|Posted by [email protected] on February 13, 2014 at 4:25 PM|
written by Peter M. Wlasiuk
One of the things that makes my case so complex and frustrating when trying to pinpoint a particular individual, event, or piece of evidence that may have allowed the powers of Chenango County to convict an innocent man is that, no matter how hard I try, the problem becomes that more several-fold. It cannot be pinpointed to just one individual, event, issue, or piece of evidence without speaking on the cumulative effect that allowed such a wrongful conviction to occur.
This has by no means been easy for me, and where I would much rather be given the opportunity to plead my case to a proper investigating authority, I am forced to do it this way which leaves me wide open to claim that I am only blaming everyone else and trying to avoid responsibility, the very same accusation we just recently heard. I am trusting in my principal and lead advocate’s advice to just keep providing them with as much truth, facts and evidence as I can and let the chips fall where they do. It only makes sense to take their advice, how could I ever expect anyone to advocate for me, support me, or search for the truth, if they aren’t provided with all of the facts to assist them during their search. So in the spirit of this advice, it would appear that it is imperative that I keep bringing forward the facts that few even know of.
Circumstances create opportunities. Now on its' face, one would almost be compelled to construe those words as nothing more then an inspirational or positive statement. But what happens when the opportunities derived are obtained as a result of ill will? Can the results ever be relied upon as something true, good and honorable? I say this because, as a result of one particular individual's greed and ill will this afforded Mr. McBride and Det. Lloyd with great liberties and opportunity to advance in their ill will. This individual I speak of is my first trial attorney, Fredrick J. Neroni of Delhi New York.
After serious reflection in preparation for this next disclosure, I have concluded that perhaps there is blame that I must accept, and have been living with for the past 12 years but, I suspect that it is the sort of blame that isn't exclusive to just me.
Given the recent up-rise in numbers of people being exonerated as a result of wrongful conviction, or even just the amount of family members forced to experience the behind the scenes inner workings of a particular judicial venue that conducted themselves amiss, it is my belief quite a few will be able to understand and relate to my following disclosure. I am stuck with the blame of, when this all started, not knowing how to obtain a proper lawyer that had the experience needed to protect me, as well as, wasn't going to sabotage and exploit my situation for his own personal financial gain. What this man did to me is criminal in itself.
Now please understand, in sharing this with you, by no means am I claiming that Mr. Neroni is the sole factor that caused my wrongful conviction, but was a major contributing factor that created and allowed the capability for much of the corruption and misconduct that ensued, and still affects my case to this day. My situation started out this way in 2002, you decide if the title I have chosen, Rotten From The Start is appropriate.
At the time of my arrest I was represented by an attorney by the name of Pete McBride. Having never had to hire a criminal attorney, and due to the fact I had just recently concluded some business transactions with Mr. Pete McBride, this was the only attorney I knew.
Scared out of my mind, grief stricken, having not a single clue as to how the criminal system process worked, nor any idea as to the protocol that attorneys followed, I found attorney Pete McBrides's comments, approach, strategy, and mannerism towards me quite troublesome. Hindsight, as a result of my research in preparation for my appeals, I now have a textbook understanding as to why a lawyer may choose a certain strategy, approach, and make certain comments. But nonetheless, at the time I found myself upset and completely confused anytime we spoke.
As a result of me being raised Catholic, at the time, as a result of a particular letter we had found in my wife's briefcase at the time of her death, I was extremely upset with him saying that my Patty had committed suicide. Whatever his reasons or belief, this just didn’t sit well with me. I would learn years later, as explained to me by subsequent legal advocates that, when a persons actions creates their own death, whether intentional or accidental, the cause of death will be deemed suicide and that I shouldn’t focus on the religious interpretation in this situation.
However, at the time, not understanding it in this way, caused me great pain and confusion and distrust for my then attorney. Confusion creates a form of paranoia, I began arguing with him over the fact that he wouldn't explain to me as to why he wasn't filing any pre-trial motions, we argued over the fact that his nephew, this district attorney Mr. Joseph McBride, had claimed that the body had been cremated after they did their second autopsy, but wouldn't be available to us to do an independent autopsy. I blamed Pete McBride for this because my family and I felt that he should have, knowing that they were doing a second autopsy and that the manner of death was now in question, made sure that the body would be available to us and not destroyed, we felt that he had waited too long to advise Joe McBride of this, even though it was only two days that had passed. I blamed Pete McBride and made accusations, he became irate and stormed out of the visiting room, never to return or speak with me again. In the interest of fairness, years later I learned that perhaps I had wrongfully blamed Pete McBride when by mere chance, we obtained a copy of the Certificate of Cremation substantiating that Joseph McBride had lied that the body had already been cremated at the time of our request, and by way of this document showed, that the body would have been available to us, at least for another 8 days.
So here I was, sitting in a jail cell, angry, scared, confused and mourning the loss of my wife. Approximately 2 weeks passed in which Pete McBride never returned to the jail, nor was he available when either my family or I tried to reach him by phone. Under the impression that Pete had quit and was long gone, I asked my mother, father and friend at the time Joyce, to see if they could locate an attorney who handle matters of murder cases, shortly thereafter, Mr. Fredrick J. Neroni appears at the jail.
After sitting in cell scared and confused, Mr. Neroni came across as if he was a savior sent from heaven. The way he spoke, one would think that he could have sold sand to a camel in the desert. He advised me of how lucky I was to have come across him and professed that Mr. McBride and Det. Lloyd were quite intimidated by his courtroom reputation, promising by the time he was done with them, that they would pay for wrongfully accussing me. He advised me of the experts that would need to be retained, as well as what the proposed cost of this defense would be. As stated by him, in order to achieve this defense and go home, I, or my family needed to give him $60,000.00 [sixty thousand dollars].
Feeling severely discouraged, I informed Mr. Neroni that at that time, without being able to possibly sell something off, that I only had approximately $15,000.00 [fifteen thousand dollars]. It was then that I made the most fatal decision of my life, sealing my fate and virtually guaranteeing Mr. McBride a wrongful conviction win. Mr. Neroni offered to take on my case and cover the necessary expenses required for my defense, if I was willing to sign over my free and clear 2 story 4 bedroom ranch on 56 acres as collateral, assuring me that the minute I won trial we would make arrangements to pay him and still own my home. Knowing that I was not guilty of these accusations, feeling trapped without any other option available to me, I agreed to these terms.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had just entered into the worst business decision I could have ever made. At the time it never dawned on me that I had entered into an agreement in which the profits to be had, were greater for Mr. Neroni if I lost, rather than if I won. As it stood, by losing, he had the possibility of doubling his profits at a minimum.
Now knowing Mr. Neroni's history and reasons for being disbarred, things I could have not known at the time, indicative of how this man lacked morals, scruples, ethics and respect for the law while he was in a position of representing himself to me as an officer of the court, someone who was taking my life, trust, and best interest into his hands, there can be no other thought in my mind that it was his intention to defraud me out of my home, no different then him trying to defraud the court in the manner he did. Review it for yourself, there is obvious similarity.
I think anyone would be hard pressed to come up with any other reason as to why an attorney would take a case, yet do nothing of what his training and code of ethics bounded him to do unless this was his plan all along. “Sandbagged”, is only one of the words I could use when describing the job, or defense Mr. Neroni gave me. My reasons are as follows, and anyone with a legal background or understanding could surely relate why this was bad but, I will try to explain it as brief as possible in layman terms.
When a defendant is arrested and accused of a crime, there are certain procedures that occur as a matter of Due Process. One of the reasons these procedures are conducted as a matter of law, is to insure that the defendant's rights under our constitution are being safeguarded from being falsely accused. As part of the process, a lawyer will file what is called an Omnibus motion and demand Pre-trial hearings to determine the merits of certain key factors. In preparing a motion such as this, the lawyer should be aware of the facts regarding the case and carefully craft specific demands of the prosecution. The demands include, but not limited to, certain things such as, validity of search warrants, or to ascertain whether police exceeded the scope of a warrant. Exceeding the scope of a search warrant is when the police do not follow the court's instructions and search areas, or take items not authorized by the warrant itself. This did occur in my situation.
Other functions of this particular motion is to get a court's ruling on key factors of what a prosecutor will be allowed to bring into trial, or what he will be allowed to speak on. Without these rulings, a prosecutor will do as he pleases without any regards for the defendant or their rights.
In my case, Mr. Neroni filed a boiler plate Omnibus motion, nothing within this motion was specific to my situation or case. I was given a hearing only as a matter of Due Process, not as a result of any motion and the hearing I was given resembled nothing of what a proper hearing is. So improper, Mr. Neroni never asked for a review of the search warrants, or what was seized, never seeked a ruling regarding certain prosecution witnesses, and or their reports. So lacking was he, Mr. Neroni never once asked for a Bill of Particulars from the prosecution.
Without a Bill of Particulars to specify the manner in which the murder was alleged to have occurred, Mr. McBride was able to keep flip flopping his theories throughout the trial, while the Judge could only assume that what was being presented to the jury, was the same theory that had been presented at the Grand Jury. This is not proper but, Mr. McBride will do it until someone calls him on it. This by no means is an exhausted list of Mr. Neroni's deficiencies at this stage of the process, but in summing up what my hearing consisted of, it was nothing more then Mr. Neroni placing me on the stand, eliciting testimony that was not only prejudicial and irrelevant but while failing to address the issue of the fact presented, completely exceeded the scope of the hearing. Throughout the entire cross examination, Mr. Neroni did not make a single objection while Mr. McBride asked clearly improper and prejudicial questions. Mr. McBride was enjoying this free reign that Mr. Neroni gave him that. Mr. McBride went on to ask a plethora of other questions that had nothing more then a prejudicial effect on the judge, while not relevant to anything. This was further compounded when Mr. Neroni, for reasons only known to him, put my friend at the time Joyce, on the stand not to give testimony regarding anything credible but, rather had her testify to matters wholly outside the scope of the hearing.
For seven months I sat in the county jail, not once did Mr. Neroni visit me to discuss my case, or prepare for trial. Not once did he accept a single phone call from me. Mr. Neroni did not reach out for a single expert in preparation for my trial, even after being advised of Dr. Sikirica, by my family, to the fact of his willingness to be involved in my case. In fact, the only expert to be involved in my case was hired by my family, above and beyond the fact that Mr. Neroni was to cover expenses resulting from taking my home as collateral. And even after my family securing this expert, he was denied by the court as a result of Mr. Neroni failing to advise the court of particulars regarding this expert.
The list is far from exhausted, but in moving on, one final example of this scandal can be seen by a simple review of the minutes themselves. Throughout the course of this three week trial, the prosecutor, Mr. McBride, objected approximately 787 times with a slightly over 75 percent success rate, where during the very same trial, Mr. Neroni only objected a total of 58 times with about 55 percent of those objections meeting with failure. I, the defendant, took the stand for three days, and not once did Mr. Neroni voice a single objection to anything that Mr. McBride did improper. Anyone that has ever had any experience with the legal system, anyone that has ever watched TV can tell you, it is unheard of for the defendant to be on the stand for three days and not have their lawyer object to a single thing. Now can you understand why I have titled this missive, ROTTEN FROM THE START?
I have motion the court several times on this issue but, no matter who the judge, they refuse to review my claims, or re-open my original hearings, always claiming that, once the original hearings were granted to Attorney Neroni, they do not have to re-open, or grant me a new hearing. However I submit, if they were to review the original hearing, it would become evident to them that Mr. Neroni didn't represent me, hence it was as if I didn't receive any hearing at all.
This is one of the major contributing factors that allows Mr. McBride to hold onto this wrongful conviction. Mr. McBride knows that if the misconduct that occurred was exposed, he would no longer be able to cite to evidence that is not only improper, but not evidence at all. Being the principle architect, Mr. McBride has far too much invested in this wrongful conviction. This is why he opposes any review or investigation of my claim that police created inculpatory evidence, altered evidence, tampered with evidence, allowed evidence to be stolen. Without exposing this, this is why Mr. McBride has been so successful maintaining this charade that has allowed him to present me to many as a murderer and a monster. I ask for your help and suggestions as to how I might be able to finally get someone to review this, and get me the proper hearings I was denied. If not on the merit that I am correct in my belief that Mr. Neroni had a hidden agenda when taking my case, then in the interest of justice.
Peter M. Wlasiuk