Herrick found that Sherman asked Albany Police Officer Pat Fox to pull a pending arrest warrant a... Judge says insurance fraud
Herrick found that Sherman asked Albany Police Officer Pat Fox to pull a pending arrest warrant against his star witness, Willie Cook, so Cook could testify against the family. The judge also found that Sherman had failed to disclose that Cook had been involved in a similar, but unrelated crash in 2003.
On trial are Frank Houghtaling, 32; his brother, Joseph, 36; their wives, Renee and Rhonda Houghtaling, who are 34-year-old twins; family matriarch Donna Houghtaling, 58; and her daughter, Brenda Warner, 38.
"I think an inquiry needs to be made to see how pervasive this knowledge was in the prosecution team and in this office," said Kent Sprotbery, who represents Frank Houghtaling.
"This is like cooking a rib roast," Herrick said. "This is a huge case. And this is the fork test. When I find a significant violation and I know the case is done, I will say that."
Shortly before court was convened Thursday, Sherman rejected an offer to end the trial by allowing Joseph Houghtaling to plead guilty and serve 2 to 4 years in prison.
Defense lawyers have accused Sherman of violating the lawyers' code of professional responsibility, which says prosecutors must seek justice, not just a conviction.
"It is a big, big deal for a government attorney to knowingly and deliberately conceal information from the defense, so, I hope for his sake, he didn't," said Albany Law School professor Vincent Bonventre.
Sherman has insisted the errors weren't intentional. He and his colleagues said they disclosed the overlooked material as soon as they became aware of it. But defense lawyers were resolute.
"This had nothing to do with gracious disclosure," said John J. Kelleher, who represents Joe Houghtaling. "It was because they were caught and they realized they had to do something."
"They have worked on this case for a year and a half," added Joe Muia, on behalf of Renee Houghtaling. "They all know what's going on and just cut their losses."
He said Herrick's sanctions give prosecutors "a pass." Herrick's discipline, so far, has been to advise the jury of the misconduct and allow them to consider it during deliberations. He also moved Cook's testimony to the end of Sherman's case to allow the defense more time to prepare.
"The degree of prejudice is minimal," argued Assistant District Attorney Christopher Horn. "This is a defense effort to pound Brad Sherman. Pound Willie Cook. And pound Pat Fox."
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