By Patrick Markey
Richard Molloy, the New York police officer accused of killing Derry native Hessy Phelan in a Bronx bar more than two years ago, will appear in a State Supreme Court Friday as part of the continuing preparation for his trial on murder charges.
During pre-trail hearings, the prosecution will present evidence they believe should be included in the trial to illustrate a pattern of reckless behavior on Molloy’s part — including allegations that while off-duty he fired his handgun at lights in a bar and discharged another firearm into a street during a drinking session.
Two other incidents under discussion include a 1986 scuffle with two Fordham University students during which several rounds were discharged from Molloy’s weapon and another incident involving Paul Lipsey. In 1993, Lipsey was carrying a handgun in the Bronx when Molloy fired four rounds at him from a moving patrol vehicle.
On Friday, Molloy’s defense hopes to counter those allegations, pointing to Molloy’s recorded 387 arrests, Police Department internal affairs reports, and what they say is the slim evidence of Molloy’s misconduct. Regarding the 1993 incident, George H. Vallario Jr., the officer’s defense attorney, said Lipsey was armed and had aimed his weapon at Molloy before the shooting occurred.
Vallario said Molloy is not the demon the prosecution has portrayed him as: "This guy is suffering. It’s a tragedy for both families," he said.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
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 Molloy pulled the trigger.
Phelan, 39, had spent 10 years in the Maze prison for membership of the Irish National Liberation Army before coming to the U.S., where he found work as a housepainter. Molloy is currently out on bail, working on modified duty with the police department, which means he has handed in his gun and badge. Last week he opted to waive his right to a trial by jury, meaning he will be tried by the presiding judge.
Meanwhile, Phelan’s mother and immediate family, over from Derry for the proceedings, have asked attorney Brian O’Dwyer to meet with Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson to expedite the case.
"We’re hoping that we’ll have a trial date on Friday. My mother and brother will stay on for the trial depending on my mother’s health, " said Martina Boback, Phelan’s sister.
"We’re always cautiously optimistic," she said.