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Trial of Safyre’s mom delayed

Trial of Safyre’s mom delayed

The perjury trial of Safyre Terry’s biological mother has been pushed off again, this time after pro
Trial of Safyre’s mom delayed
Jennica Duell is escorted from federal court in Albany after answering to a perjury charge over the fatal Hulett Street arson fire this file photo from November 12, 2014.

The perjury trial of Safyre Terry’s biological mother has been pushed off again, this time after prosecutors filed a new perjury indictment against her earlier this month.

Jennica Duell’s trial is now set to begin July 18 in federal court in Albany.

In the meantime, the court on Monday set a “change of plea” hearing for May 16.

Such hearings are generally opportunities for defendants to consider changing their pleas from not guilty to guilty.

Duell’s defense attorney, Cheryl Coleman, could not be reached for comment Monday. The hearing is set for the day the trial had been set to begin.

Duell’s trial has been postponed several times for various reasons. This delay appeared to be related to the new indictment, something Coleman said last week could happen as a result.

Duell is accused of lying to a federal grand jury investigating the 2013 Schenectady arson that maimed Safyre Terry and killed three of Duell’s other children, along with their father.

Duell’s original account bolstered charges against the man originally charged with setting the fire, Robert A. Butler. Butler spent nine months in jail before being freed after a second suspect emerged, Edward Leon of St. Johnsville.

Prosecutors freed Butler and later pursued two perjury charges against Leon. They won convictions against Leon on both, then consecutive five-year sentences last month. Leon denies setting the fire.

Duell and Leon were first indicted in 2014, more than a year after the May 2, 2013, blaze at 438 Hulett St. that killed David Terry, 32, his children Layah, 3, Michael, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months. Safyre, found by firefighters in her father’s arms, suffered severe injuries and underwent a long recovery that continues.

Duell has been in custody since her November 2014 arrest on a single perjury count. The new indictment divided those accusations into five separate counts.

She is accused of giving contradictory statements to the grand jury concerning the nature of her relationships with David Terry and Butler, and on several other matters.

Last Wednesday, following Duell’s arraignment on the new indictment, Coleman reiterated previous defense arguments that Duell fabricated her initial account under pressure from authorities.

Judge Gary L. Sharpe, in an order filed Monday, appeared to take exception at the breadth of Coleman’s comments to the media, reminding her in an order of the district’s “Free Press-Fair Trial Directives.”

The section references attorney comments that would interfere with a fair trial or prejudice administration of justice. Sharpe did not mention specific comments attributed to Coleman that may have violated the directive, only a particular newspaper article. But he wrote that “disciplinary action may be taken against any attorney who violates” the rule.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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