YONKERS MAN FOUND “NOT GUILTY” OF FELONY ASSAULT AND CRIMINAL
WEAPONS CHARGES | WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY
ASSAULT, CRIMINAL POSSESSION OF A WEAPON & SELF-DEFENSE
On June 11, 2015 a Westchester County jury unanimously acquitted Barry
Sheehan, Sr., 67 years old, of two felony counts including
Assault in the First Degree and
Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. The assault charge carried a potential maximum jail
sentence of 25 years in New York State prison and the weapons charge carried
a mandatory minimum jail sentence.
It was alleged that on July 8, 2014, Mr. Sheehan shot his 30 year old son
with a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun while the two were involved
in a dispute at the their home in Yonkers, NY. The son, Barry Sheehan,
Jr., was struck in the shoulder and a fragment from the bullet injured
his spine leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
The Westchester County indictment accused Mr. Sheehan, Sr. of possessing
the handgun with the intent of using it unlawfully against his son and
shooting his son while intending to cause him serious physical injury.
The case was handled by Westchester criminal defense attorney
Stephen Riebling of Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP, whose offices are located in White
Throughout the two week trial, which took place in the County Courthouse
in White Plains, NY, jurors heard testimony from witnesses on behalf of
the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution called a number of police
detectives, ballistic experts and medical professionals, in addition to
the alleged victim. The most emotional and sometimes heated testimony
occurred when Mr. Riebling cross examined the son and alleged victim,
Barry Sheehan, Jr. The relentless cross examination by Mr. Riebling exposed
a large number of inconsistencies in the son’s testimony and revealed
that the physical evidence did not corroborate his version of events.
On behalf of the defendant, Mr. Riebling consistently attacked the prosecution’s
evidence and asserted a justification defense (commonly referred to as
“self-defense”). Witnesses for the defense painted a much
different picture of the circumstances which led up to the shooting. The
testimony revealed that the older Mr. Sheehan had been threatened and
at times physically attacked throughout the day prior to the shooting.
In fact, immediately before the incident occurred, Mr. Sheehan, Sr. had
grabbed the gun from a dresser in response to his son kicking in a bedroom
door. The shooting occurred as the son charged at his father while brandishing
an object in this right hand. Mr. Sheehan, Sr. fired because he reasonably
believed that his son was about to carry through on his threats and “kill
THE UNIQUE USE OF SELF-DEFENSE AS TO THE WEAPONS CHARGE
While Self-Defense or “Justification” is commonly asserted
as a defense to assault charges, it is not typically a recognized defense
in cases alleging the criminal possession of a weapon. The New York Court
of Appeals delineated the rule preventing the use of justification in
such cases and explained that it would not allow a person who “otherwise
possesses an illegal weapon from retroactively converting such illegal
possession to a legal act merely because he uses it in a justified manner
at a particular moment in the future.”
As for Self-Defense, under New York State Law (Penal Law 35.15), a person
is justified in the use of “deadly physical force upon another individual
when that person reasonably believes it to be necessary to defend himself/herself
from what he/she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of
deadly physical force by the other individual.”
In defending Mr. Sheehan against the weapons charge, Mr. Riebling argued
that Mr. Sheehan was “Not Guilty” of criminal possession of
the handgun because he did not possess it with the “intent to use
it unlawfully against” his son. Under New York Penal Law 265.03
(Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree), the prosecution
is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant not
only possessed a loaded and operable firearm, but he did so with the “intent
to use it unlawfully against another.” In other words, Mr. Riebling
reasoned to the jury that since Mr. Sheehan, Sr. acted in Self-Defense,
a justifiable and lawful act under the law, he could not be guilty of
having the intent to use the handgun unlawfully against his son.
After deliberating for slightly more than three hours, the jury returned
a unanimous verdict of “Not Guilty”, acquitting Mr. Sheehan,
Sr. of both counts of Assault in the First Degree and Criminal Possession
of a Weapon in the Second Degree.
After the verdict, Mr. Riebling thanked the jury for it attention and service.
“This was a difficult case, both emotionally and legally. But, thankfully,
the jury followed the law, put aside any feelings which may have arisen
during the trial, and saw this case for what it truly was, an instance
of justified self-defense.”
In his comments following the verdict, Mr. Sheehan, Sr. expressed his gratitude
to the jury, relief that this unfortunate circumstance was finally behind
him and his family, and thanked his defense attorneys stating, “They
[Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP] stood by me and believed in my innocence
from the beginning. I’m a free man today because of their overwhelming
HAVE A TOP CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY PROTECT YOU!
At Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP, our
criminal defense attorneys have dedicated their decades of combined experience to protecting the
rights of people throughout Westchester County. Regardless of the circumstances
or charges, we have consistently utilized our insight and experience in
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