Imam Zul-Qarnain Shahid, a New York City Jails Chaplin, was arrested yesterday after x-rays allegedly revealed he had three razors and a pair of scissors on his person when he attempted to enter a New York City Department of Corrections jail in lower Manhattan. Upon setting off an alarm, corrections officers allegedly recovered the razors and scissors from a bag held by Imam Sahid. There is no public information at this time whether or not he was scheduled to see a particular prisoner or prisoners. As a result of this alleged incident, law enforcement officials state that he is charged with Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law 205.25.
New York Penal Law 205.25(1) sets forth this crime as follows:
A person is guilty of Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree when he knowingly and unlawfully introduces any dangerous contraband into a detention facility.
According to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, razor blades would certainly qualify as “dangerous contraband.” In determining whether the scissor is also “dangerous contraband,” one can look to a test established by the Court.
“[T]he test for determining whether an item is dangerous contraband is whether its particular characteristics are such that there is a substantial probability that the item will be used in a manner that is likely to cause death or other serious injury, to facilitate an escape, or to bring about other major threats to a detention facility’s institutional safety or security.” People v. Finley, 10 N.Y.3d 647, 657 (2008).
While this case is still in its infancy, all eyes will be watching to see how it plays out. Certainly, nobody is more interested in the outcome than Imam Zul-Qarnain Sahid, who faces up to 7 years in state prison if convicted after this most recent brush with the law. Previously, Imam Sahid served approximately 14 years in prison after a Murder and Robbery conviction in 1979. That being said, from a criminal defense attorney’s perspective, one important, if not the most important, issue that prosecutors must face and will likely be raised by Imam Zul-Qarnaun Sahid is not whether the items on his person were dangerous contraband, but whether or not he knowingly brought the contraband into the facility or accidentally did so without knowing they were in his bag.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The criminal defense lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients throughout the region in all criminal matters.