November 6, 2015

Murder Charges in Tan ’17 Trial Dismissed

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One month after declaring a mistrial in the murder trial of Charles Tan ’17, County Court Judge James Piampiano shocked observers Thursday by dismissing all charges against the former Cornell student.

Tan was tried last month for allegedly fatally shooting his father in February. However, after eight days of deliberations, the jurors were dismissed without a verdict. The case was expected to be retried early next year.

Those expectations were shattered Thursday, when all parties returned to court for what was supposed to be a series of routine pre-trial proceedings. There, in response to the defense’s motion for dismissal, Piampiano told both sides that he thought the prosecution had failed to meet its burden in the first trial, prompting what The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported was visible celebration from Tan supporters in the gallery.

Piampiano justified his decision in part by saying that the prosecution had failed to even place the murder weapon — a 12-gauge shotgun — in Tan’s hands. During the ruling, Assistant District Attorney William Gargan, the prosecutor who tried the case against Tan, loudly interrupted the judge and resisted initial orders to keep quiet, according to The Democrat and Chronicle. Gargan later called the ruling the “most shocking” he had ever witnessed.

After the proceedings ended, Gargan suggested that the judge must have “amnesia” to have ignored what he claimed was clear evidence of Tan’s guilt, including statements made by both Tan and his mother. Gargan said he stands” by every decision” he made in trying the case and “was more than willing to have handcuffs placed on” him at one point during the proceedings, The Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Tan was a Cornell student until his arrest in February. After Thursday’s decision, his lawyers said he is likely to return to the Hill, according to The Democrat and Chronicle. However, the University was not immediately able to comment Thursday concerning whether Tan will be readmitted.

The defense team told The Democrat and Chronicle they were not surprised with Piampiano’s ruling, saying that the weakness of the prosecution’s case made dismissal seem like a valid possibility after the mistrial.

“He’s been living a nightmare for over a year with this case going on,” said James Nobles, one of Tan’s defense lawyers. “Certainly at this point in time he can move on with the rest of his life.”

4 thoughts on “Murder Charges in Tan ’17 Trial Dismissed

  1. Lyle and Eric Menendez must be pi$$ing their CADOC
    jump suits that they didn’t wait for a NY vacation
    to murder Their parents. What a difference a
    change of venue and a crooked judge makes.

    Now, how do we get rid of Piampiano before he sets
    the entire inmate population of the NYDOC loose?

    • Judge James Piampiano was just elected on a Republican-Conservative ticket to a 14 year term on the New York State Supreme Court. I don’t know how you would get rid of him anyway, Jaddy Baddy, since his decision in the Tan case has been extremely well received in Rochester.

      Quite simply, the prosecution failed to make its case. If this person, or else that person, could have shot the gun, that is reasonable doubt right there. The prosecution could never get over that hump, and it was obvious. The judge’s decision was correct.

      But it’s easy to see why public opinion in Rochester was overwhelmingly in favor of acquittal. Charlie Tan’s commitment to others, and self-sacrifice for others, has been mentioned by all who know him, and is reflected in the Latin “non sibi,” “not for self,” suggested to him by a fraternity brother, that he agreed to have tattooed on his arm. That is emphatically the opinion of Charlie Tan’s neighbors in Rochester, and his classmates, teachers and coaches in his Rochester high school and at Cornell, who filled the courtroom every day to show support for Charlie.

      As the judge noted in an interview, “I’m not sure that I can recall in recent times, somebody being that sympathetic of a figure.”

      • No, the judge’s decision was legally incorrect. On the dismissal motion, he was required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. Tan (“I had to do it”) and his mother (“My son shot my husband”) both said that Tan was the killer. That’s legally sufficient evidence to present the case to the jury, and that was also supported by lots of circumstantial evidence of his guilt. The judge’s comment about how sympathetic a figure Tan was shows the judge’s bias. Even if you were right about the law, that would mean the judge wasted the jury’s time and improperly sought to get a not guilty verdict, so that he wouldn’t have to dismiss the case himself for what he perceived as lack of evidence. All around, it was a pathetic performance by the judge, and it is sad that he did this on purpose two days after his election victory (by the way, the defense lawyers contributed financially to his campaign). You say this verdict has been well received in Rochester — yes, by the privileged friends of Tan and others in his well-off community, not by the inner city community that would never receive this type of judicial fiat. An inner city defendant would be getting what the law required, a retrial, not a free pass from the judge to resume a privileged life.

  2. Sorry, LTE, I didn’t see your comment before.

    First off, Charlie did not get a hung jury and dismissal of the charges by the judge because of what he was (a privileged Ivy League student from a well-off community), but because of WHO he was (a remarkably selfless and loving person, absolutely committed to others).

    To test it, just imagine the tables were turned, and it was the father, Jim Tan, who was accused of murdering his wife or one of his two sons. Would the community rise up in his support, raising almost $50,000 for his defense in 48 hours? Would neighbors stand outside the courtroom in the icy cold to call out to him as he was being led back to jail after a court hearing, “We love you Jim!” “Stay strong, Jim!” “We’re with you all the way, Jim!” Would they? Obviously not, but that’s what they did for Charlie.

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