Category: Archive

Molloy evidence to include firearm incidents

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

Richard Molloy, the New York police officer accused of killing Derry native Hessy Phelan in a Bronx apartment more than two years ago, appeared in State Supreme Court Friday as the defense and prosecution finished legal wrangling over the evidence to be used in his trial on second-degree murder charges.

During the brief morning session, the judge allowed six alleged incidents from Molloy’s past involving firearms to be entered as evidence during the trial. Prosecutors hope that those incidents will help prove Molloy has a history of reckless behavior.

Molloy is accused of shooting Phelan in the head inside a Bronx apartment in January 1996. Molloy has always contended that Phelan committed suicide by shooting himself with the officer’s .38-caliber service weapon. The prosecution charges that an enraged Molloy pulled the trigger, shooting Phelan through the left eye as he sat on a couch.

For Phelan’s family, the pre-trial decisions have offered some hope of a conviction they see as just.

"We’re trying not to think about which way it’ll go, we’re just hoping for the best," said Martina Boback, Hessy’s sister who lives in Connecticut. Hearing the allegations about Molloy’s past has brought mixed emotions, and, at the least, the family hopes Molloy will no longer be able to serve in law enforcement, Boback said.

Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo

Subscribe to one of our great value packages.

With no eyewitnesses, much of the pre-trial preparation focused on Molloy’s record, Phelan’s state of mind and events leading up to the shooting.

Incidents that the judge deemed admissible include allegations Molloy fired his weapon at lights in a bar twice in two weeks because they annoyed him, and also that he pulled his handgun out during an argument with another patron in a bar, saying, "I’ll light him up like a Christmas tree."

In another incident, during a drinking session that involved a discussion about violence in Northern Ireland, Molloy allegedly said, "I’ll show you some violence," opened the door and fired seven rounds from a semi-automatic handgun into the air, then cleared up the spent shells and continuing drinking.

For the trial the prosecution must produce witnesses to those incidents. Molloy’s defense attorney, George Vallario, said his client has an excellent arrest record as a police officer, including several commendations. Vallario contends there is no evidence to prove that Molloy shot Phelan.

"If you didn’t do something and you believe in the system, then you can’t be convicted," he said of Molloy’s attitude. Molloy is currently free on bail and is on modified duty with the New York Police Department, which means he has handed in his badge and handgun.

According to court documents, on the night of his death, Phelan had been drinking at the Oak Bar, where Molloy’s girlfriend, Margaret McGrath, was working. During the evening, witnesses said, Phelan became argumentative with several customers. Molloy arrived, off-duty and in civilian clothes, and McGrath suggested he take Hessy to her apartment to sleep it off.

One witness, Cormac Lee, who was renting a room from McGrath, heard the two men come into the apartment. Lee testified that through the wall he heard someone with a Irish accent shout, "Go on, go on," just before hearing the bang of what later he learned was a gunshot.

Molloy has testified he was trying to help Phelan, and as he went to switch on the television, the Irishman managed to pull his revolver from the belt holster and shoot himself in the head before Molloy could stop him. The officer’s defense team says it has evidence from three medical examiners that contradicts a New York medical examiner’s report that the killing was a homicide.

However, prosecutors dispute how Phelan, who was drunk at the time of the shooting, would have been able to unfasten the holster and pull out the gun without the officer’s knowledge. They allege that it was not possible for Phelan to shoot himself. From the angle of the entry wound, the prosecution charges that it would have been very difficult for Phelan, who was right-handed, to shoot himself through the left eye.

A trial date is scheduled to be set on Oct. 22.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese