Schenectady County

Schenectady jail assault case of drug convict under tight rules

Fresh off being sentenced last week to 12 years on a drug conviction, a city murder suspect was b


Fresh off being sentenced last week to 12 years on a drug conviction, a city murder suspect was back in court Tuesday, standing trial in a jail assault case.

Shawndell Johnson is accused of going after the brother of the man he is accused of killing, injuring a corrections officer in the process. Johnson, 25, formerly of Becker Street, faces one count of second-degree assault.

He is accused of injuring the arm of corrections officer Steven Redmond as Redmond broke up a fight between Johnson and inmate Demetrius Howard Jan. 21.

Howard, prosecutors have said previously, is the brother of Ulysses Canty, who Johnson is now accused of killing Sept. 1, 2008. But that connection won’t be told to the jury. Judge Michael V. Coccoma ruled earlier that the information about the alleged murder connection would be prejudicial to the jury.

Prosecutor Katie McCutcheon argued at pre-trial that Howard’s status as Canty’s brother would be a motive for the assault.

To the jury Tuesday, McCutcheon simply told the jury they wouldn’t hear the motive. The jury also wouldn’t hear from Howard, she said, because the case isn’t about him, it’s about Johnson and Redmond.

She also argued that Howard submitted to officers’ demands after the fight broke out, but Johnson continued to struggle, causing Redmond’s injuries. Redmond was out of work for six months.

But defense attorney Adam Parisi, in his opening statements, argued that Johnson was defending himself from Howard. Parisi argued that Howard had a motive to go after Johnson. Without describing it exactly, Parisi argued that Howard’s motive was that Johnson had been involved with “something” involving Howard’s brother or step-brother.

Johnson was sentenced last week to 12 years in state prison, the maximum allowed, after being convicted of in an unrelated drug case.

The jury in that case found that Johnson sold crack cocaine Nov. 19, 2008, on Oakland Avenue. The jury acquitted him of two other alleged sales on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, 2008. Johnson was arrested in the drug case in November 2008. It was while in jail on that case that the January 2009 jail assault incident happened.

It wasn’t until September 2009 that Johnson was indicted in Canty’s killing. That case remains pending.

In the Canty killing, Johnson allegedly went to the Albany Street address of Canty earlier that day, Sept. 1, 2008, to purchase marijuana. He had also been in a car accident earlier in the day and was looking for quick cash to fix the car, prosecutors have said.

But the robbery didn’t go as planned, prosecutors said. Johnson is accused of firing through a door and killing Canty. After the shooting, Johnson and others fled empty handed. Authorities said they found scales and other drug paraphernalia inside the apartment, but no cache of drugs.

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