Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

Jeffrey Lichtman has been retained to represent Joaquin Guzman in connection with his upcoming federal narcotics trial in the Eastern District of New York.

“Mr. Guzman has been subjected to the worst prison conditions I have ever seen in 27 years of visiting prisons all over the world.  In the nearly seven months he has been detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, he has had not contact with any member of his family, either by mail, phone or in a visit; has not had contact with any inmates and spends 23 hours a day locked up in a cell with limited reading material.  His only human contact is with prison guards who do not speak his native Spanish and attorneys who must communicate with him – and review voluminous discovery with him – through glass.  I have spent approximately 100 hours with Mr. Guzman and have yet to shake his hand.

“In addition, due to the failure of the government to provide security clearance to any of his relatives, he has not even been able to make arrangements to retain a private attorney – despite the government’s insistence that he should not be permitted to continue to be represented by the Federal Defenders of New York, taxpayer-funded attorneys.  The government, while claiming that Mr. Guzman is capable and thus required to hire private counsel, has not promised not to seek forfeiture of this fee.  After seven months wasting away in prison, Mr. Guzman will finally be able to hire the legal counsel of his choice, seven months too late.

Unlike the typical criminal case which includes charges of violence, defendants charged in domestic violence cases are often professionals where the stakes are high: not only is freedom at stake but even a conviction on a reduced charge could spell the end of one’s career.  At the same time, domestic violence cases are traditionally tougher to prove than the garden-variety case of violence due to the fact that oftentimes the only evidence is the word of the purported victim.  For this reason, prosecutors and law enforcement officers will use every bit of subterfuge at their disposal to trick a target into creating the very evidence required to charge and convict them.  The most important advice I can offer anyone who is being investigated for a crime of domestic violence is to simply resist the urge to explain your side of the story to law enforcement.  Resist the urge to discuss the matter with the purported victim – you are probably being taped and will only make things worse.  Without the admissions of the target, a case is oftentimes impossible to make, let alone prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  If you’re being investigated in New York for a domestic violence case, immediately call a top New York domestic violence criminal defense attorney – and do nothing more until that time. Continue reading

Update: The Yatyu Yam Case   

This past spring I wrote about the case of NYPD detective Yatyu Yam, accused by prosecutors of bribery and official misconduct charges relating to allegations he tipped off the owners of karaoke bars in Queens in exchange for cash bribes.  NYPL § 200.11, NYPL § 105.10(1), NYPL § 200.25, NYPL § 195.00(1), NYPL § 195.05 and NYPL § 105.00.  What was particularly odious about this case was what occurred upon Detective Yam’s arrest: instead of being processed and brought before a judge to be arraigned, Detective Yam was taken to a secret hotel room where he was interrogated for hours without counsel present, in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966).  When he did ask for an attorney – his union lawyer – he was told to instead hire a private lawyer out of the Yellow Pages, as an NYPD sergeant and captain told him that they were concerned Yam’s union lawyer would steer him away from cooperating in the case.  This order came, as tapes of the interrogation revealed – from the very Assistant District Attorney who was prosecuting Detective Yam.

As I have written previously, and as the top criminal defense attorneys in New York know, there are many ways to win a case: sometimes by taking the case to trial and getting an acquittal – or in other instances, fighting the case through investigation and motion work in order to get the government to give you an acceptable plea offer which they previously had refused.  And that is exactly what occurred here: for months we had been attempting to get a misdemeanor plea offer in this case with a conditional discharge – i.e. no probation, no jail time.  The prosecutors refused our demand and the case trudged towards what appeared to be an inevitable trial which came with some major risk: my client was facing 15 years in prison should he be convicted.  By the time the smoke cleared yesterday, Detective Yam was permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and received the conditional discharge we had requested.  How did it occur?  By putting the prosecution in a position where they had no realistic choice but to give in to our demands. Continue reading

pharma-bro-300x166Today I picked up the newspaper and read about the difficult jury selection in the Martin Shkreli federal trial.  Shkreli, known as the “Pharma Bro” is one of the most despised people in America, in large part due to his raising the price of Daraprim – a drug primarily used to treat newborns and HIV patients – from $13.50 to $750 a pill while he was the chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals a few years back. When challenged by a journalist about this outrageous move, Shkreli smugly called the journalist a “moron.”  During jury selection for his Securities Fraud trial in federal court in Brooklyn, his attorney moved for a mistrial, decrying the inability to find a single prospective juror to be seated at Shkreli’s trial due to claims they could not be impartial: Shkreli is simply too hated by everyone who knows anything about him.  I was drawn back to a high profile trial of mine from years ago when we also were seemingly unable to find a jurors who didn’t believe the defendant was guilty – before even hearing opening statements.  As in the Gotti, Jr. trial from 2005 and in Martin Shkreli’s today, well, just because the jury hates your client and has prejudged the evidence, a fair trial can still be had.  Twenty-three days after John’s trial began, he walked out of prison, acquitted on two charges, hung on the rest, despite the seeming impossible task to find one, let alone 12 impartial jurors.  I have empathy for Shkreli’s attorney but remember how such juror pool animus against a defendant could be turned around and used to one’s advantage.  Continue reading

fata-300x203Time and time again, clients have hired us due to false accusations of rape or assault by people they know: an angry ex, a soon to be former wife, a college date feeling remorseful after a night of sex – or just some stalker hoping to extort our client out of some money with the threat of going to the police with a tall tale.  Traditionally, we have investigated the cases immediately and gotten the cases tossed out, cases as serious as Assault in the First Degree (New York Penal Law § 120.10) and Rape in the First Degree (New York Penal Law § 130.35), both punishable by up to decades in prison.  But lately we have done more than simply get the cases tossed out: we have gone after the accusers both civilly and criminally.  In some instances, additionally, we have gotten the accusers arrested before they could even make good on their threat to bring a false accusation to law enforcement if an extortion payment was not made by our client.  Such serious, but false, accusations are deeply hurtful, damaging – and potentially life-altering.  They require more than fighting off the prosecutor’s criminal charge since the accuser, despite making a false accusation, will otherwise suffer no harm once the case is dismissed.  By getting the complainant arrested or sued for damages, you can be sure that your accuser will never be heard from again – which is exactly what you want and need.  Continue reading

sig-300x257In New York, a charge of Criminal Possession of a Weapon, pursuant to New York Penal Law § 265.03, can land you up to 15 years in prison – with a minimum sentence of 3.5 years.  This is an onerous punishment as it is, but becomes incredibly draconian when a defendant is not even alleged to have had the gun on his person, or even been in the same car, room or building at the time of the discovery of the weapons. But arrests under such circumstances routinely occur in New York under the doctrine of constructive possession – where a defendant is held responsible for possessing weapons (or other contraband) where they had ready access to and control of the weapon/contraband or to the storage place where it was found – even if they did not physically possess the weapon at the time of arrest.  People v. Manini, 79 N.Y.2d 561 (N.Y. 1992).   Continue reading

We receive many phone calls from individuals in New York with criminal records who wish to have their convictions sealed or expunged. In a huge change of the existing law, the governor recently signed into law (effective October 2017) a change in the criminal sealing law pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59 which allows judges to seal up to two eligible convictions, but just one felony.  While most offenses are now eligible for sealing, not all are: DWI offense are eligible, but many serious violent felonies including sex offenses, Homicide, Assault and Robbery offenses are not (along with most class A felony convictions).   Continue reading

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the importance of the pre-pleading memorandum in getting better plea offers from stubborn prosecutors, or a lower promised sentence from New York State judges.  Just 10 days later, the verdict is in: despite strong opposition by the prosecutors in the case of a celebrity restaurateur accused of Grand Larceny of nearly $850,000 of investor and employee funds, the judge offered a sentence of 4 months in prison (defendant to serve 3 1/2 months beginning in late June), significantly lower than the 1-3 years prison sentence offered by the prosecutors.  The deal was accepted yesterday in Kings County Supreme Court.  Continue reading

hail-mary-300x214The vast majority of New York State criminal cases end in plea bargains; getting a favorable one, however, largely rests on the shoulders of your defense lawyer.  And while many cases allow for easily negotiated pleas, many others involve deeply unpopular conduct or which have overwhelming evidence against the defendant.  These are the cases which require creativity from your attorney to achieve the best result possible.  In this post, I will discuss pre-pleading submissions; as the best New York criminal attorneys know, a well-researched and thorough document presented to the prosecutor and/or judge which extolls the virtues of the defendant or highlights mitigating factors of the defendant’s behavior can mean the difference between lengthy prison sentences and probation.   Continue reading

Two weeks ago in the national news we learned that a student at the University of Texas at Arlington (“UTA”), Thomas Klocke, committed suicide after the school ignored its own school disciplinary policies and punished him in violation of his Title IX rights for allegedly harassing a gay student in class.  A conspiracy between the unnamed complaining student at the school, UTA’s Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and the school’s associate director of academic integrity to go behind the back of the school’s Title IX coordinator in order to punish Klocke left him hopeless enough that he took his life last year.  Without his Title IX rights, the Mr. Klocke was denied an investigation and hearing prior to charges being brought and was not permitted the opportunity to present witnesses in his defense – or even to go back to the class and speak to his classmates to determine if any of them witnessed the allegations against him, allegations which were later determined by UTA to be unfounded.  Now the estate of the deceased student is suing UTA for violating his Title IX rights – and the reality that American colleges and universities are overly progressive and protective of so-called marginalized members of society, i.e., women and members of the LBGTQ community, has come to the forefront.  For these reasons, students who are accused of misconduct at college need to hire the best school disciplinary attorney they can find, whether they attend NYU, Columbia, Fordham, the SUNY schools, UConn, Yale, Rutgers or any school across the country.  The stakes could not be higher and the prejudice against students could not be greater in today’s politically-correct academic climate.  Continue reading