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Albany detectives hid evidence, corrupted 2000 sexual abuse case

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ALBANY — Backed by sworn statements, including one from the woman he was convicted of sexually brutalizing, an Albany man who has served two decades in prison contends city police failed to disclose a sex tape that could have exonerated him and intimidated a potential alibi witness into silence. 

Mohammed X. Poquee, 47, wants a judge to overturn his convictions for the multiday sexual abuse of the woman in a home on St. Joseph’s Terrace in Arbor Hill in late April and early May of 2000. Jurors found Poquee guilty of first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and second-degree assault; he is serving a 32-year sentence in Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington County.

In a motion filed this month in Albany County Court, Poquee’s new attorney, Trevor Hannigan, highlighted evidence uncovered over the past eight months. It includes sworn statements from Poquee as well as would-be alibi witness Melissa Aiezza-Carpinello; Poquee’s former trial attorney John Wheldon; and the woman Poquee was convicted of raping and sodomizing 22 years ago.

“I believe that the defendant should be released,” his accuser says in her statement. She does not, however, say that Poquee was innocent of the attack.

In 2000, Poquee claimed he was with a woman named “Tasha” during part of the time in which his victim alleged he had been holding her hostage in her home. No woman with that name testified at his trial. The Albany County prosecutor, D.J. Rosenbaum, said she did not believe the woman existed and asked the judge for a “missing witness” charge to the jury that would have cast doubt on the defense claim.

Carpinello, a longtime Albany County public defender, states in the recent court filing that she was with Poquee on one of the nights when he was allegedly committing the crimes. The sex tape, which had been made the year before the charges against Poquee, is proof of their relationship.

Carpinello — who told the Times Union she wanted to be named in this story — said she only learned of what happened to the tape when she communicated with Poquee’s accuser in March.

In her statement included in the motion, Poquee’s accuser says she went to the police department’s South Station in May 2000 and disclosed the existence of the tape because she believed one of the women depicted on it worked as an attorney in City Court. “The police kept the videotape. I never received the tape back,” the accuser states. She then told police that Poquee had committed sexual violence against her.

Hannigan contends the tape was buried.

“Police took the tape, watched it, and never disclosed it to the defense or the defendant,” the attorney states in the motion. “The victim providing a sex tape to the police the day she accused the defendant of rape and sodomy would have been information that would have been material to the defense.”

Such evidence is known as “Brady material,” and prosecutors are required to disclose it to the defense prior to a case coming to trial.

“The defendant could not have had a credible defense without the testimony of his real other girlfriend,” Hannigan said, referring to Carpinello.

Carpinello said she could have given Poquee a “credible alibi” but was “unable to testify at his trial because I was so terrified of the Albany Police Department and their campaign against me.”

“The Albany Police Department terrorized me for years solely because they didn’t like who I dated,” Carpinello told the Times Union. “People should know what they did and it’s time for me to tell it. There are people sitting in prison that shouldn’t be there because of the misconduct of Albany police officers. I can’t stay quiet about it anymore.”

Hannigan, Poquee and Carpinello directed the blame at two city detectives: Kenneth Wilcox, who died in a car crash in 2006, and Anthony Ryan, who retired as a commander in 2013.

In yet another twist in the story, Carpinello’s statement in the filing reveals that she also had a sexual relationship with Wilcox; she claims the detective said her career would be ruined if she did not stop seeing Poquee.  

Hannigan contends Wilcox and Ryan harassed Poquee to get him to supply information about the still-unsolved murder of Okema Curtis, a government witness shot to death while playing darts in a North Swan Street bar on Jan. 2, 1999.

The two detectives “made it clear that if he failed to cooperate he would go ‘away for a long time,'” Hannigan states in the motion. “The defendant never cooperated.”

In a statement to the Times Union, Ryan said, “Since a motion has been filed in court, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on anything specific to that motion. However, I have absolutely no concerns and would gladly testify in court about all of the investigative steps that were taken to try and solve the murder of Okema Curtis.”

Poquee claims Wilcox and Ryan knew about his relationship with Carpinello, and that Wilcox grilled him about it during an interrogation and “hit me several times” while Ryan or another officer were in the room. 

But Poquee said he did not disclose his relationship with Carpinello to his own defense lawyer because Poquee knew she was being harassed by police.

Hannigan said it was unclear if police disclosed the tape to the district attorney’s office, then led by Sol Greenberg. The motion includes a 2017 Newsday article that reported Rosenbaum, the prosecutor who handled Poquee’s case, had subsequently been fired as a Nassau County prosecutor for failing to disclose Brady material.

“The tape was very significant and meaningful Brady material as it shows a motive of the complainant to falsify the allegations,” Hannigan states, referring to the tape’s revelation that Poquee had been in a relationship with Carpinello. He noted that the “entire defense was based on the fact that the complainant was jealous because of his infidelity, and she was seeking revenge by falsifying the allegations.” 

Rosenbaum declined to comment Friday when reached by the Times Union. Officer Steve Smith, a spokesman for Albany police, also declined to comment.

Darrell Camp, a spokesman for Albany County District Attorney David Soares, said: “In the interest of maintaining the integrity of legal proceedings, the Albany County district attorney’s office is currently unable to comment on the substance of the motion, as it is a pending legal matter.” 

Poquee’s trial attorney, Wheldon, said in his statement: “If (the tape) came from the victim and depicted Mr. Poquee engaged in sexual activity with another woman it would have been very important to substantiate his version of events and his defense, that the allegations were all lies coming from a ‘woman scorned’ who was seeking revenge.”

Wilcox and Ryan were at the time of Poquee’s arrest widely respected investigators. Wilcox, however, was, after his death, implicated in a mortgage fraud scandal along with his former business partner, Aaron Dare. 

The Poquee case is not the first time questions have been raised about Wilcox’s work as a detective. Two men the once-revered detective helped put away in the killing of a college student over two decades ago were exonerated and released from prison in 2016. The city of Albany last year agreed to pay $5.75 million to Carl H. Dukes, one of the two men wrongly convicted of killing Erik Mitchell in 1997. Dukes and Lavell Jones said they were coerced into confessing; another man, Jeffrey J. Conrad, told other Albany detectives that he killed Mitchell.

Jones signed his written confession following two sleep-deprived days in custody during which he was interrogated by city detectives. Dukes signed his confession in a courthouse conference room where he was grilled by two detectives while his attorney waited outside, in part, under the belief they wanted to question his client about a robbery.

In 1999, Wilcox came under scrutiny after he obtained a similar detailed murder confession from a 19-year-old Albany man accused of killing a drug dealer. The suspect, Kevin Cherry, stood trial for murder but a jury deadlocked on his innocence. On the eve of his second trial, Cherry was set free when two other men were identified as suspects after an eyewitness came forward.

Hannigan’s motion is before Rensselaer County Judge Debra Young, who is handling the matter due to the obvious conflicts in Albany. 

Poquee’s initial appeal was unsuccessful, as were his efforts to represent himself when he claimed that Wheldon was ineffective because he did not try to argue that Poquee had not been competent to stand trial. In 2018, Poquee argued that his trial attorney failed to inform him of a plea bargain he contends he would have accepted.

State Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch denied the motion after a hearing.

 


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In Minnesota, abortion issue is key to Keith Ellison’s 2nd term hopes

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Keith Ellison gave up a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota attorney general, saying it was his best chance to push back against the policies of Donald Trump. Now locked in a tough reelection fight, he’s arguing that he’s been far less of a partisan warrior than his critics claim.

Ellison squeaked into office in 2018, taking a post that Democrats had traditionally won easily. But he was a polarizing figure in the eyes of some voters. The outspoken progressive came from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, and Republicans tried to draw attention to his past associations with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, though Ellison had publicly renounced Farrakhan when he first ran for the U.S. House in 2006.

His bid for a second term as attorney general comes after four tumultuous years that put Minnesota in the world spotlight over the police killings of George Floyd and other Black men. His Republican opponent, hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz, says Ellison deserves much of the blame for the surge in violent crime that followed.

To fight back, Ellison has used this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision rolling back abortion rights to rally Democrats and suburban swing voters. He’s also urged those voters to look at his work on more everyday issues such as affordable health care and prescription drugs, consumer and business fraud protections and protections for workers against wage theft — all things that belie his image, he said.

“They think I’m going to be a firebrand and I end up being a fairly pragmatic guy,” Ellison said in an interview. “That’s true of my entire service.”

Ellison was already leading a major initiative for greater police accountability when Floyd died under the knee of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. Ellison went on to lead the prosecution team that got Chauvin convicted of murder the next year, a verdict that potentially averted another eruption of violence.

Ellison also took a step that his Republican critics are now trying to use against him. He strongly backed a charter amendment in Minneapolis that arose from the “defund the police” movement. It would have replaced the city’s police department with a loosely defined department of public safety, with details to be worked out later. Voters rejected it.

On the campaign trail, Schultz depicts Ellison as being “at the forefront of the defund-the-police movement” and blames that movement for the departures of hundreds of dispirited police officers in Minneapolis and elsewhere. And he blames those losses for the spike in gun violence, carjackings and other crimes since the pandemic.

“Far left, extreme politicians like Keith Ellison have gotten behind really reckless policies like defunding the police,” Schultz said in an interview. “It’s deeply wrong. It’s immoral.”

Violent crime has been rising across Minnesota since the pandemic began, with Minneapolis accounting for much of the increase, while its police force has fallen about 300 officers short of its authorized strength. Minnesota saw a 21.6% statewide increase in violent crime in 2021 from 2020, with violent crime in greater Minnesota rising by 16% and by 23.9% in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Ellison said he doesn’t regret supporting the charter amendment, but he said he never supported “defunding the police” and said it didn’t accurately describe the amendment.

He also dismissed Schultz’s claim that he’s hostile to police, saying he regards policing as a noble profession and that Chauvin did more to invite scorn and demoralize officers than anything he ever did.

“I’m the one who prosecuted him for killing George Floyd,” Ellison said. “So I’m the one trying to restore the honor and dignity of policing.”

Ellison also led the prosecution of former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who said she confused her gun for her Taser when she killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year. She was convicted of manslaughter in December. Schultz has said he would support commuting her two-year sentence.

Crime isn’t the only issue that has Schultz, a 36-year-old political newcomer, hopeful of being the first Republican to occupy the attorney general’s office since 1971. He also accuses Ellison of “unbelievable incompetence” for failing to stop a massive fraud scheme in its early stages, with 49 people charged so far with stealing at least $250 million from federal programs administered by the state to provide low-income children with nutritious meals during the pandemic. Ellison has countered that his office helped uncover the fraud.

If Ellison is to survive both that attack and the policing criticism to win a second term, abortion rights is likely to be the issue that does it.

Schultz vowed this spring to do everything in his power as attorney general to aggressively defend the unborn. After Roe’s reversal, he joined many other Republicans trying to pivot away from abortion and back to crime in a state where abortion rights are protected under the state constitution.

Meanwhile, Ellison brought New York Attorney General Letitia James to Minnesota in early September to raise money from abortion rights supporters in the legal community. Soon after, he visited an abortion clinic in Moorhead that moved across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, to escape a trigger ban on abortion. Ellison vowed early on that his office won’t cooperate if other states seek to prosecute women who come to Minnesota for abortions.

Ellison said the election is about more than abortion rights or crime. Trump’s rhetoric, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and the rise of “MAGA Republicans” have put democracy in doubt, he said.

“Here’s what we can’t do,” Ellison said. “We can’t tell people we got this. Quite frankly, I’m glad people see my race as close because it means they’re going to show up.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.




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In Minnesota, abortion key to Keith Ellison’s 2nd term hopes – Twin Cities

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By STEVE KARNOWSKI

Keith Ellison gave up a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota attorney general, saying it was his best chance to push back against the policies of Donald Trump. Now locked in a tough reelection fight, he’s arguing that he’s been far less of a partisan warrior than his critics claim.

Ellison squeaked into office in 2018, taking a post that Democrats had traditionally won easily. But he was a polarizing figure in the eyes of some voters. The outspoken progressive came from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, and Republicans tried to draw attention to his past associations with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, though Ellison had publicly renounced Farrakhan when he first ran for the U.S. House in 2006.

His bid for a second term as attorney general comes after four tumultuous years that put Minnesota in the world spotlight over the police killings of George Floyd and other Black men. His Republican opponent, hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz, says Ellison deserves much of the blame for the surge in violent crime that followed.

To fight back, Ellison has used this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision rolling back abortion rights to rally Democrats and suburban swing voters. He’s also urged those voters to look at his work on more everyday issues such as affordable health care and prescription drugs, consumer and business fraud protections and protections for workers against wage theft — all things that belie his image, he said.

“They think I’m going to be a firebrand and I end up being a fairly pragmatic guy,” Ellison said in an interview. “That’s true of my entire service.”

Ellison was already leading a major initiative for greater police accountability when Floyd died under the knee of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. Ellison went on to lead the prosecution team that got Chauvin convicted of murder the next year, a verdict that potentially averted another eruption of violence.

Ellison also took a step that his Republican critics are now trying to use against him. He strongly backed a charter amendment in Minneapolis that arose from the “defund the police” movement. It would have replaced the city’s police department with a loosely defined department of public safety, with details to be worked out later. Voters rejected it.

On the campaign trail, Schultz depicts Ellison as being “at the forefront of the defund-the-police movement” and blames that movement for the departures of hundreds of dispirited police officers in Minneapolis and elsewhere. And he blames those losses for the spike in gun violence, carjackings and other crimes since the pandemic.

“Far left, extreme politicians like Keith Ellison have gotten behind really reckless policies like defunding the police,” Schultz said in an interview. “It’s deeply wrong. It’s immoral.”

Violent crime has been rising across Minnesota since the pandemic began, with Minneapolis accounting for much of the increase, while its police force has fallen about 300 officers short of its authorized strength. Minnesota saw a 21.6% statewide increase in violent crime in 2021 from 2020, with violent crime in greater Minnesota rising by 16% and by 23.9% in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Ellison said he doesn’t regret supporting the charter amendment, but he said he never supported “defunding the police” and said it didn’t accurately describe the amendment.

He also dismissed Schultz’s claim that he’s hostile to police, saying he regards policing as a noble profession and that Chauvin did more to invite scorn and demoralize officers than anything he ever did.

“I’m the one who prosecuted him for killing George Floyd,” Ellison said. “So I’m the one trying to restore the honor and dignity of policing.”

Ellison also led the prosecution of former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who said she confused her gun for her Taser when she killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year. She was convicted of manslaughter in December. Schultz has said he would support commuting her two-year sentence.

Crime isn’t the only issue that has Schultz, a 36-year-old political newcomer, hopeful of being the first Republican to occupy the attorney general’s office since 1971. He also accuses Ellison of “unbelievable incompetence” for failing to stop a massive fraud scheme in its early stages, with 49 people charged so far with stealing at least $250 million from federal programs administered by the state to provide low-income children with nutritious meals during the pandemic. Ellison has countered that his office helped uncover the fraud.

If Ellison is to survive both that attack and the policing criticism to win a second term, abortion rights is likely to be the issue that does it.

Schultz vowed this spring to do everything in his power as attorney general to aggressively defend the unborn. After Roe’s reversal, he joined many other Republicans trying to pivot away from abortion and back to crime in a state where abortion rights are protected under the state constitution.

Meanwhile, Ellison brought New York Attorney General Letitia James to Minnesota in early September to raise money from abortion rights supporters in the legal community. Soon after, he visited an abortion clinic in Moorhead that moved across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, to escape a trigger ban on abortion. Ellison vowed early on that his office won’t cooperate if other states seek to prosecute women who come to Minnesota for abortions.

Ellison said the election is about more than abortion rights or crime. Trump’s rhetoric, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and the rise of “MAGA Republicans” have put democracy in doubt, he said.

“Here’s what we can’t do,” Ellison said. “We can’t tell people we got this. Quite frankly, I’m glad people see my race as close because it means they’re going to show up.”


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How you can help seniors avoid becoming victims of fraud

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Financial fraud is a problem that affects millions of Canadians every year, with older Canadians increasingly becoming the target of potential fraudsters.

Many of the most common scams law enforcement officials are seeing today – including the so-called “grandparent scam” – are designed to specifically target seniors.

In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received reports of 379 cases involving 115 victims, with more than $1.7 million in losses related to the grandparent scam alone. But since the start of 2022, the Centre says there have been 674 cases involving 273 victims and resulting in $2.7 million in losses. At the same time, the CAFC estimates that only a small fraction of victims report these types of frauds due to embarrassment.

As fraudsters increasingly leverage new technologies and tactics to create more sophisticated scams, it’s important to have conversations with older friends and family members to help them better understand how to identify and avoid fraud.

READ: Eight things your bank would never ask you

“Seniors are often targeted by fraudsters because they are perceived to have more wealth and presumed to be less knowledgeable about navigating online,” says Adrienne Vickery, Associate Vice President, North American Fraud Operations, Customer, Colleague & Strategic Initiatives, TD Bank Group.

“It’s increasingly important to stay aware of the latest fraud trends and scams and share your knowledge with the seniors in your life to help protect one another from falling victim to fraud,” she said.

Here are some tips to help guide a conversation about how fraud can impact seniors:

  • Learn to recognize common scams: Talk to the seniors in your life about how to spot some of the more common types of scams – including romance scams, investment scams, and the grandparent scam. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is a great resource for current fraud trends.
  • Talk to family and friends about how they can protect themselves: Provide family members with a few helpful reminders to protect themselves, such as being mindful of not sharing personal or financial information with someone over the phone or online.
  • Encourage seniors you know to keep an eye on their finances: Suggest signing up for online and telephone banking so they can regularly review their account activity. If they have a mobile phone, suggest they sign up for text message fraud alerts from their bank.
  • Tell seniors you know that it’s okay to ask for help: Remind them that if something seems strange or too good to be true, it’s okay to ask a trusted friend for a second opinion.

Most of all, it’s important for seniors, and all Canadians, to shake off the stigma that comes with being defrauded.

Fraud doesn’t discriminate – Canadians of all ages lost $379 million to fraudsters in 2021, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) – and that only represents the fraud that was reported. The CAFC estimates that fewer than 5% of victims file a fraud report with the agency. As of July 31, 2022, the CAFC has received 52,735 reports of fraud with losses totaling more than $284 million.


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