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In SDNY As Two Are Arraigned Judge Furman Reminds Of US v Rehaif On Knowing

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, July 17 – A duo charged with robbing a drug dealer were quietly arraigned on July 17 before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Jesse M. Furman. The proceeding had not been noticed on the day's calendar on PACER. But one of the defendants, Pedro Rodriguez, was out in the SDNY hallway by the elevators with his lawyer and apparently significant other. Later, Benjamin Figueroa was brought in shackled. With Inner City Press the only media in Judge Furman's courtroom, the proceeding began.

  Both pled not guilty. Judge Furman, the author of what some say is the best US District Court decision in a while, advised the parties to look at the Supreme Court's decision, on knowing, in Rehaif v. United States, here. Judge Furman set a motion schedule and a next session for September 18, excluding time until then. He asked, are there any victims in the meaning of the CVRA? Perhaps the next day's Epstein proceeding before Judge Berman was on his mind, as it is more judges these days. No, was the answer. Inner City Press will continue to cover these cases.

Also before Judge Furman: On East 104th Street in Manhattan last April 24, multiple gunshots to the chest killed 17-year old Samuel Ozuna. A week later, 24-year old Gary Turner was arrested and charged. On July 2, after victim impact statements from Ozuna's mother, sister and father, Turner was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

  The mood in SDNY courtroom of Judge  Furman the mood was raw. It became more so after Turner's lawyer David Stern said as he had in his sentencing submission that Ozuna's Facebook "social media account reveals the brandishing of guns,drugs, references to other deaths on the street, and threats of violence targeted at others." Sentencing Submission, ECF Docket No. 27, at 14. The case is USA v. Turner, 18-cr-310 (Furman).

  All three family members who spoke denied that Samuel David Ozuna had been involved in drugs. In fact, they said, he had gotten slashed in the face and was afraid to go outside. His father said he personally had never wanted to move to the United States for this reason. His mother Indiana Carrasco said she had opposed the death penalty when she heard it might apply. His sister said Turner should "rot in jail."

  After Furman read out his sentence of 27 years, he asked the two families - Turner's was there too - to stay calm and leave the SDNY courthouse quietly. The Assistant US Attorney stayed in the courtroom with Ozuna's family was Turner's left, down on the elevators. Back uptown to the Carver and Washington Houses in East Harlem, with Ozuna's father's words still ringing.

   When Turner on February 15 changed his plea to guilty before Judge Furman, Azuna's family members sat on one side of the courtroom. On the other, separated by security officers, were supporters of Turner. In the back, the only media in the room as again on July 2, was Inner City Press.

  Judge Furman asked Turner the extent of his schooling - 9th grade - and then to explain in his own words what he had done. Turner read a statement full of legal terms of art ("I shot him, resulting in his death") and a woman on Ozuna started to cry. Judge Furman told Turner to speak directly in the the microphone, and slower. Turner said he did the shooting to protect drug territory. The crying on Ozuna's side got louder.

   Judge Furman explained that the plea agreement meant that Turner was waiving his right to appeal any sentence less than 405 months, that is, 33 years. (Turner had faced the death penalty). There was some discussion of whether Turner's allocution was sufficient, since he refused to say he had committed the murder to improve or maintain his position in an organization. These crews are looser, his lawyer said. Judge Furman agreed, and the proceeding was adjourned.

The marshals asked those on Turner's side of the courtroom to leave first. As they did, and Turner was led out in shackles, from Ozuna's side a women screamed, "You piece of sh*t!" This did not make it into the U.S. Attorney's Office press release. There was more crying, and on the way down some said the gun could have been pointed the other way. But this is what happened.

As if in on a different planet but in the same city and courthouse, art gallery owner Mary Boone after pleading guilty to tax fraud was sentenced on February 14 to 30 months in prison to be followed by a year of supervised release with 180 hours of community service. 

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said that tax fraud is a crime that can and must be deterred. His sentence provided for 90 hours of community service with the non-profit Free Arts NYC or one like it, and 90 hours of service to New York City Board of Education beginning, he said, in June 2021.

Unlike two recent Judge Hellerstein sentencees, Norman Seabrook and Murray Huberfeld, Boone through her lawyer Robert S. Fink did not announce an appeal and ask for bail pending appeal. On Worth Street outside the SDNY courthouse, Inner City Press asked Boone what she thought of the community service requirement. She did not answer, swarmed by photographers as she awaited the white luxury car she drove off in.  Periscope video here. Welcome to the SDNY.


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