Sentencing leads to a reversal in Gropp murder case

ALBANY–The conviction of Mickey Miller on a charge of second degree attempted robbery in connection with the 2004 home invasion that led to the slaying of fruit farmer Henry Gropp was reversed by a state Appellate Division court May 7.

Mr. Miller, 36 at the time of the crimes, of Hudson, was one of five people originally charged with second degree murder and second degree burglary for breaking into the Gropp home on Mill Road in Livingston, November 1, 2004 at about 4 a.m. At the trials of three of the defendants, testimony established that a plan was hatched to break into the Gropp home and steal payroll money they thought the farmer kept there. But during the quest for cash, Mr. Gropp, 69, was stabbed to death.

Mr. Miller, then defended by Attorney Greg Lubow, cut a plea deal with District Attorney Beth Cozzolino and on June 24, 2005 pleaded guilty to second degree attempted robbery, a Class D violent felony. The DA then withdrew the original indictment.

Columbia County Judge Paul Czajka sentenced Mr. Miller as a “second felony offender” to seven years in prison, the maximum allowable, and three-years of post-prison supervision. But according to the recent appeals court ruling, penal law requires that the period of post-release supervision for such a conviction “shall be five years.”

Mr. Miller pleaded guilty to the robbery charge and the determinate sentence that went along with it, including the post-release supervision component of the sentence.

The appellate court held that Mr. Miller should have been made aware of the correct mandated post-release supervision requirement of five years so he could “knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently choose among alternative courses of action, the failure of a court to advise of post-release supervision requires reversal of the conviction.”  

Hillsdale Attorney Alexander Bloomstein filed the appeal for Mr. Miller, who is now represented by Attorney Veronica M. Kosich of Catskill. Ms. Kosich did not return a call for comment about the case.

Mr. Miller is set to appear for trial August 11 in Columbia County Court on the second degree robbery charge to which he previously pleaded guilty. But before that trial happens, the DA could decide to re-indict Mr. Miller, now 40, on the original charges or present the case again to a grand jury, which could decide to indict on the same or different charges.

If a new indictment is handed down, the August 11 trial would not go forward and the case would start from scratch.

Many facets of the multi-defendant case were the subject of controversy, including a delay in the turning over of evidence to the defense by the DA’s Office, court-imposed sanctions and criticism by some defense attorneys of the plea deals struck by the DA with two of the defendants.

Other defendants in the case were:

*Hector DeJesus, then 24, who was convicted during trial of both the murder and burglary charges June 21, 2005 and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. His conviction was upheld on appeal November 8, 2007.

*Christopher Anderson, then 17, was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of second degree burglary July 11, 2005 at trail and was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison and 5 years of post-release supervision. His conviction was upheld February 21, 2008.

*Tina Brandt, then 21, was found not guilty of both murder and burglary during a joint trial with her brother, Mr. Anderson, July 11, 2005.

*Marquice Lee, then 16, pleaded guilty to third degree burglary November 30, 2005 as part of plea deal with the DA. He was sentenced January 18, 2006 to an indeterminate term of incarceration in state prison, having a maximum of 7 years and a minimum of 2 1/3 years.

DA Cozzolino did not return a call for comment on the Miller case.

To contact Diane Valden email .  

 

 

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