The state Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of Richard Leonard, who was found guilty of first-degree sexual abuse and illegally giving a child alcohol. The alleged victim in the 2007 incident in Parma was an 18-year-old girl.
Leonard, 41, has maintained his innocence in the case. He served three years in prison, and has continued to pursue a reversal of his conviction.
The Court of Appeals decision does not hinge on questions of guilt or innocence, but instead on whether the jury should have heard an allegation, which was never criminally charged, that Leonard had earlier molested the same girl.
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The Court of Appeals said that the testimony should not have been permitted. Courts can allow proof of previous crimes to be heard by a jury in certain circumstances; this is called “Molineux” evidence because of the case at the basis of the law. However, the evidence is not allowed to show the accused’s “propensity” to commit similar offenses.
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Because the 2005 allegations had never been previously aired, they basically became a “trial within a trial” when the 2007 criminal charges were tried, according to Rochester attorney Brian Shiffrin, who handled Leonard’s appeal.
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The District Attorney’s Office could opt to retry Leonard, or let the conviction be vacated.
“He is out of custody,” said Assistant District Attorney Kelly Wolford. “At this point … we have to make a decision whether or not we want to retry him without the evidence” about the 2005 allegations.
Read the entire Democrat & Chronicle article, quoted above, here.
Read the Daily Record article on Brian’s win here.