ROCHESTER – The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office will make its case next month for overturning a suppression of evidence decision in the upcoming trial of a Jamestown man accused of starting numerous fires in March 2017.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty Jr. will appear before the state’s 4th Appellate Division on Dec. 2 to argue an appeal of an April 2019 ruling by Chautauqua County Court Judge David Foley when he said evidence gathered by Police in Pennsylvania is inadmissible against Jonathan Young in his New York trial.
Young faces a 25-count indictment in Chautauqua County Court that includes 13 felony arson charges. He’s accused of setting more than a dozen fires in Jamestown and Falconer between March 2-25, 2017. He was indicted by a Chautauqua County Grand Jury on two counts of second-degree arson, 11 counts of third-degree arson, one count of fifth-degree arson and 11 counts of second-degree criminal mischief. The most serious charge, second-degree arson, carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
Young was also accused of fleeing into Pennsylvania as investigators in Jamestown were closing in on him as a suspect. He was eventually arrested for stealing a vehicle in Warren County as well as starting another fire in Butler County. He was held for prosecution for his crimes in Pennsylvania and, in April 2018, Young reached a plea agreement involving his Pennsylvania charges. He was then extradited back to Chautauqua County to answer to his charges here.
A pretrial hearing was held on April 1, 2019 in Chautauqua County Court and that is when Judge Foley ruled evidence to be inadmissible. At issue is whether or not statements made by Young to police in Pennsylvania at the time of his arrest can be used as evidence in his New York trial. Specifically, Pennsylvania detectives questioned Young about one of the arson cases that occurred in New York and the County DA’s office wants to use those statements as evidence. But Foley ruled that at the time of his statements, Young waived his right to an attorney to be present during questioning only for the Pennsylvania charges and not the New York charges. As a result, Foley said the statements should be inadmissible in the New York trial. In making his decision he cited the Court of Appeals case, People v. Lopez – which held that a detective violated a man’s indelible right to counsel by questioning him on unrelated New York charges without first obtaining a written waiver from his Pennsylvania attorney.
Jury selection in Young’s trial was to begin in March of this year in Chautauqua County Court. It’s been on hold since Foley’s ruling because the DA’s office filed for an appeal in the State Appellate Division.
Young is being represented by the Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office.