Appeal is denied for killer of UAlbany student
Updated 10:49 p.m.
ALBANY De Von Callicutt’s argument to have his first-degree murder conviction overturned was firmly denied by a state appeals court Thursday.
Justices with the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court rejected all of the arguments made by Callicutt, 22, of Rensselaer, who was found guilty of killing University at Albany student Richard Bailey during a botched robbery Oct. 20, 2008. Callicutt tried to argue that two letters he wrote to friends from prison should have been redacted because they violated his right to have an attorney present during questioning.
He said the letters were written just two days after city police conducted a prison interview with him in violation of his right to counsel, and he later recounted portions of the conversation in the letters. But in a unanimous decision, the court disagreed.
The justices also rejected Callicutt’s claim that his conviction was not supported by the weight of the evidence and that prosecutors unfairly excluded black people from the jury. The court likewise rejected his challenges to several elements of evidence introduced at trial and his contention that his sentence was overly harsh.
“He committed a heinous, senseless, murder of an unarmed -year-old and, just minutes later, held a gun to the head of another innocent victim, threatening his life,” Presiding Justice Karen Peters wrote in the 12-page opinion. “Although defendant was only 18 years old at the time of the offenses, he nevertheless had managed to amass an extensive criminal history, including previous felony convictions for gun-related offenses, and was arrested and later convicted for possession and discharging of a handgun just one month after committing the instant crimes.”
Callicutt was handed the maximum term of life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing in February 2011 and is now housed at the Southport Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Chemung County.
He was also given an additional 25-year sentence for robbing Desmond Knauth in Beverwyck Park just seven minutes after shooting Bailey.
Bailey, of Wantagh in Nassau County, aspired to be a police officer and was less than two months away from receiving his degree from UAlbany when he was killed. The university posthumously awarded him a degree in December 2009.
On the evening of the shooting, Callicutt and King “Cokilla” Modest were playing dice at Ricardo “Rico” Caldwell’s Quail Street residence. When Caldwell’s gambling losses mounted, the trio decided to seek “free money”— slang for robbing random people at gunpoint.
After a failed attempt with their first intended victim, they spotted Bailey on South Lake Avenue as he walked home from a friend’s house. Modest served as a lookout, Caldwell as an accomplice and Callicutt as the gunman.
Riding on BMX bikes, the two men approached Bailey from behind and demanded money. Caldwell claimed a scuffle broke out between Callicutt and Bailey, during which Bailey was shot once in the head around 11:20 p.m.
Caldwell and Modest later said they fled after hearing the single gunshot ring out, but Callicutt continued on to hold up Knauth. Later, Callicutt confided in Jalaah Stratton, who testified that his friend displayed the weapon and spent shell casing used in the Bailey shooting.
Neither was recovered by investigators.
Detectives tracked leads for nearly a year before Modest and Caldwell were brought in for questioning. Both pointed to Callicutt as the one who shot Bailey.
Callicutt initially admitted to the crime in a statement taken by investigators while he was incarcerated at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Oneida County on Sept. 11, 2009. His statement was later ordered suppressed because it was made without an attorney present.
But just two days after making the admission, Callicutt penned a pair of letters in which he seemingly took credit for shooting Bailey. The letters were intercepted by corrections officials and played a central role in his prosecution.