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Four sentenced to prison in Astoria gang assault

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Four out of seven men convicted of a gang assault during a Bangladeshi holiday two years ago have been sentenced to prison terms by a judge who will rule next week on the fate of two others whose attorneys are disputing their convictions.

Justice Arthur Cooperman imposed five-year prison terms on Joynul Islam, 18, of 32-30 Steinway St. in Astoria and Nashir Ahmed, 21, of the Bronx at a March 25 hearing, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Farhad Meah, 20, of 35-24 95th St. in Jackson Heights and Suhal Uddin, 20, of 64-02 35th Ave. in Woodside were both sentenced as youthful offenders to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison, he said.

All four men were convicted in February on gang assault charges following a six-week jury trial in Queens Supreme Court.

The attack, carried out by a group of Bangladeshis on two men also of Bangladeshi heritage, occurred two years ago on their country's independence day - Feb. 21, 2001 - outside the Kasturi Country Club on 36th Street in Astoria, Brown said.

The defendants instigated a fight with a 22-year-old man outside the club, then assaulted the victim's 24-year-old friend when he tried to intervene, Brown said.

The two victims each sustained such injuries as a broken nose, stab wound and slashing across the face, Brown said.

Three other men also found guilty of gang assault - Sakib Chowdhury, 21, and Basudeb Chakrabarty, 20, both of 3556 Rochambeau Ave. in the Bronx, and Balal Ahmr, 26, of 3554 Rochambeau Ave. in the Bronx - were scheduled to be sentenced Monday, Brown said.

That is also when Cooperman is expected to rule on motions filed by the attorneys for Chowdhury and Chakrabarty, who are asking that the convictions for both men be overturned because the jury misunderstood the law.

A spokeswoman for Brown said his office would not comment while the case was still underway.

The jurors "didn't believe that [our] client[s] ... had anything to do with the incident itself," said Ronald Nir, Chowdhury's attorney. "But they found them culpable because they both left with the people who were culpable, and that they should have known better and they should have not gone with them."

Chakrabarty's lawyer, Michael Horn, said "the jury committed misconduct in ignoring the judge's instructions and convicting Mr. Chowdhury and Mr. Chakrabarty of gang assault in the first degree when the facts did not warrant that."

They also claim that the jury foreman acted improperly by relying on her own medical knowledge as a nurse when she evaluated testimony from the only person on trial acquitted of all charges.

Mohammed Sayed, 24, of Astoria was found not guilty even though the seven other defendants named him as the ringleader, Nir said. Sayed testified that blood seen on his hand at the time of the assault resulted from a bandage falling off a pre-existing cut, and Nir said the jury foreman deemed the testimony credible based on her experience in nursing - thereby acting as an unsworn witness of sorts, the attorneys claim.

Nir also asserted the conviction on gang assault charges makes no sense because the two men were acquitted on lesser assault charges.

"I really think that the jury screwed up," Nir said. "If he were to be convicted of the greater, he would have to have been convicted of the lesser as well. And that wasn't done."

Although the attorneys are hoping the judge rules in their favor, at Monday's hearing Cooperman may also impose jail terms on both men, who are now being held in prison without bail.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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