Nineteen months after charging Khari Noerdlinger with manslaughter and describing him as a violent drug dealer, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office has dismissed the charge and admitted that Noerdlinger was not involved in a drug deal during an attack on him which left him injured and one of his three attackers dead. A review of the grand jury transcript revealed that the Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor and case detective worked together to deceive the grand jury about the danger facing Khari when he was attacked by three men with weapons including multiple knives as well as the injuries he suffered during it – all in an effort to negate any legitimate claim of self-defense the grand jury repeatedly asked about. During this 19 month period, there was apparently no oversight in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and it took the defense to carefully lay out the obvious perjury in the grand jury presentation in order to get the faulty manslaughter charge dismissed. All of the materials provided by defense attorneys Jeffrey Lichtman and Lee Vartan which proved the commission of perjury were in the possession of the prosecutors and provided to the defense as part of routine discovery disclosure. Despite the obvious subornation of perjury by the Assistant Prosecutor, Danielle Grootenboer, and the perjury of the testifying case detective, James Costello, they have not been suspended and continue to menace the people of Bergen County. No apology, additionally, has been issued by the Bergen County Prosecutor for the perjury which led to the bogus manslaughter indictment as well as the repeated false public claim that Khari was dealing drugs at the time of the incident. Continue reading
The Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel is one of the bedrock principles of the American justice system: all those charged with a crime are guaranteed the right to counsel. If an individual charged with a crime cannot afford an attorney, since 1963 the Supreme Court has ruled that an attorney will be provided to him at no cost (Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)). This attorney will either come in the form of a fulltime public defender or an attorney assigned by the court and paid by the hour. In either situation, these attorneys have a very large caseload and limited resources to devote to each assigned client. And now we come to the case of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman: extradited to the United States from Mexico in January of 2017, Guzman was provided federal public defenders at his first court appearance in the Eastern District of New York – despite the prosecutors claiming that his purported massive wealth did not entitle him to taxpayer-funded counsel. After all, the government was concerned that the American taxpayer would be forced to foot the massive legal bill generated from the numerous indictments lodged against Guzman in six separate American jurisdictions. Seven months later, the government is doing all that it can to prevent Mr. Guzman from hiring private counsel, ensuring that taxpayers will be forced to pay all legal expenses, as the first of up to six trials and appeals looms, in April of 2018. Continue reading
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
Today 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
Time 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
In 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