Gunfire at Crossgates: Is Maeweather the wrong man?

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Tasheem Maeweather, right, conferred with his lawyer, Lee Kindlon, in December before being arraigned in Albany County Supreme Court while two of Maeweather’s family members, in back, looked on. Maeweather is in court this week with Kindlon for a jury trial on those four felony charges.

ALBANY — Tasheem Maeweather’s lawyer is telling the jury at Albany County Supreme Court this week that the prosecution has the wrong man for attempted murder. At the same time, Assistant District Attorney Steven Sharp is painting a picture of Maeweather as being involved in gang warfare that came to a head at Crossgates Mall.

Two days after a shooting on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, closed the sprawling mall in suburban Guilderland, Maeweather, then 20, was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon.

Shoppers and workers fled or were locked down at the mall that afternoon and into the evening until a police sweep was completed. No gun was found and no one was hurt in the incident; police never identified a person who was shot at.

The key witness, an off-duty State Trooper, who said in Guilderland Town Court that he had seen the incident and identified Maeweather led to a grand jury hearing, where the charges were upped.

Maeweather faces four felony charges in a trial that started Monday and is expected to wrap up on Thursday: second-degree attempted murder; first-degree attempted assault; second-degree criminal possession of a weapon; and first-degree reckless endangerment. The indictment alleges that Maeweather intended to cause the death of another inside the mall and that he recklessly engaged in conduct that created a grave risk of death to another.

Police believe two groups of young men squared off in front of the Apple Store at Crossgates on Nov. 12 and that the man at the front of one group threw a punch at Maeweather in the other, and that Maeweather responded by pulling out a loaded gun and firing.

His attorney, Lee Kindlon, says that any one of the young men could have fired a gun, and that police focused solely on Maeweather because they were basing their entire case on the testimony of one eyewitness, off-duty State Trooper Ian De Giovine, who happened to be at the mall that day, as he said on the stand, “10 or 15 feet” from the shooter, “with a clear line of sight,” at the time of the incident.

Maeweather was in the area where the shot rang out, Kindlon said outside the courtroom.

“So were eight other people. Any one of them could have shot that gun. They just happened to pick him,” Kindlon told The Enterprise.

Maeweather was on parole at the time, Kindlon said. “They kept close tabs on him, morning, noon, and night. He never owned a gun. He’d never have a gun, or bullets. That would get him revoked in a heartbeat.”

Throughout the first three days of the trial, references to gangs have been made, although a video shows Maeweather denying he belongs to one.

Andrew Munson, senior crime analyst with the Albany Crime Analysis Center, testified that Albany has two gangs, uptown and downtown, while Troy has a gang called YG; he said YG and the uptown Albany gang have a longstanding conflict. In watching social media and tracking incidents, Munson said, “We had Mr. Maeweather identified as an uptown associate.”

Munson also said that two of the three men standing with Maeweather outside of the Apple Store on Nov. 12 were considered “uptown associates.”

Kaitlyn Gibbons, a crime analyst with the Troy Police Department, testified that the group of men facing off with Maeweather’s group were all identified as affiliates of the YG gang.

However, a video of Guilderland Police Investigator Charles Tanner questioning Maeweather about belonging to a gang shows Maeweather responding, “I ain’t got nothing to do with it...I don’t have a crew. I was just with some people. I’m not in no gang, no crew, no nothing.”

Kindlon said in court that Maeweather’s IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, hovers around 70. About two-thirds of the population have IQ scores between 85 and 115; about 5 percent of the population scores above 125, and 5 percent below 75.

The people’s case

This week, Sharp spent two days laying out the case against Maeweather, calling witnesses who included many employees of the Apple Store, each of whom told the story of what they saw and heard that afternoon.

After each employee testified, Sharp showed surveillance footage of the moment the shot rang out and employees and customers dove under tables before running to the exit at the back of the store; meanwhile, each employee used a laser pointer to show where he or she had been at the time. After each employee testified, Kindlon confirmed with each employee that he or she had never seen Maeweather before — none of them had — and had never seen him holding or shooting a gun. None of them had seen the shooting or seen anyone with a gun.

Employees and managers from nearby stores also gave accounts, and likewise had never seen a gun or a shooter. One woman, shopper Judith Baum, saw “fire come out of a gun” — she saw “two sparks,” she said — but did not see a shooter.

Despite the many surveillance cameras in operation at the mall, none captured the moment of the shooting. A mounted camera in the right area was a pan-tilt-zoom type, which automatically swivels and turns to take footage of different areas; at the moment of the shooting, it was trained elsewhere.

The incident took place near the eastern end of the mall’s central corridor, at the bottom of an escalator, near the Apple Store, opposite Lord & Taylor.

About the many videos played for the jury showing employees and shoppers reacting to the sound of the gunshot, Lee Kindlon, told The Enterprise, “They never showed my client doing anything wrong.”

Jurors — 10 women and four men, more than half of whom looked to be in their 20s or 30s — saw photos of the wall beneath the escalator where police located a “defect” in the drywall, cut away part of the wall, and found a piece of metal in the cavity inside that was “consistent with a bullet,” according to Brian Kenney, an investigator with the New York State Police Troop G’s forensic investigation unit.

The bullet was determined by the New York State Police to be consistent with a 38-caliber class, said Andrea Lester, a forensic scientist with the firearms unit of the State Police Forensic Investigation Center.

This class of bullet, explained Lester, can be fired from 38-caliber guns; it is also possible, although very dangerous, she said, to fire it from some 40-caliber guns.

The prosecution also introduced evidence that the defense tried to keep out: Internet searches found on Maeweather’s cell phone for YouTube videos on different types of guns, including the Glock 47, Glock 23, and Smith & Wesson. These searches were conducted on or after Nov. 8, jurors heard, four days before the incident.

Some of the videos searched were about 40-caliber guns that could have fired a 38-caliber class bullet, said Judge Roger McDonough, explaining why he was denying Kindlon’s motion to suppress the Internet searches.

Police also located a number of small, round reddish-brown drips, swabbed and determined through testing by the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center to be blood, on the floor in the area of the shooting, although police do not know whose blood it was. It did not come from Maeweather, said Kristine Robinson, DNA analyst and trained serologist with the Investigation Center; she also said, in response to questioning by Kindlon, that the State Police had not received any blood samples other than Maeweather’s against which to test the blood drips.

Gunshot residue expert Fung Cho Kwok of the State Police Lab tested the sweatshirt and sweatpants that Maeweather was wearing the day of the shooting. He said that certain areas of the clothing had tested positive for lead, or lead and antimony, or lead and barium. But he explained that lead, antimony, and barium can be found in the environment, and the test for identifying gunshot residue is finding all three in one particle, and he had found no such particle on Maeweather’s clothing.

Jurors also saw video footage of Maeweather being read his rights and then questioned by Tanner. Under Tanner’s questioning, Maeweather seemed to change his account quickly, from saying that he had not been in that part of the mall and didn’t have anything to do with whatever had happened, to saying that he had been there and that someone had punched him in the face.

Throughout this video, many of the eight or so family members and friends of Maeweather in the courtroom’s front row cried quietly.

De Giovine testified that he was walking with his girlfriend and his 5-year-old son east toward the Apple Store when he saw a group of young males; he noticed them because “they all had Jordan sneakers on, and I’m a fan of Michael Jordan sneakers, so I was looking at them.” The young man in front was dressed in a gray sweatsuit with new white Air Jordan sneakers with black trim, the Trooper said.

The young man was looking in De Giovine’s direction, so the Trooper looked back over his shoulder to see if the man was looking at him, or at someone behind him. He saw another group of young males walking up from behind; a man in red was at the head of that group, he said. The man in red tried to throw a punch at the man in gray, and the man in gray leapt eight or 10 feet back and then pulled out a gun from his waistband or pants pocket area with his right hand, held it straight out, with his palm facing down, and fired, then fired another shot.

Kindlon’s response

De Giovine told this account to law enforcement soon after the incident, and “they wrapped their entire case around it,” Kindlon said outside of the courthouse Wednesday.

“Compare and contrast his testimony to the 15 or 20 people they called who didn’t see anything. They were feet away and didn’t see a thing. He saw everything down to the smallest detail,” Kindlon said, calling that idea “patently ridiculous,” and De Giovine’s testimony “perfect to a fault.”

Kindlon planned to introduce evidence Thursday that he said would show that the incident couldn’t have happened the way that De Giovine describes, starting from, he said, the fact that Maeweather is left-handed.

Kindlon confirmed with Tanner on the stand that police had soon learned the identities of all the young men in that area of the mall, and that they would also have known if any of them had been charged with a crime in the weeks following.

Kindlon pointed out that one of those men was arrested two weeks later by Colonie Police for criminal possession of a weapon — a nine-millimeter handgun, Kindlon said, the same class of gun that police say was fired.

He asked if Tanner ever investigated that young man further, after learning about that arrest.

“No,” Tanner said.

“Because you already had my client in custody,” Kindlon responded.

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