A brutal shooting that has left a man with a brain injury for the rest of his life wrapped up with closing arguments at the Ontario County Courthouse.
CANANDAIGUA — An Ontario County jury Monday heard closing arguments in the trial of a suspect accused of shooting a Geneva man three times in the head.
Erin "E" Rhynes is facing six felony counts including the top count of second-degree attempted murder. He is accused of shooting Michael Cosentino three times, with two of the bullets forever lodged in his skull.
“You can’t use sympathy. We all saw Michael,” said defense attorney David Morabito, referring to the victim, who struggled with his testimony, showing the effects of his brain injury. "He testified he knew Erin or ‘E’ and he could not identify him here in the courtroom. He can’t identify my client.”
According to statements made during closing arguments by Ontario County First Assistant District Attorney Jason MacBride, who prosecuted the case, Cosentino had to have a portion of his skull removed to relieve the pressure from the lodged bullets, causing swelling. Cosentino spent nearly a month in a medically induced coma. He needs to use a cane to walk, can not remember what high school he went to and, at 30, lives with his parents.
The April 1, 2018 shooting was initially suspected to be a motor vehicle accident on Lewis Street in Geneva. At the local hospital the bullet holes were discovered and Cosentino was then transported by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital with two bullets lodged into his skull and a third one — that grazed the side of his head — later found in the cup holder of his truck.
Timetheus Merritt is also charged in the case and is awaiting a separate trial to begin in April. Investigators discovered the weapon, a .25 caliber semi-automatic Lorcin pistol, more commonly known as a "mouse gun" or a "Saturday night special" for its common use in petty crimes.
DNA was at the heart of the prosecution's case. The weapon used in the crime was found in an apartment, stuffed in a suitcase wrapped in clothes. Experts testified that Rhynes’ DNA was listed as the major contributor along with that of another unidentified person on the trigger. Additionally, Rhynes was the major contributor to DNA on the barrel of the weapon along with two other unidentified contributors.
Due to the way the DNA was collected it can not be submitted to Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA database. It was only compared with Consentino, Rhynes and Merritt. There were numerous other individuals' DNA found — some of which is believed to be from a third person in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, but unconfirmed.
Forensics compared the round discovered in the truck to a round they fired in a controlled environment using the suspected weapon, and they matched.
Another witness for the prosecution was James Moore, a jailhouse snitch who testified that Rhynes confessed to him that he was the trigger man in the vehicle. Photographic evidence was presented to the jury showing Moore and Rhynes walking together while being held at the jail, where the alleged conversation took place.
“Erin is the wrong man being falsely accused, that’s our position in this case,” said Morabito. "There’s still nothing concrete. We still don’t know how many people were in the vehicle. No one testified if the shooting happened in the pickup or not.”
There was tension leading up to the trial between Rhynes, his attorney and State Supreme Court Justice Craig Doran. Additional court security was brought in for the case, but Rhynes thus far has not had any disruptive outbursts.
“Thanks for conducting yourself the way you have throughout this trial,” said Doran.
On Tuesday, Doran will charge the jury to deliberate. In all, it appears that they will be looking at six felony charges plus two lesser weapons and drug possession charges.