The Third Department determined the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury that a witness against the defendant (Lewandowski) was an accomplice as a matter of law (requiring corroboration of his testimony) was reversible error. Lewandowski bought a firearm from the defendant and therefore was an accomplice of the seller for corroboration purposes:
“A defendant may not be convicted of any offense upon the testimony of an accomplice unsupported by corroborative evidence tending to connect the defendant with the commission of such offense” (CPL 60.22 ). Pursuant to CPL 60.22, an accomplice is a person who “may reasonably be considered to have participated in . . . [t]he offense charged; or . . . [a]n offense based upon the same or some of the same facts or conduct which constitute the offense charged” (CPL 60.22  [emphasis added]). Notably, the definition of an accomplice for the purpose of the corroboration rule differs significantly from the definition of an accomplice for purposes of accomplice criminal liability (…compare CPL 60.22 with Penal Law § 20.00). CPL 60.22 broadens the definition of an accomplice “‘in order to provide a more equitable, operable and consistent standard for the courts in determining when the requirement of corroboration is applicable'”… . Thus, to be an accomplice for corroboration purposes, the witness “must somehow be criminally implicated and potentially subject to prosecution for the conduct or factual transaction related to the crimes for which the defendant is on trial” … .
Here, the evidence established that Lewandowski did not have a license to possess the handgun he bought from defendant. Thus, although Lewandowski could not be subject to prosecution for criminal sale of a firearm, he was potentially subject to prosecution for – and was, in fact, charged with – criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree since he unlawfully possessed the weapon as soon as he made the purchase (see Penal Law §§ 265.01 ; 265.20 [a] ). Just as the purchaser in a drug sale is, as a matter of law, an accomplice of the seller for corroboration purposes …, here Lewandowski was an accomplice as a matter of law with respect to defendant’s weapon sale and possession charges since he could have been (and was) charged with a crime “based upon some of the same facts or conduct” upon which the charges against defendant were based (CPL 60.22  [b]…). County Court was therefore required to instruct the jury that Lewandowski was an accomplice as a matter of law as to those charges, and that defendant could not be convicted on Lewandowski’s testimony absent corroborative evidence… . People v Medeiros, 105941, 3rd Dept 4-3-13