Prosecution rests in Haffa trial
Defense expected to finish today
MAYVILLE — Jurors were in the courtroom a little over two hours Thursday afternoon as the prosecution rested and the defense began to lay out its case in the Justin Haffa attempted murder trial.
The prosecution added nothing more to its case after jurors entered the Chautauqua County Courtroom to begin proceedings at 1 p.m. Before the defense began to call witnesses, Public Defender Ned Barone moved to dismiss the three-count indictment against his client. Barone stated the prosecution failed to meet the burden of proof in the counts of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree robbery and aggravated assault on a police officer.
In the first count of first-degree attempted murder, Barone indicated the prosecution didn’t prove that Haffa attempted to choke Sheriff’s Deputy Sara Cunningham, nor did they prove intent to kill by use of a knife he allegedly had.
“There’s nothing to indicate intent to kill her,” he said.
As for the second count of first-degree robbery, Barone said Haffa took the gun from the deputy after she fired two shots. Barone said Haffa took it to avoid being shot. With the aggravated assault on a police officer, Barone said there’s nothing to show that he caused serious physical harm to the deputy.
In rebuttal, District Attorney Patrick Swanson said sufficient evidence shows Haffa choked Cunningham, Haffa pointed a knife at her and that Haffa snatched the gun from her while on the ground. Swanson also said a witness testified seeing Haffa pointing a gun in the general direction to where Cunningham was located.
The Hon. David Foley denied the defense’s motion and stated there was sufficient evidence. The defense subsequently presented its case by calling Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Lombardo to the stand.
Lombardo was sent to Cunningham’s home following the Sept. 11, 2016, incident to collect her uniform. Upon arrival, Lombardo said Cunningham’s uniform was in the washing machine. Lombardo told Barone he left the residence without the uniform in hand.
Barone then called Sheriff’s Sgt. Josh Ostrander to the stand to discuss his role in searching Haffa for contraband and checking for injuries at the Sheriff’s Office in Mayville. Through questioning, Ostrander told Barone that Haffa had redness on his chest and back.
In addition, Ostrander said he was advised to check Haffa’s anus after he said he hid a knife there. Nothing was observed, and X-rays taken at Westfield Memorial Hospital on Sept. 11, 2016, found nothing out of the ordinary.
Sheriff’s Investigator Kristie Lyon and Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Baideme were the final witnesses brought to the stand Thursday. Lyon, who was in charge of evidence collection, was questioned by Barone about items gathered from Haffa and a swab she took from Cunningham.
Barone questioned Baideme, a certified drug recognition expert, regarding the drug influence evaluation he performed on Haffa around 11 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2016. Based on the test, Baideme told Barone he felt Haffa was impaired and unable to operate a vehicle safety.
“He performed poorly,” Baideme said.
Court recessed around 3:15 p.m Thursday. Proceedings will resume this morning.