Court cases move closer to pleas

Greg Klein | The Daily StarShelly Ann Young awaits her conference in the Otsego County Courthouse on Monday, March 15.

COOPERSTOWN — The Ides of March brought two closely watched court cases in Otsego County closer to resolution. 

Shelly Ann Young appeared in Otsego County Court again Monday, for a conference on charges of second-degree rape for allegedly having sex with a person younger than 15 and first-degree dissemination of indecent material to a minor.

Young, 37, of Laurens, posted $2,500 bail after her arrest in February 2020. 

Otsego County Judge John Lambert renewed an order of protection Monday, requiring Young to stay away from and not contact the alleged victim. 

Otsego County John Muehl had previously said he thought his case was strong and claimed Young made an admission to police following her arrest.

Muehl told The Daily Star last month that he was seeking jail time in the case. 

A new plea agreement was offered Monday, by Young’s lawyer, Otsego County Public Defender Mike Trosset, but Muehl said he wanted to speak with the alleged victim and the victim’s family before commenting on the offer. 

Lambert ordered Young to appear in court again at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 3, at which time a plea agreement will be entered, or failing that, a trial will be scheduled. 

CALLAHAN PLEA EXPECTED

Muehl also told The Daily Star he expects a plea deal May 3 in the Casey Callahan murder retrial. 

“It looks like May 3 should be a big day” Muehl said, after a pre-trial conference Monday for Callahan’s new hearing. 

In August 2020, the Third Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division overturned the 2017 second-degree murder conviction of Callahan, formerly of Unadilla.

Callahan, 55, was arrested in 2016 and charged with the murder of his wife, Elizabeth Welsh Callahan, at a truck stop in Pennsylvania in January 2000.

Welsh Callahan, 34, was killed when she was run over by her husband’s tractor trailer in the parking lot of a Dandy Mini Mart in Sayre, Pennsylvania as she was tying her shoe.

Several witnesses testified at the original trial that the Callahans were having marriage difficulties, and Callahan admitted on the witness stand that he was having an extramarital affair at the time of his wife’s death.

Muehl argued that Callahan planned to kill his wife to avoid paying child support or alimony.

Callahan’s appellate attorney, Kelly L. Egan, claimed her client was “merely joking when he told other people that he could run a person over with his truck and make it seem like an accident.”

Welsh Callahan’s death was initially ruled accidental by Pennsylvania State Police and an insurance investigator, but the case was reopened in 2016 when a woman called the Otsego County District Attorney’s Office to share her suspicions that a family member was murdered in Pennsylvania several years before.

Callahan, who has been incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility since 2013 for an unrelated conviction of a first-degree criminal sex act, admitted to killing his wife but claimed her death was accidental. He was indicted on murder charges in June 2016 and convicted in September 2017.

Egan, who works as appeals director for the Rural Law Center of New York, successfully convinced the Appellate Division that several aspects of the relatives’ testimony should have been excluded from case evidence.

During the trial, the prosecution was granted a Molineux application — which makes evidence of a defendant’s uncharged crimes or prior misconduct admissible in court if it can be logically connected to a specific material issue in the case — allowing its witnesses to offer proof of prior “instances of verbal and emotional abuse by the defendant toward the victim,” according to court filings.

Egan argued that incidents of physical abuse were not covered by the Molineux application.

“As such, the niece’s testimony, some of which was hearsay, exceeded the scope of the court’s Molineux ruling and deprived defendant of a fair trial,” Egan wrote in a June 10 memorandum and order.

Noting that the defense did not object to the testimony when it was delivered, Muehl argued that the appeal had no grounds because the argument was not preserved at the initial trial.

“They overturned it based on a technicality,” Muehl said. “It’s a ridiculous decision from our appellate division.”

Callahan’s appellate attorney attempted to argue that the case was wrongfully tried outside the proper jurisdiction because the alleged crime took place in Pennsylvania, but the court maintained that the retrial be held in Otsego County.

“I’m furious over it,” Muehl told The Daily Star last year. “But I have to do what I have to do.”

Callahan remains in prison on the unrelated conviction.

The Daily Star staff writer Sarah Eames contributed to this report. 

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