Articles Posted in General Advice

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

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

hotlightOne of the first things that will occur prior to or immediately after an arrest is an attempt by a law enforcement officer to wheedle a statement, admission or confession out of the defendant.  After all, this is the time when the individual is at his most vulnerable and often not thinking clearly – which leads usually to an attempt to try to talk one’s way out of the arrest.  Of course, all the talking in the world will not negate the arrest and instead will further the chances of a conviction due to the statement provided.  Adding to the trauma of an arrest is the fact that law enforcement officers have been known to bend the law when attempting to secure a damaging admission from the prisoner.  In a recent case of mine, the officers did just that while conspiring with the prosecutor to deny my client his counsel of choice.  Even more shocking: the arrested was a detective with the NYPD.  The lesson to be learned here is that no matter how knowledgeable of the criminal justice system a defendant may be, law enforcement will still try to get an admission out of him to cripple a defense and ensure a conviction.  While hiring the best New York criminal defense attorney you can upon arrest is a start, keeping your mouth shut no matter what is dangled before you can be just as important to the ultimate success of your case. Continue reading

Recently a client charged with serious federal narcotics crimes came to me with a tale of woe: his prior counsel who had been representing him during the investigation phase of the case had incredibly been simultaneously representing a witness who was cooperating against him in the same case.  When my new client was indicted he came to me, terrified, because a) his former lawyer knew all about his criminal background including the client’s culpability in the case for which he had just been indicted; and b) he was not an American citizen despite living in America since he was two years old; therefore, a conviction to any of the narcotics charges against him would result in his deportation back to a country he had not visited since he left as a child.  The client was desperate and without hope: his former lawyer had advised him to either cooperate with the government or, if deported, to attempt to illegally sneak back into America – two choices the client was unwilling to do. Within 15 minutes of meeting this client and hearing his tale of woe, I told him “I know you won’t believe this but what your former lawyer did to you may end up being your only chance out of this mess.”  Eleven months later, despite facing initially a minimum five to 40 years in prison pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) and definite deportation, my client received just a 30 month sentence to a Travel Act charge (a non-deportable offense) and received a recommendation for the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) which could result in his release from prison in just over a year.  Moral to the story: as any of the best New York federal drug and narcotics attorneys know, when given lemons in a case make lemonade.   Continue reading

breathalyzer-test-300x199One of the more common questions a New York criminal defense attorney is asked at a cocktail party is what to do if stopped for suspicion of driving while intoxicated and the officer wishes to administer a breathalyzer test?  To start, be aware that there are two different types of chemical tests: the portable breath test prior to arrest (the so-called “breathalyzer”) and the chemical test at the precinct after you are arrested.  Whether to voluntarily take the test is a crucial question as it may impact not only the ultimate result of a criminal case if an arrest follows but could impact a defendant’s livelihood and liberty as well should there be a conviction.  The short answer? It depends. Continue reading

FullSizeRender-294x300(In last week’s post on winning high profile criminal trials (part II), I discussed the importance of thinking outside the box and creating an atmosphere in the courtroom wherein the government is fighting to keep up with the defense lawyer instead of the other way around: fighting the safe, conservative fight in a high profile case will result in a safe, conservative loss.)

A Defense Lawyer in a High Profile Criminal Trial Must Be Quick-Witted and Quick-Thinking

A sense of humor and ability to think on one’s feet are crucial hallmarks for any top criminal defense attorney.  Any of the best New York criminal trial lawyers I have known have had one thing in common: incredible senses of humor and ability to think quickly – and oftentimes hilariously – on their feet.  And there’s a good reason for this: when you’re defending a very difficult case with a tremendous amount of evidence against your client, the jury is ready to convict before the opening statements are completed.  The default position at the start of the case oftentimes includes a bored jury, disgusted with your client and just biding its time until they can convict and go home to their lives.  So what can a defense lawyer do to stop that runaway train to disaster?  Entertain the jury.  Connect with the jury.  Make the jury laugh.  It’s like anything else in life: make the jury like you enough that they’re willing to listen to what you have to say, willing to give you – and your client – the benefit of the doubt.  And there’s not much competition in the humor or likability department when going up against a prosecutor: first, prosecutors are by their definition required to play it much straighter than a defense lawyer can as they are representatives of the government; second, prosecutors are notoriously stiff and less entertaining than defense lawyers (though I have experienced some very rare exceptions).  Bottom line: if your lawyer can’t entertain you, the client, he’s certainly not going to have the presence during a high profile criminal trial to cause the jurors to follow him over the mountain to an acquittal.

GottiSep21-228x300(In my prior post on winning high profile criminal trials, I discussed the complete and total dedication to the task at hand as well as the needed confidence of the defense lawyer, born from over-preparation, which allows him to take the chances necessary to win a case all observers presume is a lost cause.)

Creativity and Courage Are Crucial If You Want to Win a Big Media Case

Many defense lawyers are afraid to take chances in a high profile case.  The reasoning goes ‘why take a chance of making a fool out of yourself when a good fight is all that anyone expects of you – and you’ll still get good publicity.’  Well, the main reason a great defense attorney will take chances is very simple: he actually wants to win, not just appear like he fought a good fight.  An example: during the Gotti case I decided early on that we would be using a very novel defense, namely that the defendant had actually left the mafia while serving a prior federal prison sentence and, because five years had passed since his withdrawal, the pending federal charges were brought beyond the statute of limitations.  Simply put, even if the defendant had committed the charged acts, if the jury believed the withdrawal defense, he would be acquitted. Continue reading

NewsdayTeflonJohn-219x300How do you win a high profile criminal case that the entire world is watching, you ask?  Many of the necessary concepts can be applied to the defense of any criminal trial, whether it be a federal RICO murder case or a state Assault case, but there are some additional challenges – and opportunities – that are particular to cases which have heavy media coverage.  In the end, when looking for the best New York criminal defense lawyer you can hire to defend you in what you believe is an impossible-to-win case, try to find a lawyer who embodies the concepts I will discuss below: complete and total dedication, confidence, creativity, courage, sense of humor, quick-wittedness under pressure, and lastly, ego.  Added all together, these traits in your lawyer will give you your best chance to win a publicly reported trial.  Remember: any trial can be won, no matter how dismal your chances appear at the start – as long as you find the right lawyer to fight for you. Continue reading

Over the past ten days, both Congress and New York state have outlawed automated ticket purchasing software, known as “bots” designed to stop ticket brokers from buying up all the good seats to concerts, sports games and Broadway shows and preventing the tickets from reaching the ticket-buying public.  As ticket brokers are not particularly popular due to the general public’s inability to purchase tickets to events at face value, there was very little opposition to the new laws which heavily increase the penalties for those who use computer software to bypass security controls on a retail ticket selling platform in order to get around ticket purchasing limits or other stated ordering rules.  In New York state, additionally, the new law criminalizes the use of ticket-purchase software to purchase seats.  As these new laws are potentially devastating both financially and criminally (in the case of the New York bot law), ticket brokers who receive a subpoena for records or are a target of a criminal or civil investigation for use of bots are wise to engage experienced lawyers who since 1991 have represented ticket brokers in battles against the federal government, New York’s Attorney General’s office and Consumer Affairs on issues relating to the ticket scalping business. Continue reading

When the cellphone video was released in 2015 of former North Charleston, S.C. police officer Michael Slager shooting an apparently unarmed man named Walter Scott, while Scott ran away from the officer after a routine traffic stop, the country reacted in horror.  That Slager is white and Scott an African American only exacerbated the current simmering topic of race relations in this country as well as the national debate of how police officers use deadly force – which oftentimes ends with a dead black man.  Slager was charged with murder in South Carolina and also indicted federally on civil rights charges and obstruction of justice for lying to a grand jury when he testified that Scott approached him with a Taser.  Now, over a year later inside a South Carolina courtroom, the jury appears deadlocked with one holdout who refuses to convict the jury – and the nation wonders how could this happen?  Continue reading