Appellate court upholds gun purchase conviction

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KINGSTON – The Appellate Division, Third Department of State Supreme Court has affirmed a conviction of a man for criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

The charge stemmed from the targeted purchase of two handguns that had been reported stolen from a retired police officer’s vehicle in December 2018.

As part of an undercover operation, a confidential informant purchased one of the handguns and minutes mater, the defendant, Willie Rodriguez, purchased the other, a loaded .380 caliber handgun from a known drug dealer.

The weapon and a quantity of heroin were recovered from Rodriguez’s vehicle when the police executed a traffic stop.

Following a jury trial, Rodriguez was convicted of the gun and drug possession charges, but acquitted of the sale count.

After his motion to set aside the verdict was denied, he was sentenced to up to 13 years in prison followed by five years of post-release supervision.

On appeal, he raised 15 separate points of error, most notably that the integrity of the grand jury proceedings was impaired and that the court erred in denying his suppression motion because the police lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle. Those contentions and all others were rejected by the appeals court.