Monahan pleads not guilty, judge wants September trial

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Kevin Monahan listens to his attorney Kurt Mausert while surrounded by courtroom officers during his arraignment. (Pool photo by Justin Wambach, WNYT)

Updated May 26, 12:39 p.m.

To no one’s surprise, 65-year-old Kevin Monahan pled not guilty to all counts in his indictment for the shooting death of 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis at his arraignment in Washington County Court on Wednesday, May 24.

County Court Judge Adam Michelini remanded Monahan back to jail without bail but not before saying the trial should be held in early September – a decision that the defense attorney strongly protested as too soon, given all the preparation that must be accomplished before trial.

Gillis, of Schuylerville, was killed on April 15 when the SUV driven by her boyfriend pulled into Monahan’s driveway on Patterson Hill Road in Hebron by mistake. The couple and two others in the vehicle were looking for another address when Monahan is alleged to have fired twice a 12-gauge shotgun, one round striking Gillis.

In bed

Court documents released following the arraignment show the Washington County Sheriff’s deputies originally responded to Monahan’s residence for a noise complaint. According to those documents, Monahan said he had been in bed since 8:30 p.m. and said there had been hunters and dogs in the area earlier. He also told troopers and deputies he wished they would leave so he could go back to bed. In the original court appearance Monahan’s attorney Mausert admitted his client fired a gun but indicated it was in self-defense.

Arguments over bail

Monahan’s attorney Kurt Mausert again pressed Judge Michelini to set bail for his client, contending the criteria in the 2nd degree murder charge had changed since the original arrest.

Mausert said the charge at that time indicated criminal intent, but the indictment actually cites depraved indifference. He argued that while it still fits in the New York State statute for Murder 2nd, it is a stepdown in severity.

Judge Michelini called the difference “inconsequential” and repeated his earlier statements that because of the length of a possible sentence upon any conviction, he still considered Monahan to be a flight risk.

Mausert also contended the judge had misinterpreted state statutes concerning previous weapons convictions, claiming his client had no history of weapons abuse. Judge Michelini also rejected that claim, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling on Mausert’s writ of habeas corpus that his (Michelini’s) initial decision to not allow bail was lawful.

Mausert also complained about his ability to consult with his client while he is incarcerated in the Warren County Jail. Mausert said he has met with Monahan three times and each time there was a correction officer no more than 15 feet away. He said in court, “I’ll be damned if I am going to talk about the intricacies of a murder trial with a corrections office within earshot.”

Mausert said it makes no difference that the officer had been instructed not to speak about anything he might have overheard. At a news conference following the arraignment, Mausert did thank Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan for offering to expedite arrangements to have Monahan transported to the Washington County Courthouse for private conversations, if Mausert so wished.

‘I see no way any local judge in Washington or Warren Counties is going to sign a bail release form.’

Kurt Mausert, Kevin Monahan’s lawyer
Monahan’s defense attorney speaks at a press conference following the arraignment of his client in Washington County Court. (Photo by Doug La Rocque)

Fireworks in the courtroom

Judge Michelini set July 10 as the date for either the prosecution or defense to file pre-trial motions and Sept. 7 as the date for jury selection to begin with the actual trial to start on Sept. 11. Mausert vehemently opposed these dates, claiming there was no way he could be ready by then.

He cited the amount of discovery evidence recently turned over by the DA’s office, calling it very large, perhaps as many as 2,000 pages. He also spoke of the need to obtain a co-counsel and expert witnesses.

District Attorney Jordan stated his office is ready to proceed to trial. Judge Michelini again rejected Mausert’s arguments and said the trial dates will stand. Speaking during his press conference, Mausert said he will ask the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court (the state’s second highest court) for a stay of Judge Michelini’s decision.

Not hopeful for bail

Asked by reporters if he plans to appeal the no-bail decision again to the Appellate Division, Mausert stated he would leave that decision up to his client. He added: “I see no way any local judge in Washington or Warren Counties is going to sign a bail release form.” He called the reasons for that conclusion obvious.

New evidence

Speaking during the courtroom proceeding, DA Jordan said the forensic conclusions contained in the State Police investigation indicated the fatal shot was fired from above the vehicle, striking Gillis in a downward angle. During his press conference, Jordan explained the shot apparently came from Monahan’s porch, entering the vehicle through the post behind the passenger’s seat.

He also said it was very fortunate no one else was injured. Jordan said he could not elaborate any further about the evidence contained in the investigation by the troopers and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Mausert claimed Jordan’s statement was nothing new.

Following the arraignment, Monahan was returned to the Warren County Correctional Facility. Washington County Sheriff Larry Murphy earlier characterized that as an “administrative decision.” While he did not elaborate, the decision is said to have been made because Gillis’s father, Andrew, is ostensibly an employee of the Washington County Correctional Facility.