ROCHESTER – The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office is appealing a decision from Judge David Foley dated Feb. 8th suppressing statements that Jonathan Young, the man charged in connection with several fires in the Jamestown and Falconer area in 2017, allegedly made to Pennsylvania State Police.
According to the New York State Fourth Appellate Division website, arguments in the matter are scheduled for December 2nd. First Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty will represent the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office, while Susan C. Ministero will represent Young. Young is accused of setting 12 fires in the Falconer and Jamestown area back in 2017, and he is charged with 14 counts of arson and 11 counts of criminal mischief.
Foley’s ruling came following a Huntley Hearing in December 2018, which discusses the constitutionality of statements that a defendant makes to police. According to documents obtained by WNYNewsNow from Chautauqua County Court, Foley found that Jamestown Police Captain Robert Samuelson did not make a reasonable inquiry to Pennsylvania State Trooper Christopher Balcik regarding Young’s representational status at the time of an April 2017 interview with PA State Police.
Foley cited People V. Lopez, stating in his decision that New York State Law says that when a police officer wants to question someone in police custody about an unrelated matter they must make a “reasonable inquiry” regarding the defendant’s representational status.
“Captain Samuelson could have easily resolved the issue by making a limited inquiry,” Foley stated. “For example, he could have asked the Trooper: What was Mr. Young charged with in Pennsylvania? Was he in custody on that charge? Had he been arraigned on the charge? Had he requested an attorney? The answers to these questions were easily ascertainable and would have allowed Captain Samuelson to determine whether the Defendant had his indelible right to counsel attached, which he had.”
“To rely on Trooper Balcik’s understanding of the Defendant’s representational status, in this Court’s opinion, was not a reasonable inquiry.”
Testimony during the Huntley Hearing revealed that Samuelson and Jamestown Police Department Detective Rex Goot traveled to Butler County on April 4, 2017 to observe an interview the trooper conducted with Young at the State Police Barracks. Balcik testified that Young denied his role in a specific fire after Samuelson and Goot requested that Balcik inquire about the fire.
Foley said that, under Pennsylvania law, Balcik was allowed to ask Young about anything that was unrelated to the charges that Young was facing in Butler County because of the fact that Young waived his right to counsel under the Fifth Amendment prior to the interview.
“The simple fact of the matter is that Trooper Balcik had no reason to inquire about the representational status of the defendant (Young) prior to the interview, and it seems clear from his testimony that he did not actually know the status,” Foley stated in his decision.
Foley, however, ruled that statements made to police in New York State are not suppressed. WNYNewsNow’s coverage of the Huntley Hearing can be found here.
A Chautauqua County court clerk previously said that the trial can’t start until a decision is made on the appeal.
Young remains in Chautauqua County Jail on $1 million bail, despite a previous motion from Chautauqua County Jail to release him to the custody of Chautauqua County Probation. He previously rejected a plea deal that would’ve called for Young to serve 10 years in prison for each of the two counts of second-degree arson that he faces, with the time to be served concurrently.
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