Brooklyn man who served 19 years for shooting police convicted
Phillip Almeda, 42, now known as Kadafi Ala, who was jailed for attempted aggravated assault on police officers before being paroled in 2018.
The Conviction Review Unit (CRU) investigation found that prosecutors ignored contradictions between police accounts and ballistic evidence from the recovered weapon.
“A new investigation into this case has shown how confirmation bias can lead to a wrongful conviction,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “Despite testimony that contradicted the ballistic evidence, this crime was presented to a jury as a ‘simple case’ and a man unfairly spent nearly two decades in prison. We are about to overturn this conviction as our review of all available evidence, including expert ballistics review, demonstrated that the accused could not have committed the shooting as described at trial. This exoneration is another example of my CRU’s continued commitment to correcting the miscarriages of justice without any fear or favor.
This is the 30th exoneration following a new investigation since the creation of the CRU in 2014.
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The new investigation focused on the shooting that took place on January 1, 2000, at around 12:15 a.m., outside 1320 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.
Four plainclothes anti-crime policemen watched a 16-year-old man shoot a gun into the air and possibly towards them, retaliated in his direction and saw him flee into the building. +
This teenager, whose weapon was never found, was then charged and tried as a young offender.
The officers’ accounts of Almeda’s actions varied. Two of them said that while retaliating to the gunfire, they saw him shoot in their direction before exiting a yard on the right side.
No one was hit and nine used shell casings were recovered from the sidewalk.
The accused, who was 20 at the time, was immediately arrested and a gun was recovered from an adjacent yard.
Some of the officers alleged that he made incriminating statements when he was apprehended.
Almeda was tried in February 2001 and the police testified in accordance with the accounts described above.
The defense presented a number of witnesses who knew the accused and claimed that he did not own a firearm. They testified that a group of people were watching fireworks when the 16-year-old fired a gun and another person fired in the air with a semi-automatic weapon, stopped and fired again, before the police responded and shot in his direction.
They said no one retaliated in the direction of the officers.
Almeda was acquitted of attempted murder and other charges, but was convicted of three counts of attempted aggravated assault on a police officer and sentenced to three consecutive seven-year prison terms.
The CRU reviewed the documents, interviewed staff involved in the investigation and hired an independent expert who was handed over the weapon that was recovered after the shooting, a Lugar 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
His report concluded that, based on the location of the cartridge cases and cartridges of the recovered weapon, it was highly unlikely that they came from the accused’s reported firing position.
In order for the nine enclosures to end up on the sidewalk and none in the yard, all of the enclosures would have had to bounce through shrubs, a chain link fence, and onto a two-foot-high brick wall, which made it virtually impossible for the defendant committing the shooting as described at trial.
The shooter was probably standing on the sidewalk, the expert determined.
Additionally, the weapon was recovered just inside the portal to the left courtyard, and there was no plausible explanation as to how the accused could have placed the weapon there before being apprehended. after coming out from behind the right yard.
These questions were never explored before the jury at trial, and no forensic evidence linked the pistol to the accused.
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The CRU also concluded that the testimony of defense witnesses was more consistent with the ballistic evidence, unintentionally explaining the location of the spent shells as well as the location of two unfired cartridges that were recovered from the sidewalk.
Finally, a review of the police pre-trial accounts that were taken shortly after the incident revealed inconsistencies with the incriminating statements attributed to the accused at trial, suggesting that his post-arrest statements no. ‘had not been accurately described to the jury.
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