October 8th, 2010
In October of 2003, Kenneth Stevens was charged with robbing one Citibank branch and three branches of Chase Manhattan bank in New York. Mr. Stevens’s modus operandi in each of the robberies was to give the teller a note demanding money. The note also stated that he had a bomb with him.
The fourth robbery was his last one. Several blocks from the bank he was stopped and arrested. At the time of arrest he was carrying the $4,700 in cash he had taken from the bank. Unfortunately for Mr. Stevens, he also had a deposit slip that read, “I have a bomb. Give me all the money”. Mr. Stevens was also carrying with him a black plastic bag containing a coffee canister, not a bomb!
Mr. Stevens was represented at the time of his trial by a court appointed attorney named Michael Young. During the course of the trial, Michael Young had a man named Harvey Alter sit at the defense table. Mr. Young referred to Harvey Alter as his “associate”. Mr. Alter was present during the entire course of the trial. When there were conferences at the bench, he also approached the bench with Mr. Young. The court was under the impression that Mr. Alter was an attorney.
In September of 2004, the jury found Mr. Stevens guilty. Judge John F. Keenan of the Southern District of New York sentenced Mr. Stevens to 216 months in jail.
Harvey Alter Was Not An Attorney
After the trial, it was discovered that Harvey Alter was not an attorney. He was instead a convicted felon and had a business relationship with Michael A. Young, Esq.
Mr. Stevens brought an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the second department. He claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. He further claimed that he was convicted on the felony charge of bank robbery, labeled a career offender and sentenced to eight years in prison due to the fact that his attorney’s associate was a felon.
The court found that even though Mr. Stevens attorney sat next to an individual that was a felon, it did not impact the effectiveness of his counsel. The court also pointed out that the jury was never aware that Mr. Alter was not an attorney and therefore it had no impact on the jury deliberations. Unfortunately for Mr. Stevens, he is still stuck in jail!