Accused former Public defender a no-show in Penn Yan court

Edward Brockman, the former Yates County Public Defender and still-serving attorney for the Village of Penn Yan, failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday March 8 in Penn Yan Village Court.

Brockman, 70, of Naples, was accused of groping a teenage female client in February 2016, and is charged by State Police Investigators with forcible touching as a class A misdemeanor.

The prosecution of the case has been complicated by the death by drug overdose of Brockman’s accuser, now identified as Shylo Zirkle, 20, who died in September.

Brooks Baker, the Steuben County District Attorney appointed as special prosecutor, says with no complainant to testify in court and with a defendant’s right to face his accuser, the case has become technically difficult.

Thursday’s hearing was to hear the subpoenaed testimony of Wendy Christensen, Shylo Zirkle’s mother. With the judge, the special prosecutor, and State Police present, but not Brockman or his defense attorney, Robert Zimmerman, Christensen was left standing in the cold outside the Village Hall. A Penn Yan Police Officer eventually came out to explain to her there would be no hearing that evening. According to the court, they have no knowledge of why Brockman and Zimmerman did not appear, and no new date has yet been set to hear Christensen’s statements.

What statements are admissible, says Baker, are still to be determined by Village Judge Matthew Conlon. Baker previously stated, “It’s a very technical legal case. I’m not sure there is legal precedent for it.” When asked if other witnesses had come forward to make statements about Brockman, Baker says he cannot comment.

Baker made clear that this delay is chargeable to the defense’s time, and that the People remain ready for trial. Given an opportunity to explain their absence, Zimmerman did not return telephone calls for comment.

Despite the fact that Brockman is still employed by the Village of Penn Yan, the case remains in Village Court. At the outset, the defense requested that Conlon recuse himself from the case because of his prior interactions with Brockman. Conlon denied the request saying, “I believe I can be fair and impartial.”

Note: Wendy Christensen is not related to the author of this article.