Any New York criminal lawyer can tell you an allegation is merely an allegation. It is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or, for that matter, proof of much at all. Whether you are arrested for a fight involving a neighbor or a stranger, the burden on the prosecution is to not only establish the probable cause that legitimized a police arrest for Assault, but also they burden is on the People to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite this legal requirement and the recognition that an arrest is not proof of any guilt, allegations are often devastating. For a client of Saland Law PC, this pain was overwhelming until our New York criminal lawyers were able to secure a dismissal in his felony Assault case.
Prosecutors charged our client with Assault in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 120.00) after our client allegedly struck another man and opened up a laceration on his forehead. Normally a misdemeanor crime, this Third Degree Assault was prosecuted as a felony due to the allegation that the barrages of punches were part of a verbal tirade against the complainant because of the alleged victim’s perceived homosexuality. Under New York State law, a misdemeanor crime can be elevated to a felony offense if it is classified as a “hate crime.”
From the onset of the prosecution, our client denied he initiated the confrontation or that he attacked the complainant because of his perceived homosexuality. Unfortunately, a supervisor from the District Attorney’s Office believed our client had said some horrendous things as he allegedly pummeled the complainant. In fact, it appeared prosecutors had made up their mind as to our client’s guilt solely on the nature of the allegation instead of the actual evidence and facts. After all, why would a complainant lie!??!
Although it took some time, an investigation found a witness unrelated to either party who saw what occurred. This witness stated that the complainant kicked and spit on our client to initiate a confrontation. The complainant was likely intoxicated. The complainant was advised multiple times to stop. It was not after being kicked multiple times did our client protect himself. Even then, however, the injury sustained by the complainant was a result of his own actions after walking into scaffolding or a similar structure. Further, the witness informed our investigators, and ultimately prosecutors, that he had seen the complainant act aggressively in the past with both men and women.
Not willing to dismiss on the grounds of the independent eyewitness testimony, an ATM video revealed a recording of the complainant confronting our client and attacking him. The alleged victim’s conduct was prior to our client interacting with the complainant in a defensive way or aggressive way. Despite our initial assertion of innocence being rebuked, the prosecution dismissed the charges against our client with the video and witness statement in hand.
Remember, each case is unique. Past results in no way guarantee a future outcome. In fact, videos and witnesses to criminal acts are not part of most cases prosecuted in New York criminal court. What is important to take from this case, however, is that regardless of an allegation and irrespective how “ugly” the accusation is, a claim of wrongdoing is merely a claim. Just because a complainant makes an assertion and the prosecution (understandingly) desires to protect a victim from an alleged bias attack does not mean there will ultimately be corroboration beyond a reasonable doubt. Better yet, it does not mean the crime ever even happened. Fortunately, not only did our client have two friends who witnessed the incident, but a good Samaritan corroborated our client and discredited anything the complainant stated. Here, the “icing on the cake” was the video from the ATM machine showing the self proclaimed “victim” striking at our client multiple times before our client defended himself. This case exemplifies that knowledge of the law, diligence in gathering evidence and skill in presenting that evidence to prosecutors are all key to a viable defense. Fortunately for our client, all of these factors taken together ultimately led to his exoneration.
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Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm. The founding New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC served as Manhattan prosecutors before establishing the defense practice.