According to various reports, David Mejias, the Democrat New York State Senate candidate running against Republican Senator Kemp Hannon in Long Island’s 6th Senate District, was arrested earlier today after an alleged “domestic type” incident involving an ex-girlfriend. Mr. Mejias is charged with multiple misdemeanors including Menacing in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 120.14), Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 120.20) and Stalking in the Third Degree. These crimes are all “A” misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail. While bail was set at $1000, District Attorney Kathleen Rice appointed a special prosecutor due to her relationship with the defendant.
It is alleged that Mr. Mejias, the defendant, drove past his ex-girlfriend and abruptly stopped his vehicle. This caused the ex-girlfriend, the alleged victim / complainant, to do the same with her car. At that point it is further alleged that Mr. Mejias exited his vehicle and and yelled and screamed as he approached the alleged victim. The complainant was able to drive away, but the defendant is alleged to have followed her. After she was able to elude the accused, the ex-girlfriend reported the case to the police and the police arrested Mr. Mejias.
I have blogged numerous times in the past regarding the crime of Reckless Endangerment. As I have stressed, an accusation is merely just that…an accusation and not evidence of guilt. For this particular charge, the prosecution must establish that the defendant acted so recklessly that he created a substantial risk of serious physical injury. In other words, the risk must not merely be a possible one, but a substantial one while the potential injury must be more than merely a bump or bruise. Even if Mr. Mejias’ actions were an exhibition of extremely poor judgment, did his reckless action raise to the level where there was a risk of serious physical injury? How fast were they driving? Where there other cars on the road? Was the ex-wearing a seat belt? If so, was the risk diminished? Again, even if Mr. Mejias did drive in this manner and put his ex-girlfriend at risk, was that risk substantial and did it create the potential for serious physical injury?
Menacing in the Second Degree might pose a more difficult problem for the defendant. According to the law, if Mr. Mejias repeatedly followed this ex-girlfriend or engaged in a course of conduct or repeatedly committed acts over a period of time intentionally placing or attempting to place her in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death, then he would be guilty of this crime. There are case decisions that do establish that “course of conduct” need not be over days or weeks, but significantly less time. Having said that, did his alleged yells (what was he screaming and was he threatening to hurt her?) place her in fear of physical injury or worse? Alternative, was she merely annoyed, aggravated or concerned for reasons beyond this physical danger?
Stalking in the Third Degree is similar to Menacing in the Second Degree (assuming the above Menacing offense is the actual subsection charged). Mr. Mejias would be guilty of Stalking if with intent to harass, annoy or alarm his ex-girlfriend, Mr. Mejias intentionally engaged in a course of conduct (yelling, following with car, etc.) directed at his ex-girlfriend which is likely to cause her to reasonably fear physical injury or serious physical injury, the commission of a sex offense against, or her kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment or death of a member of of her immediate family.
It is interesting to note, that the New York State Senate recently expelled one of its members, Hiram Monserrate, after he was convicted of a “domestic” crime of a reckless nature that involved his girlfriend. A Queens County Supreme Court Judge found the former Senator and current Assembly candidate guilty of Reckless Assault in the Third Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law 120.00(2). Currently, Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn New York State Senator, is facing felony charges in Brooklyn Supreme Court related to his alleged reckless and intentional acts of Criminal Mischief and Assault. These acts are not alleged to have been “domestic” in nature or involve a current or former girlfriend.
For further information on the crime of Reckless Endangerment and Menacing, including the New York Penal Law as well as legal decisions, please follow the highlighted links (more in depth analysis of Reckless Endangerment can be found in relation to Jet Blue’s Steven Slater). Additional information on these crimes can be found on the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog (NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com) by searching for these terms and other terms.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors.