As miserable as it likely was for Kristaps Porzingis to play for the perennially cellar-dwelling New York Knicks, the current Dallas Maverick’s All-Star forward is in the type of foul trouble that outweighs any he experienced at Madison Square Garden. Either a victim of Extortion and Blackmail or a man on the precipice of an arrest for a heinous Rape crime, the “Unicorn” finds himself playing both offense and defense as the game clock is expiring.
If what alleged is true, forcing another person to engage in sexual intercourse by a threat or use of physical force – defined as “forcible compulsion” in the New York Penal Law – is not only a statutorily identified “violent crime” of First Degree Rape, but exposes a person to registration as a sex offender upon conviction. Alternatively, if the complainant’s allegation was nothing but a money grab to unjustly enrich herself, then in lieu of find himself with handcuffs slapped on his wrists, 7’3” Latvian can steal the ball of public opinion and the criminal justice system and demand that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office prosecute his accuser for Second Degree Attempted Grand Larceny by Extortion in violation of New York Penal Law 110/155.40.
The Rape Allegations: An Analysis
If Porzingis is prosecuted for violating Penal Law 130.35(1), First Degree Rape, he would face a mandatory minimum of five years and maximum of twenty-five years in prison. Only slightly less concerning, a conviction for an Aggravated Felony and Crime Involving Moral Turpitude would likely result in the termination and loss of his otherwise legal status in the United States.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations, many questions remain unanswered (at least to the general public consuming “evidence” from the tabloids) and should give law enforcement pause if accurate. If Porzingis, a seven plus foot man, repeatedly struck this young woman in the face, one would assume she sustained some type of injury. After all, if he can palm a basketball with ease, its fair to say that hands of his size and girth would have left redness, swelling or bruising on her face, if not more extensive injuries. Are there photographs or other images corroborating this claimed attack and were they taken immediately after the incident? If none exist, why not? Whether or not there are any pictures, what if any medical treatment did she receive? Even in the unlikely chance that the accuser suffered no injury to her face or head, did the complainant seek and secure a rape kit that is routinely administered in such situations? If so, what, if anything, can we learn from this medical process? If she did not, why did she fail to do so? There may be a reasonable answer, but the NYPD must inquire nonetheless.
Another question is whether there was a prompt outcry and, if so, to whom? Such evidence may not only be admissible in a Grand Jury and at trial, but if no such witness exists, a very reasonable question is, again, “Why not?” When coupled with the reports that the accuser did not file a complaint with law enforcement until approximately one year after the alleged Rape occurred and the representations that the parties maintained a relationship subsequent to the alleged attack, further concerns begin to percolate. Raising additional flags, Porzingis reported to the FBI that he was a victim of Blackmail. Only then, if reports are accurate, did the complainant file a police report. Did she do so after she recognized that neither Porzingis nor the Knicks would acquiesce to her demands and the matter had been forwarded to the NYPD?
The Extortion and Blackmail Allegations: An Analysis
In its simplest terms, Porzingis is a victim of Extortion and Blackmail if his accuser tried to induce him to pay her money by preying on his fear that if he failed to do so she would (1) accuse him of a crime, (2) expose the rape, whether it was true or not, and doing so would subject him to ridicule and contempt, or (3) perform any act that would not materially benefit her but materially harm Porzingis’ reputation, business and personal relationships. Codified in Penal Law 155.05, assuming any three of these subsections are satisfied, then by default (plus proof beyond a reasonable doubt!) the accuser would have violated Penal Law 155.30(6), New York’s Grand Larceny statute. Taking the matter one step further, because the value of attempted theft exceeded $50,000, the specific crime she would face upon her arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court would be New York Penal Law 110/155.40, Attempted Second Degree Grand Larceny. A class “D” felony, a conviction would not mandate her incarceration, but she would face up to seven years “upstate” and far north of the Knicks’ practice facility in Westchester County.
It certainly is more than reasonable to inquire why the complainant sought $68,000 to pay for her brother’s college expenses when such money had a limited, if any, link to the pain, suffering and victimization that allegedly occurred. Arguably, if Porzingis punched and spit on her and called her a “slave,” such an injury would likely exceed, and again have no relation to, her brother’s college tuition bill. Putting the amount of the monetary demand aside, it is worth noting that Penal Law 155.15 allows for an affirmative defense to Extortion that this young woman reasonably believed the charge of Rape was true and her sole purpose was to force Porzingis to take action to “fix” what he did. In other words, remedy her victimization. That said, threatening to report her sexual assault unless Porzingis coughed up $68,000 does not rectify and make right the alleged conduct.
Touching on an early issue, if true, the fact that the relationship, even if non-sexual, continued should give investigators significant pause when assessing the veracity of her complaint. It would strain credibility, physicality aside, that if Porzingis spewed such hateful words after raping her, a relationship in any form continued. And while it may be unpalatable to some, investigators cannot rule out the weaponization of race and gender by the complainant when examining the allegations in the context of a report made so long after the alleged incident and what appears to be in response to an FBI investigation into Extortion. There may be a valid and credible answers to these issues and concerns but as inconvenient as it may be for those who want to rush to judgment one way or another, all of the evidence must be examined holistically and not individually parsed out on an island.
All our personal beliefs aside, whether it is a horrific predation of a woman, an iteration of the Aziz Ansari accusation, a Brian Banks-like fabrication, a money grabbing exploitation of #MeToo, or a little bit from two or more of these columns, we must permit the investigation to run its course and, if either is arrested, allow them the same due process rights and assumption of innocence we all take for granted.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal law firm representing both the accused and victims of Extortion and Blackmail throughout the New York City region. Both founding members served as Manhattan prosecutors prior to establishing the law practice.