In the age of #Metoo, an important movement long time coming, there can be unforeseen consequences when vigorously supporting gender-based misconduct without stepping back to thoroughly examine an accusation. Simply, allegations that lack sufficient corroboration or answers to reasoned questions should hold no more water than those in other contexts. As much as we want to believe any assertion of wrongdoing is legitimate, sometimes such claims are subjectively “right” because a complainant perceives it as such or they are completely fictitious. Regardless, whatever the case may be, a critical analysis of the evidence and facts tells quite a different story. For a recent client of the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law PC, such a scenario played out in a New York City Criminal Courts. After being contacted by the NYPD, our client self-surrendered for his arrest and prosecution by the District Attorney where the latter charged him with, among other offenses, Stalking in the Fourth Degree, New York Penal Law 120.45. Fortunately, and thanks to the skill, diligence and advocacy of Saland Law PC, a judge acquitted our client of all charges after trial.
At trial, the complainant, a young woman, testified that she met our client at a grocer in 2016 and gave our client her number after he asked for the same. A relationship never took off subsequent to this meeting and, according to the complainant, she never responded to our client’s two or three texts. Instead, the complainant blocked him because, according to her, he asked her to come over to his apartment. The young woman further asserted our client approached her again a few of months later at the grocer and, in her own words, stated that she believed that our client did not recognize her from the previous meeting. Fast forward to Fall 2017, the complainant alleged that she observed our client outside her apartment staring at her from his car. Concerned, the complainant stated she went into a tailor’s shop in her building to wait until our client left. Ultimately returning to her apartment, the complainant said she observed our client at the location when she left some time later. Not the only time she saw our client outside her apartment, the complainant testified that our client was in his car second time, commented to her about “making his day,” and then followed her into the subway station before turning around.
- Stalking in the Fourth Degree: New York Penal Law 120.45
- New York Stalking Crimes: Defense and General Information Page
- New York Crimes of Harassment and Fear: Stalking and Related Offenses
Despite these assertions, our cross examination of the complainant and our client’s own testimony told a different story. First, our client parked on the “complainant’s street” because, unbeknownst to the complainant, he resided less than a block away. Further, the young woman was also unaware that her street had parking restrictions requiring that cars be moved during certain hours. Fortunately, testimony from and pictures taken by the complainant corroborated that our client was in his vehicle during the times when he had to move his car for street sweepers to pass. Moreover, not only was the grocer about a block and a half from and frequented by both parties, but the subway station in question was the same one regularly used by our client and immediately adjacent to his apartment.
Too much to address here, a critical factor in a Fourth Degree Stalking, NY Penal Law 120.45, charge is that the accused intentionally, and with no legitimate purpose, knew or reasonably should have known, that his conduct would cause a victim reasonable fear of material harm to his or her physical health or safety. Based on the complainant’s testimony during her direct and cross examination, it became quite clear that she did not have reasonable fear.
While one can never be too vigilant and mindful of one’s safety, one’s perception is not always reasonable or a fair reaction to a circumstance that is explainable with a little, or a lot, of “homework.” Certainly, it is fair that any person who believes he or she may be a victim of a crime report their concerns to law enforcement, but it is of critical import that those who protect us do their due diligence as best they can before and after an arrest to ensure that an accused in fact committed a crime. Where a matter does not warrant an arrest and prosecution, but one occurs anyway, it is not the “victim” that is ultimately protected, but the accused who becomes the victim as his or her life is thrust into the criminal justice system and exposed to a lifelong criminal record and incarceration.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense law firm. The New York criminal trial lawyers at Saland Law CP served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prior to establishing the law firm and represent clients throughout the Hudson Valley region and New York City.