Case Summary

THE KILLING OF MARTIN BRILL

On June 30, 1990, Martin Brill picked up Levi Davis at 5:15 A.M. from 17th and Pine Streets asking where he could purchase some cocaine.  Brill offered to pay Davis if he took him and they agreed.  At approximately 5:45 A.M. Brill and Davis arrived and attempted to purchase drugs at 7th and Tioga Streets in North Philadelphia.  

After arriving at the set location, Brill exited the vehicle while Davis remained in it.  Brill approached the would-be gunman and a short discussion ensued and ended with Brill walking away.  As Brill approached the intersection the gunman pulled out a gun and shot him.  Brill ran to the car where Davis was now pulling out of the area and dove into the driver's side window as Davis sped off -with Brill partially hanging out of the car's window. 

Just several blocks from the scene of the crime the car was pulled over by police.  Brill collapsed to the ground.  Davis immediately explained what happened and provided police officer Ronald Lynch a detailed description of the lone gunman.  Martin Brill was rushed to Temple University Hospital which was a couple of blocks away.  At 8:00 A.M., approximately two hours after the shooting, Martin Brill was dead.

WITNESSES TO THE MURDER OF MARTIN BRILL

1.       LEVI DAVIS (key eye witness):  Passenger in Brill's car.  On June 30, 1990 and July 5, 1990, Davis provided sworn statements where he clearly and unequivocally described Brill having an encounter with only one man – although another person was present but had walked away before the incident began.  The one man Davis described shooting Brill was – a 6ft. tall, Hispanic male, early 20s, close crop hair, detailed description of clothing, sneakers with no socks – the description meets that of Adam "Sasquatch" Colon.  The other person described being present (but who had walked away) was a tall, skinny, young, Black man with a high box hair cut, which fits the description of Victor "Web" Ruffin. 

A line-up would have demonstrated that Cortes did not meet any of the descriptions given by Davis.  The prosecution disregarded the court ordered line-up as did Cortes' attorney.

Davis was never brought to trial as promised by the prosecution, Roger King, nor was his testimony procured.    Davis is now deceased.

 

2.       POLICE OFFICER LYNCH (witness):  The information provided by Davis was immediately dispatched by Lynch notifying fellow police officers to look out for a gunman – tall Hispanic male, wearing a green turquoise shirt, light colored shorts.  That was the description of Adam "Sasquatch" Colon.  Two sworn statements were provided by Officer Lynch yet he was never brought to testify at the trial. 

 3.       ENRIQUE CRESPO, aka Kie Kay (witness):  Crespo was the first witness to take the police directly to Victor "Web" Ruffin, pointing him out as one of the individuals involved in the Brill incident.  Crespo's sworn statement on July 2, 1990 names Adam "Sasquatch" Colon and Victor "Web" Ruffin as the two individuals involved in the Brill case. 

Crespo was never brought to trial.                                                                                                                                                                                 Crespo is now deceased.                                                                                                                

 [Note:  During trial, Ruffin himself stated that Crespo led the cops to his whereabouts and that Crespo knew he was at the crime scene.] 

 4.        MARY ANN CRUET:  Hispanic female --  On July 3, 1990, Cruet provided a sworn statement telling police that Colon had confessed to a shooting and further described seeing Colon and Ruffin together throughout that night (early morning)  -- but not Cortes.  Cruet never mentions at any time seeing Cortes during that night (early morning) with Colon, Ruffin or anyone else. 

She told police that Adam "Sasquatch" Colon came to her house first with Ruffin explaining they were going to sell a gun, returning shortly thereafter, they then went to Tioga Street for the purpose of committing robberies – Colon with the long black gun with the clips and Ruffin with a little brown one.  Half an hour later, they came back up the street, reporting that they had robbed a Black guy and were splitting the money.  At this point, Colon went back down towards Tioga Street alone, declaring that he was going to rob somebody else.  Fifteen minutes later he came running up, and asked to be let into her apartment because someone was after him.  After coming in he admitted he had shot someone and she told him to get out.  He then went to sell his gun.  Returning once again and yelling up to her, while she was on her balcony that he sold his gun.  He then got into a green pick up driven by a bald man and they drove away together. 

Cruet was never brought to trial.

[Note:  She knew both of these men from the neighborhood and stated they were always together.  Ms. Cruet described Colon as a 6'ft tall 200 lb. Hispanic male with curly black hair; and Ruffin – a dark-skinned, Black man, skinny, tall with a box hair cut – known as a crack addict.

Cortes is a short Hispanic male often thought to be Caucasian (very pale skin).  Cruet would have been able to testify to what clothing was worn by Colon and Ruffin, which would permit comparison with the descriptions given to police by eyewitness Levi Davis.]

5.       ALEX ALVERADO (eyewitness):  The day of the incident Alverado, accompanied by his parents, attempted to report the Brill murder to the police at the 25th Police District.  The police sent them to the Homicide Unit at the Police Administration Building (P.A.B.), and after 3-1/2 hours of waiting, were dismissed without Alverado ever being interviewed to provide a statement. 

This attempt by Alverado was on the day of the Brill shooting – when still police did not have any suspects or witnesses.    Why not obtain a statement from a key eyewitness coming forth?

 [Note:  Record log at the P.A.B. showed Alverado and his family were signed into the log on June 30, 1990.]

About ten months after the Brill murder – Cortes found out about witness Alverado and was able to procure statements from him and his mother, Carmen Alverado.  Alverado's account was that on the early morning of June 30, 1990 he and his cousin Johnny Burgos were awaiting Alverado's employer to arrive.  (Alverado testified that he was an employee at the metal buffing shop located on the S.E. corner of 7th and Tioga – his employer opened the shop at 6 A.M.)  Alverado was sitting on the steps directly across from where he witnessed Adam "Sasquatch" Colon shoot Martin Brill. 

Alex and his mother appeared at the trial and testified for Cortes' defense.

6.       CARMEN ALVERADO (Alex Alverado's mother):  Accompanied her son to the police station the day he attempted to report Martin Brill murder.  Testified at trial for Hernan "Spel" Cortes' defense. 

 7.      VICTOR "WEB" RUFFIN (prosecution's witness):  Ruffin was identified by all witnesses as the young, tall, skinny, Black male with a high box hair cut.  Ruffin was identified as robbing people together with Colon the night of the Brill shooting.  Ruffin himself admitted to robbing people with a 25 automatic pistol and his partner in crime Colon possessed a 22 automatic pistol on the night of the Brill shooting – admitted user of crack cocaine with a part time job of robbing people to support his drug use.  In his July 2, 1990 statement, he denies altogether being present during the Brill shooting.  After Colon is arrested on July 11, 1990 at 3:35 A.M. - Ruffin is taken in 11 hours later at 2:12 P.M. and completely changed his statement "now" putting himself at the scene of Brill's murder as a casual by passer having no part in the Brill shooting committed by Colon (his crime partner).

Eyewitness Crespo pointed out Ruffin to police two days after the Brill shooting.  Ruffin was detained and taken in by police as the first suspect.  Ruffin became the prosecution’s witness to save himself from prosecution.  Ruffin had an outstanding warrant and pending cases for robbery and assault.  There was definite motive supplied to frame Cortes – Ruffin had personal animosity towards Cortes since the early 80s. 

In open court at the preliminary hearing Ruffin was granted blanket immunity by the prosecution.  During the trial, Ruffin denied to the court having any arrangement whatsoever with the Commonwealth in exchange for his testimony.  This was a lie as demonstrated by the grant of immunity given to Ruffin by the prosecution.

Both of Ruffin's statements and his testimony are filled with inconsistencies and contradicting stories. 

Ruffin has admitted to others that he falsely implicated Cortes.

8.        ADAM "SASQUATCH" COLON:  Colon was identified by all of the witnesses as the 6ft. tall, 200 lb, and curly hair, young Hispanic male who shot and killed Martin Brill.  Colon implicated Cortes stating he was with him and Ruffin committing robberies the night of the Brill shooting. 

Colon claims to have gone to Cruet's home with Cortes and Ruffin before and after the shooting.  He placed Cortes at the scene of the crime, actively partaking in the attempted robbery homicide of Brill.  Thereafter, running after Brill and jumping along the side of the car shooting into the vehicle. 

Later, Colon retracted his accusation against Cortes, testifying at the post trial hearing that Cortes was never present and had nothing to do with Brill's murder.  He stated his implicating of Cortes stemmed from the police telling him that Cortes had snitched on him.  [Note:  Court records show Colon has a history of mental problems.]

Colon also testified that on the day of the trial he wanted to come clean about falsely accusing Cortes but was dissuaded by his attorney, Marlene Cooperman.  Cooperman also testified that Colon did tell her about his co-defendant's (Cortes) innocence and how he wished to rectify his wrong doing to Cortes.  She claims to have advised Colon against taking the stand because of a particular strategy/tactic to try and get Colon a lesser sentence.

9.       HERNAN "SPEL" CORTES, a.k.a. Nicholas DeMatteo:  Arrested and charged on July 14, 1990 for the robbery and murder of Martin Brill.  And on January 7, 1992, in a "one day" non-jury trial, was convicted and ultimately sentenced to LIFE in prison.

According to Cortes, he had nothing to do with the Brill murder.  Cortes further states not being present at any time before, during or after the Brill incident. 

THE STORY ACCORDING TO CORTES:  On June 30, 1990, he and Colon met on Fairhill and Pike Streets and decided to get high at Colon's house.  On their way there, Cortes picked up a female named Horn (whom he'd just met for the first time) at 7th and Pike Streets.  Upon arriving at Colon's home the three of them – Colon, Horn and Cortes -- together consumed drugs.  Cortes then asked to go into the back room with Ms. Horn to have some "alone time" with her.  A short time after Cortes noticed that Colon had left his house.  About an hour later, Colon returned to the house explaining story about being chased and having shot someone.  At that point Cortes gathered his belonging and left with Ms. Horn – "alone."

 10.     JEFFREY M. KOLANSKY (court appointed trial attorney for Cortes):  Kolansky delayed all investigation efforts for about ten months after being appointed to represent Cortes.  Kolansky failed to follow through with and "insist" on the completion of the court ordered line up for key witness Levi Davis -- which would have eliminated Cortes as someone present at the scene.  He also failed to procure Mr. Davis', Mr. Crespo's, Ms. Cruet's and police officer Lynch's testimony – testimonies which would have benefited the defense and harmed the prosecution. 

 There was a good reason that Mr. Kolansky was totally negligent and ineffective in representing Mr. Cortes.  The record shows that Kolansky was a former prosecutor of twelve years with on going ties to the District Attorneys office.  It was discovered that Kolansky was simultaneously representing Cortes while working as an under cover agent for the District Attorney's office in an unrelated case -- i.e., Kolasky was wearing a wire for the D.A. in order to gather evidence against a Deputy Court Clerk, Harold Brewer.

 It was also discovered that while representing Cortes, Kolansky was actively working as an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P. Club).  Cortes did not have knowledge of this information during Kolansky's representation.  Kolansky's failure to disclose his ties to Cortes' direct adversaries in the criminal proceedings clearly constituted an active representation of competing interests. 

 All this gives reason to why a prompt and full investigation was not conducted and why the line up as ordered by the court and requested by Cortes on March 27, 1991 was disregarded. Or why Kolansky dissuaded Cortes from picking a jury trial and instead advised him to go with a waiver trial. Why he did not question detective Keith Quick nor challenge his lies regarding (non-present key witness) Davis' statement.  His failures to cross examine Ruffin concerning the commonwealth's grant of immunity and other matters.  He failed to use important impeachment material against Ruffin and failed to cross examine Ruffin on the many other inconsistencies in his stories. At times Kolansky appeared seemingly assisting the prosecution with particular comments during trial that surely the prosecutor took full advantage of. 

Kolansky never intended to seek justice in the case against Cortes – allowing a great injustice to take its course. 

SUBSEQUENT APPEALS WERE FILED AND DENIED

·         1997 -  Paul J. Hetznecker was appointed by the court to file an appeal (P.C.R.A.) Post Conviction Relief Act                          

Mr. Hetznecker abandoned Cortes' meritorious issues against his expressed wishes and directions – and in some cases without so much as consulting Cortes.  Mr. Hetznecker misled Cortes about the amount of time Cortes had in filing his next appeal.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 ·       1999 - Meyer Rose was retained privately by Cortes' uncle

Mr. Rose took his retainer's fee and never filed Cortes' appeal.  Because of time limitations and not having counsel to file, Cortes filed appeal pro-se.

·         2001 - Carole L. McHugh was retained to file Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Federal Court                                                                           

 

A proper brief was filed by Ms. McHugh but the court denied the appeal due to a late filing (time barred).

CORTES' DEFENSE TEAM IS PRESENTLY INVESTIGATING THE EXISTENCE OF OTHER POTENTIAL EYE WITNESSES

 

 

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

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