Orange County Criminal Defense Client Found Not Guilty of Murder and Manslaughter Charges

January, 2020

A recent verdict demonstrates the commitment and tenacity of criminal defense attorney Ben Ostrer. David Carlson was accused of murder, manslaughter and related charges as a result of the shooting in Deerpark, New York which occurred in October, 2013. Believing in his innocence, Mr. Ostrer stayed steadfast in his representation of the client, David Carlson, throughout the criminal proceedings, which included the dismissal of the original indictment, re-indictment a trial which resulted in a conviction for manslaughter followed by a successful appeal to overturn the verdict. Finally, on January 14, 2020, a not guilty verdict on all counts was rendered in Orange County Court.

The case, which attracted considerable media attention at each stage of the proceedings, centers around two men. One of whom, David Carlson, was solicited by police to assist in the capture of the second man, Norris Acosta Sanchez, who was wanted in Rockland County on charges which included second-degree rape.

Norris Acosta Sanchez, befriended Mr. Carlson in August of 2013. He showed up on Mr. Carlson’s farm, located in a remote rural area of Deerpark, New York with little police coverage and no cell service. At the time, he falsely identified himself as “Daniel” and claimed to be the caretaker of a nearby camp. He asked Mr. Carlson if he could work on the farm to help support himself. Acosta Sanchez received eggs and other food items in exchange for occasional work.

Several weeks later, Acosta Sanchez told Carlson and his wife that he had provided a false name and that he was wanted for having sex with an underage girl. Alarmed by these admissions, the Carlsons contacted the local Deerpark Police Department alerting them that the unnamed person had confessed to being wanted for a sex crime. The Police solicited the assistance of the Carlsons in a plan to take the unnamed person into custody. They instructed Carlson to get the suspected rapist in his car and travel on a local road where police would stop Carlson’s vehicle and take the suspect into custody. After a first aborted trip at which police did not affect the stop, Carlson complied with a request that he repeat the effort the next day.

The second attempt proved somewhat successful. After stopping Carlson’s vehicle, Deerpark Police placed Acosta Sanchez in the rear of a police vehicle, uncuffed and drove him to the cabin where he claimed his identification documents could be viewed. Upon arrival at the cabin an officer opened the car door and Acosta Sanchez bolted past the two armed officers escaping down a hill into a heavily wooded area. The police advised Carlson of the escape and he continued to assist them. The police confirmed Acosta Sanchez’s fugitive status, telling Mr. Carlson that he was wanted for the rape in the 2nd degree involving multiple counts following sexual encounters with a 14-year-old girl in Rockland County.

Several hours after his escape, Acosta Sanchez showed up at the Carlson farm boasting of his actions. Mr. Carlson notified the police of Acosta Sanchez’ reappearance and was asked to come to the police station to support a warrant application in efforts to capture the fugitive. At the police station, Carlson signed an affidavit and participated in a briefing that included the Sheriff’s SWAT Team, Rockland County Police and Deerpark Police, who had all been deployed to execute the arrest warrant. The tactical team search efforts for Acosta Sanchez included a precision rifle team, boat, and air support. The arrest warrant was executed at the cabin; however, Acosta Sanchez emerged from a hiding place and again escaped into the woods. He was observed swimming across the nearby Rio Reservoir. A search following the second escape was concluded and police withdrew from the area several hours later. The entire neighborhood was in virtual lockdown. Carlson, fearing for his wife and children’s safety, sent them to stay with relatives in New Jersey. He remained behind to care for the livestock.

Early the next morning, Acosta Sanchez appeared at the farm pounding on Carlson’s front door and accusing Carlson of helping the police. After directing Acosta Sanchez to his back door, Carlson grabbed his shotgun and confronted Acosta Sanchez telling him that he was bringing him to the police. He walked Acosta Sanchez to a neighbor’s house, yelling to them to call the police. Without success, the pair marched to a second neighbor’s property where Carlson directed Acosta Sanchez to get on his belly with his hands behind his head. As Carlson turned to yell toward the second neighbor’s home, Acosta Sanchez lunged at him. Mr. Carlson reacted by shooting him in the arm. Acosta Sanchez lunged toward Carlson again. In response, Carlson discharged a second round, fatally striking him in the ear. Mr. Carlson laid down gun and waited for the police.

Mr. Carlson was indicted and charged with murder in the second degree, manslaughter in the first degree and manslaughter in the second degree. Following dismissal of the original indictment and reindictment, Carlson went to trial before an Orange County jury in the fall of 2016. Following a six week trial and lengthy deliberations, Carlson was found not guilty of murder in the second degree, but guilty of manslaughter in the first degree. After the verdict and sentencing, Mr. Ostrer filed an appeal based upon claims of trial errors. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the conviction on August 28, 2018 and ordered the case returned to Orange County Court for a re-trial on the manslaughter charges.

At the retrial, the defense chose to waive a jury and proceeded by way of a bench trial before Hon. Robert H. Freehill. Following extensive testimony Mr. Carlson was acquitted of all remaining charges on January 14, 2020.

“We are very pleased Judge Freehill found David’s actions to be justified. It was our honor to represent him throughout this six year journey,” said Mr. Ostrer.

Learn more detailed facts of this case.
Read more Ostrer & Associates Criminal Verdicts.