The New York Criminal Law Blog

January 2010 Archives

Man Tries To Leave Plane Mid-Flight

A New York man was charged with interfering with a flight crew when he  The flight from Washington, D.C., to Las Vegas, NV, was grounded in Denver after Gregory Thomas Burns, 33, tried to open the outside door and then the cockpit door.

The Huffington Post reports that Burns could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his actions. As an explanation, Burns admits that he was far from sober during the flight.

Accused Murderer Admits Victim Asked Him To Do It

The death of a motivational speaker from Long Island has had an unexpected twist. The prosecutors in the case believe that the accused, Kenneth Minor, may be telling the truth: that Jeffrey Locker asked Minor to kill him.

The AP states that new evidence has come to light including , how he had numerous insurance policies, and how he "researched funeral arrangements online not long before he died." These may have been suicide warning signs.

"Hope" Artist May Face Criminal Trial For Copyright Photo

Shepard Fairey, the artist who is responsible for the Obama "Hope" poster (or partially responsible) has a pending criminal investigation against him. The Associated Press (AP) accused the artist of using one of their photographs when he created the famous poster.

ArtInfo reports that while the criminal case has not started yet, FindLaw explains that a grand jury is used before a trial happens If the grand jury were to find that there was sufficient information that a suspect should be held accountable for a crime, then the criminal trial would start. 

New York Subways: Seat Hogs Ticketed

"What?! Is it a crime to put my bag on the seat next to me? Oh. It is? Well, that sucks."

That is exactly what 8,700 New Yorkers learned last year between January and November, and they learned it the hard way. The New York Daily News reports that there was a 17% increase in the number of These $50 fines went to people who had their bag placed on a seat, their feet up or their legs crossed no matter how empty the subway car was.

Cocker Sentenced In School Gun Kidnapping

A former New York city police officer was sentenced to 5 years of jail time and 5 years of probation after he Peter Cocker, 37, went to the South Orangetown Middle School with a gun and burst into Dr. Kenneth Mitchell's office. It is believed that Cocker held Mitchell hostage because he was disappointed in how the school was handling swine flu information.

LoHud reports that Cocker's charges included "first-degree criminal use of a firearm, second-degree burglary, third-degree burglary, first degree coercion and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon." He could have faced a maximum of 25 years in jail; however, after pleading guilty to second-degree kidnapping, Cocker was sentenced to a reduced term as part of his plea agreement.

New Policy: Family DNA Matching

In the spring, New York authorities will be able to implement a new policy to identify potential suspects: partial DNA matching.

reports that this controversial practice that was approved in December, could allow law enforcement officers to pursue suspects based on if the DNA evidence closely resembles someone's genetic code. Therefore, if DNA evidence is found at a crime scene and it is a close match to another person's DNA that is on file, authorities can use that piece of information to see if the person who committed the crime is a relative of the close genetic match.

This partial link may be an effective tool because family members share genetic traits that would appear when the DNA is analyzed.

Man Pays For Bank Error: Probation

A New Yorker was sentenced to probation for failing to return $5 million dollars that was mistakenly put into his bank account.

Benjamin Lovell, 50, was a National Grid salesman who accidentally received the money when his identity was confused with another Benjamin Lovell in a bank error. reports that Lovell tried to return the money to Commerce Bank in Wilmington, Del. However, he was not successful.

quotes Lovell as saying, "I tried four times to give it back... I met with bank executives 10 times."

NY City Subway Sodomy Trial Begins

The criminal trial of three NYPD officers is underway for the alleged assault of Michael Mineo.

The incident in question occurred in October of 2008 when Mineo was running from the cops in the subway. When he was pinned down at a platform in Prospect Park, Mineo claims that the officers removed his pants while another officer sodomized him using his police baton ().

Following the event, Mineo's attorney filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city for $220 million.

Kelly's Defense Pointing Towards The Victim

Newly released information regarding officer Andrew Kelly's case has his attorney trying to shift the blame onto the victim.

reports that Vionique Valnord, 32, was hailing a cab outside of a wedding reception in Mill Basin when she was struck by Kelly's car. Her autopsy revealed that her BAC level was 0.22%.

Kelly's attorney said based on the toxicology report, "It appears that she was drunk and she wandered into traffic... Probably her judgment contributed to this accident... This goes to solidify the fact that this was just a terrible accident" (NBC New York).

Murder Suspect Who Used Victim's Credit Cards

Justin Waller, the suspect in a fatal stabbing, was found in Vermont after NYPD detectives traced the victim's credit cards.

John S. Lea, 41, was an event planner with the New York Society of Security Analysts. reports that Waller had been living with Mr. Lea for a little less than a month before the murder. Officers believe that Mr. Lea was upset that Waller was not paying any rent, and he wanted him to move out.

Club Dancers Cleared Of Prostitution Charges

Both of the dancers that were up against prostitution charges are free. Falynn Rodgriguez, 26, was released because the judge ruled that there was not enough evidence against her (). On Tuesday, Cassandra Malandri, 26, also known as Alexia Moore, was found not guilty (). Both worked at the Manhattan Hot Lap Dance Club in 2008 as dancers and were accused of offering an undercover cop a threesome for $5,000.

8-Year-Old Brings Loaded Gun To School

An 8-year-old boy was arrested and charged as a minor for criminal possession of a gun after he brought the weapon to school. The incident occurred at North Elementary School in Brentwood, Long Island.

reports that the third-grader had the gun with him in his backpack and then later moved it into his desk.  When, the boy motioned for his friend to take a peak at the weapon, his teacher took the gun away.  

Strippers' Prostitution Trial: Lesbian Defense

Two female pole dancers are on trial for prostitution. Allegedly, Cassandra Malandri and Falynn Rodriguez offered to have sex with an undercover detective for $5,000 in 2008.

The first hiccup in the trial came when the defense questioned the wording on the charging document. reports that the document filed against Malandri and Rodriguez said that they "on or about June 20, 2008, engaged, agreed and offered to engage in sexual conduct with another person for a fee."

Sharpton's Family Due In Court

Two members of Rev. Al Sharpton's family will be seen in court as a result of a traffic stop. Kathy Jordan, Sharpton's ex-wife, and and Dominique Sharpton, his daughter, are facing several charges ().

Even though their defense lawyer asked the judge to throw out their case, they are set to appear in court on March 23.

While driving in New York, Dominique Sharpton allegedly cut off an officer because "she was in a rush to get to the theater" (AP). The expands on the altercation: Police say that Katy Jordan yelled, "Why the f--- are you locking her up?... Get your f------ hands off her," during her daughter's arrest. Dominique Sharpton allegedly screamed, "This is f------ bul----... You were driving too slow," as a response to why she passed him. The officer wrote her the summons for cutting him off, crossing a double line and running a red light.

Juvenile Justice Department Offers A Therapeutic Approach

In an effort to downsize juvenile prisons in New York, Bloomberg's administration integrated the city's Department of Juvenile Justice into a new program with the Administation for Children's Services. Many hope that this merger, which came into effect on Wednesday, will offer a more "therapeutic approach" for the non-violent youths.

The New York Times report that while high-risk youths will still be sent to detention facilities, the teens that commit crimes that are not dangerous will be given the opportunity to take part in "in-home programs." Under the Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the youths will follow a "strict set of rules requiring them to stay out of trouble, keep curfews and meet educational goals" while living with their families. The youths will also be visited by therapists and social workers who will monitor their behavior and how they are meeting their requirements.

Letterman Extortion Trial Going To Court

Robert Joel "Joe" Halderman will go to court for allegedly attempting to extort David Letterman for $2 million. The indictment accuses Halderman of attempted first degree grand larceny due to the large amount of money that he demanded. Recently, his lawyer tried to have the case dismissed, but a judge ruled that Halderman's actions were a "classic example of an issue that is best left for a trial jury to decide"
Halderman's lawyer states that he only offered the late-night talk show host an opportunity to buy his screenplay, and that he is not guilty of extortion. 

Retired NYPD Calls Robber "Stupidest Criminal"

A criminal who failed to rob a retired NYPD officer was called the "stupidest criminal in the state of Pennsylvania" by his would-be victim.

The retired officer, John Comparetto, was in the bathroom of a Holiday Inn when Jerome Blanchett, 19, approached him with a gun. After demanding money, Blanchett tried to flee, but he didn't make it very far.

reports that Jerome failed to realize that the Holiday Inn held a police conference that day, even though there was a sign out front welcoming the cops and a parking lot full of unmarked police cars.

Ghailani's Lawyers Say Trial Should Be Thrown Out

In the New York trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, his lawyers are arguing that the case should be dropped because Ghailani was denied his right to a speedy trial (Rueters).

The New York Daily News reports that Ghailani faces "224 counts of murder and other charges" for his alleged role in the bombings of two U.S. embassies: Kenya and Tanzania.

One of the fundamental rights of a defendant is the right to a speedy trial. While the Sixth Amendment grants this right, it does not specify exactly how long is too long. When deciding if the defendant's right has been violated, the judge in the case has to make note of how long the delay is, why there was a delay, and if the delay has hurt the defendant's case. (FindLaw)

Aafia Siddiqui Boycotts Trial Over Jury Pool

In the criminal trial of Aafia Siddiqui, the woman accused of "picking up an M-4 Army rifle and firing two rounds at a team of Americans who tried to question her in Afghanistan on July 18, 2008," she has been boycotting the proceedings.

The New York Daily News writes that one of her biggest complaints is having Jewish people on the jury. As of Thursday, Siddiqui said, "If they have a Zionist or Israeli background... they are all mad at me... They should be excluded if you want to be fair."

Shooting Near A NY High School

Shots were fired outside of a Brooklyn high school by two gunmen.

The New York Daily News quotes one witness as saying that "the kids were waiting at the bus stop. The victim was on the sidewalk."

The victim, 18, was shot in the leg: the police believe that he was the intended target of a failed murder attempt.

Is it a crime to shoot near a school?


Driver Has 0.054 BAC: What Is DWAI?

In a recent car accident that caused the deaths of two women, the driver had been drinking, but he was not at the 0.08% BAC level that is necessary for a DWI charge.

What was he charged with?

Since alcohol was a factor even though it wasn't enough for a DWI, it was enough for a DWAI: Driving While Ability Impaired. There are three different types of DWAI according to the New York DMV: by alcohol, a combination of drugs and alcohol, or by a single drug other than alcohol ("What are the alcohol and drug-related violation in New York State?").

In the New York Daily News article, Oleg Pantchenko, 29, had a BAC level of 0.054%. To qualify for a DWAI by alcohol, the driver has to be between 0.05% BAC and 0.07% BAC, or there needs to be other evidence that the driver is impaired by alcohol (NY DMV).

12-Year-Old Stable After Stabbing: Friend Charged

A 12-year-old boy is in stable condition and his "friend" has been charged with attempted murder after a horrific stabbing.

The New York Daily News reports that Luis Martinez was out with two friends, a 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. Investigators believe that they were in Highland Park to smoke pot. That night, at around 9:30 p.m., NYPD investigators believe that the older boy, Wayne Henderson, got in a fight with Martinez. They believe that the fight started when Henderson blamed Martinez for the trouble that he had gotten into the last time they smoked pot together.

As the fight got physical, Henderson "slashed the 12-year-old across the face, before plunging the knife into his neck and chest" ( NY Daily News).

Could Porfirio Face Vehicular Manslaughter Charges?

Gypsy Porfirio, 34, has a slew of charges following the tragic accident that left one person in stable condition, Siclari, and the other, Kelley, has sadly passed away.

Daniel Kelley, 23, was jogging with Gina Siclari, 18, when they were hit by Porfirio who had taken "three different types of prescription pills less than an hour before she 'blacked out' and slammed into Kelley and Miss Siclari" (SI Live).

The article goes on to say that as of Wednesday, she was charged with "drug possession, assault, vehicular assault, and two counts of driving while impaired."

After the passing of one of her alleged victims, many are wondering if her charges will go up to include vehicular manslaughter. While it has not been added yet, I researched the New York Penal Code to see if the description could fit this crime.

Former Teacher Pleads Guilty In Child Porn Scandal

A former teacher has pleaded guilty to attempting to disseminate indecent material to a minor, or in other words, sending a minor an X-rated video and trying to seduce her.

In actuality, Alexander Kravitz really sent the video to an undercover cop who was posing as a 14-year-old girl. The New York Daily News reports that NYPD officers arrested him at a motel where he thought he was going to make a porn movie with the minor.

In addition to all of this, child porn was found at his home.

The scariest thing about this case is that Kravitz was a teacher at William E. Grady Vocational High School. It is frightening to think that a man like this was around children so often.

First Person Arrested For Leandra's Law

After only being in effect for less than a month, Leandra's Law has claimed its first offender.

Johnny Ovalles, 38, was driving drunk with his wife and two daughters. His girls are 12 and 16 years old, which means that he could be convicted of one offense. Under Leandra's Law, it is a felony to have a DWI with a child under 15 years old in the car. For this charge, he could face "up to four years in prison" (NY Daily News).

The news report goes on to say that Ovalles was going 80 mph when he was pulled over at 6:30 in the morning. He also claimed that he drank very recently, which resulted in his BAC being 0.156%.

Man Charged With Animal Cruelty: Kicking Dog In Elevator

In a disturbing event, a man was arrested after he was caught on camera brutally kicking a small dog. 

ABC 7 News reports that the police charged Charles Grant with animal cruelty for repeatedly kicking the 12-pound lap dog. They got their evidence from a security camera that was in the elevator. Thinking that no one was watching, Grant kicked the dog so brutaly, that ABC 7 News would not show the entire encounter.
 
To be honest, I could hardly watch what they did show. 
Be advised, the video of the newscast that you are about to see does contain actually scenes of the attack.

DEL Proposal: Chemical Castration For Sex Offenders

New York as well as other states may be influenced by one Delaware lawmaker.

The AP reports that Rep. John Atkins, is trying to introduce several proposals that would increase the punishment that sex offenders might face from life sentences to special license plates.

Due to the severity of one of his penalties, the candidates must meet all of the following requirements: male, high-risk, repeat sex offender, over 21 years old, and the intended target was under 12 years old (AP).

If this proposal becomes the law, then anyone who matches that description might have to undergo chemical castration in his state.

In an article by the Washington Post titled, "Can Castration By a Solution for Sex Offenders?" chemical castration is described as when "drugs are injected to lower the testosterone level, which in tern reduces sex drive." This is different from a surgical castration because the testes are not removed.

Suspect's Escape Leads To Added Charge

Could the criminal that tried to escape from police custody be given more charges after his attempt to escape?

Below is a video of Naquan Thompson, 22, making his great escape attempt outside of the police presinct.

DNA Clears One And Accuses Another Of '86 Murder

A New Yorker was arrested last week for a crime that was committed in 1986.

The rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey was thought to be solved with the perpetrator behind bars, but recently DNA tests have cleared Kenneth Ireland (New York Daily News).

The murder occurred when Ireland was 16, and after being found guilty of "felony murder, first-degree sexual assault and third-degree burglary" (Record Journal), he was sentenced to 50 years. By the time the DNA evidence cleared him, Ireland had already served 20 years in prison.

Not only did the DNA testing clear Ireland, but it also found the Connecticut police their new suspect. The New York Daily News  states that Kevin Benefield "had willingly given police a saliva sample in September 1986, which a state forensic lab recently matched to DNA found on Pelkey's body."

Insanity Defense for Maldonado Murder?

The death of 9-year-old Anthony Maldonado, once believed to be over a video game, now seems to have been due to the attacker's mental illness.

The AP reports that Alejandro Morales, the man under arrest for stabbing Maldonado to death, has a history of violence and mental instability. Morales has served five years for assault and has received treatment for schizophrenia.

His mother said that he "told her on Christmas Eve that he wanted to kill someone" (ABC 7 Eyewitness news).


The First Murder: Kirk Holgate Stabbing

Sadly, the first murder of 2010 occurred just a few hours after the new year began. Kirk Holgate, 21, was at a New Year's Eve party when he was "stabbed several times in the groin" (reports the New York Daily News).

He died later at the hospital leaving behind his wife and 2-year-old son.

As of yet, no one has been arrested or charged with his murder. The NYPD does have more evidence to sift through though. Along with all of the witnesses at the party, another man was stabbed in the back during the fight. As of Friday he was in stable condition.

Perhaps some physical evidence or someone's testimony can tie the two stabbings to the same person. If that were to happen, then the attacker would be charged with murder and assault.

Judges And Lawyers Can't Be Facebook Friends

New York lawyers may need to unfriend some of their most valuable contacts in the future. 

 

In Florida, there is a new standard when it comes to how judges and lawyers can socialize out of the courtroom. The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee decided in December that judges and lawyers in the state could not be "friends" on Facebook.

 

The committee reasoned that it would look biased if a judge were to be ruling on a case and one of the lawyers was his Facebook friend. 

 

While this does look like it could lead to a conflict of interests, the New York Times argues that a Facebook friend is very different from a real friend.

Could Carrying Mumps Be A Crime?

Measles, mumps, and rubella, oh my. After the New York outbreak of the mumps, many are wondering how this could have happened and who is to blame.

 
 
Based on this, could the child's parents be seeing some criminal charges?