Make no mistake. 34 year old wannabe rapper, Raymond Velasquez, is a little past his “aspiring” years, but deserves some credit for his energy and ambition. While his arrest for disrupting NYC traffic and intentionally disregarding the police may not be worth the attention he has brought upon himself, prosecutors in Cyrus Vance’s Manhattan District Attorney’s Office may have been equally ambitious in their charging decisions. Certainly, it appears that Mr. Velasquez, aka, “CI Joe” was disorderly and there is a strong argument that he trespassed when he climbed the utility pole, but is the Alicia Keys lover boy guilty of Reckless Endangerment?
According to New York Penal Law section 120.20, one is guilty of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree when he or she acts so recklessly that his or her conduct creates a substantial risk (not just any risk) of serious physical injury (not just any injury). Now, digging a little deeper, let’s examine some critical definitions here. First, “substantial” is obviously more likely than a mere “chance” or “possibility.” More importantly, “serious physical injury,” according to the New York Penal Law, is not just any injury, but one that could cause death.
Now, don’t get me wrong, prosecutors have a legitimate reason as to why individuals should be prevented from climbing utility poles. Whether you are “GI Joe” or “CI Joe,” climbing one of those could certainly cause damage to taxpayer property (an appropriate charge would then be Criminal Mischief). Moreover, traffic could be snarled (an appropriate charge would be Disorderly Conduct). Depending on the conduct of the climber, many other charges could be brought as well. Here, however, it appears that other than rapping, dropping a couple CDs, and making a fool of himself, the criminal nature of his actions were non-existent. As I understand the facts, how dropping CDs from fifteen feet caused a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury (it is relevant as to when he started dropping these and how many) is beyond me. Of course, prosecutors could go with the Ralphie “Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle Theory” of poking out one’s eye. In that case, the videos posted all over the web would have to establish some risk to the police who did not appear overly concerned or the pedestrians who were pushed blocks away.
Again, Assistant District Attorneys in Manhattan have a very good reason to prosecute offenses such as this. There is little doubt that Mr. Velasquez perpetrated at least a violation. However, there is equally little doubt that his actions as seen on the videos and reported through the media (if true of course) in no way rises to the crime of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree.
Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers represent the accused in New York City and the region.