People v. Matos, Index No. 72376-2021

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New York)
Writing for the CourtHeidi C. Cesare, J.
Citation73 Misc.3d 1167,157 N.Y.S.3d 902
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York v. Yolanda MATOS, Defendant.
Docket NumberIndex No. 72376-2021
Decision Date02 December 2021

73 Misc.3d 1167
157 N.Y.S.3d 902

The PEOPLE of the State of New York
Yolanda MATOS, Defendant.

Index No. 72376-2021

Supreme Court, Kings County, New York.

Decided on December 2, 2021

157 N.Y.S.3d 903

Eric Gonzalez, District Attorney, Brooklyn (Chelsea Toder of counsel), for the People.

Justin C. Bonus, Forest Hills, for defendant.

Heidi C. Cesare, J.

157 N.Y.S.3d 904

Defendant moves to renew and reargue her motion for the court to inspect the grand jury minutes and dismiss the indictment. The motion to renew and reargue is granted because this court was unaware that defendant apparently made a prior oral motion to another Justice that raised the same issues that defendant is seeking to raise in the present motion. The District Attorney does not dispute that defendant made such a prior oral motion. This court will, therefore, review this motion on the merits.

Defendant is a federal correctional officer charged with criminally possessing a firearm (PL 265.03 [1] [b], [3]; 265.01 [1]; PL 265.01—B [1]). The charges are based on the allegation that defendant discharged a firearm on a Brooklyn street. To prove those charges at the grand jury, the District Attorney relied upon surveillance video depicting a person allegedly discharging a firearm. For the purpose of this motion, defendant does not dispute that she is the person depicted on the video (see Bonus affirmation in supp of mot at ¶ 4, n 2).1 The images on the video are the only evidence offered to prove that the item defendant possessed was an operable firearm.

Defendant's motion raises four claims. The first is that her occupation as a federal correctional officer entitles her to exemption from prosecution. The second is that the surveillance video was not properly authenticated at the grand jury. The third is that the video, even if authentic, is insufficient to establish that she possessed an operable firearm. The fourth is that a Bureau of Prisons Special Investigator Agent gave false testimony. This court addresses each claim below.

Defendant argues first that she is exempt from prosecution under the Penal Law § 265.20 exemption that applies to a person in the service of the United States and duly authorized by federal law to possess a firearm (see PL 265.20 [a] [1] [d]). In defendant's view, she is authorized to possess a firearm under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) (see 18 USC 926B ). This federal law allows a "qualified law enforcement officer" who is carrying the necessary identification to possess a concealed firearm notwithstanding any state law to the contrary ( 18 USC 926B [a], [c], [d]).

Under the LEOSA, a "qualified law enforcement officer" is "an employee of a governmental agency who—

(1) is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law, and has statutory powers of arrest or apprehension under section 807(b) of title 10, United States Code (article 7(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice);

(2) is authorized by the agency to carry a firearm;

(3) is not the subject of any disciplinary action by the agency which could result in suspension or loss of police powers;

(4) meets standards, if any, established by the agency which require the employee to regularly qualify in the use of a firearm;
157 N.Y.S.3d 905
(5) is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance; and

(6) is not prohibited by Federal law from receiving a firearm"

( 18 USC 926B [c]).

Defendant's argument that she is exempt from prosecution under Penal Law § 265.20 (a) (1) (d) based on the LEOSA provides no basis to dismiss the indictment. The exemptions under Penal Law § 265.20 "are in the nature of a defense" that "the defendant is required to raise ... before the government is required to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt" (William C. Donnino, Practice Commentary, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, PL § 265.20 Exemptions, Introduction [online version, last accessed November 29, 2021]). Indeed, the issue of whether the LEOSA applies in this case involves questions of fact that cannot be resolved on the current record. Defendant could have raised this defense at the grand jury by testifying or requesting the grand jury to cause designated persons to be called as witnesses (see CPL 190.50 [5] [a] ; [6]), but evidently elected not to do so. In such a situation, the claimed exemption provides a defense to be raised and litigated at trial rather than a ground to dismiss the indictment (see People v. LaPierre , 189 A.D.3d 1813, 1816—1817, 137 N.Y.S.3d 583 [3d Dept. 2020] ; People v. Washington , 209 A.D.2d 162, 163, 618 N.Y.S.2d 32 [1st Dept. 1994], aff'd 86 N.Y.2d 853, 633 N.Y.S.2d 476, 657 N.E.2d 497 [1995] ).2

Defendant's next claim is that the District Attorney failed to authentic the surveillance video at the grand jury. The District Attorney did not call the custodian of the video as a witness at the grand jury. Instead, the District Attorney sought to authenticate the video through the testimony of the police detective who obtained the video from the custodian. That detective's testimony is summarized below.

On May 4, 2020, Detective David Lambert of the 79th Precinct Detective Squad was assigned as lead detective to investigate a "shots fired job" that occurred on May 2, 2020, outside of 515 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, NY On May 4, 2020, Lambert went to 511 Lafayette Avenue and met with the owner of the building. The owner was the custodian of the video surveillance system at the building.

During the meeting with the building owner, Lambert "directed him to the date and time" of the shooting and "asked...

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