LOCKPORT – Willie R. Scott Jr., accused of shooting a 2-year-old Niagara Falls girl in the face while he was trying to shoot a man who was with her, needs a new attorney.
Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III ruled Thursday that Angelo Musitano cannot represent Scott because Musitano once represented the girl’s mother, Sharonda Platt, in her own criminal case in Niagara Falls City Court.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann moved for Musitano to be replaced because of a perceived conflict of interest. Musitano resisted, but Murphy sided with the prosecution.
“It’s with great reluctance that I do that, because you bring great professionalism to every case,” Murphy told Musitano. “You did formerly and extensively represent Ms. Platt, and your duty to your former client continues.”
Platt is expected to testify if Scott goes to trial, because although she didn’t see the shooting, she rushed the girl to the hospital. The conflict Hoffmann saw pertained to how effectively Musitano could cross-examine Platt.
The child, now 3, still has a bullet fragment in her left cheek. She was shot Nov. 27 as she sat in a car outside the Hometown Market on Pierce Avenue in the Falls. Hoffmann has said three rounds were fired from a .357-caliber handgun.
Musitano said he has lined up another attorney for Scott, who will meet him Sunday at the County Jail. If all goes well, the new attorney is to make his first court appearance with Scott on March 21.
Hoffmann said the County Public Defender’s and Conflict Defender’s offices cannot participate in the case because they once represented another prosecution witness.
Scott, 32, of LaSalle Avenue in the Falls, is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree criminal use of a firearm.
In another case before Murphy on Thursday, the attorney for Tyler S. Best, the Buffalo man accused of helping a Niagara Falls man stuff a 5-year-old girl’s body into a garbage tote, said he has filed a motion to have Best tried separately from the alleged killer.
Best, 18, of Barnard Street, went to Falls police Aug. 27, the day after Isabella S. Tennant allegedly was strangled while being watched in her great-grandparents’ home by John R. Freeman Jr., 17, of Sixth Street in the Falls. Best told police where the corpse was – in a wheeled garbage tote in an alley.
Freeman is charged with murder, and Best with a felony count of tampering with physical evidence.
Murphy said he won’t rule on the severance motion from James J. Faso Jr., Best’s lawyer, until he rules on whether Freeman’s statements to police, including a confession, are admissible.
Murphy is expected to rule on that question April 4, so Best’s next court date was set for April 5.