December 2009 News: The New York Criminal Law Blog

The New York Criminal Law Blog

December 2009 Archives

Underage Driver Could Be Responsible In Car Death, Says Cops

A 12-year-old girl was killed this week after what appears to be a joyriding accident. Investigators believe that Kaitlin Booth was in the passenger seat when the SUV crashed and "flipped on its side" (NY Daily News). 

The 15-year-old boy who was first thought of as a witness is most recently being investigated as the driver.
 
While it is still undetermined whether or not he was driving, if the minor is charged, his New York criminal defense lawyer would help him with a slew of charges from joyriding, to vehicular manslaughter, to lying. 

What Is Necessary To Get Probation In NY?

In a recent case, a New York criminal defense attorney's client was awarded probation as opposed to prison time. He was able to avoid 15 years in prison for just 5 years of probation.

This made me wonder what is necessary to get probation instead of a prison sentence. So I did some reasearch and I found some resources that might help with this question.

One of the most important parts about receiving probation, is that the crime was not particularly violent. Section 65 of the New York Penal Code lists criteria that the defendant must meet to be awarded probation. One of them is that, "institutional confinement for the term authorized ... may not be necessary for the protection of the public." If it was a nonviolent offense, there would be no need to keep him locked away as long as he was not a danger to others.

Parents Say 16-Year-Old Stabbed Man In Self-Defense

NY1 reports that Thomas Winston, 29, may have been stabbed on Christmas Eve by a 16-year-old girl who was scared for her life. Her parents say that Cyan Brown was chased down by "seven or eight men into the F-line station" when she stabbed Winston. 

Winston has since died from his stab wound. Since the girl's family is claiming that she acted out of self-defense, could a criminal trial await her for murder?   

Teens Charged With Kidnapping Baby

Giavonna Vizard is safe at home after being abducted by three teenage girls: Shawnice Reese, 16, Jenny Dominique, 16, and (who is believed to be ) Lisa Keitt, 13. The one-year-old baby girl is Keitt's niece. 

As of yet, it is unknown why the baby was kidnapped. What is known, is that the girls might need the help of a New York criminal defense attorney because they were charged with "kidnapping, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child" (as reported by NY 1). 
 
These are all very serious charges, and depending on the degree of the kidnapping charge, the teens could face life in prison.

Paychecks Returned To NY As Restitution

Most people enjoy watching a youtube video as a break from work every now and then; however, two New Yorkers took the slacking attitude to the extreme when they were "operating a drug-dealing operation" while they were on the clock. Their  advised them on pleading guilty to the charges.

The New York Times reports that the two men worked for the state as night workers of the state's Office of General Services. The men were believed to be selling marijuana and cocaine from their self-named "man cave."

They were charged with a number of crimes from larceny to defrauding the government. One of the interesting things about this case is that the men were required to pay restitution, but not to a person claiming personal injury: the state.

New York Criminal Defense For DWI

With New Year's Eve approaching, I wanted to get a better understanding of the laws regarding a DWI. So I did some research and I found out that if you are acussed of a DWI in New York, your New York criminal defense attorney won't be able to do much if you are guilty of a "per se" charge (FindLaw).

"Per se" means that the BAC level was over .08%. In these cases there is really nothing to argue. If the Breathalyzer shows that you are over .08%, you are guilty. The only way out of it would be to argue that the Breathalyzer was defective. Your New York criminal defense attorney would then bring the Breathalyzer as evidence. If it had not been serviced for a long time, the charge may disappear.

New York Criminal Harasses Trooper's Mom

Have you ever been pulled over for a speeding ticket and been so upset about it that you prank called the state trooper's mother?

No? Well, the you won't need a New York criminal defense attorney like Lawrence Demaio probably will. This gem of an idea became a reality after Demaio called and told the trooper's mother that her "son had been badly hurt in a car accident" (as reported by the Associated Press).

Demaio is set to face criminal charges for second-degree aggravated harassment.

New Gun Bill Aimed At Traffickers

New York criminal defense lawyers may have to learn new laws about gun trafficking in the future.

The shooting of Vada Vasquez has sparked outrage, fear, and now, possibly a new bill. New York has seen what feels like a large number of shootings, from the Vasquez case to the triple murder last week to the Times Square shoot out and the murder over a bathroom dispute. Many of the victims of these shootings were innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Right now, there are stiff penalties for the people who commit these murders and attempted murders, but what about the people who gave the criminals the guns?

Teens From Vasquez Shooting Scared Of Jail, They Say

An NBC New York article states that four out of the five teens arrested in the shooting of Vada Vasquez are trying to be moved out of jail and into protective custody  at Rikers Island. Two of the boys have already succeeded thanks to their . The reason? The teens claim that they are being harrassed and "tormented."

NY Criminal Defense Lawyer Gets Rev. Probation

One New York criminal defense lawyer did an excellent job in reducing the time that his client would have to spend behind bars. Rev. William Blasingame only has to serve five years probation for spending church money on his own luxuries. The NY Daily News reports that he spent "tens of thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery and Botox treatments."

For this fraudulent crime, Blasingame could have faced 15 years in prison for larceny.

Criminal Charges: Conspiracy

The second charge that Santo Petrocelli Sr., of the Petrocelli Lighting Company of Long Island, Queens, was convicted of and sentenced to three months in prison for was conspiracy (The New York Times). His New York criminal defense lawyer did what he could, but the evidence was overwhelming, and the 74-year-old criminal will have to serve time behind bars. To better understand his crime I did some research to find out what exactly conspiracy meant. 

Criminal For NY Taxi Drivers To Talk And Drive

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In an effort to deal with the problem of distracted driving, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has made it against the law for their cabbies to "use any type of electronic device -- cell phones, iPods, cameras, even hands-free devices -- while driving their charges around the city" (NBC New York). The laws go into effect in mid-January, and they are designed to give New Yorkers some relief. 

Too often, riders have to watch helplessly as their driver barrels through traffic while he is talking on his hands-free phone. In several studies, including one by the University of Utah, it was found that people who talk on cell phones while driving (even the hands-free ones) are just as impaired as someone with a BAC limit of .08%: a drunk driver.

Church Arson: Hate Crime

A Bronx church that was burned down appeared to have "signs of devil worship" scrawled across the walls (NY Daily News). Not only will the people responsible be charged with arson (Section 150-150.20), but when found, they will also be charged with a hate crime. 

For the arson charge, it would depend on how the criminals started the fire. 

Minister Arrested In NY With Attempt Against Minor

One man visiting New York will be leaving with more than an "I <3 NY" mug: criminal charges. Larry Warren, 57, was arrested when he thought he was meeting an underage girl at a hotel for sex.

Warren, as reported by the NY Daily News, is a Tennessee minister and the director of operations and personnel at a Christian drug treatment program called Youth Town.

Depending on how old the girl was thought to be, Warren could be facing a number of charges.

NY Triple Murder: Criminal Deceased

In a particularly devastating crime, three generations of one family were murdered in what is believed to be a drug-related slaying. The NY Daily News reports that Hector Quinones, 44, murdered the grandfather, the son-in-law, and the grandson of an upper West Side family.

The mother and daughter of the family came home when Quinones was still there. He shot at the mother, grazing her head, while the daughter ran to a bedroom to hide. She is very lucky to be alive because after he kicked the door down and was about to attack her, apparently, his pants fell down allowing the girl to escape.

 

Wanted: Tigran Tambiev

The NYPD has released a picture of Tigran Tambiev, 43, the man they believe is responsible for the murder of Susan Woolf. While they say that he is wanted for questioning, the image of Tambiev on the NYPD's Crime Stoppers website, lists his offense as a homicide. They also list him as their "Top Most Wanted."

Could not coming forward after he was called in for questioning result in more charges being brought against him?

Criminal Defense Lawyer Leads To Rewrite of Miranda?

 may have some new rules in regards to the legal system. The Supreme Court is debating how specific the Miranda rights need to be.

When the suspect is being read his rights, some judges do not believe that the Miranda warning says enough about the facts that "a lawyer can be present during any interrogation" (USA Today).

The subject was brought to the courts attention when Kevin Powell, confessed after signing a Miranda statement. The convicted felon and the Florida Supreme Court believed that the statement did not specifically state that Powell was able to have a lawyer present while he was being interviewed.

Photographers Touchy About "Retouch" Label

 may have a new law on their hands. 

In New York City, imagine seeing a billboard of a gorgeous model with a perfect complexion to match her perfect hips. Not very hard to picture is it? That's because these towering Amazonian goddesses are already littering the city on buses, window displays, and buildings. But, if one draft of a bill goes through, New York may have some fine print to accompany those fine models: "retouched."
 
This draft law, proposed by Valerie Boyer, would have any advertisement picture carry a statement at the bottom that notifies the viewer that the picture has been altered, reports the New York Times. If a company were to not have the disclamer, they could face criminal charges. So what exactly is the crime? 

NY Criminal Defense Attorney Busy: DWI And Bribery

A man will need a  to represent him on two criminal charges: DWI and bribery.

For the DWI, Joseph Lavelle, 44, could face less than a year in prison along with a fine for the misdemeanor offense. The bribery charge on the other hand could count for a lot more.

The DUI News Reports stated that Lavelle was pulled over for suspicion of a DWI when he attempted to bribe the arresting officer and the officer at the station with "free oil changes" and "free vehicle inspections."

Criminal Charges: Bribery

Santo Petrocelli Sr., of the Petrocelli Lighting Company of Long Island, Queens, has been sentenced to three months in prison for bribery and conspiracy. His argued that Petrocelli has lost his good name and that is punishment enough, but the judge sentenced the 74-year-old criminal in order to deter others from follow in his footsteps reports the New York Times. What exactly is bribery and conspiracy?

Tiger Woods Up For Prostitution Charges?

Not to jump on the Tiger Woods bandwagon, but this recent accusation may put him in New York criminal court. As reported by the New York Post, Michelle Braun, the madam that was sentenced to 3 years probation and 6 months of house detention, claims that she sent $60,000 worth of women to Tiger at his request.

She said that there were "at least four escorts on pay-for-sex dates" a total of "six times" between 2006 and 2007.

Could this claim have him in need of a ?

Hate Crime Against Object?

In this season, you don't have to go far to find a Nativity scene or a menorah, but recently some vandals have decided to take on the role of the grinch. The AP reports that in the past few years, public menorahs have been attacked and destroyed by vandals. Recently, an 11-foot aluminum menorah that was in front of a Long Island drug store was targeted and damaged.

The police are considering this to be a hate crime, but is it?

Third NYPD Cop Accused Of DWI

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And the hits just keep on coming for the NYPD and their need for . The third officer in the past few months has been accused of a DWI. James O'Connell was off-duty when he hit the arm of a toll booth.

DUI News Reports states that the officer blew a .172% on his breath test. This is over twice the limit of .08%; however, in order to get the charge of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (A-DWI) in New York you would need to blow a .18%, which O'Connell was just short of.

With the A-DWI he could have faced a maximum $2500 fine, up to one year in jail, and his license revoked for at least one year. These are the penalties if this was his first A-DWI offense.

New York Chimney Company The Victim Of Fraud

The Patriot-News reports that people have received calls from a scammer claiming that he was from Sweepy's Chimney Sweep. The legitimate business denies that any of their people made the calls. [We have made this revision after Mechanicsburg police released a statement that Sweepy's is a legitimate business]. The phony caller allegedly called residents claiming that he had been told, by the residents' heating oil company, that the potential customer's chimney needs to be cleaned. The police contacted Sweepy's and the company said they knew nothing about the calls.

100-Year-Old Sex Offender Free In NY

The oldest registered sex offender of New York is free from a halfway house and headed out into the streets. At 100 years old, Theodore Sypnier has quite a list of convictions including "2 counts of rape" and "15 counts of sodomy and endangering the welfare of a child... as well as three in Buffalo." He was first arrested in 1987: he was 78.

As Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita puts it, "People don't start to become pedophiles at 78." There could have been dozens of other unreported cases.  

Cruelty A Factor In Stabbing Of Mother And Child?

New Jersey is reeling after a murderer attacked a 27-year-old mother and her 7-month-old son. They were both found, stabbed repeatedly, in their home by the father. ABC 7 News reports that the mother was already deceased when her husband arrived. Miraculously enough, the infant is alive, but in critical condition.

The police do not have any leads yet, for this especially cruel crime. 

  

Child Endangerment: Left Home Alone

One New York couple left their five children (all under the age of eleven) home alone and when they returned they were met with criminal charges. Tragically, their eleven-month-old son Major Gonzales died while they were away.

The cause of death is still under investigation, but NY1 News reports that the 911 call said the baby was having trouble breathing. By leaving the children in an unsupervised situation the parents will need a New York criminal defense attorney to defend them against the charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

This criminal charge means:  

"He knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old" (Section 260.10 of the New York Penal Code).

Is Hate Necessary For Hate Crime?

A New York criminal defense attorney always has their hands full when they are dealing with a hate crime case. 

The New York mugger who was notorious for attacking older women has been sentenced to 75 years in prison. The New York Times reports that Jack Rhodes, 47, was convicted of robbery, burglary, and assault. The thing that bumped up the jail time for these crimes was that they were considered to be hate crimes. 
 
The women were ages: 51, 101, and 85 years old. Now to prove that these were hate crimes, the prosecution had to prove that Rhodes attacked them because they were elderly women.  

Woman Who Cried Rape: Crime of Perjury

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The woman who lied about being a rape victim five years ago, will be charged with perjury. As discussed before William McCaffery was charged with the rape and was in prison for 4 years before Biurny Peguero confessed that she made it all up.

CBS 2 News reports that the mother of two first confessed to her priest, then she told the district attorney. For a while, it wasn't clear whether she would be charged. Her criminal defense attorney may have been hoping, along with Peguero, that they would be lenient on her for confessing.

Burress Requests Furlough

The AP reports that Plaxico Burress' criminal defense attorney may be getting him some fresh, free air for an early Christmas present. The former New York Giants receiver was sentenced to two years in September when his gun went off accidently at a night club. He was the only one injured.

Now, he is requesting a prison furlough, which would allow Burress to leave jail early for a period of time. He will have to return to finish the remaining 21 months of his sentence. Usually furloughs are only granted for short periods of time like a funereal, so what is Burress' occasion?

NY DWI Criminals: Faster Blood Tests

Some are going to have more evidence stacked up against their DWI clients. Recently, DUI News Reports stated that DAs and police officers have agreed to ask for a warrant for a blood test after the first breath test is refused. Previously, the officers waited until the second refusal before they tried to obtain the warrant.

With Leandra's Law, New York is showing that they will not handle DWIs with a soft touch. Also, the outrage over two high profile cases that involved NYPD officers getting into fatal accidents then waiting so long before their blood was tested may have attributed to the new change in procedure.

Higher DWI Charges For Off Duty Cop

Kevin Spellman's  will have to defend his client against higher charges. The officer of the NYPD, 42, has had his crime of vehicular manslaughter upgraded to aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated. The charge went up because Spellman's BAC level was believed to be at over twice the legal limit reports NY 1.
 
This officer, along with Officer Andrew Kelly, is well known for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test after a serious accident. Spellman wasn't tested until 5 hours after the accident occurred. It is still unclear
 

Sex Offenders Banned From Facebook

People who enjoy catching up with their friends and seeing their new pictures will have one more reason to use Facebook and MySpace: they won't have to worry about a certain breed of criminal on their page.

Thanks to the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) convicted sex offenders have been banned from these social websites reports NBC New York. argue that sex offenders have paid their debt and should be rewarded with the same rights that everyone else has. Others believe that it is a recipe for disaster to allow a person convicted of sexual assault, rape, or any other sex offender crime to communicate with minors under the veil of anonymity

What exactly is a sex offender?

Gotti Gets Fourth Mistrial From Hung Jury

Last week, as the AP reported, the criminal trial for Junior "John" Gotti ended the same way that his other three trials ended: with a hung jury. Mr Gotti, represented by his , now will have to wait and see if a fifth trial will begin. 

When it is up to the jury to decide the verdict in a criminal case, FindLaw explains that they have to reach a unanimous vote. No matter how big the jury is, usually 12 people, all 12 have to be in agreement. If even one jury member does not agree with the rest of the group, it does not count.

Hate Crimes: Double Time

Any can tell you that hate crimes could cost you twice as much as a provoked crime.

Recently, a transgender woman was assaulted by two men in a hate crime. These criminals are charged with second-degree assault for the hate crime among other things. Apparently, the two men saw her, "thought she was gay and attacked her with a metal belt buckle," according to CBS 2.


New York Criminal Defense Attorney Uses Facebook as Alibi

Rodney Bradford's  was able to set him free of Rikers Island with a little help from Facebook. The popular social website allows people to stay in touch with their friends, join groups, and now, possibly offer a defense. 

Bradford, 19, was accused of mugging a group of people with a gun on the night of October 17. Both of his parents said that he was home with them, but it didn't seem to be enough. He was sent to Rikers Island for 12 days before his  was able to bring up "WHERE MY IHOP?"

KSM New York Criminal Defense Case: Why Federal?

The five men who are accused of planning the 9/11 attack on New York City are returning to the scene of the crime for one of the most important trials in this country's history.These five self-proclaimed members of Al Quaeda will be tried in New York City. Why is this trial going to occur in a federal court and not a military one?

NJ Man Arrested For Accident Resulting From Texting

In a FindLaw survey it was discovered that 9 out of 10 drivers multitask behind the wheel which includes texting at 29%. In a related case, New Jersey has one less incredibly distracted driver on the road today after he was arrested for a number of indiscretions, including texting behind the wheel and drug crimes.

To start, Robert Sharrer "drifted onto the shoulder" and hit Lisa Granert who was biking (in a reflective vest). As reported by the AP, Sharrer will be charged for the crash.

Another NY Criminal Defense Lawyer Clears Client

In the same style as Fernando Bermudez, a man wrongly convicted, William McCaffery is also a free man after serving time for a crime that he did not commit. McCaffery was convicted in 2006, and had been in prison for two years before DNA evidence, a witness recanting her testimony, and the hard work of his , Glen A. Garber set him free.

The New York Times reports that Biurny Peguero Gonzales, admitted to lying under oath during McCaffery's trial. While her reasoning for it is still unclear, Mrs. Gonzales invented the rape story to cover up for a physical fight that she had with her friends. 

Nude Model Stripped Of Criminal Charges

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NBC New York reports that one of Zach Hyman's models who was arrested in August for being naked in a public place has had the charges dropped. Hyman is famous for having his models pose in the nude in front of the most notable places in New York City. The problem with this is that in the 30 seconds that Hyman conducts a photo shoot, anyone nearby can see the naked model- including children.

Neill's  was able to get the misdemeanor charges dropped because of the setting of the photo shoot and the definition of "lewd."

Alleged NJ Arsonist Arrested

It seems that every day there is a news report about a fire in New York or New Jersey. There does not seem to be a connection between the fires: most are still under investigation or were ruled as accidental. But since yesterday, there seems to be one less arsonist on the streets in Patterson, New Jersey.

On Sunday night, a string of fires were started down Paterson Avenue. Police report that John Keenan, 36, set at least four fires as he walked down the street. ABC 7 Eyewitness News reports that one of these fires turned out to be deadly.

NY Criminal Defense Attorney: Free Client After 18 Years

For over 18 years Fernando Bermudez has been serving time as an innocent man. He was convicted of the 1991 murder of Raymond Blout and was serving a 23-years-to-life sentence when a judge "threw out the conviction last week saying police and prosecutors mishandled the case and a key witness lied" (ABC 7 News).

There are two questions now: will Bermudez have to serve time on an unrelated federal drugs charge and will the murder investigation reopen?