The New York Criminal Law Blog

March 2010 Archives

Teens Charged in Phoebe Prince Suicide

Nine Massachusetts students are facing charges in the suicide of Phoebe Prince. New York criminal defense attorneys are taking note, as the Massachusettes teens are preparing for a host of charges related to the suicide, ranging from statutory rape to criminal harassment and stalking.  Indeed, bullying is not just a Massachusetts problem-- it's a huge problem in New York, as well.  A 17 year old West Islip teen was found dead on March 21, and police are investigating the harrassing messages she received, prior to her death. 

Unfortunately for the Massachusetts teen, Phoebe Prince, the charges come too late. Prince committed suicide on January 14, when she walked into her apartment building and hung herself in a stairwell leading up to her second floor apartment.  

And even in death, she was tormented. Her haters wrote nasty comments on her Facebook memorial page.

Know Your Rights! NYPD to Up Questioning

New York criminal defense attorneys had better get prepared for the summer. Police questioning is on the upswing, even for petty criminals in New York City. 

The New York Police Department wants to increase police questioning in response to a 22 percent increase in murders this year. As a result, detectives and warrant squad officers have been ordered to thoroughly question all prisoners, even petty criminals, in the hopes of getting information that would shed some light on the larger crimes and criminals. 

In addition to the increased questioning, the NYPD hopes to increase street presence by sending rookie officers to crime-prone areas. Operation Impact, as it's been named, is an initiative underway at the NYPD. It is an initiative where crime-prone areas are flooded with rookie officers.The initiative has led to a decrease in crime in heavy-hit crime areas of New York City. 

V-Slasher Found, Arraigned

Vindication will be had in the "'V' For Vendetta" case. Shantaya Lewis's attacker has finally been located and appeared in court earlier this week.

Carina Bernard, 18, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, has been arrested for allegedly slashing a "V" on the face of the Brooklyn teen. Bernard has a violent past according to authorities, and was arrested in Queens on Monday. 

Bernard's arraignment was earlier this week in Brooklyn Criminal Court, where she faced charges of assault, harassment, and menacing. An important distinction in New York is the nomenclature for the criminal acts against a person-- while the charge of physically touching someone with an intent to cause harm is known as "battery" in many states, it is the crime of "assault" in New York.  Similarly, the charge of "menacing" is what would commonly be known as "assault" in other states; where there is an apprehension of imminent harm. 

Off Duty NY Cop Gets DWI

An off duty New York police officer was charged with driving while intoxicated last week, when his car crashed on 65th Place between Woodside Ave. and Queens Blvd. 

Although there were no injuries, Officer Matthew Woods is in hot water. Officer Woods had allegedly crashed into a parked car. 

Woods, it would seem, is not the first police officer to face a DWI of his own. Since 1999, at least 55 active duty cops have been charged with drunk driving. Interestingly, most of them were not removed from their jobs, as they pleaded guilty to non-felony charges. 

Sharpton's Daughter and Ex, Arrested For Swearing

Don't swear or curse at the NYPD. You could get arrested.

Or so was the lesson learned by Reverend Al Sharpton's daughter and ex-wife.

Mother and daughter were questioned on Halloween after a Harlem traffic stop when Dominique Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharpton's daughter, drove through a red traffic light. Upon confrontation by the police, both mother and daughter allegedly dropped the F-bomb numerous times.

Kathy Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharpton's ex-wife, allegedly shoved a sergeant and resisted arrest when the police tried to place handcuffs on her. The police also claimed that Dominique Sharpton resisted arrest and created a public disturbance with her swearing and screaming.

V for Vendetta: Bklyn Girl's Face Slashed With 'V'

Shantayah Lewis will have a V-shaped scar on her face as a symbol of vendetta. Lewis, 17, and her cousin, Shakeena Grant,15, were walking on a street in Brooklyn when a car pulled up.

The two girls were stabbed and slashed by the attackers. Lewis was left with a large V-shaped scar on her face, in what was allegedly a symbol of revenge by the girl who is dating Grant's sister's ex-boyfriend. 

"She kept following us...She wanted to fight" Lewis told the NY Daily news. 

The attacker had allegedly been tailing the two teens earlier that day, trying to start an altercation. She vowed to return. And return she did, yielding a knife. 

Malcolm X Killer Released On Parole

In news that would surely fascinate any New York criminal defense attorney, the killer of Malcolm X was finally granted parole this week. He is the only confessed assassin of the prominent civil rights leader. The New York Times reports that Mr. Thomas Hagan, Malcolm X's known assassin, has been turned down for parole 16 times. For over 20 years, he has been on work release. Even though he has been a part of work release, he still had to spend two days out of the week at Lincoln Correctional Facility in Manhattan.

He was granted parole on March 3, 2010. He is slated to be released on parole on April 28, 2010.

Mom Sentenced to Max. in Child Neglect, Murder Case

A New York City woman is facing the maximum sentence for beating and starving her three month old baby to death. The woman, Jovanniee Florestal, 26, received a sentence of 25 years to life.

The gruesome 2004 incident involved her three month old son, Colesvingtong. The baby's body was found in a Harlem shelter for the homeless with a fractured skull and shaken baby syndrome. At the time, the three month old weighed nine pounds.

Although child abuse laws are sometimes in conflict with the rights of autonomy of a parent to raise their child, the laws generally aim at protecting children from neglect. The child abuse laws therefore strike a delicate balance between the consitutional rights of parents and the criminal laws that protect the children.

NYC Grandpa Jailed for Assault on Another Elderly Man

An elderly man is facing seven years in prison for allegedly assaulting another elderly man. The modus operandi, however, is even more peculiar than the criminal suspect. 

He assaulted the other man by giving him a good old-fashioned whipping. 

The suspect, 83-year old Gersh Gofman, allegedly whipped 99-year-old Steve Pulwers in a parking spot dispute on January 19. Gofman was parking in a spot below Pulwers' building, which incidentally also housed a doctor's office. Pulwers came outside and knocked on Gofman's window, telling him that the spot belonged to the doctor. The doctor had been waiting in the lot, as Gofman sat in his way waiting for his wife to emerge from a doctor's office across the street.

Gofman allegedly then emerged from the vehicle with his steering wheel clutch and began thrashing Pulwers, a survivor of Stalin's forced labor camps. Pulwers suffered two black eyes, a broken nose and damaged ribs as a result of the assault. 

Letterman's Blackmailer Pleads Guilty to Lesser Charge

David Letterman's nemesis has pleaded guilty, with his New York criminal defense attorney by his side at a Manhattan court on Tuesday.

And no, we're not talking about Jay Leno.

The man, Robert "Joe" Halderman, was a producer at CBS who allegedly blackmailed and attempted to extort $2 million dollars from David Letterman by threatening to reveal Letterman's marital indiscretions.

Halderman, who initially pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny, admitted to the court that he attempted to extort $2 million from Letterman back in September of 2009.  Outside of the courtroom, Halderman made a public apology to Letterman, Letterman's family, and to the woman at the center of the scandal.

Last year, the Manhattan District Attorney's office indicted Halderman on charges of grand larceny and extortion.  Under New York Law, larceny, which is essentially theft, becomes "grand larceny" when the amount in question exceeds $1,000.

Crime of Fashion: NYC Retailer Cheats Employees, Arrested

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Discount clothing retailer David Cohen better have a top-notch NY criminal defense attorney!  Mr. Cohen, the owner of the Mystique Boutique chain of Manhattan clothing stores (among other stores), was arrested earlier this month in New York City. 

And for those of you who know about the cheap steals and discount quality clothing of Mystique Boutique--no, Mr. Cohen was not arrested by the fashion police (although perhaps such an arrest would have been called for). Mr. Cohen was arrested for allegedly being a bad boss.

Well, if only it were so easy to arrest a bad boss. Mr. Cohen was apparently more than just a bad boss, though.  He allegedly underpaid his employees; in a scheme that the New York Attorney General is calling unemployment insurance fraud. 

Mr. Cohen allegedly paid less than New York minimum wage and no overtime to over 150 employees throughout his numerous boutique locations in the New York metro area. Mr.  Cohen's plethora of stores include shops on Broadway, Canal Street and a 5th Avenue store. He owns Mystique Boutique, Madness Boutique, Exstaza and Amsterdam.

Assault Fugitive Who Was Found Via Facebook Is Back In NY

One New York man who was for his arraignment, according to the Buffalo News. The Metro.Co.UK reports that Chris Crego decided that it was a good idea to  while he was hiding from the authorities.

Mr. Crego was wanted by police after he failed to attend his sentencing. In 2009, he was arrested for a bar fight that took place in Western New York. In court, under the guidance of his New York criminal defense attorney, he pleaded guilty to the charges. However, he then fled and went into hiding without returning to court for his sentencing. 

In order to discover any leads on his whereabouts, detectives began searching for clues on the internet. To their surprise, both of the social websites listed above contained his residence and his place of work: a tattoo parlor. For their convenience, his hours at the Indiana shop were also listed. In case there was any doubt, he also included his "wanted" poster on his account.

NYPD's Stop-And-Frisk Process Under Scrutiny

New York's stop-and-frisk process is still a hot-button issue.

Early this week, the Village Voice reported that . In New York, if an officer has reasonable suspicion, he can stop that person, ask him questions, and pat him down. All of this is legal; however, due to the racist allegations that are being made against the NYPD, officers have been including a card that lists the "common reasons police stop individuals."

During the last year, the Gothamist reports that . While the race of each person has not yet been analyzed, the 2008 findings show that "51 percent of people stopped by police were black, 32 percent were Latino, and 11 percent were white. And 88 percent were totally innocent."

Inmates Benefit from Theatre Process, Says Study

Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA) program has received a great deal of praise for its "intimate" productions as well as its rehabilitative process.

Charles Ishner, a critic for the New York Times called Arin Arbus the "most gifted new director to emerge" in 2009. For the past three years this director has been volunteering her time and . One of the plays that the men of Woodbourne Correctional Facility are putting on is one that they have written themselves. It explores their own hardships as they try to maintain their family relationships from behind bars.

Ms. Arbus believes that these performances "seemed to reverse somewhat the effects of the trauma the men had experienced, reawakening emotions that had been dulled and suppressed."

Is the RTA program really that influential?

NYC Officers Acquitted Of Subway Sodomy

Represented by his , New York City police officer according to the AFP.

Officer Kern, who was accused of using his police baton to sodomize Michael Mineo when he was pinned down and handcuffed was acquitted; along with two other police officers. The Washington Post reports that for his aggravated sexual abuse charge. Officers Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz could have faced four years in prison for allegedly covering up the incident.