On the heels of a “Not Responsible” finding for a client accused of dating violence at his college in violation of Title IX policies against sexual harassment and domestic violence, New York criminal lawyer Jeremy Saland is once again pleased to share that Saland Law exonerated another client accused of domestic charges and crimes. Arrested for Third Degree Assault, Penal Law 120.00, Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation, Penal Law 121.11, and other crimes after our client’s then-girlfriend alleged he choked her, tore off her necklace, and repeatedly struck her in a hotel room during a holiday visit to Manhattan, prosecutors moved to dismiss the case before picking a jury and commencing a trial in the Jury Court Part. Though it was both deserved and a long time coming, what started off as a frightening night in custody, sending our client’s life spiraling, ended up in a complete and total exoneration.
Since starting my career in 2000 as a lawyer in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and establishing a successful criminal defense firm that has grown into servicing other areas of law, I have become all too familiar with the gravity and magnitude a criminal accusation can and does have upon a person and his or her family. More specifically, as my law practice grew into representing clients involved in university and college Title IX and code of conduct investigations, I quickly learned that even beyond a criminal case, any allegation is overwhelming. When the target or subject of misconduct is a young person – a college, university, or high school student – an allegation that he or she violated a school’s Title IX policies against dating violence, sexual harassment, or some other infraction involving the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments to the Cleary Act, the emotional burden for a client is often at its greatest. Why? Without an adult’s life experience, lack of a local support structure or fear of involving parents, and perception that their “life is over”, these teens or twenty-somethings find themselves in a place of despair, facing a stained academic career with the real possibility of suspension or expulsion, and a future life and career on the precipice.
Over the past twenty-three years as a practicing attorney, first as a Manhattan prosecutor and then a criminal defense lawyer before expanding my legal services, I have had the professional good fortune to successfully represent clients in an assortment of criminal charges and trials, Article 8 family court orders of protection proceedings, Title IX and collegiate code of conduct investigations, and sextortion and blackmail related matters. I’ve done all this while serving as a local prosecutor and then an elected official, even temporarily serving as acting supervisor, aka, mayor, in a Westchester County municipality.
However, since District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s New York County indictment of former President Donald Trump’s alleged “hush money scheme involving Stormy Daniels on dozens of counts of First Degree Falsifying Business Records, a new and unexpected opportunity arose that has been professionally and personally rewarding: working as a legal analyst on national networks from CNN and MSNBC to more NYC centric stations like Spectrum’s NY1 and Fox 5 NYC.
Over the past year alone, Saland Law, PC, a New York criminal defense firm, has represented well north of two dozen clients arrested, given Desk Appearance Tickets (DATs), or given pink summonses or tickets by police officers with the Port Authority Police Department for a litany of New York weapon crimes at Queens’ LaGuardia and JFK Airports. During that time, we have seen, and continue to see, what appears to be an uptick in law abiding people being charged with violating Penal Law Article 265 or the NYC Administrative Code for not just guns and knives, but “weapons” as innocent as batons.
Whether a client has a loaded or unloaded firearm, baton, switch blade, brass knuckles, or even one single bullet, the common thread across these cases is that either the individual was unaware possessing these items was criminal in New York State when they attempted to check the weapon, even if they legally possessed it elsewhere, or they had no idea the contraband in question was in their bag when they were screened by TSA agents. Regardless of the reason and no matter whether they are taken into custody or given an NYC Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT), these otherwise law-abiding citizens find themselves charged with misdemeanors or felonies.
Sometimes good people do terribly bad things, regular people make incredibly poor choices, and bad situations find everyday people who did nothing much at all. No matter how they got there, when the handcuffs are locked around their wrists and a Grand Jury hands down an indictment, they face the same dire consequences within the confines of New York’s criminal justice system.
Regardless of the bucket a recent Saland Law client could point to, he found himself in desperate need of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Facing the Class “D” violent felonies of Second Degree Assault, Penal Law 120.04, and Second Degree Strangulation, Penal Law 121.12, and a presumptive mandatory two to seven years in prison, our client, a professional working for a large organization, knew his life, liberty, and career were all in jeopardy.
So, you were arrested at the Phish concert outside New York’s Madison Square Garden after NYPD police officers grabbed you with a balloon allegedly filled with nitrous oxide. Maybe you did not even have a balloon in your hand, but were simply next to the nitrous tank when the police handcuffed and placed you under arrested. Though you may have “lucked out” and received a Desk Appearance Ticket or DAT instead of spending the night and early morning in Manhattan’s Central Booking, either of which is a far lousier option than getting lost in “Tweezer” or “You Enjoy Myself” at MSG, now you find yourself in another arena – the criminal justice system. So, with DAT in one hand and a wasted concert ticket in the other, the question remains: what are the crimes of Public Health Law 3380, Inhalation of Certain Toxic Vapers or Fumes, and Penal Law 270.05, Unlawfully Possessing or Selling Noxious Material, and since when did the NYPD start arresting concertgoers for these crimes?!
The following blog entry can’t tell you why the NYPD changed its tune to start enforcing these laws, but will break down the crimes of PHL 3380 and NY PL 270.05, their elements, the penalties, and some defenses, to these crimes.
According to reports, NYC is once again under siege from a wayward construction crane that collapsed from its perch near Hudson Yards. Though six people were injured, there were fortunately no deaths nor serious injuries after the crane caught fire, broke down, and cascaded towards the street below. Carrying sixteen tons of concrete, the crane, according to the NY Post, appears to be owned by the Lomma Crane Company. The now deceased James Lomma was previously indicted for Manslaughter and other crimes after a crane he owned crushed a man in 2008. A Manhattan jury acquitted him of those charges in 2012.
With the above in mind, beyond potential civil exposure, could the crane company owner face criminal charges for this second Lomma crane accident? Without knowing what the evidence will reveal – the cause of the fire, the condition of the crane, whether the crane had been inspected and up to date with repairs, how it was secured, etc. – one cannot say whether the NYPD would arrest a proprietor and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office would pursue criminal charges. However, what crimes could a crane owner or operator face in light of the fact that despite there being no deaths or serious injuries, a multi-ton crane could have wreaked havoc and worse on New Yorks below.
Usually, one of the first questions clients ask me in my capacity as a criminal defense lawyer after they have been arrested by the NYPD or Port Authority Police for possessing a loaded firearm is, “What is the penalty is for carrying a gun in New York City?” and “How long do you go to jail for having a gun in New York even if you have a conceal carry permit in [Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia…]?”. While a conviction for Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, Penal Law 265.03, can saddle you with a sentence for as long as 15 years in prison, with a compulsory minimum of three and a half years if the firearm is “loaded” (bullets needn’t be in the weapon for it to be “loaded” as a matter of law”), a judge can hand down punishment of up to four years behind bars for Criminal Possession of a Firearm, Penal Law 265.01-b(1), even when there is no ammunition at all.
With this type of exposure in mind, Saland Law is incredibly grateful, though not as much as our client after her arrest for Penal Law 265.03, prosecutors took the time to truly review what I presented, examine our client’s case, and advance the matter for dismissal in the interest of justice. While a non-criminal Disorderly Conduct violation or Adjournment in Contemplation (ACD) of dismissal after six months would have been considered a “win” assuming there was no legal impediment to the case, such as in cases I have handled in Queens County where unknowing travelers checked their firearms with the TSA at either JFK or LaGuardia Airport, and downward departures and re-pleaders to non-criminal pleas in other counties such as Manhattan and elsewhere, Brooklyn prosecutors went the extra mile to make an objectively just decision on a case that appeared ugly if one did not do one’s “homework”.
Whether or not law enforcement shocked Rex Heuermann when they arrested the architect outside his midtown Manhattan office for murdering the “Gilgo Four”, Suffolk County prosecutors’ application to keep the alleged “Long Island Serial Killer” behind bars without bail tells a damning and compelling narrative of the beachside homicides. Called the “Manorville Butcher” and “Craigslist Ripper” in the media, a Suffolk County Grand Jury indicted Heuermann, a resident of Massapequa, on three counts of both First and Second Degree Murder for the deaths of Melissa Barthelemy on or about July 10, 2009, Megan Waterman on or about June 6, 2010, and Amber Costello on or about September 2, 2010. Although Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney has not charged Heuermann with the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, or other murders some believe are tied to Heuermann, his application to have Heuermann remanded, or held without bail, made it clear that their investigation into Brainard-Barne’s death “is continuing and is expected to be resolved soon.”
The following is a brief examination of the joint investigation by county, state, and federal law enforcement, the evidence and techniques pursued to secure it, and the crimes and penalty Heuermann faces. As we learn more and find out what, if anything, search warrants at Heuermann’s home reveal, there may be many more questions asked, but hopefully more answered as well.
Sure, I was being a bit tongue-and-cheek with the title to this blog entry, but the more I read about the Clean Slate Act (A. 1029A and S.211), a potential law that will automatically seal all misdemeanor and felony convictions other than sex crimes, the more I fear New York may have again lost its way in pursuit of a just and righteous end. No, the criminal justice system will not be sending criminals from our courthouses with babka in hand while telling their victims not to let the door hit them on the way out, but someone has to tap the brakes before we find ourselves with indelible regret that no statute can seal.