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New trial ordered in gun case because of illegal search

A state appeals court has reversed a lower court, granting a motion to suppress evidence, and ordered a new trial in a weapon case because of an illegal search.

Defendant Ramadan B. Abdullah, was convicted in February 2018 in Broome County Court before Judge Kevin Dooley of six counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, nine counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and petit larceny.

In May 2017, Abdullah activated a security alarm while exiting a sporting goods store and he was arrested for stealing ammunition.

At the police station a slungshot was found in his backpack. A slungshot is striking weapon with a heavy weight attached to a flexible handle.

Abdullah was staying with his granddaughter, and she gave police his belongings, which included a gun.

Police searched a storage unit leased by Abdullah and found four more guns, ammunition and three more slungshots.

Abdullah’s appellate attorney argued that Dooley should have granted a motion to suppress statements Abdullah made while at the sporting goods store because he was in police custody but had not been read his Miranda rights at that time.

The standard for determining whether a suspect is in “police custody” hinges on “whether a reasonable person innocent of any wrongdoing would have believed that he or she was not free to leave,” the court wrote.

In Abdullah’s case, “the entire interaction at the sporting goods store was captured by the various body cameras worn by the police involved,” according to the decision from the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Third Department.

“Throughout most of the interaction, four police officers were present at the sporting goods store, with at least one officer positioned between defendant and the exit. More importantly, shortly after the police arrived, defendant had been told to empty his pockets and place all of his personal property on the counter,” according to the decision.

“While being detained by the police, defendant asked the police multiple times if he could retrieve his possessions. The police denied each of these requests,” the court wrote.

Also, police asked Abdullah questions that went beyond the scope of their investigation.

“Many of their inquiries were not limited to the petit larceny, the allegation in question, but instead focused on firearms that defendant may have possessed, their location, caliber and defendant’s intent as to his usage of same,” according to the decision.

“We cannot say that a reasonable person would have felt free to leave. Thus, defendant’s statements at the sporting goods store were the product of custodial interrogation and, in the absence of Miranda warnings, should have been suppressed,” the court wrote.

The application for the search warrant was based on statements made by Abdullah at the sporting goods store.

“In view of our determination that these statements should be suppressed, no probable cause existed to support the warrant. Therefore, the warrant is invalid and the firearms and slungshots recovered from the storage unit should be suppressed,” the court wrote.

The court reversed Dooley’s decision, granted the motion to suppress the statements made at the store and the motion to suppress the evidence found in the storage unit, and sent the case back to Broome County Court for a new trial.

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