New York Daily News

Updated: September 27, 2017, 12:38 AM

  

 

Judge allowed teen drug dealer who shot Yonkers cop Kayla Maher back on streets despite weapons possession charges

BY CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS, ROCCO PARASCANDOLA, GRAHAM RAYMAN

Yonkers Police Officer Kayla Maher is released from Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx on Tuesday as fellow cops applaud. (CITY OF YONKERS)

He shouldn't have been on the street.

The Westchester County teen accused of shooting a Yonkers cop in the face Monday caught a break from a Bronx judge a week ago, when he got a no-prison sentence after getting busted with a gun and knives.

Frank Valencia, 18, of New Rochelle, was one of two men arrested for shooting the cop, Kayla Maher, 26, in the chin about 8 p.m. at Ridge Drive and Marshall Road in Yonkers, police sources said.

Maher was released from Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx on Tuesday to the applause of her fellow officers.

Yonkers cop who was shot cracks jokes while leaving hospital

The teen — who sources said is a drug dealer with 23 prior arrests — likely would have never pulled the trigger if Bronx Supreme Court Justice George Villegas had hit him with a stiffer sentence last Wednesday.

Villegas gave Valencia just five years’ probation after the teen pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon stemming from his arrest in May at a fast-food joint in the Bronx, according to court records.

Judge George Villegas gave Valencia five years' probation rather than a tougher sentence for criminal possession of a weapon. (CHU, VICTOR, FREELANCE NYDN)

NYPD officers had busted Valencia with a semiautomatic pistol, a machete and hundreds of rounds of ammo, according to the criminal complaint.

Valencia also slipped through the judicial system a few hours before he allegedly shot Maher when he missed a court appearance in New Rochelle — on charges he’d threatened his father with a gun, sources said. After failing to appear in court Monday, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

“We never expected this,” said Valencia’s devastated father, Francisco. “We didn’t raise him this way. It made me so mad. I can’t believe it.”

The father learned firsthand of his son’s violent side on May 25, when the teen threatened him with a gun at their home after an argument, law enforcement sources said. The elder Valencia kicked his son out of the house after the confrontation.

When the elder Valencia learned his son was in the Bronx on May 31, he called 911 and the 48th Precinct to alert them that he thought the teen was dangerous, armed and high on drugs in a hotel on Crotona Ave., according to police sources.

“He said he was concerned his son was going to shoot somebody,” the source said.

Cops went to the hotel, but couldn’t find him. They then called the dad, who told them his son was at a nearby White Castle, sources said.

Precinct cops found him at the eatery carrying a duffel bag. He had a gun in his waistband, and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition for a .22-caliber pistol, a 9-mm. pistol and a shotgun, according to a criminal complaint.

He was also carrying a machete, several knives and parts of a shotgun. A grand jury indicted him on illegal weapons possession charges.

Valencia caught his first break July 10 when he pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon. Judge Villegas in turn granted Valencia youthful offender status — which seals a defendant’s criminal record after the completion of a sentence.

A bullet struck Kayla Maher on one side of her chin and passed through the other side. (FACEBOOK)

Under New York law, a judge has the discretion to grant the designation to teens between the age of 16 and 19 who haven’t been convicted of a felony.

The same day he pleaded guilty in the Bronx, Valencia was arrested by New Rochelle cops on menacing charges for threats he had made against his dad in May.

Last Wednesday, Villegas sentenced Valencia to probation against the objections of Bronx prosecutors, who wanted him to receive prison time.

“This is a bad guy and a known drug dealer,” a law enforcement source said. “He has not shown any reason why he deserves youthful offender status. It’s not about the cop — this guy was going to shoot someone.”

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, said he could not believe that Villegas set Valencia free.

Cops also recovered a firearm from the scene. ANGUS MORDANT/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

“This is a terrible case where a clearly bad decision by a judge resulted in the shooting of Yonkers Police Officer Kayla Maher,” Lynch said in a statement.

“Valencia will be held accountable for the shooting of Police Officer Maher, and Judge Villegas must be held responsible for his extraordinarily poor judgment that put this obviously dangerous man back on the streets.”

Villegas has been hearing criminal cases since 2004, when he was appointed an acting justice in Bronx Supreme Court. He was elected to a 14-year term as a full Bronx Supreme Court justice in 2008.

The judge declined to comment on Valencia’s sentence Tuesday. A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration also declined to comment, stating that the case was sealed.

On Monday night, Maher and her partner had responded to a routine call to check on a car that seemed out of place in the residential neighborhood.

The gun battle stretched on for least 10 minutes. Photos show at least 48 shell casings under yellow ballistic markers.  (ANTHONY DELMUNDO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

As the cops neared the car, one of the two men inside — believed to be Valencia — pulled out a pistol and started blasting, police sources said. The officers returned fire and shot Valencia.

“As many as five officers exchanged gunfire during this gunfight,” Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said. “I don’t know specifically if Officer Maher was able to fire.”

The gun battle lasted at least 10 minutes. Photos show at least 48 shell casings under yellow ballistic markers. Cops recovered a .40-caliber Glock at the scene.

Valencia needed surgery after being shot in the exchange. He's in serious but stable condition, police said.

One of Valencia’s neighbors, who declined to give his name, said the suspect’s father works two jobs. The family is from Mexico, he said.

The younger Valencia dropped out of high school and “hangs around the wrong crowd.”

“He was always in trouble,” the neighbor said.

The other man in the car was identified by sources as Jerry Reyes, 22, of New Rochelle. 

WITH THOMAS TRACY, JAMES FANELLI, MOLLY CRANE-NEWMAN