Some may deem Paul Manafort’s roughly seven and a half year sentence in Federal Court as light, but should the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prevail in its prosecution of Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, lobbyist and jet-setter will likely not be so fortunate the second time around. While there may be Double Jeopardy grounds that the criminal defense team can explore to dismiss the indictment if close enough to the Federal case, if convicted of First Degree Residential Mortgage Fraud or the lesser offense of Attempted First Degree Residential Mortgage Fraud as reflected in New York Penal Law sections 187.25 and 110/187.25 respectively, Manafort’s days (years?) of yearning for the penthouse will be that much longer as he cools his heels in the Big House.  Whether or not he is deemed a “predicate felon” for his Federal conviction, meaning New York views his plea and sentence as a prior felony in this state, Manafort would face up to 25 years in prison and no less than 1 to 3  years for the class B felony of Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree. In the event he is deemed a “predicate felon,” his minimum sentence would be 4.5 to 9 years “upstate.” All of this ignores the lesser, but nonetheless serious crimes of Attempted First Degree Mortgage Fraud, a class C felony, and the class E felonies of First Degree Falsifying Business Records, Fourth Degree Conspiracy and First Degree Scheme to Defraud. If convicted, as a predicate, Manafort’s sentencing judge would be mandated to incarcerate him to no less than 3 to 6 years and 1.5 to 3 years on these two respective felony classes and a corresponding maximum of 15 and 4 years as a temporary leasee of an 8 by 8 SRO with unobstructed views of New York’s finest concrete and iron construction.

Understanding Residential Mortgage Fraud

If what prosecutors claim is true, Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin could have Razzy worthy roles starring next to Marlon Brown in a remake of 1989’s “How I Got into College.” The alleged easy way out amateurs who, with others, collectively paid millions of dollars to “assist” their genetic lottery winners’ successful college admission into such universities as USC, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forrest, Ramsey (well, not really), and others, relied on the good old power of the almighty dollar to perpetrate the nationwide college entrance scheme. In lieu of cheating the old-fashioned way, “Operation Varsity Blues,” the relatively unoriginal but cutely named federal bribery and cheating investigation, resulted in dozens of arrests involving paid off Division 1 coaches, photoshopped pictures of high schoolers playing sports when they were likely absorbed in selfie inspired “insta” posts, and some old school cheating on SATs and ACTs. A heck of a scheme if you don’t get caught, this entire criminal enterprise had nothing on the one-man professional test-taking operation and self-proclaimed “GMAT Hero” along with his larger band of [admission slot] thieves. Responsible for taking in excess of 500 GMAT, GRE and TOEFL exams (go ahead, Google “Lu Xu” and “GMAT”), his proficiency  and skill was unparalleled even among his test-taking cohorts. Sorta’ a lesser known of the Uncanny Xmen of the college admissions underground.

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If fighting City Hall is difficult, battling the District Attorney’s Office is arguably harder when your arguments and evidence falls on deaf ears and your client’s exposure is not measured in money but a permanent criminal record and the duration of incarceration. Fortunately, however, when your client is left standing and walks away exonerated, there are few greater victories worthy of battle scars. For a recent Crotty Saland PC client arrested for Second Degree Burglary and other crimes, and subsequently charged with Third Degree Assault and Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, leaving the justice system unscathed other than by a undeserved and miserable experience could not be more rewarding. The following is lesson of how prosecutorial inexperience coupled with expansive power can result in potentially grave miscarriages of justice. Simply, no matter the allegation, it is incumbent upon any criminal defense attorney to question and challenge law enforcement to protect your rights.

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If being arrested for a crime you did not commit isn’t bad enough, when you don’t live in New York City and your witnesses aren’t fluent in the English language and are returning to their homes in Europe that same day, its reasonable to assume that things are about to go from bad to terribly worse. While it is a legitimate thought to have as you are hauled away in handcuffs, charged with crimes including Assault in the Third Degree, New York Penal Law 120.00, and tossed into Manhattan’s Central Booking to wait and meet a criminal lawyer your friends or family retained, your initial pain need not foretell the ultimate outcome. As experienced by a recent Crotty Saland PC client, the trauma of being accused of Assault by a cab driver and the anxiety of being 1000s of miles from home was fortunately (if one can use that term when falsely accused of a crime) the worst part of a roller coaster ride that ended in a meritorious dismissal.

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As of November 2018, New York Coercion laws and crimes have changed. Penal Law 135.61 replaces Penal Law 135.60 as the “new” Second Degree Coercion making the latter statute the Third Degree offense. This class “E” felony adopts much of the language from the lesser misdemeanor but adds a new and critical element that in turn elevates the direct and collateral consequences of an arrest and conviction. Although you should fully examine the law with your attorney to ensure you do not conflate Extortion and Blackmail with any level of this statute, the following provides some basic insight into the definitions, elements and punishment of and for PL 135.61.

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“Only the guilty hire defense attorneys.”

“If he was arrested, he clearly did something wrong.”

“Innocent people aren’t accused of crimes. Clearly, she’s guilty.”

Somewhat common refrains by those who have never had the misfortune of being accused of wrongdoing, whether fair or not, until you find yourself in handcuffs or before a judge it is quite easy to sit in judgment. However, when it is your name that is replaced by a docket number, the misconceptions you may have held will likely give way quite quickly. How are you going to get yourself out of this conundrum and who is the best attorney to protect your rights and bring your nightmare to a swift end? For a recent Crotty Saland PC client who found himself the subject of a wrongful arrest and prosecution, he took the right steps and debunked the myth as to why innocent people – or any accused for that matter – hire criminal defense lawyers.

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Our client, previously convicted of Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief, was sentenced in 2015 to a conditional discharge. Further, as part of the disposition of a case involving, among other allegations, Criminal Possession of a Weapon and Menacing, the Court issued a five year Order of Protection in favor of a cab driver despite the fact that the complainant and our client were strangers. After moving out of New York State and pursuing a new career, the Restraining Order, not the underlying conviction, began to cause our client issues because it appeared on background checks. Wanting to secure relief from the Order of Protection that functionally served no purpose to protect an unknown person in a state where our client did not reside, the client reached out to the criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC to vacate the Order of Protection.

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When it comes to Harassment in the Second Degree, New York L 240.26, one of the most frequently charged offenses in New York City and likely throughout the State, one issue that criminal attorneys and prosecutors litigate time and time again is what constitutes a meaningful and real threat of harm. Wherever mere words are punishable by law, either civilly or criminally, vagaries and inconsistencies of law inevitably follow. Not only that, but the interaction of such criminal statutes or common law bases for civil liability inevitably run up against the very important and foundational First Amendment protection of free speech.

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In most negotiated guilty pleas throughout New York City’s Criminal and Supreme Courts, as well as town, village and County Courts throughout Rockland, Westchester and the Hudson Valley, defendants are expected to waive their right to appeal their conviction and sentence. From one point of view, this makes sense. After all, if a defendant and his or her attorney have negotiated a plea deal that they are happy with, why would the defendant turn around and try to unwind what transpired with an appeal to the Appellate Division or Appellate Term. One simple answer is that people change their minds, which is typically not a reason to vacate a guilty plea. However, that change of mind often goes hand in hand with new information or guidance from some other source – information that the defendant’s counsel and/or the sentencing court failed to provide to the defendant when they made the decision to plead guilty. Depending on the nature and importance of that missing information, the voluntariness and intelligence of a guilty plea can be called into question. Despite this, when defendants are routinely expected to waive their right to appeal as part of the plea deal, this often forecloses any otherwise available avenue of vacating that uninformed or underinformed plea.

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Can I have my firearm conviction sealed? Does New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 apply to weapon and gun crimes? The short answer to the above questions is “maybe.” Fortunately for a recent Crotty Saland PC client, the specific answer was “yes.” A complicated sealing application, after litigating an old 1980s conviction for New York Penal Law 265.02(1), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, where the prosecution argued that the sentencing court incorrectly recorded the conviction as a non-violent offense, the presiding judge agreed with our lawyers’ motion to “expunge.” In substance, the District Attorney argued that the charges contained in the indictment were violent felonies and, as a result, the conviction was not an eligible offense pursuant to CPL 160.59(2)(a).

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