White Plains, New York

From White Plains’ The Journal News of October 17, 2007

Man acquitted of assault in Yonkers shooting

A Brooklyn man accused of shooting a Yonkers man in the buttocks last year was acquitted of felony assault charges yesterday but was convicted for illegally having a gun.

A jury found 44-year-old Robert Harris not guilty of second-degree assault and first-degree attempted assault for the Nov. 12 shooting of 29-year-old David Poncurak.

Harris was found guilty of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor that became a nonviolent felony because of Harris’ past criminal record.

If he had been convicted of the assaults, Harris would have been considered a mandatory violent felony offender and sentenced to life behind bars.

He now could serve two to seven years in prison on the gun conviction. He is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 6 before state Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler.

Defense attorney Barry Warhit argued that Harris shot Poncurak in self-defense because he was being robbed and attacked by Poncurak and Michael Soto. Warhit said the gun belonged to Poncurak, who did not testify at trial. Soto testified against Harris.

Assistant District Attorney John Thomas said Harris never mentioned the alleged robbery to police on the morning of the shooting and that he changed his account of how the gun discharged. Thomas also questioned how Poncurak was shot in the buttocks if he was attacking Harris.

Yonkers police apprehended Harris at his girlfriend’s home in Yonkers shortly after the shooting. Police said they recovered a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun inside a bag in a bedroom closet of the home.

The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office could ask that Harris be considered a discretionary persistent felony offender, which could lengthen his prison sentence.

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