PEOPLE v. CAMERENA

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, New York.

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Julio CAMERENA, Appellant.

Decided: July 26, 2007

Before:  CARDONA, P.J., CREW III, MUGGLIN, ROSE and LAHTINEN, JJ. Richard V. Manning, Parishville, for appellant. Nicole M. Duve, District Attorney, Canton (Laurie L. Paro of counsel), for respondent.

Appeal from a judgment of the County Court of St. Lawrence County (Richards, J.), rendered June 14, 2006, upon a verdict convicting defendant of the crime of promoting prison contraband in the first degree.

Defendant appeals a jury verdict convicting him of promoting prison contraband in the first degree based upon his possession of a sharpened metal rod.   Initially, we note that defendant preserved his argument that the evidence was legally insufficient by his unsuccessful motion for dismissal at the close of the People's proof (see People v. Soto, 8 A.D.3d 683, 684, 779 N.Y.S.2d 251 [2004], lv. denied 3 N.Y.3d 712, 785 N.Y.S.2d 40, 818 N.E.2d 682 [2004] ).   To convict defendant, the People were required to prove that he was an inmate in possession of dangerous contraband such as a “weapon [ ] or item [ ] sharpened or altered for such use” (People v. Salters, 30 A.D.3d 903, 904, 817 N.Y.S.2d 743 [2006];  see Penal Law § 205.25[2] ).   To that end, a correction officer testified that he saw defendant attempt to conceal something and, while defendant was being frisked by a second officer, a sharpened, 6 1/212-inch metal rod fell from beneath defendant's clothing.   Once the rod fell to the floor, defendant attempted to cover it with his foot.   This testimony supports the reasonable inference that defendant possessed the rod and provided a valid line of reasoning by which the jury could find that he committed the crime charged (see People v. Bleakley, 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495, 515 N.Y.S.2d 761, 508 N.E.2d 672 [1987];  People v. Johnson, 24 A.D.3d 803, 804, 806 N.Y.S.2d 251 [2005] ).   Further, we do not find the verdict to be against the weight of the evidence after independently reviewing the evidence in a neutral light and according deference to the jury's credibility determinations (see People v. Val, 38 A.D.3d 928, 929-930, 830 N.Y.S.2d 391 [2007];  People v. Almarez, 2 A.D.3d 1151, 1152, 770 N.Y.S.2d 165 [2003], lv. denied 2 N.Y.3d 761, 778 N.Y.S.2d 779, 811 N.E.2d 41 [2004] ).

Nor are we persuaded that defendant was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.   In our view, trial counsel capably challenged the testimony of the People's witnesses by bringing out inconsistencies and exploring their potential biases.   Counsel also pursued a reasonable strategy in having defendant testify in order to offer an alternate version of the incident and by raising a defense of misidentification (see e.g. People v. Battle, 224 A.D.2d 871, 871-872, 638 N.Y.S.2d 517 [1996], lv. denied 88 N.Y.2d 933, 647 N.Y.S.2d 166, 670 N.E.2d 450 [1996] ).   Also, most, if not all, of the objections that defendant suggests his counsel should have made would have had no legitimate basis (see People v. Gallup, 302 A.D.2d 681, 683, 755 N.Y.S.2d 498 [2003], lv. denied 100 N.Y.2d 594, 766 N.Y.S.2d 169, 798 N.E.2d 353 [2003];  People v. Battle, supra at 872, 638 N.Y.S.2d 517) and would have been irrelevant or inconsequential (see e.g. People v. Singh, 16 A.D.3d 974, 977, 792 N.Y.S.2d 241 [2005], lv. denied 5 N.Y.3d 769, 801 N.Y.S.2d 263, 834 N.E.2d 1273 [2005];  People v. Leary, 145 A.D.2d 732, 734-735, 535 N.Y.S.2d 471 [1988], lv. denied 73 N.Y.2d 1017, 541 N.Y.S.2d 772, 539 N.E.2d 600 [1989] ).

We have considered defendant's remaining challenge to the qualifications and oath of the Spanish/English interpreter employed at trial and find it to be both unpreserved and without merit.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed.

ROSE, J.

CARDONA, P.J., CREW III, MUGGLIN and LAHTINEN, JJ., concur.

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