ITHACA, N.Y. — The man accused of shooting a person in the Ithaca Commons on Sunday appeared in Ithaca City Court Thursday afternoon for a preliminary hearing of the case.
Yakez Cornett Sr., 22, is charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon after allegedly shooting a man several times on the Ithaca Commons just after 1 a.m.
Over a dozen friends and family members of Cornett’s showed up to the preliminary hearing, which was held to review the illegal weapons charges against him – he currently faces second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said preliminary action occurred before grand jury action because the victim of the shooting had only just been released from the hospital with a shattered femur.
“He will not be able to walk in the same way – he was shot once in the leg and four times in the back while he was laying on the ground,” Van Houten said. “There were five bullets in the victim’s body.”
Cornett, accompanied by his attorney Kevin Kelly, appeared in front of Judge Scott Miller. Van Houten called on three witnesses – all Ithaca Police officers — who had either responded to the scene or are involved in the case.
Officer Sarah Crews, who works the overnight shift, said she was patrolling when she responded to a call reporting shots fired on the Commons. She testified that she was the first to apprehend the suspect.
“I was turning in front of the Cornell Store when I saw the person who had been identified as the suspect in a red hoodie,” she said. “I drew my gun and ordered him to the ground.”
She said Cornett cooperated immediately, and after he had been handcuffed on the ground, she asked him if he had any weapons on his person.
“I asked him if he had any guns and he said ‘No, I have a gun,” she said. “He moved his body to expose his front and he said it was in his hoodie.”
Crews said she found a semi-automatic handgun in the front pocket of his hoodie and told the court that it appeared that “the gun had been fired until the magazine was empty.”
Patrol Officer George DuPay, who responded to the scene shortly after, said he searched the suspect and found a bag of bullets in Cornett’s left rear pocket.
Criminal Investigator Justin Williams, who examined the suspected weapon, also testified that the handgun was operable, but said the serial number had been defaced in some way.
Kelly argued that the prosecution failed to present any evidence that Cornett had the intent to use the weapon.
“Nobody had testified that the gun was loaded or that it was successfully defaced,” he said.
Van Houten said that while the gun was not loaded when police found it, the evidence from the scene supported the charges against Cornett.
“If the defendant is in possession of both ammunition and a gun, which is also compatible with it, that counts as a loaded firearm,” he said.
Judge Miller said there was reasonable cause to believe the accusations for the two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, and raised Cornett’s bail to $100,000 dollars cash bail or $200,000 bond – he said the two felony charges would be transferred to Tompkins County Court to be heard in front of a grand jury.
Feature photo: Ithaca police respond to the intersection of North Cayuga and West State streets Sunday morning. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice