STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After spending 26 years behind bars, convicted killer Ennis Michaels recently told a state parole board he’s anxious to be released from prison and is ready to rejoin society right now.
Provided no one aggravates him.
Michaels, 56, is serving a sentence of 25 years to life behind bars for fatally shooting Anthony Craft, 26, on April 9, 1994, in Tompkinsville, during an argument.
“I am not no negative individual. … I think I can maintain a positive attitude in society and seek employment if I’m not around these individuals who don’t provoke me to some type of confrontation,” said Michaels, whose criminal history dates back four decades.
“My thing — my problem is that if I could go to a different community, where I’m not being around individuals who let off the negativity which provokes me, I feel I would be very successful without committing another crime,” the West Brighton resident said, according to a transcript of his parole-board interview.
However, Michaels, who contended he accidentally shot the victim, isn’t going anywhere. At least for the next 14 months.
The board denied him parole again, citing the gravity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal past, his spotty disciplinary record while incarcerated and his unwillingness to take blame for Craft’s death.
“Your instant offense … represents your third New York state incarceration and a tragic escalation of a criminal history that includes multiple prior felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions … and revocation of both parole and probation,” the board wrote. “In fact, you were on parole only a few months at the time of the instant offense.”
The panel also noted “the recklessness in the instant offense, in which you shot and killed a man during an argument and seeming lack of remorse for your actions and the harm they caused.”
Michaels gunned down Craft, a Charleston resident, around 1:30 a.m. at the corner of Victory Boulevard and Bay Street.
During his interview with the board, Michaels claimed Craft was the aggressor.
“I just walked in, and I was asking him questions and he pushed me,” Michaels said, according to a transcript of his parole board interview. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s how it is going to be,’ and the firearm went boom. …. The firearm discharged by mistake because he pushed me at the time, and it just went off.”
Michaels, who admitted to having his hand on the gun, said he didn’t know why Craft had pushed him.
Michaels was on parole then stemming from a prior robbery conviction, according to the transcript.
He said he was carrying a gun because an associate of his had been killed a few months earlier.
“I wasn’t really doing well with parole because I was always looking over my shoulder thinking I was up next,” he said. “… I was at a party, and I just felt my life threatened at the time.”
Police busted Michaels within minutes of the crime.
He admitted to giving them an alias — Ennis Michaels — because he was on parole.
His real name is Enos Mitchell.
At his two-week trial in May 1996, five witnesses fingered Michaels for the gunplay.
One witness testified he had been with Michaels up until the shooting, and he saw the defendant pitch the gun in a doorway on Bay Street shortly before cops grabbed him.
Some of the prosecution witnesses said the two men were arguing over money, others said it was over drugs.
However, they agreed Michaels turned around and shot Craft.
Officer Ralph Palma told the jury he and his partner initially stopped a group of people who had scattered following the shooting.
Those people, who ended up testifying for the prosecution, pointed out that the gunman was walking down Bay Street toward Stapleton.
While Palma did not see Michaels with a gun, he did see him make a pitching motion. The cops subsequently recovered the murder weapon.
The mortally wounded Craft reportedly never regained consciousness and succumbed to wounds to his vital organs nine days later.
In May 1996, an eight-man, four-woman jury in state Supreme Court, St. George, convicted Michaels of second-degree murder and two counts of gun possession.
He was sentenced two weeks later to 25 years to life for the murder conviction and to 90 months to 15 years for second-degree gun possession.
In addition, he received 42 months to seven years for a third-degree gun possession conviction.
The terms were run concurrently.
During the parole-board interview, Michaels was asked if he feels ready to go home now.
“Yes, sir,” he responded. “Very much.”
The panel didn’t agree, despite commending the defendant for his “personal growth, programmatic achievements and productive use of time” while incarcerated.
In addition to his problematic criminal and disciplinary history, the board said there is a “high probability” for substance abuse if Michaels is released now.
There was also official opposition to his being set free.
“At this time … with all factors weighed and considered, the panel concludes that your release would be inappropriate and would so deprecate the serious nature of the instance offense and undermine respect for the law,” said the board.
Michaels can re-apply for parole in January 2022.