By Cameron Turner and Ashley Babbitt
The Evening Sun
NORWICH – A man employed with the New York State Department of Corrections is now facing hate crime charges, among other felonies, after he allegedly shot an unarmed black man in July.
Following a press conference at 3 p.m., Thursday, Wayne Spratley, of Greene was charged per grand jury indictment with attempted murder in the second degree as a hate crime, assault in the first degree as a hate crime, and criminal use of a firearm in the first degree as a hate crime.
These charges are in addition to the original charges of attempted murder in the second degree; a class A-1 felony, assault in the first degree; a class B felony, and criminal use of a firearm in the first degree; a class B felony.
The grand jury convened Thursday afternoon.
In a grand jury proceeding, the prosecutor presents witness testimony to the jurors so that they can determine – based on what the evidence and testimony offered – whether or not to bring serious felony charges against a defendant. No judge is present for these proceedings.
“Investigation revealed that the allegations are that in the course of an altercation or argument with a gentleman in the City of Norwich on the 19th day of July 2015, that the defendant used racial slurs to taunt the victim. During the process of that, the defendant pulled out his weapon while continuing to call the victim racial slurs. As the argument spilled over into a parking lot in the City of Norwich, the defendant whose weapon was drawn and pointed at the victim, pulled the trigger and shot his weapon, shooting the victim in the lower left abdomen,” said District Attorney Joseph A. McBride.
With regard to the victim, McBride confirmed that the victim was in intensive care, but has since been released and is with his family, while no longer being in the immediate area.
McBride officially confirmed the victim was a black male and the defendant was a white male. The name of the victim has still not been released.
“Allegation is that the defendant displayed his weapon and fell to the ground in front a group of people. This lead to an argument between the defendant and victim in this case,” said McBride.
A hate crime is generally defined as a crime committed or intended to be committed in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person.
McBride said that this is not the first hate crime he will have prosecuted since being elected Chenango County’s District Attorney in 1999. He cited the prior hate crime that took place at the Norwich Jewish Center in 2008.
“Shortly after today, within the next week or two the defendant will be arraigned before the County Court Judge and will enter a plea at that time. The matter will proceed further in the court system,” said McBride.
Spratley was originally arrested on July 19, 2015 for the class B felony of attempted murder following a shooting in a parking lot on Lackawanna Avenue in Norwich at approximately 3:30 a.m. that Sunday morning.
The day of the shooting McBride said that the Norwich Police had interviewed every available lead and every available witness with regard to the shooting.
Lead investigator on the case, Detective-Sergeant Reuben Roach said, “It is alleged that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol.”
In a previous interview with The Evening Sun, Michael Hayes, co-owner of Rita’s Tavern in Norwich said that Spratley was in his establishment earlier in the evening of the shooting, but employees had asked Spratley to leave, and he complied. With regard to the victim, Hayes said he was not in his establishment, as he had been barred. “He’s a decent guy, I have no problems with him personally,” said Hayes. Hayes also said that while the shooting took place near his establishment, the altercation was said to have started elsewhere, and the parking lot near his business was the ending point.
Initially, the victim was in an intensive care unit where he remained in critical condition for a number of days.
Spratley was then arraigned in front of Chenango County Court Judge Frank B. Revoir Jr. that same day, and was remanded to the Chenango County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond.
Spratley has since posted bond and is no longer in custody.
According to members of the Corrections Division at the CCCF, Spratley was released at 1:35 p.m. on July 21, 2015, just two days following his arrest.
McBride confirmed after Spratley was released that he is not to possess any firearms, nor have any contact with any of the witnesses.
“My understanding is that he lawfully possessed that firearm at that time, but there is an allegation that he used that firearm that afternoon unlawfully,” said McBride.
Two days following Spratley’s release from the CCCF, additional charges were placed against him, including the class B felony of criminal use of a firearm in the first degree, and the class B felony of assault in the first degree. No additional bail was set when Spratley was arraigned on these charges.
On the attempted murder charge alone, McBride said Spratley could face up to 25 years in state prison.
If found guilty of all prior charges, plus the new hate crime charges, Spratley – if found guilty of what’s alleged – could serve a much more substantial sentence in prison.
“Thank you all for coming down today, I wish I could say more at this time, but pretty much my hands are tied to the amount of information I am allowed to release at this time, thank you very much,” said McBride.
Spratley is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The victim was contacted and said he would rather not comment on the matter at this time.