Three counts of burglary. What does that mean?
It means there are three separate burglary charges. He could be charged with different degrees of burglary for the same incident, or it could be multiple incidents. In short, burglary is the unlawful entry or remaining in a building with the intent to commit a crime therein. Essentially that is 3rd degree burglary. The degree is elevated when the building is a residence, or when a weapon/force is used.
What sort of punishment does a burglary charge carry?
For third degree burglary, this is a Class D Felony, carrying a minimum term of 1-3 years in state prison, a maximum of 2-7 years in state prison, with options for simply a year in the local jail, a split sentence of six months in jail with five years probation, or simply five years probation. 2nd degree burglary is a Class C (violent) Felony, carrying a minimum of 3.5 years in state prison and a maximum 15 years in state prison; a period of 2.5-5 years of Post-Release Supervision is also mandatory. For first degree burglary, a Class B (violent) Felony, the mandatory state prison time is 5-25 years, with 2.5-5 years Post-Release Supervision. No matter the degree, any sentence will usually include fines, surcharges, and restitution (if applicable).
What about grand larceny and petit larceny?
Larceny is the stealing of another's property. Petit Larceny generally refers to goods valued under $1000. Grand Larceny, with various exceptions (i.e. credit cards) covers items over $1000. Grand Larceny itself is broken up into various degrees with different sentencing schemes. Grand Larceny is the felony, where state prison time becomes an option.
Cater's bail is set at $150,000/$300,000. That seems quite high. What gives?
It is quite high. Bail is generally supposed to be a method to ensure a defendant appears for all future court appearances. Factors to consider when bail is set include: the severity of the charges; the defendant's ties to the community; the defendant's criminal history; the defendant's past track record of attending court appearances. There are other factors, but these are the main ones. From what we're hearing, Cater had somewhat of a troubled youth (football helped turn his life around); he's from Long Island; and he is accused of burgling (yes, this is a word) more than one residence on more than one date. These were no doubt factors the Court considered in setting bail as it did.
What's the next step in the legal process?
It appears Cater was formally arraigned on these felony complaints and misdemeanor informations on Sunday. If an attorney was not retained, the Court will assign him an attorney. He is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing for the Court to rule on whether reasonable cause exists that Cater committed one or more felonies and should be held in custody pending action by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury must meet and hear evidence in order to formally charge him with the felonies for which he can be prosecuted -- this is called an indictment. If the Court, after the Preliminary Hearing, holds him in custody for possible Grand Jury action, the Grand Jury then has 45 days to hear his case. If the Grand Jury takes no action by then, he must be released. If a Grand Jury does indeed indict him on one or more felonies, then his case will be transferred to the Onondaga County Court for arraignment, motions, plea negotiations, and possible trial.
The evidence seems to be eye witness reports, and footprints in the snow. He's screwed, right?
In short, quite possibly. Whether it's him or someone else, the fact that footprints in the snow might be the most damning piece of evidence shows us that we're not dealing with a smart criminal. Though, many criminals aren't what we'd call smart. In any event, his defense attorney should be looking at whether he has an alibi (was somewhere else at the time of the crimes), and how reliable the eye witness is. Generally, eye witnesses are horrible. A number of things can go wrong -- the lighting could be bad, the person's memory might not be good, the description can be wrong. That's what I'd be probing as a defense attorney. But, it certainly doesn't help when the police recovered stolen items from your residence.
You were spot on with your prediction of how the Delone Carter case would be resolved. What are your thoughts on this one?
Knowing what I know at this time, I think Cater gets some jail time. Assuming all the stolen property was recovered, I assume he gets the split sentence of six months in jail followed by five years probation. That probation could then be transferred to Suffolk County, where Cater is from. This takes into account his unstellar history as a youth. To be eligible for this sentence, he must not be convicted of burglary in the second degree, which carries mandatory state prison. If the defense lawyer sees the writing on the wall, he (or she) is immediately negotiating with the District Attorney for a plea before the Grand Jury hears the case. He could agree to a Superior Court Information (SCI), instead of a Grand Jury Indictment, to get the case into County Court. If this SCI charges him with 3rd degree Burglary, then that split sentence would be a viable option. This is how I see things shaking out.
These are the most relevant questions I can think of off the top of my head. Anyone with further questions can post them to the comments section and I'll try to get the answers out there. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to keep checking in at Orange::44 for all the latest developments in this case and the legal interpretations.