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Bronx Pawn Shop Stick Up Results In Plea Deal With Wrong Date  and Wrong Dollar Figure But 84 Months

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 31 – Lenny Oquendo pled guilty to an armed stick up of a Bronx pawn shop before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge James L. Cott on May 31. Judge Cott noted that while the robbery was on 1 September 2018, the plea agreement was dated 20 March 2018, then (half) corrected to 20 May, still 2018.

   Assistant US Attorney Kyle A. Wirshba genially apologized. In the underlying complaint, Oquendo and his co-defendant Denise Sanchez, represented by Gary Becker, are described as tying the pawn shop victim up with duct tape and making off with $2 million in jewels. That is crossed out and, handwritten in, $200,000.  The victim in fact recognized Oquendo and Sanchez as having used the pawn shop for two years.

 On March 24, AUSA Wirshba wrote to District Judge Paul G. Gardephe, who will be doing the sentencing at a date yet to be determined, with a stated mandatory minimum of 84 months in prison, to apologize for having "inadvertently failed to request that Mr. Oquendo be produced for Monday's conference." It's Hobbs Act robbery and a comedy, or tragedy, of errors. The case is US v. Lenny Oquendo, 18-cr-790.

    Back on May 20 when Frederick Lee Burgos came up for sentencing he faced a guideline sentence of 100 to 125 months in prison, and an additional 120 month mandatory minimum, as part of a gang that sold crack in Hunts Point in The Bronx.

After a proceeding in which his Jenner & Block lawyer asked Inner City Press why it was in the courtroom, what it's interest is, Burgos received a sentence of time served. Then there was an order to seal the transcript of the proceeding.

This was in the courtroom of SDNY Judge Gregory Woods, who has imposed other sentences in the wider USA v. Palermo et al. case. On April 15 Inner City Press covered the sentencing of another members of the conspiracy, Felix Cordero Senior, also described as low level but who did not cooperate, to 120 months: ten years.

  If the goal is to send the message the the U.S. Attorney's Office will minimize the gun-play and crack sales of cooperators, why seal the transcript? Why try to pressure the Press to leave the courtroom, or to not report on it?

  The rationale appears to be that the cooperator is at risk. (Judge Woods gave weight to the fact that Burgos choose to remain at risk in the MDC in general population in order to see his son, rather than by moved to "GEO" further away.) But the Assistant U.S. Attorney said that Burgos' cooperation had been disclosed to co-defendant Ramirez, or at least to his lawyer. Was that under a confidentiality agreement? Is this any way to do justice?

  Earlier this year SDNY Magistrate Justice Ona T. Wang issued an oral order that the press covering her bench trial of Ivan Nieves, a defendant who wrote racist graffiti on a sign at the the nearby African Burial Ground should not publish the defendant's address in The Bronx, which had been said in open court. Judge Wang later in the day acknowledged this was or would be prior restraint but asked that the address not be published. Inner City Press voluntarily complied.

  Here, other than the pointed inquiry from the Jenner and Block lawyer, no such request was made (although Judge Woods and his genial courtroom Deputy did confer, perhaps on this topic). As in the case before Judge Wang, Inner City Press is voluntarily self-censoring. But is this any way to run a public proceeding?

  We'll have more on this - there is another Palermo sentencing set for later this month, and the sentencing submission of Palermo himself has just been filed, publicly, in the docket. Burgos' filing is nowhere to be seen. How much is missing? More on Patreon, here. Watch this site.

   In the same Palermo conspiracy, on April 15 when Felix Cordero Sr came up for sentencing he faced a guideline sentence of 120 to 150 months in prison as part of a gang that sold crack in Hunts Point in The Bronx. In the courtroom of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory Woods there were only the judge and his deputy, a court report, a lone Assistant US Attorney and defense lawyer, Cordero, two U.S. Marshals - and Inner City Press. The tale that emerged what that Cordero Senior was previously imprisoned for conspiracy to commit murder, then for trying to sneak heroin into jail, then for fleeing the halfway house to which he was assigned. He then moved back to Hunts Point to work for a gang run by his own son Miguel Ramirez. In a reversal, Felix Senior took phone calls for his son, including inquiries into whether his son had guns for sale. Later Felix Senior was in a car with a Mr. Alicea, less than 18 years old at the time, fleeing the police. Alicea threw drugs and a gun out of the moving car.

 Judge Woods went through this history in detail before sentencing Cordero Senior to 120 months. His lawyer asked that he be assigned to the same prison as his son. Judge Woods said no, he would not recommend that. We'll have more on this sprawling case. 

  As if in a parallel universe the previous week at sentencing Will Baez spoke about his seven year old daughter and dream of opening an auto body shop. His lawyer spoke of conditions in the MCC: 26 men on 13 bunk beds in a unit with one toilet and one shower and rodents in the walls. There was no discussion of the safety value provisions of the First Step Act, which later in the day got a reduction for another defendant caught with five kilos of what he thought was heroin. Judge Abrams showed those in the courtroom the sentencing guidelines book and said Baez need not be defined by the worst day in his life. But ten years are ten years. He waved as they led him to the elevator of 40 Foley Square in shackles.


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