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Brooklyn man gets 15 years in Schenectady shootout

Friday, May 17, 2013
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— The Brooklyn man convicted in February of attempted assault and weapons charges in a 2011 shootout on Close Street — but acquitted of attempted murder — was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

The sentence came as Michael Grafton maintained his innocence and expressed frustration with the legal process.

Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino, though, noted the split verdict from the jury, saying he saw that as an indication the panel considered the evidence closely and took their responsibilities seriously.

The jury found Grafton, 41, possessed a weapon on Close Street on Oct. 9, 2011, and tried to assault another person. One man, Winston Halliburton, was grazed in the neck, while Grafton missed his second alleged target, Calvin Jones, altogether.

Grafton himself was most seriously wounded in the exchange of gunfire. He was hit twice in the torso and once in the leg as Jones returned fire. Grafton fled in his vehicle and crashed as he tried to get himself to a hospital.

Prosecutors said Grafton was the aggressor and that Jones returned fire in self-defense. Jones has pleaded guilty to a weapons count in exchange for as much as eight years in prison.

Grafton also was charged with the attempted murder of both Jones and Halliburton. The jury acquitted Grafton outright of trying to kill Halliburton and deadlocked on whether he tried to kill Jones. Prosecutor Peter Willis indicated Friday his office would not retry Grafton on the deadlocked count.

Willis alleged in opening statements that Grafton showed up that day at the Close Street home of Rebecca Ferry, looking for Jones. Ferry realized Grafton had a gun and informed Jones, who grabbed his own gun. An argument ensued, and Grafton opened fire.

The weapons and attempted assault counts each carried maximum sentences of 15 years, and Willis argued they should run consecutively. Willis also noted Grafton has been free only a couple of years in the past 24. He was on federal parole when the Close Street shootout happened.

“Nothing in the defendant’s history or conduct is anything that would suggest when he is released from prison that he would live a law-abiding life,” Willis said.

In his own statement, Grafton said prosecution witnesses changed their testimony to fit the prosecution’s theory of events. Willis tried to interrupt to indicate Grafton was mischaracterizing the facts of the case.

Both sides had testy exchanges throughout the trial, and Friday was no different. As people began to talk over each other, Giardino had to step in to restore order. Grafton’s attorney, Leah Walker-Casey, argued the minimum sentence was appropriate, noting the person who shot Grafton will serve no more than eight years.

While Giardino did sentence Grafton to 15 years on each charge, he made the sentences concurrent, rather than consecutive as Willis had sought, making the total term 15 years rather than 30.

An appeal is expected.

 
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