HUDSON–Quintin E. Cross, a former Hudson City alderman and majority leader, and Jamont McClendon, both of Hudson, got early Christmas presents when the third degree burglary charges against each of them were dismissed this week.
After County Judge Jonathan Nichols ordered Hudson Police to disclose all their evidence in the case back in August, County District Attorney Paul Czajka presented the case to a Grand Jury for a second time and the Grand Jury members voted not to indict the men.
That Grand Jury decision was unsealed in Columbia County Court, Monday, December 10.
In a phone interview this week Mr. Cross told The Columbia Paper that while he’s relieved to have the case closed, there are aspects of it that people should know about. To that end he provided copies of court documents including letters, one from the DA’s office to Judge Nichols, two from his defense attorney, Susan Tipograph, which focus on evidence or the lack thereof in the case and Judge Nichols’ July 18 decision, which among other things, denied defense requests to inspect the Grand Jury minutes and to dismiss the indictment due to legal insufficiency.
Mr. Cross and Mr. McClendon were charged in connection with a break-in at City Hall at 520 Warren Street that occurred over the weekend of March 17 and 18. Entry was made through a second-floor back door. Cash and change amounting to less than $100 was taken. Custodial staff discovered the crime and reported it just after 6 a.m. March 19.
Though Mr. Cross went to the Hudson Police station voluntarily the morning of March 19 following the break-in to be interviewed by detectives and was not arrested, City Police subsequently issued wanted bulletins on both men. Mr. McClendon was captured the evening of April 3 in a State Street apartment after police received an anonymous tip about where he was hiding out. Police said Mr. McClendon struggled with them when they tried to take him into custody and additionally charged him with resisting arrest.
Mr. Cross turned himself in at the police station with Attorney Tipograph the morning of April 30. At their respective arraignments, both men pleaded not guilty.
They were held in the Columbia County Jail without bail until August 17. That’s when Judge Nichols called for a conference on the case because of a letter he received from Ms. Tipograph about the late receipt of evidence.
In a letter dated August 8, Assistant District Attorney Dominic J. Cornelius wrote to the court and sent copies to the two defense attorneys—Ms. Tipograph for Mr. Cross and John Leonardson for Mr. McClendon—to say that a CD containing single frames from the City Hall surveillance tape and a DVD of the police interview of Mr. Cross “were withheld from this office. In no way am I pointing blame at any other individual or entity. I accept full responsibility for the failure to timely supply these materials to Ms. Tipograph, notwithstanding our lack of knowledge.”
In her letter to the court that prompted the August 17 conference, which resulted in the release of both men on bail, Ms. Tipograph wrote, “It would appear that either [the DA’s] office failed to exercise due diligence and/or the HPD intentionally or recklessly withheld these materials.” In either case, the attorney asked that the court make sure all discoverable materials were provided to the defense.
The police interview of Mr. Cross shown on the DVD, which she had been seeking for months prior was about 50 minutes long making it “hard to imagine how it could have been overlooked,” said Ms. Tipograph. On the DVD, Hudson Police Detective John Funk tells Mr. Cross that police have footprint, fingerprint, DNA and video evidence against him, yet Ms. Tipograph said she was advised by the DA’s office that no forensic or scientific evidence existed. In her letter, she asked to court to find out if the detective was misleading her client or whether such evidence is real.
Ms. Tipograph points out that during the interview, the detective shows Mr. Cross a photograph taken from the surveillance tape of one of the perpetrators and asks him if it looks like a man the detective calls “Mike.” (The detective also identified “Mike” by a last name that is not reported here because no one by that name has been charged in the case.) Ms. Tipograph requested any mug shots of “Mike” and any other information law enforcement officials might have indicating that the second burglar might be “Mike” and not Mr. Cross. The lawyer received no response.
The attorney also points out that Mr. Cross told police he was at home with his mother and sister the night of the burglary and requested, as she had done in the past, that police produce any witness information they had to support that alibi.
“I am very concerned about what credible evidence, if any, exists implicating Mr. Cross in this burglary or was shown to the Grand Jury. The persons reflected in the surveillance tape simply do not resemble Mr. Cross and, indeed, Detective Funk pointed to the photograph of the person who was allegedly not Mr. McClendon and identified him as someone other than Quintin Cross,” Attorney Tipograph wrote.
After receiving correspondence from ADA Cornelius about the possibility of the DA’s office re-presenting the case to a new Grand Jury, Ms. Tipograph said in a September 7 letter that she was opposed to the idea and did not believe it was possible for Mr. Cross to get a fair hearing before a Grand Jury due to the extensive media coverage, Mr. Cross’ political history and criminal record.
She called the existing indictment “factually insufficient and legally improper and must be dismissed.”
Yet DA Czajka did present the case again to a Grand Jury “because of circumstances that came to my attention” that he cannot discuss, he told The Columbia Paper. “Given the circumstances,” the DA said, “it was a just decision.”
Asked for her reaction to the dismissal, Ms. Tipograph said, “We are grateful the case is over. Mr. Cross looks forward to moving forward with his life, which includes fulfilling his restitution obligation to the City of Hudson.”
Mr. Cross was convicted in 2007 of one count of fourth degree grand larceny for stealing thousands of dollars from the city during his term as alderman by making unauthorized charges on city credit cards.
He still owes the city $16,000. Ms. Tipograph said her client hopes to finish school and get a job. “He takes no glee in not being able to pay back the money” and wants to live up to his obligation.
In his comments about the case, Mr. Cross said that though the Constitution is supposed to guarantee equal protection under the law, he “had to have a brilliant attorney… to enforce those protections.”
Calling the case against him insufficient from the start, Mr. Cross said he had “seen the phrase: You can indict a ham sandwich—become a reality.” He concluded by noting that upon “a full airing of facts, the people of Columbia County stood up and rejected the indictment.”
A call to Hudson Police Chief Ellis Richardson about the case was not returned.
To contact Diane Valden email .