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Yonkers Man found "Not Guilty" of Assault & Criminal Weapons Charges

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 Plains, NY.

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 him.”

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 efforts.”

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 defending all types of criminal felony and misdemeanor charges. If you or someone you know is under investigation by the police or has been charged with a crime, allow us to help.

Contact us for an immediate consultation to find out more. Call (914) 946-4808.

Read the initial news story.

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