The attorney for a 13-year-old boy charged with sexually abusing and killing another 13-year-old boy in a Black Rock field has a potential conflict of interest in the case because his wife is a reading teacher and knows the defendant’s younger brother and sister from school.
Both siblings are expected to be called as prosecution witnesses if the case goes to trial.
As a result, Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio on Monday gave Jean Sanchez and his mother, Lisbeth Ramos, two weeks to decide if they want to continue with Paul G. Dell as the defendant’s attorney or request a new attorney.
The judge noted that if the case goes to trial, Dell would be cross-examining Sanchez’s brother and sister, if the prosecution calls them to testify at trial.
She said the fact that Dell’s wife knows the two potential witnesses from her interactions with them at Buffalo’s Herman Badillo School could affect his cross-examination of them.
DiTullio told Sanchez and his mother, through a Spanish interpreter, that she could appoint a second attorney to represent Sanchez, along with Dell. That attorney would cross-examine the siblings.
The judge also noted that Ramos has a potential conflict of interest since she is the mother of the defendant and of two possible witnesses against her son. Because of that, the judge said she will appoint another attorney as guardian ad litem to advise Sanchez on the potential conflicts.
She told Sanchez and his mother to return to court Aug. 5.
During Monday’s hearing, Dell said his wife told him that as a reading specialist, she taught Sanchez’s sister and also knows his brother.
Assistant District Attorney Danielle Soluri told the judge that prosecutors were concerned about potential risks if Dell continues as Sanchez’s attorney.
She also asked the judge to inquire whether Dell has discussed his potential conflict with the defendant and his mother and whether they understand the charges and the range of sentences Sanchez faces if convicted.
Sanchez has been charged as an adult with second-degree murder, first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree criminal sexual act. Because of his age, he faces a minimum prison sentence of five years to life and a maximum of nine years to life, instead of the minimum 15 to life and maximum 25 to life for an adult.
Dell told the judge he discussed the potential conflict of interest with Sanchez and his mother. The judge also asked Sanchez and his mother if they were aware of the potential conflict. They said they were.
The judge then adjourned the case to give them time to decide whether to continue with Dell as their attorney.
Sanchez, of Germain Street, was indicted last month on charges of sexually attacking Ameer Al Shammari, of Peter Street, before strangling the Iraqi immigrant May 2 in a field off Amherst Street. He also was charged with misdemeanor petit larceny for allegedly stealing Ameer’s cellphone earlier that day.
Sanchez, a native of Puerto Rico, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is being held without bail.
Dell is seeking to move the case from Erie County Court to Family Court.