A Cup of Joe | University of Rochester Students Kidnapped & Tortured By Gang | Criminal Law Update

This week’s case brings us to Monroe County, NY, which sits on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The University of Rochester (in Monroe) is about a 5½ hour drive northwest from Manhattan, and about a 1½ hour drive due west from Syracuse. Dinosaur BBQ is a 60-second walk down Court Street from the Monroe County Courthouse, and has an unreal view of the Genessee River.

Many famous people are from Monroe County:

Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglas, Belva Ann Lockwood (first female attorney to practice before the Supreme Court;) Reverend Francis Bellamy (wrote the Pledge of Allegiance); Shirley Jackson (wrote The Lottery); Joe Simon, (co-creator of Captain America); Paul T. Buchheit (created Gmail and AdSense — he suggested Google‘s former company motto “Don’t be evil“);  and, of course, woman wrestling superstar, Chyna (attended the University of Tampa, graduating in 1992 with a major in Spanish Literature. (During college, she also studied French and German and could converse in either language.).

The Rochesterian in the case we are studying today is infamous.  The defendant is a 19-year-old female who was part of a gang that kidnapped and tortured 2 students from the University of Rochester.

ENTER:

Inalia Rolldan, (also known as Sky), 19, gang member; Nicholas Kollias (Nick), 21, student football player (U. of Rochester) and classically trained pianist; Ani Okeke Ewo (Ani), 21, student football player (U. of Rochester).

TIME AND LOCATION:

It was the evening of December 5, when two 21-year-old male students from the University of Rochester were lured to a house several miles from campus, believing they were headed to a party. They weren’t.

OPENING STATEMENT:

Members of the jury, in November, Sky’s gang mistakenly believed the students,  Nick and Ani, who played on the university’s football team, were involved in the robbery of drug dealers that worked for the gang. Seeking retribution, the defendants convinced Sky to flirt with Ani on Facebook. Sky eventually invited him to a party in northeast Rochester, and Ani asked if he could bring a friend. That friend was Nick. She said, of course, giggled, and abruptly ended the call.  They went to Sky’s house. After 24 hours, their roommates had reported them missing.

TESTIMONY OF NICK:

Q: What happened when you got to Sky’s house?

A: We walked in the door and the first thing I notice is this thick odor of urine. I had to catch my breath. A few seconds after we came in, the house went dark and a group of masked people pounced on us. They bound us in duct tape and hauled us into a bathroom.

Q: How long were you in the bathroom?

A: 40 hours.

Q: What happened to you and Ani during that time?

A: These people repeatedly tortured us: cutting us with knives and a chainsaw, dousing us in gas and threatened to light us on fire.  They shot me in the leg when I tried to escape. Someone shot my other leg later. They sliced the skin between my toes with a knife and pliers. The torture consisted of something you would see in a movie, but it’s not a movie because this is real life.

Q: Nick, were you able to hear anything?

A: The people as they’re doing these things to us were almost giddy. I heard men and women laughing and it seemed like that were having a party in the room right next door. We were dying, sir. They were celebrating.

Q: Did you ever meet any of the assailants before?

A: No, sir. Never. I was planning to stay in when Ani said to come with him to a party at a girl’s house he just met. So I went.

TESTIMONY OF SKY

Q: Sky, are you a member of this gang.

A: No. I just like hang out with them. That’s it.

Q: You were told by Strickland, the leader, to contact Ani, right?

A: Yeah.

Q: And you did?

A: Yeah, I had to, because, you know, he’s older, and he’s the boss and stuff.

Q: And he wanted you to get Ani to the house.

A: Yeah, because Ani jacked some of his boys. You know, robbed them. I just figured he was another bad guy getting what he deserved. But I didn’t do nothing to those boys in the bathtub.

Q: Well, you brought them something to drink after 15 hours, right?

A: Yeah. Strick told me to.

Q: You saw they were hurt?

A: I’m not a doctor.

Q: Well, you saw they were bleeding, right?

A: Yeah, there was blood.

Q: You didn’t contact anyone to help them?

A: What, and get killed by Strick? No. I did not.

Q: By the way, Nick’s identification was found in a backpack that you were wearing when the police entered the house.

A: The cops planted it.

TESTIMONY OF ANI

Q: What happened after 40 hours in captivity?

A: We heard explosions outside. Loud. Really loud.

Q: What happened next?

A: A police SWAT team stormed the house and rescued us. They cut me loose and I just passed out into one of the officer’ arms. I woke up in the hospital.

CLOSING STATEMENTS – SKY’S LAWYER

Sky was 19 years old acting at the behest of a killer gang leader. Sky did nothing to hurt these young men. The evidence is not legally sufficient to support a conviction of kidnapping in the second degree. It is tragic what happened to them. Please do not compound this tragedy by punishing an innocent young girl who has her entire life ahead of her. 

CLOSING STATEMENTS – PROSECUTION

Sky was present in the house when the police raided it and rescued the two students who were being held captive there, and the identification of one of the victims was found in a backpack that Sky was wearing when the police entered the house. Sky was aware that the victims were being held there and that she intentionally aided the principals by providing them and the victims with food.

Nick, a football player and classically trained pianist, would spend the next 25 days at the hospital undergoing treatment for his injuries, followed by intense physical therapy. It was incredible that the students survived. You must do justice, notwithstanding Sky’s age, and find her GUILTY of Kidnapping Two.

THE VERDICT:

We the people of the Jury find the Defendant Sky, charged with Kidnapping in the Second Degree, GUILTY.

The jury also found Lydell Strickland, David Alcarez-Ubile and Ruth Lora guilty of kidnapping. Five other defendants, among them Elliot Rivera, Leah Gigliotti, Samantha Hughes, Jesus Castro-Ubiles and Dennis Perez, pled guilty to kidnapping charges.

At sentencing, the leader of the gang, Strickland was grinning.

JUDGE: Sir, your crimes sound like the script of a Quentin Tarantino movie. I was trying to think if there were any redeeming qualities that you had, and I couldn’t come up with any. How can someone do this to another human being?  I HEREBY SENTENCE YOU TO 155 YEARS IN PRISON.

Sky’s sentence was not as severe; however, Sky is now a convicted felon and will serve time in prison. Sky appealed, but lost.


Here is the case:

http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_06913.htm

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