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Buffalo man pleads guilty in gun case after losing Court of Appeals ruling

A Buffalo gun case that led to a ruling by the state’s highest court that police need not wait until they see “the glint of steel” before seizing a suspect’s gun ended Thursday with a guilty plea in Erie County Court.

Quentin Sims, 22, of Alabama Street, pleaded guilty as charged to second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, according to District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

Police arrested Sims on Oct. 15, 2011, on Hempstead Avenue.

Officers Mark Hamilton and Michael Acquino saw Sims ride his bike from an alleyway as he stared at them so intently that he crashed into an apartment building, prosecutors said.

The officers checked to see if he was hurt, then asked for identification. He said he had no ID, then reached into his pocket to get his unlicensed, defaced and loaded .25-caliber pistol, prosecutors said. Hamiton grabbed his hand and took the weapon.

After a pretrial hearing on the gun seizure, prosecutors said, Judge Michael F. Pietruszka ruled the officers could not have reasonably suspected that Sims had a gun. The judge suppressed the gun as evidence.

Prosecutors appealed the ruling, arguing the law does not require officers to wait for suspects to pull out their guns and start shooting before they can act.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court agreed.

Sims then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which upheld the ruling and returned the case to Pietruszka, who recused himself.

The case was referred to Judge Sheila A. DiTullio, who scheduled a jury trial, but Sims pleaded guilty instead. He faces a minimum prison sentence of 3½ years and a maximum of 15 years when DiTullio sentences him Sept. 30.

Sedita cited the work of Assistant District Attorneys Nicholas Texido and Eugene Partridge III.

“Because of the dogged determination of our prosecutors, a violent felon and menace to society has finally been brought to justice,” he said.

Two other weapon cases also resulted in convictions.

Robert L. Wilson III, 37, pleaded guilty to weapon and drug charges after police found a loaded semi-automatic rifle and psychedelic mushrooms last year while executing a search warrant at his apartment on Hammerschmidt Avenue in South Buffalo.

He also pleaded guilty to bail jumping for failing to show up in court after he was allowed to remain free on bail following his April 21, 2013 arrest.

While executing the warrant, police seized the rifle, which qualified as an assault weapon under the SAFE Act, and three ammunition magazines, prosecutors said. Police also seized the psychedelic mushrooms he was growing, as well as chocolate bars containing the mushrooms and several jars of mushroom spores.

After Wilson failed to show up in court, an arrest warrant was issued, and he was apprehended nearly five months later in Indiana and extradited. He was charged with bail jumping.

Wilson, who has three previous felony convictions, faces up to 23 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 28 by DiTullio.

Also Thursday, Taiwan Baldwin, 37, of Laird Avenue, was convicted of second-degree weapon possession after a weeklong bench trial before Pietruszka.

Police were responding to a 911 call May 18, 2013, from a woman who said Baldwin had a sawed-off shotgun and was on her porch trying to kick in her front door. Officers saw Baldwin walking away from the home. When they approached him, he fled and tried to get rid of the weapon but was arrested.

Baldwin, who has four felony convictions in the last 20 years, faces up to 25 years to life if the court finds he is a persistent felony offender. He will be sentenced Aug. 25.