Conviction of sex offender upheld by county court

ALBANY — The 2015 Montgomery County Court conviction of a sex offender, and his 10-year prison sentence, was upheld Thursday by the state Appellate Division.

David J. Santana of Amsterdam — represented by attorney Thomas F. Garner of Middleburgh — had appealed his conviction.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office was the respondent.

But Appellate Court judges in Albany Thursday affirmed Santana’s conviction and prison sentence.

The decision noted that Santana appealed a March 27, 2015 Montgomery County Court jury verdict convicting him of second-degree criminal sexual act, second-degree sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child. He also appealed a court order rendered June 27, 2017, which denied Santana’s motion to vacate the judgment of conviction without a hearing.

Court papers indicated Santana was sentenced, as a second child sexual assault felony offender, to a prison term of 10 years, to be followed by 10 years of post-release supervision. The victim testified that she was born in 2000 and, at the time of the incident, resided with, among others, the defendant.

“Although a different verdict would not have been unreasonable, when we view the evidence in a neutral light and defer to the jury’s credibility determinations, we find that the verdict is supported by the weight of the evidence,” the appellate decision stated.

Appellate judges also noted that Santana also contended that County Court “erred by admitting the testimonies regarding the victim’s disclosure of sexual abuse. However, as defendant acknowledges, he failed to object to the statements and, thus, his contention is unpreserved.”

The court also rejected Santana’s contention that his counsel was “ineffective.”

“To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant is required to demonstrate that he or she was not provided meaningful representation and that there is an absence of strategic or other legitimate explanations for counsel’s allegedly deficient conduct,” the decision said.

“We are also unpersuaded that defendant’s sentence, which fell within the statutory parameters, was harsh or excessive,” the decision added.

Appellate judges stated: “Given defendant’s criminal record, the reprehensible nature of his behavior with a young victim and his inability to take responsibility for his actions, we find no extraordinary circumstances or abuse of discretion warranting a reduction of the sentence in the interest of justice.”

The decision said judges rejected Santana’s contention that Montgomery County Court “erred” in denying the motion to vacate his conviction without a hearing.

“County Court properly denied defendant’s CPL 440.10 motion without a hearing, as defendant did not support his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel with factual allegations that, if established, would entitle him to relief,” appellate judges said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.