KINGSTON – Last Thursday, former Kerhonkson resident Daniel Malak pled 'not guilty' in Ulster County Court to a second degree murder charge he faces regarding the 1996 bludgeoning death of 15-year-old Joseph Martin. Currently serving a sentence of 20 years to life for the 1997 shooting death of Manhattanite George Allison, 29-year-old Malak became a suspect in the death after the arrest and conviction of Alexander Barsky, who pled guilty last August to the charge of manslaughter, reduced from second degree murder.
The three, all friends who went to Rondout Valley High School in the mid- to late-1990s, were to meet after dark on March 25, 1996, to go comet watching. However, after that night, Martin was never seen again, and was listed as missing for the past 12 years. Barsky and Martin were questioned at the time, but the two said that Martin had never met up with them.
However, after police renewed questioning of Barksy last May, the suspect confessed to the crime, fingering Malak in the process.
According to Barsky's confession, he and Malak conspired to hurt their friend after Martin had stolen money from Barsky a few days prior. Barsky said that, after luring Martin to a makeshift cabin in the woods, Malak struck Martin twice in the head with a pipe, after which Barsky struck the unconscious teen twice more. The body was hidden in a cave, and years later Barsky returned to retrieve the teen's bones and scatter them in various New York City garbage cans.
Because of the age of the suspect at the time of the death, if found guilty, Malak could be sentenced to seven and a half years to life, and a maximum of 15 years to life, which would be added onto his current sentence. Barsky is serving three and a third to 10 years in prison for his role in the death.
UC District Attorney Offers Insight into Trial Process
Because the ins and outs of the criminal justice system are a bit of a mystery to most citizens, in an interview last Friday, Ulster County's District Attorney D. Holley Carnright spoke a bit about the case, and what's likely to happen next now that Malak has entered his plea.
"He's had an attorney assigned to him, and his attorney will now make motions addressed to the indictment, and that process will take about a month and a half," said Carnright. "In that process, [the attorney will] ask for certain discovery. He'll probably ask for an investigator, and we will respond to his applications as far as the discovery; the court will respond to any motions he makes — for instance, to suppress evidence, that sort of thing. Then after that process, everyone comes back into court and we conference the case. The conference will result in either a resolution — which I doubt — or a trial schedule — which I anticipate."
Carnright also discussed the process of the trial from the prosecution's side.
"In every prosecution there are two sensible questions. The first question is: 'did a crime occur?' And the second question is: 'who did it?' So, I don't know that I would say we start this prosecution based on 'who did it,' we start the prosecution on 'was there a murder.' We clearly believe that there has been a murder, and, in fact, one person has already pled guilty to his involvement in that crime."
"Getting around to who did it, there are a number of factors that are going to come into play. The statement of the codefendant [Barsky] is one factor, but there will be other factors that will come to light when the case goes to trial."
As to whether or not Barsky's conviction and admission of guilt weighs more heavily on Malak as a defendant in this case than if there were no such finger-pointing, the district attorney said that such a determination would be up to the jury.
"The defense attorney will try and argue — any defense attorney would try and argue — that his client is not guilty, that the guilty person already pled guilty," he said. "The prosecution's theory is clear; we've already made it clear. We feel that those two people acted together, and then I think it becomes a matter for the jury to make a decision."
The district attorney also confirmed that there was more evidence leading to Malak's indictment than Barsky's claims, saying, "There is more evidence than just the accusation."
Carnright said that Assistant District Attorney John Tobin will lead the DA office's prosecution when the case goes to trial.
"I might second seat him on that — we haven't come to that point yet. It's a pretty interesting trial, but he's going to be my lead prosecutor on the case," he said.
According to reports, Malak's next appearance in Ulster County Court is December 16.