The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg
Judge DiBella Unseals Murder Indictment
Westchester County Court, White Plains
Judge Robert DiBella Presiding
Wednesday morning August 30th Abraham Ghaly, 17, appeared before County Court Judge Robert DiBella for the unsealing of an eleven-count indictment, charging him with Second Degree Murder, and Second Degree
Manslaughter amongst a host of other charges. Several members of the Defendant’s family were present in the courtroom, as Ghaly, who is represented by Attorney Andrew Sayegh, of Yonkers, was led in by court officers.
The Defendant was arrested upon returning from North Carolina on August 5th, and had been held in the County Jail since that date. The charges against Ghaly and four other youths stem from an incident last year, in Yonkers, in which it is alleged he and the others stomped a Mexican immigrant, named Vega, to death. The Defendant’s Attorney, in his opening remarks to the Court, attempted to suggest that his client was, in fact, innocent of the more serious counts of Indictment #06-0863.
Upon unsealing the indictment Judge DiBella stated, “The Court has unsealed Indictment 0863 of 06. I believe there are a dozen copies. I am handing down all but one of them.” He went on, “Mr. Sayegh, you’ve had an opportunity to read the indictment?”
Attorney Sayegh responded, “Yes your Honor. I waive a reading of it, and plead not guilty.” DiBella then informed counsel, “The conference date for all the codefendants is September 22nd.” The Judge asked if that date would be okay with Sayegh.
Sayegh responded that the date was not a problem, and then went on to begin making a case for reasonable bail. He told DiBella, “This is an elevencount indictment, but my client is charged with only five counts, and not the top count.” He went on, “There is no evidence of any type tying my client to the murder, no weapon, no DNA, nothing.”
Sayegh now attempted to separate the Defendant in the Court’s mind from the four co-defendants involved in the killing. He told the Judge, “On August seventh the DA filed a Certificate of Indictment. I learned that two, or more, of the defendants were arraigned by Your Honor. My client has been in custody since August fifth. That’s twenty-five days. He did drop out of Gorton High School, but he achieved a G.E.D. and has been accepted
into a two-year college. I would ask Your Honor to consider one hundred thousand dollars bail.”
At this point Assistant DA Paula Branca-Santos spoke up, declaring, “This particular Defendant took an active role in the stomping death of the victim, a person of Mexican descent, a Mr. Vega. It was this Defendant who, after the first round of attacks, when the victim was trying to get up, pulled him down. There is a statement by a non-codefendant that the Defendant did that.”
She went further to undermine Sayegh’s assertions, “In November of 2005 the Defendant’s own family filed a Missing Persons Report with the Yonkers Police. The People request a remand of the Defendant, or, if Your
Honor is inclined to set bail, five hundred thousand dollars bail.”
Judge DiBella, having heard the arguments from each attorney, now told Sayegh, “He is charged with Second Degree Murder under the second count of the indictment, an A-Felony. He has been charged by a grand jury.
To say he is not involved is to negate the actions of the grand jury. The police went to his house, and his parents were either unable, or unwilling, to tell the police where he was. In light of all of these facts I do not believe one
hundred thousand dollars is adequate.”
DiBella having arrived at his decision, now announced, “At this time I believe five hundred thousand dollars bond or three hundred thousand cash is more appropriate. And, Mr. Sayegh, if bail is posted he is not to leave the State of New York at any time without my permission.”
DiBella turned to the Defendant, “Mr. Gahly do you understand what has happened here?” The Defendant responded, “Yes sir.” Defense Attorney Sayegh after informing the Court that his client had a medical condition which required attention while in jail, and receiving assurances from DiBella that the matter would be attended to, then proceeded to further attempt to separate the Defendant from his co-defendants.
Sayegh stated, “I understand there are nine confessions from four codefendants. We will be making a motion to sever my client from the other four co-defendants, because of these confessions. I have asked Mr. Scholar, (an ADA involved in the case) for a copy of those confessions on two occasions.”
ADA Branca-Santos jumped in, “The question is whether Mr. Sayegh is entitled to a copy of those statements at this time? It is my position that he is not.” Judge DiBella then advised, “Mr. Sayegh, I suggest you make a formal
demand for those statements.”