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Trucker guilty of trying to kill uncle

A Buffalo truck driver who acted as his own defense attorney was convicted Wednesday of trying to kill his elderly uncle -- hours before he obtained a default judgment in Buffalo Small Claims Court against the uncle, who was unable to be in court.

Maurice Cotton Jr., 42, of Howard Street, was found guilty as charged on attempted murder, assault and weapons counts. The verdict came after a weeklong trial before State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski.

Cotton was arrested June 5, 2006, in the April 26, 2006, shooting of Boyd Dunlop, 80, outside the victim's Woodlawn Avenue home, as he was going to the Small Claims Court hearing.

He will be sentenced Sept. 11. Prosecutors Michael L. McCabe and Timothy D. Gallagher said they will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to seek the maximum 25-year prison term.

As the trial got under way a week ago, Boyd, who is still recovering from the gunshot wound to the chest, identified Cotton as his attacker. He said he had evicted Cotton from the Woodlawn Avenue residence almost a year earlier in an inheritance dispute.

Dunlop testified that his nephew fired a single shot from the handgun, which has never been recovered.

Moments after the verdict, Cotton, who defended himself with legal help from attorney David B. Cotter, asked the judge to set aside the verdict, claiming prosecutors wrongly introduced certain evidence. He did not elaborate.

"That's denied, sir," the judge told Cotton, who was led away from the courtroom.

Though Cotton was awarded a default judgment in Small Claims Court, court officials said he apparently never collected on any of the property he was awarded.

Cotton did not testify but called to the stand his girlfriend, Windy Covington, a Cheektowaga dental laboratory technician, who told the jury Cotton had been using her car the day of the shooting. She said he arrived at her Cheektowaga office about 20 minutes before the shooting was alleged to have happened.

"I know that he didn't do this," Covington said.

She said she saw Cotton get on a Metro Bus at Walden Avenue and Harlem Road at 1:39 p.m. for the trip to the Small Claims Court hearing. She said he returned to Cheektowaga at about 4 p.m. that afternoon.

Prosecutors McCabe and Gallagher, to counter the Covington testimony, had grand jury stenographer Maria Kurbiel read excerpts of Cotton's Sept. 15, 2006, grand jury testimony about being "innocent," driving to Cheektowaga the day of the shooting in a tractor-trailer he was operating.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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