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Tankleff's lawyers fight alibi
BY ALFONSO A. CASTILLO
Newsday Staff Writer
October 18, 2006
In their latest effort to clear Martin Tankleff of his parents' murders, the Belle Terre man's defense team has provided new evidence in an attempt to discredit the alibi of one of the men they say actually committed the crimes.
A motion filed yesterday seeking to vacate Tankleff's 1990 conviction includes a sworn statement by a convicted felon from Moriches who disputes Peter Kent's alibi that the two were together when Arlene and Seymour Tankleff were killed in 1988.
Tankleff's attorneys have long maintained that Seymour Tank- leff's business partner, Jerry Steuerman, paid Kent and Joseph Creedon, both of Selden, to commit the murders.
"I cannot account for Peter Kent's whereabouts at the time of the murder of the Tankleffs," said Kent's one-time alibi, Daniel Raymond, 37.
Raymond said that while he did commit two robberies with Kent on the night of Sept. 7, 1988, he was not with him during most of the daytime hours - when the Tankleff murders occurred.
While Raymond was serving a prison sentence in 2004 for a grand larceny conviction, Kent came to visit him, appearing "very nervous, rambling and ... sweating heavily," he said in his statement. Kent begged Raymond to be his alibi and said, if he did not go along with his story, Raymond's family would be in danger from Creedon and Steuerman, according to the statement.
Raymond said that, after being released from jail later that year, he decided he did not want to become involved in the Tankleff case. But during hearings on Tankleff's motion to have his conviction overturned, prosecutors met with him and encouraged him to go along with Kent's alibi. He said Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato made "a subtle threat" regarding Raymond's parole status. Raymond never testified in the hearings.
Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket, of Garden City, said the new evidence is "one more brick in the wall." Barket said the defense team had been trying for some time to persuade Raymond to testify for them, and he finally agreed.
"Sooner or later, there is a tipping point, even in Suffolk," Barket said. "They'll have to admit they have the wrong person."
Lato said Raymond's affidavit starkly contradicts what he said during their November 2004 meeting. According to a report written by Lato at the time, Raymond said, "there was no way that Kent was anywhere" but with him at the time of the Tankleff murders. Lato added that more important than Raymond's drug-clouded recollections are parole records that back Kent's alibi.
Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow rejected Tank- leff's bid for a new trial in March. Braslow rejected a second motion based on testimony from new witnesses just a month later.