Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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A New York City police officer was arrested recently and charged with civil rights violations after he allegedly falsely accused a man of resisting arrest and followed that up with a racial slur, The New York Times reports.

This is the second recent example of a NYPD officer being charged with a civil rights violation. In Brooklyn recently, we reported on our blog that a seven-year veteran of the force was charged with pepper spraying and handcuffing a person, then accessing state and federal databases to check the person’s background after an incident outside a bar owned of one of the officer’s relatives.Accusations of civil rights violations in New York can not only spark outrage, but can demoralize an entire police department. Big-city departments seem to constantly come under fire for race-related allegations, which sometimes lead to criminal charges.

Both the officers who face these charges and the victims who have been cast aside as second-class citizens require legal representation. A lawyer who has the experience on both sides of the issue should be hired to analyze the situation and best represent the client.

In this case, the 32-year-old white police officer is accused of approaching a black man on Targee Street in Staten Island in plain clothes and unmarked police cruiser in April and frisking him.

When the officer found nothing illegal, the man complained about the treatment and asked for his badge number. The officer arrested him and charged him with resisting arrest, telling the man he didn’t appreciate being treated with disrespect, The New York Times reports.

The officer’s report states the man flailed his arms, kicked his legs and pushed the officer during the arrest. The man spent 36 hours in custody. According to a federal complaint filed against the officer, investigators found text messages and intercepted phone calls on the night of the arrest that show the officer exaggerated facts in the report.

He not only is charged with a misdemeanor civil rights violation, but also extortion and insurance fraud, which could add up to 20 years in prison. The extortion charge is unrelated to this incident, but relates to the officer, who runs a plowing business on the side. Allegedly he lured a man he believed stole his snowplow to a parking lot, where the man was beaten by eight men.

The insurance fraud charges come from him allegedly telling a snow plow worker to bash a truck he owned and then say it was an accident. Investigators allegedly have a recording of the officer’s voice saying “these guys are dead” after learning he was being investigated for the beating.

This will be an interesting case for several reasons. The first is that federal prosecutors rarely file charges in a criminal complaint. They typically take the case to a grand jury, which has to decide whether or not to indict. Perhaps they feel the evidence is insufficient.

Second, the case is based on three completely different situations, which could be difficult for the jury to figure out. Whatever the resolution, let’s hope the victim and the officer receive fair treatment.
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A recent Nevada court case shows how prosecutors will cut corners in an effort to make sure that shaky arrest turns into an even shakier conviction.

In Stephans v. State, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the prosecutors couldn’t rely on shaky testimony in attempting to convict a man for theft.Charges of theft in New York City can range from simple shoplifting at a magazine stand to a more serious burglary or armed robbery. Therefore, the penalties can range from a short-term jail stint to major prison time behind bars.

And as is typically the case, prosecutors tend to charge theft suspects with multiple charges. If police believe a person shows a similar pattern to other unsolved crimes, sometimes they’ll charge one person so they can close out their “cold case” files.

Or if a burglar is arrested, they could be charged with other related crimes, such as trespassing or using burglary tools. This gives prosecutors an advantage when entering plea negotiations with the defendant. The more potential time they face behind bars, the better deal the state may be able to get.

This case comes down to a man who was arrested and charged with stealing several bottles of cologne from a department store. When apprehended, the man faced charges of grand larceny, burglary and conspiracy to commit larceny.

At trial, the evidence the state relied on came from a loss prevention officer — a hired security guard — who was allowed to testify over the objection of defense attorneys. At trial, the officer was allowed to testify as to the actual theft as well as the value of what was stolen.

He testified that he recovered price tags from the stolen merchandise that totaled $477. But no price tags nor duplicates or anyway to confirm these numbers were entered at trial.

As with most states, in Nevada, a $250 value or more must be proven in order to prove grand larceny. Every state has a minimum value that must be proven in order to show what level or type of theft occurred. And for a judge to let a paid staff member of the department store come into court and say he has some price tags that aren’t available to sway a jury into convicting is deplorable.

A defendant has a right to a fair trial and a right to have the state prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt. That means they can’t rely on the word of some person who has no proof. If there are price tags, they should have been made available. Or another person should have been called in to show how much those items were on sale for the day they were stolen. It was a slipshod case that luckily was straightened out on appeal.

Sometimes, an appeal is necessary to correct the mistakes of judges or prosecutors in seemingly simple cases. But, usually, an experienced Great Neck defense attorney can work out these issues in order to avoid a conviction in the first place.
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A case out of Georgia recently highlighted the importance of a strong theory of defense for a person charged with a crime in New York.

In State v. Green, a man who was simply defending himself was charged with murder and could have faced severe penalties had the charges not been appealed and the indictment dismissed.While self-defense is most commonly considered usable in cases of murder on Long Island, it can apply to any violent crime, such as assault and battery.

Many states have a “Stand Your Ground” or “castle doctrine” law that allows for people to defend themselves if they are in fear for their lives. In most cases, if a suspect initiates physical violence, the victim can use force in return. The laws in some states are more conservative than others.

In New York, a person may defend themselves, but also has a right to retreat rather than use deadly force. Deadly force can be used if the person reasonably suspects the offender is using or about to use deadly force on them. It requires more calculation that other states’ laws.

There are many situations in which self-defense is necessary and in Green’s case, this is one of them. According to court documents, Green was in the kitchen of a house he rented from a couple. He was preparing dinner with a butcher knife while having a conversation with the wife.

When the husband saw this, he was enraged and told Green he was kicking him out and stormed off to get his money to refund it. In obvious fear, Green held the knife by his side, not knowing what the man would return with.

When he came back into the kitchen, he grabbed Green’s wrists and head-butted him before the knife went into his leg. It punctured the femoral artery, causing him to lose massive amounts of blood en route to dying.

As a result, Green was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and using a knife during a felony. His attorney filed a motion to dismiss the indictment based on a self-defense theory that seems evident. A judge agreed, but the state appealed.

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the trial court’s decision and dismissed the indictment, agreeing that Green acted in self defense, was in fear for his safety and didn’t even attempt to stab the man, who was the aggressor.

Cases like this happen every day. Or a person breaks into a victim’s home in an attempt to rob the homeowners, but they use force to protect themselves and end up injuring or killing a suspect and end up charged themselves. It’s ludicrous and that’s why defendants in this situation in Great Neck require a dedicated attorney to stand by their side in order to ensure justice is done in every case.
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The Occupy Wall Street movement has garnered national and worldwide attention, encouraging others throughout the United States and across the planet to protest government, big business and other causes.

But this has come with a downside — criminal charges. Because most cities allow peaceful demonstrations, but require permits, have time limits and don’t allow people to sleep on the streets, many protesters have been arrested and carted off to jail.Thomson Reuters recently reported that disorderly conduct charges against more than 700 people will stand. Disorderly conduct charges in New York against these protesters are simply a misdemeanor, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have long-term effects like a felony conviction could.

When people are arrested at a young age, it can sometimes be attributed to youth and poor decision-making. But that doesn’t mean the mark goes away. In fact, a misdemeanor conviction can stay on a person’s record forever, causing them problems finding work, getting into college or qualifying to serve in the military.

Most people may consider a misdemeanor a slap on the wrist, but a conviction can result in jail time, probation, fines and fees, other sanctions as well as it sticking with a person for life. People’s attitudes change over time and they may find themselves changing careers or looking to erase bad acts of the past. But after a conviction, it’s too late.

According to Thomson Reuters, a liberal legal organization had asked the district attorney to drop charges against the protesters, threatening to take any case to trial of a defendant who didn’t want to accept a plea or pay a fine.

But the D.A. refused to bargain, instead offering adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. In New York, this means that the case will be postponed for a certain amount of time — in this case six months — and if the defendant doesn’t pick up a second arrest during that time the charges will be dismissed and the case sealed from public view.

Of the 700 arrests between locations at Union Square and the Brooklyn Bridge, only 340 names appeared on the prosecution’s offer, the news service reports. Other defendants received a summons to appear in court on a certain date.

Accepting the offer of adjournment could discourage protesters from participating in other planned demonstrations for fear they would get arrested. A second arrest would make those deals moot and give them additional legal troubles.

Protesters nationwide have caused local law enforcement agencies to fill up their jails with non-violent suspects, while they could be using their time better served finding real criminals. These may be more political moves than criminal investigations, but the bottom line is that arrests are being made and people require legal representation.

When a person is arrested, his or her life is turned upside down. They typically panic and wonder what the future will hold. Their first step should be to contact an aggressive Great Neck criminal defense lawyer, who has the skills and experience to guide them through the process. Whether misdemeanor or felony, the criminal justice system can be daunting and shouldn’t be handled alone.
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Tens of billions of dollars are being spent each year by companies attempting to keep their customers’ information secret as well as the money being paid back to consumers whose identities and funds have been taken by cyber crime.

It has become a giant problem in this country and worldwide as thieves have taken to computer networks and mobile phone applications to steal money, rather than stealing purses and breaking into people’s homes. Identity theft in New York leaves victims in a wake or frustration and often leads to false charges when law enforcement officers or civil authorities come calling. Both require legal representation.According to the ABC News article, obvious spam e-mails aren’t the only way cyber thieves are striking. They are creating fake applications and making them look realistic, so when they are downloaded, the users have free rein inside your computer.

In some cases, obtaining a person’s phone number allows crooksters to place small charges on the user’s monthly bill. Most consumers likely won’t notice such a small charge or if they do, they may not think it worthwhile to notify customer service and put up the battle that it likely will require.

The article states that for people who have online “credits” in websites, hackers can go after those, too. If each “credit” is redeemable online for cash they have value to hackers. Stealing these credits can also seem trivial to users, but on a large scale, they can mean big bucks for hackers. And they can mean your online identity has been breached, which can result in serious consequences.

Spam is also still a big hit for hackers. Clicking on outrageous headlines that bring up videos or websites that seem fishy can give cyber thieves access to your computer, so they can search for personal information.

Facebook has also been targeted. When users “like” an application, it requires certain information be accessed, such as e-mail accounts, phone numbers, status updates and other information. When phony applications are created on Facebook, they can be used to store this information with the intent of stealing passwords or gaining more access to a person’s life.

While there’s no doubting that these crimes are happening on a daily basis, tracking down the real culprits can be very difficult. This can lead to false arrests and poor justice. While this is certainly a big problem, a bigger problem is if the wrong people are arrested. Proving who is behind these attacks, which are typically hidden with fake IP addresses, usernames and performed with untrackable networks, can be difficult.

This sometimes leads to police putting the wrong person in handcuffs and the victims getting no justice at all. Getting reimbursed for cyber crimes can take a long time, but consulting with an experienced lawyer can speed up the process and ensure that your rights are protected.
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A veteran New York police officer, with seven years of service, was arrested recently and charged with violating the civil rights of a person he allegedly sprayed with pepper spray in Brooklyn, Thomson Reuters reports.

Civil rights charges filed against police officers are far too common. While there are hundreds of charges a person can face, including theft crimes, drug crimes, assault and battery and even murder in New York, an officer’s worst nightmare is facing a criminal charge for an offense allegedly committed while on duty.Officers require a strong criminal defense just like the average citizen. But while there are thousands of crimes committed every hour nationwide, that means there are thousands of victims as well.

And while not every defendant charged with a crime is guilty, that still leaves victims needing answers. They require legal representation as well. Victims need a strong voice in order to be heard.

In the instance of the police officer, the 31-year-old now faces up to 17 years in prison if he is convicted in federal court of the charges for which he has been indicted. According to Thomson Reuters, the officer allegedly used pepper spray in 2008 during an argument over parking in front of a bar owned by the cop’s cousin.

While on duty and in uniform, the officer allegedly said “no one (expletive) with my cousin’s place,” before he handcuffed and detained the unnamed victim. A second person was also pepper sprayed.

Prosecutors also allege the officer used the department’s computer systems to access information about the victim. They say he also used the computer system to access federal databases on behalf of his cousin, who is being investigated by the FBI on drug trafficking allegations.

If true, this is obviously a disturbing story because police officers have so much authority. To think officers will, while on duty, violate citizens’ rights in order to protect a family member’s business is tough to swallow.

But another thing that must be taken into consideration here is the possibility that this officer — whose cousin is being investigated by the FBI — may have been unfairly targeted.

In a criminal case, all angles must be considered. When a person’s liberty is on the line, everything must be looked at in order to ensure justice is done.

And the victims deserve justice as well. That means getting compensation in cases where they had to pay for medical care or to reimburse them for the emotional and physical turmoil that so often comes with civil rights violations in New York. This is why the legal system was created. All sides must be represented and what is fair must be the outcome.
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Lawyers in California recently argued before an appeals court there that potential jurors shouldn’t be dismissed from duty based on their sexual orientation in a case that could have nationwide implications.

Criminal law in New York and nationwide is always evolving. Court rulings on previous cases throughout New York can be applied to a defendant’s case if the facts are similar and sometimes there are sweeping changes that affect every case that goes forward.At one time, a person wasn’t read rights before they spoke to police, but in 1966 Ernesto Arturo Miranda appealed his conviction and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police must clearly tell a suspect they have a right to remain silent, that what they say can be used against them and that they can speak with an attorney, in accord with the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Americans. Before that, no one was read a Miranda warning.

It sometimes takes a landmark case, a panel of judges who are willing to listen and an experienced Great Neck criminal appeals lawyer to make history. Any case can one day affect all cases.

In Los Angeles, a gay Nigerian-born man was convicted of assault, but during jury selection of his trial, a lesbian was stricken from the jury. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena recently heard the appeal, where the man’s attorneys asked the judges to find that the trial judge made a mistake when accepting a bogus reason for the prosecutor dismissing the lesbian during jury selection.

At trial, the man’s defense was that he was giving a hug to a man, which is a salutary gesture in his homeland, and the homophobic man overreacted, lunging away and falling to the floor with the defendant on top of him.

This case could end up being historic. For more than 25 years, a person hasn’t been able to be dismissed from a jury because of their race, after a case out of Kentucky was successfully appealed and states changed that aspect of jury selection. Prosecutors once sought to keep minorities off juries, thinking they might be sympathetic to a minority defendant.

These are major issues that shape the criminal justice system in America. A criminal defense attorney is critical because a defendant’s trial can mean the difference between liberty lost and freedom won.

But an appeal is also important because everything that happened in a criminal case must be reviewed to determine if the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney made mistakes. If a person’s rights weren’t upheld, a successful appeal can right those wrongs and get someone a new trial or the charges thrown out altogether.

Because both a trial lawyer and an appeals lawyer in New York is so important, choose wisely. Rarely do defendants get a second chance, so hiring an experienced and aggressive lawyer to handle a criminal case is critical.
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Following the 20-day jail sentence for former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose for a DUI offense in Michigan, some have questioned why there is so much discretion for judges state-by-state when it comes to this crime.

A new report by USA Today shows that where you get arrested for DUI plays a large role in what type of punishment you can face. It goes unargued that there is disparity in sentencing from state to state and usually judge to judge in all criminal cases in New York, not just in drunken driving charges. But fighting the charges, wherever they are, is essential.In Rose’s case, he was arrested in March in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield. Research shows that had he been arrested, for example, in Pontiac, another suburb, he likely wouldn’t have faced any time in jail, Michigan state statistics show. Rose crashed his Cadillac Escalade on March 11 and was arrested that day.

According to the news article, Rose’s case highlights the inconsistent punishment handed out for drunken drivers throughout the country. Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia are among the states with mandatory jail time for first offenders, locking up defendants for three, two and one day, respectively. California, Connecticut and Indiana, however, don’t require jail for first-time offenders.

In Wisconsin, the penalties are even weaker — a first-time offense for DUI isn’t even a crime. It’s a civil infraction that results in a ticket.

“There are no set guidelines on this. There’s no national standard on this,” said Alex R. Piquero, a criminology professor at the University of Texas-Dallas, who has studied drunken driving for more than 20 years. “There is a lot of discretion. It’s like a ref on the football field. Everyone holds on every play. Which one is the most egregious of the offense?”

The article cites statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that state that driving under the influence was blamed for 12,744 traffic deaths in 2009. FBI statistics show that 1.4 million people are arrested annually for DUI nationwide.

Some experts don’t believe that jail time is effective in reducing repeat DUI offenses. However, most say that sanctions, such as an ignition interlock device, which is installed in a vehicle and requires a person to blow into a tube and be sober to start the vehicle, are more effective.

In New York, a first-time offender can be charged with a felony and face up to four years in prison if there is a child in the car. In bordering New Jersey, a first-time offense requires a mandatory 12 hours in jail. In Connecticut, along with no jail time unless someone is injured or killed, the conviction can be expunged after completing an alcohol education program.

Obviously, location is a huge factor. But also a factor is the attorney chosen to defend the case. An aggressive criminal defense attorney can sometimes get key pieces of evidence thrown out of the case and prove that officer actions were improper in the handling of the investigation. The penalties are serious and require a defense that can protect the defendant’s rights.
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Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided homes in Brooklyn and Long Island recently in connection with a hacker group called Anonymous that attacked PayPal’s Web site last year, the New York Daily News reports.

While there were no local arrests, agents in nine other states arrested 14 people after PayPal’s Web site endured a cyber attack last year after the company refused to accept payments to be sent to WikiLeaks in response to the thousands of leaked classified diplomatic cables. PayPal is a service that allows people to send and receive funds and make payments. WikiLeaks is a non-profit group that publishes classified information that it obtains from the government and private companies.While there haven’t been any local people arrested, it appears federal agents believe that some on Long Island and in Brooklyn bear responsibility for the crime. Computer crime charges in New York require an aggressive defense, regardless of the allegations. And cyber crimes can be difficult to prove because they occur over the Internet and not in public, like most crimes.

Anonymous, a hacker group that took responsibility for the compromise of PayPal’s site, said it did so after PayPal cut ties with WikiLeaks. PayPal had accused WikiLeaks of violating its policy prohibiting the payment service from being used for illegal activities and refused to process donations to the controversial whistleblowing site. The defendants are charged with conspiring to damage PayPal computers.

According to The Washington Post, arrests were made in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. The defendants ranged from 20 to 24. The group also claimed responsibility for disrupting the Web sites of Visa and MasterCard, when those companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks in December.

Bloomberg News recently reported that cyber crimes cost businesses millions of dollars not only to recover lost information, but also in drops to their stock prices after attacks. The article is based on the recent breach of Sony, whose PlayStation Network was attacked and thousands of users’ personal and financial information was exploited.

Bloomberg reports that cyber attacks in the United States made up 31 percent of data breaches in 2010, costing U.S. businesses about $7.2 million. About 85 percent of all U.S. companies have experienced one or more attacks.

Online-based crimes can be tough for law enforcement to crack, however. Because information can be sent and received through extensive networks and throughout the world, the charges can be difficult to prove. Knowing when and where an alleged crime occurred is also a challenge. Prosecutors must be able to pinpoint when a crime happened and where it happened in order to secure a conviction. Obviously, they must also be able to prove the accused participated.

Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney in New York is critical to protecting your rights. If you are suspected of a crime or are being investigated, don’t speak with law enforcement until you consult with an attorney. Your actions or words can be used against you. Protect your rights and seek justice.
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Victims of Nicholas Cosmo, the Long Island Ponzi schemer, are now being asked by courts to return money they withdrew just before the scheme collapsed, outraging many investors, Fox News reports.

In the best of times, investments can be uncertain, but especially in these tough economy times. But what the Great Recession has done is exposed the many financial schemes that investment specialists have concocted to rip off people and strip them of their hard-earned savings. Investment Lawyers are prepared to represent anyone who has been ripped off by investment firms and people who make false claims about money-making schemes.Cosmo pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud in 2010 as part of a $413 million Ponzi scheme through his company, Agape World Inc. in Hauppauge. He was also convicted of mail fraud in 1999 and allegedly used more than $200,000 from Agape to pay for restitution in that case. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

A Ponzi scheme occurs when an investment group finds investors to give them money, usually promising outrageous returns on their contributions. The scheme pays early investors with money from the new investors and eventually is doomed to collapse because it is unable to sustain those kinds of payouts. Typically, the people running the investment take money for themselves, while ripping off the investors. The term was named after Charles Ponzi, who used the technique in 1920.

Fox News reports that because there are federal bankruptcy court lawsuits pending, investors are being ordered by judges to return money they withdrew from the investment scheme, even if they thought it was interest and used it to pay bills or make other purchases. Some people interviewed said they lost tens of thousands of dollars and are now being ordered to pay back even more money. The law is designed to prevent investors from getting preferential treatment if they withdrew money 90 days before a scheme collapses.

Investment brokers, fund managers and other workers who have the power to control people’s money are always facing criticism when an investment idea goes south. It’s possible that allegations of securities fraud and other wrongdoings can threaten the health of a business or company.

While our firm represents victims in cases like this, we are also well-equipped and have experience defending companies accused of wrongdoing. While there have definitely been many examples of high-profile investment and financially based schemes, there are also empty allegations made every day because the Great Recession has trampled on people’s savings and caused them great harm.

Sometimes it isn’t fraud, but simply an economic downturn that makes an investment go south. So, if you are either a victim of fraud or an investment manager who has been falsely accused, either with criminal charges or civil lawsuits, consult with our firm immediately. We will study the records, subpoena information and work to sort out all the facts.
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