Monday, November 14, 2016

Staten Island Gets Veterans Court

Officials gathered Wednesday to mark the opening of the Richmond County Veterans Court. The special part hears cases of defendants who are veterans and who may have problems with addiction, mental illness or other disorders, and links eligible offenders to treatment and services as an alternative to incarceration. There are now 29 Veterans Courts in New York state, including all five boroughs.

From left, Richmond County Bar Association president Christopher Caputo; Staten Island borough president James Oddo; Staten Island district attorney Michael McMahon; Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Judith McMahon, administrative judge for civil matters; Veterans Court mentor coordinator Robert Mulhall; John Fusco, counsel to the borough president; Richmond County Bar president-elect Allyn Crawford; Sherry Klein Heitler, chief of policy and planning for the court system; Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks; and Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney, administrative judge for criminal matters who will preside over the Veterans Court.

The Full NYLJ Article can be found HERE.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Undercover sting nabs California mother selling ceviche through Facebook group

Mariza Ruelas never expected a plate of ceviche would lead her to the courthouse and maybe even a possible jail sentence.

For more than a year, undercover investigators in San Joaquin County, Calif., tracked the sales of food — such as homemade tamales, tortillas and cakes — through a community Facebook group, a sting that Ruelas called a “waste of time and resources and taxpayers’ money.”

Ruelas, a single mother of six, first came across the Facebook group about two years ago when she needed a last-minute cake for her daughter’s quinceaƱera, the Hispanic coming-of-age celebration on a young woman’s 15th birthday.

The community forum, 209 Food Spot, allowed Stockton, Calif., residents to share recipes, organize potlucks and occasionally sell or exchange food items.

As a hobby, about once a month, Ruelas began offering up her own dishes — a tray of rice and beans in exchange for a birthday cake, her chicken-stuffed avocados to those who requested them, she said in a phone interview with The Washington Post.

Then, in July, she received a letter in the mail: She was being summoned to court. Ruelas, along with several other group members, faced citations on two misdemeanors — operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit. An undercover investigator had ordered ceviche from her through the Facebook group in October 2015 as part of a sting.

At least a half-dozen other members accepted a plea deal of one year of probation, a $235 fine and 40 hours of community service. Ruelas was offered a deal with twice the community service, three years of probation and the $235 fine, so she refused to accept it, she said.

She is headed to trial and faces up to a year in jail.

The full Washington Post article can be found HERE

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Court-appointed attorneys do little work, records show

The Full Story Can be Found HERE

Facing Death, Brooklyn District Attorney Spoke of Doing What ‘Is Right’


I asked Mr. Thompson about the case of Peter Liang, a police officer who fatally shot a black man, Akai Gurley, in the stairway of a public housing building. Mr. Liang was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to probation and community service. Some officers were angry at Mr. Thompson for pursuing the case; Mr. Gurley’s family was angry at him for recommending no jail time for Mr. Liang.

Mr. Thompson’s spokeswoman, listening to the call, interjected, trying to steer him away from the subject, but he rebuffed her.

“No, no, I know it’s on the table,” he said. “I approached that case with a determination to get justice. The problem is, these cops often are not prosecuted. And people forget also, in all the criticism of me, that I did the Abner Louima trial with Loretta Lynch. I did the opening statement for the United States government, and helped convict Justin Volpe, who got 30 years and is still in prison now. And so when it comes to police brutality, I’m adamant.”

He had made his name as a federal prosecutor in the case of Mr. Louima, a Haitian immigrant tortured with a broomstick while in custody at a Brooklyn police station in 1997.

Nearly two decades later, as district attorney, he sought the convictions of two officers who knocked out a teenager’s teeth and were captured on video doing it. And he recommended a three-month sentence for an officer who stomped on the head of a man being arrested, he said, “because that was a blatant act of police brutality.”

As we talked, Mr. Thompson listed his proudest accomplishments: his decision not to prosecute most low-level marijuana arrests in Brooklyn, even as the police continued to make them; the establishment of a juvenile court, in partnership with the city courts and the police, to help young people charged with minor offenses avoid criminal records; and a program that invited city residents to clear open arrest warrants for petty crimes without going to court.

Yet nothing evidently gave him more pleasure than the unit he had set up to reverse miscarriages of justice.

“In two years and eight months, we have vacated 21 wrongful convictions,” Mr. Thompson said. “Twenty-one.” All of the defendants were black or Hispanic, he added. “Now, I don’t know any D.A. who is doing it like that.”

He stressed that the exoneration cases had been carefully chosen. “We are not flipping a coin,” he said. “It is still a rigorous, fair, thorough investigation that we take. But I am not going to be a coward, in any way, from doing what I think is right. And I think that one of the biggest things that represents my determination to make a difference is my work with wrongful convictions.”

  • The full NYT article can be found HERE

Monday, August 15, 2016


Nieves was charged with, among other things, driving while under the influence of alcohol. He was pulled over after an officer observed that Nieves' vehicle did not have any lights lit anywhere, and was overtaking other, slower cars from the left side. The officer noticed Nieves had bloodshot, blurry eyes and slurred speech. A portable breath test indicated a 0.1 BAC. When Nieves was asked at the precinct if he would consent to a breath test, he indicated not until he spoke to a lawyer. The court found the stop of the vehicle was justified for Nieves' violation of not having car lights on after dark, and the officer had probable cause, based on observations, to arrest Nieves for DWI. The court opined if suppression of the refusal to take a blood alcohol test was warranted if Nieves was denied his right to counsel. It ruled Nieves was never afforded the opportunity to provide the officer with complete sentences, as the officer consistently cut-off Nieves nearly after every question posed. The court found Nieves specifically and unequivocally requested counsel before refusing to the chemical test, finding the officer never took steps to enable Nieves to attempt to promptly reach an attorney. Thus, suppression of the refusal was granted.

The full story can be found here:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Judge Declines to Dismiss Criminal Charge Against MTA Driver

A Queens judge has refused to dismiss a criminal charge against a bus driver accused of striking and killing a pedestrian, adding that he disagreed with a fellow Queens judge's recent ruling that the law creating the penalty is unconstitutional.
According to court papers, in November 2014, Curtis Green was driving a bus for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and, while turning right on Northern Boulevard in Queens, allegedly struck Edward Cohen as he crossed the street. Cohen later died of his injuries.
Green was charged with violating Administrative Code §19-190, or the Right of Way Law, enacted as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative to eliminate pedestrian deaths.
The law made the failure to exercise due care by motorists who strike pedestrians or cyclists and cause injury— previously a traffic violation—into the equivalent of a class B misdemeanor.
In a July 27 ruling in People v. Green, 2015QN000650, Queens Criminal Court Judge Ernest Hartrejected Green's arguments that the law violates his due process rights and that the term "due care" is unconstitutionally vague, finding that failure of due care is a culpable mental state that would violate Vehicle and Traffic Law §1146.
Hart's ruling clashes with Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia Morris' June 24 finding in People v. Sanson, 2015QN008701, that the law's application of a civil tort negligence standard—rather than a culpable mens rea, which is typically required in criminal cases—is unconstitutional on its face.
Hart also rejected Green's arguments that the Right of Way Law is preempted by the state's Public Authorities Law, which governs MTA conduct.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Markel appeared for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's Office.
Harriet Wong, an associate with Armienti, DeBellis, Guglielmo & Rhoden, represented Green.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mixing diet drink with alcohol can backfire

People who mix alcohol and diet drinks end up with more alcohol on their breath, according to a new study.
People who drank vodka mixed with diet soda had higher alcohol concentrations on their breath than those who drank the same amount of vodka mixed with regular soda, researchers wrote in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Crime-prevention materials should include this information so that people know that by trying to avoid some extra calories in a mixed drink, they risk having higher breath-alcohol concentrations, wrote the researchers, led by Amy Stamates of Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, near Cincinnati.
For the new study, researchers had 10 men and 10 women ages 21 to 30 drink five different mixed-beverage combinations over five sessions. The drinks contained varying amounts of vodka and either diet or regular sweetened soda. One drink was just regular soda alone.
The researchers then measured the alcohol concentrations in the participants’ breaths for three hours.
They found higher concentrations of alcohol — as much as 25 percent greater — on the breaths of the participants when they drank the mixed beverages containing diet soda.
Researchers say the findings may be particularly relevant to young women, who are most likely to use diet beverages in their mixed drinks.
Dr. Chris Rayner, a gastroenterologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said that so-called gastric emptying is likely the reason for higher alcohol concentrations in the participants’ breaths.
In a previous study, Rayner found alcohol left the stomach and entered the bloodstream faster when people used diet drinks in their mixed beverages, compared with regularly sweetened drinks.
Rayner, who was not involved in the new study, said the effects of alcohol are mitigated if consumed with nutrients such as sugar, because it slows the entry of alcohol into the small intestine, where it is absorbed by the body.

The full article can be found here: