Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In People v Wise 2008 NY Slip Op 02264 (3/14/2008), the Fourth Department has held that under the circumstances of the case (in which the People on appeal conceded that a conviction for one of the counts was time barred and the Appellate Division dismissed the count) the failure of counsel to raise a dispositive statute of limitations defense did not deny the defendant his right to effective assistance of counsel.

Defendant further contends that defense counsel should have sought dismissal of the count charging him with endangering the welfare of a child because that count was time-barred, and that as a result he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel. As the People correctly concede, that count is governed by the two-year statute of limitations (see CPL 30.10 [2] [c]), and it should have been dismissed as time-barred (see People v Rogner, 265 AD2d 688). We therefore modify the judgment accordingly.

We further conclude under the circumstances of this case, however, that defendant was not thereby denied his right to effective assistance of counsel. "[T]he failure to raise a defense as clear-cut and completely dispositive as a statute of limitations . . ., in the absence of a reasonable explanation for it, is hard to reconcile with a defendant's constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel" (People v Turner, 5 NY3d 476, 481). Nevertheless, we conclude that defense counsel's single omission did not "so seriously compromise[] [the] defendant's right to a fair trial [as to] qualify as ineffective representation" (see People v Hobot, 84 NY2d 1021, 1022; see generally People v Flores, 84 NY2d 184, 187-189). Contrary to defendant's contention, the incidents underlying the count of endangering the welfare of a child, although subject to a Ventimiglia hearing, would nevertheless have been admissible as probative of the sexual gratification element of the sexual abuse charges (see generally People v Ortiz, 16 AD3d 831, 833, lv denied 4 NY3d 889; People v Graves, 8 AD3d 1045, lv denied 3 NY3d 674; People v Evans, 259 AD2d 629, lv denied 93 NY2d 924), and we note that the count at issue is now being dismissed as time-barred.

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