendant, that was
improperly marked with the numbers of checks that Williams
allegedly fraudulently cashed, said the court.
The Fourth Department vacated Williams's 20 years to life
sentence and ordered new trials in both counties.
Ontario County Assistant District Attorney James Ritts said
on Monday that his office would seek an appeal to the Court of
Appeals with respect to their case against Williams.
The improper jury sheet notation "couldn't have been more
harmless," Ritts said.
Williams's attorneys, William Pixley and Shirley Gorman, did
not return requests for comment. The Monroe County district
attorney's office also did not return a call.
The case is the People v. Isiah Williams, New York State
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department Nos. 1322,
1327 and 1328.
For Williams: William Pixley (in 1327 and 1328) and Shirley
Gorman (in 1322).
For the Monroe County District Attorney's office: Nicole
For the Ontario County District Attorney's office: James
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook