Is entrapment a legal defense in a criminal case?
A former Black Panther and convicted felon is on trial in Albany County Court on charges of selling heroin. Robert Vickers, of Ballston Spa, is accused of selling the heroin
to an undercover cop on numerous occasions between September 2013 and January 2014. His lawyer contends the retired Saratoga County worker was a victim of entrapment.
The police set Vickers up, contends his lawyer, because he is a suspect in the murder of two NYPD police officers in 1972. Apparently, NYPD detectives have recently been in the Capital Region trying to build a case against Vickers.
Vicker’s lawyer claims police arranged to have two female informants who knew Vickers reach out to him to get him to try to make incriminating statements about the police killings. The women even used heroin with Vickers (who is also an addict). After that attempt failed to get Vickers to admit to the murders, the Albany police sent informants to buy dope from Vickers.
The suspect was arrested by police in the heroin bust and interrogated in a videotaped interview, but the interview centered on the 1972 killings, not the drug arrest, even though there was no evidence to charge him with the murders of Officers Rocco Laurie and Gregory Foster.
The men were ambushed while on foot patrol on the lower east side in Manhattan (and the murders were subsequently made into a TV movie). The Black Liberation Army, a radical militant group, claimed responsibility for the murders.
Vickers recently told reporters he was not part of that group, but that he was affiliated with the Black Panthers. He denied any role in the murders. However, in 1973, Vickers was sentenced to 8 to 10 years for weapons possession and assault in connection with a shooting in Newark, NJ. He later relocated to Saratoga Springs and raised a family.
It has been reported that he was convicted last year for third degree sale of a controlled substance, and now faces six new counts of third-degree drug sale in this case. He could face up to 30 years in prison. The District Attorney’s office argued the entrapment allegations have no merit.
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