Opening Statements in Brooklyn Burglary Trial: ‘It’s maintenance,’ the Alleged Intruder Said to Enter Her Home

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December 20, 2023

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(NEW YORK) – In a riveting opening statement at Kings County Supreme Criminal Court on Oct. 6, prosecutors accused Robert Whiteley of a home invasion, while the defense challenged the absence of incriminating fingerprints. 

According to prosecutors, the defendant invaded Wanda Gonzalez’s home on Aug. 6, 2022. 

Affirming Gonzalez’ right to a “safe space,” the prosecutor recounted the victim’s harrowing morning. The 53-year-old Puerto Rican woman was enjoying her morning coffee when she heard a knock at her front door. After the person at the door said, “It’s maintenance,” Gonzalez, unable to peer through her peephole, cautiously removed the security chain. 

According to the prosecutor, Whiteley and an accomplice forcefully pushed the door open, while holding a “silver firearm.” Gonzalez was shoved to the ground, resulting in bruises on to left arm. The defendant made off with her Samsung smartphone, jewelry, cigarettes, and $4,200—a sum intended to support her sick mother in Puerto Rico, the prosecutor said. Within the courtroom, hushed whispers followed as the prosecution revealed that the victim had identified the defendant as the culprit on multiple occasions. It looked bleak for Whiteley. That is, until his attorney, Sarah Young of the Legal Aid Society, took to the podium. 

A short woman with blunt bangs, Young assured the jury that home invasions are scary. However, she noted that while Gonzalez’s home may have been robbed by a “balding, pudgy, middle-aged white man” that balding pudgy middle-aged white man was not Robert Whiteley. She said that the burglar was wearing a COVID-19 preventative face mask, so the victim could not have been able to identify the criminal. Then she added,  “There was no DNA evidence in the home.” 

Suspense hung over the courtroom as Judge Phyllis Chu stated that video evidence would be presented to the jury. But before the jurors could view that evidence, Chu adjourned the trial, and attorneys from both ends hurried out of the courtroom. Unsure of where the fate of Robert Whiteley lay, this trial had many more days to come. 

The prosecutor and defense attorney declined to comment on the case at the time of publication. 

Editor’s Note: With 18 charges, and now a month since the start of the trial, Whiteley was found guilty of six. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years post-release supervision on Dec. 11, according to the King’s County 

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