Schenectady County

Hearing considers murder suspect’s attorney

A young city man killed in September 2008 was caught in the crossfire between two shooters, felled b

A young city man killed in September 2008 was caught in the crossfire between two shooters, felled by shots from one of them, according to a defense account Friday of the expected prosecution case against the accused killer.

The account, from attorney Mark Sacco, came as a hearing in the second-degree murder case against Jeremiah Hamilton was set to begin.

Questions had been raised about whether Sacco could continue to represent Hamilton, because he represented a key witness in an unrelated case about five years ago.

The testimony from the witness, identified as Victor Toomer, is key in that Toomer allegedly first fired at Hamilton, Sacco told the court.

“His testimony will be along the lines of he was at the scene of a crime and was firing a weapon at my client,” Sacco said in Schenectady County Court. “The testimony, I believe, will be that my client fired a weapon back at him and I believe that the testimony will be that [Toomer] witnessed a third party get shot and ultimately that person died.”

Hamilton was indicted in January, accused in the Sept. 13, 2008, killing of 20-year-old Jerome G. Cannon Jr. Authorities said in 2008 that a dispute that erupted over a dice game on Lincoln Avenue led to the gunfire.

Hamilton was in court Friday for the pretrial hearing in the case. He also formally rejected a plea offer.

Prosecutor Amy Monahan told the court that the offer was for Hamilton to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of 20 years to life. With the rejection, that offer was taken off the table. Any offer from Friday on, she said, would be a minimum of 21 years to life.

Hamilton is already serving up to eight years in state prison on an attempted murder conviction from the Bronx, officials have confirmed.

Hamilton was charged with murder in Cannon’s death, along with one count of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment.

Authorities have not said who they believe Cannon was trying to kill, but Sacco’s comments Friday suggest that was Toomer.

Toomer, 25, of Schenectady, pleaded guilty earlier this month in Schenectady County court to one count each of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, both felonies.

In the weapons count, Toomer admitted to possessing a weapon Sept. 13, 2008, on Lincoln Avenue, the time and place where Cannon was killed.

He was also swept up in a federal drug indictment last October. He pleaded guilty last month to related charges in that case and faces up to life in federal prison, records show.

Toomer’s attorney in the local drug and weapons cases, Steve Signore, could not be reached for comment Friday.

At issue at the start of Friday’s hearing was whether Sacco could continue. That Sacco represented Toomer five years ago could present problems at the trial, during cross-examination of Toomer.

Toomer has refused to waive any attorney-client confidentiality from that previous case, which could limit Sacco’s questioning.

After speaking with attorney Steve Kouray, appointed to represent him on the issue, Hamilton decided to keep Sacco on as attorney.

But Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago stressed to Hamilton that it was an important decision. Hamilton ultimately indicated he would consider the issue further.

Cannon was shot once in the head outside 827 Lincoln Ave. just before 9:30 p.m.

He was taken to Albany Medical Center but died from his injuries the next day.

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