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People v. Fassino

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
Feb 20, 2019
169 A.D.3d 921 (N.Y. App. Div. 2019)

Opinion

2015–10385 Ind.No. 5002/14

02-20-2019

The PEOPLE, etc., Respondent, v. Marianne FASSINO, Appellant.

Richard L. Herzfeld, New York, NY, for appellant. Letitia James, Attorney General, New York, N.Y. (Nikki Kowalski and Matthew B. Keller of counsel), for respondent.


Richard L. Herzfeld, New York, NY, for appellant.

Letitia James, Attorney General, New York, N.Y. (Nikki Kowalski and Matthew B. Keller of counsel), for respondent.

LEONARD B. AUSTIN, J.P., SHERI S. ROMAN, JEFFREY A. COHEN, BETSY BARROS, JJ.

DECISION & ORDERAppeal by the defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County (John B. Collins, J.), rendered October 28, 2015, convicting her of falsifying business records in the first degree, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, and wilful violation of the Public Health Law (two counts), upon a jury verdict, and sentencing her to a term of incarceration of 6 months and period of probation of 5 years on the conviction of falsifying business records in the first degree, a term of incarceration of 6 months on the conviction of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, a term of incarceration of 6 months on the conviction of wilful violation of the Public Health Law for neglect, and a term of incarceration of 30 days on the conviction of wilful violation of the Public Health Law for failure to report, all sentences to run concurrently.

ORDERED that the judgment is modified, as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice, (1) by deleting the period of probation of 5 years from the sentence imposed on the conviction of falsifying business records in the first degree, and (2) by reducing the terms of incarceration of 6 months imposed on the convictions of falsifying business records in the first degree, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, and wilful violation of the Public Health Law for neglect to terms of incarceration of 3 months; as so modified, the judgment is affirmed, and the matter is remitted to the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, for further proceedings pursuant to CPL 460.50(5).

In the early morning hours of October 26, 2012, one of the residents at the Medford Multicare Center for Living, a nursing home, died. The prosecution presented evidence at a jury trial that the defendant, along with other staff members, including her codefendants, ignored approximately two hours of visual and audible alarms signaling that the resident was in respiratory distress after another codefendant, a respiratory therapist at the nursing home, failed to follow a physician's order to place the resident on a ventilator while the resident was in bed. After trial, the defendant was convicted of falsifying business records in the first degree in connection with the investigations into the resident's death, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, and two counts of wilful violation of the Public Health Law for neglect and failure to report.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution (see People v. Contes , 60 N.Y.2d 620, 621, 467 N.Y.S.2d 349, 454 N.E.2d 932 ), we find that it was legally sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt of falsifying business records in the first degree, endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, and two counts of wilful violation of the Public Health Law (see Penal Law §§ 175.10, 260.25 ; Public Health Law §§ 2803–d[1], [3], [7] ; 12–b[2] ). Moreover, in fulfilling our responsibility to conduct an independent review of the weight of the evidence (see CPL 470.15[5] ; People v. Danielson , 9 N.Y.3d 342, 348–349, 849 N.Y.S.2d 480, 880 N.E.2d 1 ), we nevertheless accord great deference to the opportunity of the finder of fact to view the witnesses, hear testimony, and observe demeanor (see People v. Mateo , 2 N.Y.3d 383, 410, 779 N.Y.S.2d 399, 811 N.E.2d 1053 ; People v. Bleakley , 69 N.Y.2d 490, 495, 515 N.Y.S.2d 761, 508 N.E.2d 672 ). Upon reviewing the record here, we are satisfied that the verdict of guilt as to those crimes was not against the weight of the evidence (see People v. Romero , 7 N.Y.3d 633, 826 N.Y.S.2d 163, 859 N.E.2d 902 ).

We agree with the Supreme Court's determination declining to give a missing witness charge, as the defendant failed to show that any uncalled witnesses were available and under the control of the prosecution, had material knowledge, and would be able to provide noncumulative testimony (see People v. Edwards , 14 N.Y.3d 733, 735, 899 N.Y.S.2d 65, 925 N.E.2d 867 ; People v. Chestnut , 149 A.D.3d 772, 773, 50 N.Y.S.3d 549 ). In any event, defense counsel had the opportunity to comment during summation on the People's failure to call the witnesses (see People v. Barber , 133 A.D.3d 868, 870, 22 N.Y.S.3d 63 ).

The defendant contends that comments made by the prosecutor during summation constituted reversible error because they invited the jury to consider evidence against codefendants as proof against her, argued facts not in evidence or misstated facts in evidence, and used impeachment evidence as evidence of her guilt. These contentions are unpreserved for appellate review, as the defendant failed to object to the challenged remarks (see People v. Negron , 150 A.D.3d 764, 765, 54 N.Y.S.3d 410 ), and she cannot rely on the objections made by her codefendants at trial (see People v. Gray , 86 N.Y.2d 10, 20, 629 N.Y.S.2d 173, 652 N.E.2d 919 ; People v. Buckley , 75 N.Y.2d 843, 846, 552 N.Y.S.2d 912, 552 N.E.2d 160 ; People v. Jaen , 116 A.D.3d 975, 975, 983 N.Y.S.2d 837 ). In any event, the remarks either were fair comment on the evidence or the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom, were fair response to arguments raised by the defense in summation, did not exceed the bounds of permissible rhetorical comment, or, to the extent they were improper, constituted harmless error (see People v. Negron , 150 A.D.3d at 765–766, 54 N.Y.S.3d 410 ).

The defendant's contention that a severance of the trial from all of the codefendants was warranted on her behalf is without merit. Severance motions are addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court (see People v. Mahboubian , 74 N.Y.2d 174, 183, 544 N.Y.S.2d 769, 543 N.E.2d 34 ). "[S]everance is not required solely because of hostility between the [defendants], differences in their trial strategies or inconsistencies in their defenses. It must appear that a joint trial necessarily will, or did, result in unfair prejudice to the moving party and substantially impair his [or her] defense" ( id. at 184, 544 N.Y.S.2d 769, 543 N.E.2d 34 [internal quotation marks omitted] ). Here, since the proof of the charges against the defendant was premised on the same evidence used to establish her codefendants' guilt, only the most cogent reasons would warrant a severance (see People v. Bornholdt , 33 N.Y.2d 75, 87, 350 N.Y.S.2d 369, 305 N.E.2d 461 ; People v. Caldwell , 150 A.D.3d 1021, 1022, 55 N.Y.S.3d 311 ; People v. Turnbull , 52 A.D.3d 747, 747, 860 N.Y.S.2d 189 ). The defendant failed to provide any such cogent reason to warrant severance (see People v. Caldwell , 150 A.D.3d at 1022, 55 N.Y.S.3d 311 ; People v. Hernandez , 67 A.D.3d 820, 821, 889 N.Y.S.2d 218 ; People v. Turnbull , 52 A.D.3d at 747, 860 N.Y.S.2d 189 ).

Under the circumstances, the sentence imposed was excessive to the extent indicated herein (see People v. Suitte , 90 A.D.2d 80, 455 N.Y.S.2d 675 ).

The defendant's remaining contentions are without merit, or unpreserved for appellate review and, in any event, without merit.

AUSTIN, J.P., ROMAN, COHEN and BARROS, JJ., concur.


Summaries of

People v. Fassino

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
Feb 20, 2019
169 A.D.3d 921 (N.Y. App. Div. 2019)
Case details for

People v. Fassino

Case Details

Full title:The PEOPLE, etc., Respondent, v. Marianne FASSINO, Appellant.

Court:Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

Date published: Feb 20, 2019

Citations

169 A.D.3d 921 (N.Y. App. Div. 2019)
94 N.Y.S.3d 360

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