Three Time Gun Felon Sentenced as Persistent Violent Felony Offender

Modified: January 29, 2016 1:03pm

12/21/2015

First Assistant Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. announces that 34 year-old Vernell Roberson was sentenced as a Persistent Violent Felony Offender by Erie County Court Judge Michael J. D’Amico following his conviction of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree.  The conviction was Roberson’s third violent felony conviction which involved a loaded gun.

The acts underlying this conviction arose from a traffic stop on Glenwood Avenue in Buffalo.  On January 10, 2015,  Buffalo Police Officers assigned to the Strike Force approached the stopped vehicle and observed the defendant holding a red plastic cup.  When the officers asked what was in the cup, Roberson stated ‘just a little liquor.”  The officers recovered a loaded .40 caliber pistol from Roberson’s waistband; he then told officers “I’m screwed; this is my third one.”

An Erie County Grand Jury indicted Roberson on Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree.  The Court rejected Roberson’s claim that the police acted unlawfully in taking the gun from him.   Roberson pleaded guilty as charged on the eve of trial.  Thereafter, prosecutors filed a statement with the Court requesting that Roberson be designated as a persistent violent felony offender for purposes of sentencing.  Judge D’Amico agreed, and imposed a state prison term of 16 years to life.

At sentencing the prosecution offered evidence that Roberson had twice before been convicted of crimes involving a loaded gun.  In 2002, Roberson was arrested by NFTA Officers for failing to have proof of train fare and a loaded weapon was recovered from his coat.  After serving two years, he was paroled but re-arrested in 2005 for driving a stolen truck and another loaded gun was recovered from his waistband.  Roberson served five years in prison for that offense and was on parole supervision for the conviction when he was arrested on the current matter.

Flaherty credited the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) program and Buffalo Police Department Strike Force Lieutenant Thomas Whelan and Officers Joseph Aquino and Charles Miller for their investigation.  Observed Flaherty, “there are too many illegal guns on the streets and the hardworking men and women of the Buffalo Police Department work around the clock to remove them from the hands of criminals.  The GIVE program fosters the collaboration of police, prosecutors and others in the law enforcement community to reduce violence by taking guns out of the wrong hands. Thanks to the street acumen of these patrol officers, it will be many years before this defendant will be able to get another gun.”

The case was successfully prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Patrick B. Shanahan who is assigned to the Erie County District Attorney’s Tactical Prosecution Unit.