LOCKPORT – Finding the alleged victim more suspicious than the defendant, a Niagara County Court jury acquitted a Buffalo man Tuesday on all charges in connection with a May 16, 2011, home invasion in Niagara Falls.
The jury deliberated for about 40 minutes before finding Brandon D. Green, 31, of Davison Avenue, not guilty of two counts each of first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery, and one count of second-degree kidnapping.
The verdict came despite the presence of Green’s DNA on handcuffs the victim said were placed on his wrists by one of three masked men, two of them armed, who entered his home on Parkview Avenue in Niagara Falls at about 2 a.m.
Keith Paul Meyers of the Niagara County forensic lab said the odds of that DNA coming from someone other than Green were one in 319.5 trillion.
The jury of six men and six women wasn’t overly impressed, adopting defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou’s closing argument that DNA could come from someone else who had had contact with Green, perhaps years before, and thus the DNA reading didn’t prove Green was one of the three robbers.
“We just couldn’t place him in the house,” juror Laura Brick of North Tonawanda said.
Brick said the 60-year-old complainant wasn’t a convincing witness. He told police – but not until a month after the incident – that about $525,000 in cash had been stolen from his safe.
“There were too many inconsistencies in his story,” Brick said.
Eoannou had questioned whether the jury could be sure a crime had been committed at all. He questioned “The suspicious circumstances of this half-million-dollar loss.”
He told the jury he had a hard time believing that a man would stash a huge amount of cash in a safe concealed behind a gas-burning fireplace, as the alleged victim said he had done.
Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell, who prosecuted the case along with colleague Laura T. Bittner, had told the jury that just because the victim was “careless” with his money didn’t mean his story was false.
Caldwell declined to comment on the outcome of the seven-day trial.
The complainant said two of three intruders were armed with handguns, and they handcuffed him and put a pillow over his face while rummaging through the house looking for his safe. After they found it, they forced him to give them the combination and shoved him into a closet, placing a shirt over his head and spraying him with pepper spray.
Green lurched backward in his chair when the jury foreman announced the first of the five “not guilty” verdicts. After County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas adjourned court, he hugged Eoannou and law student Jillina Wallace, who assisted with the defense.
“An innocent man can easily be charged,” said Green, who has a previous robbery conviction that required him to give a DNA sample for the state database.
It was matched to the DNA on the handcuffs, and Green was arrested in February. No one else has been charged in the case.
When a reporter asked Green how his DNA got on the handcuffs, Eoannou leaned in and said, “He doesn’t know.”