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Recently, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn brought an indictment against eight individuals – including a medical doctor, three pharmacists, and several members of the doctor’s staff – for their alleged operation of a $24 million oxycodone ring that illegally diverted over 1.2 million pills. Prosecutors are motivated to bring these sorts of criminal charges because of the rapid and terrifying national rise in fatal opioid overdoses. The charges against the defendants include conspiracies to distribute narcotics (21 USC 846 and 841(b)(1)(C)) and money laundering, for concealing and structuring the illegal kickbacks and payments for the narcotics. In short, the defendant doctor is alleged to have written unnecessary prescriptions that were filled by the defendant pharmacists in exchange for illegal kickbacks, and employees of the doctor and pharmacist laundered these illegal proceeds.  Presumably, a cooperating witness revealed the scheme to law enforcement, but that remains unclear.

These charges carry significant potential jail sentences, as well as enormous possible money forfeitures. If it is shown that anyone died as a result of an overdose from one of these illegally distributed pills, then the defendants could easily be facing sentences in excess of ten years or more.

The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC has significant experience representing alleged narcotics traffickers in federal court, especially in cases involving opioids and fentanyl. If you or a loved one are a doctor, pharmacist, or other alleged to have participated in an doctor-centered scheme to distribute narcotics, you should strongly consider contacting the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC. Their lead counsel has had success representing defendants accused of these crimes and has obtained good results.

 

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On October 24, The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC successfully secured the full dismissal of misdemeanor Assault in the Third Degree, Forcible Touching, and Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree charges for a client in Manhattan criminal court. Our client, a holder of an H1B visa, allegedly groped a woman’s buttocks and punched a man in the face in a nightclub in Manhattan. The investigative team at the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC performed its own investigation of the incident and presented its findings, which told a very different story. About three months after our client’s arrest, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office moved to dismiss all charges and our client’s arrest record was sealed. He can now move forward with his life – including his anticipated application for American citizenship – without having to worry about this unfortunate incident impeding his future.

If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault or forcible touching in New York City, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced team at the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC. Their lead counsel is a former Manhattan prosecutor with considerable experience representing foreign citizens, with a strong track record of success.

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In 2019, to combat the phenomenon known as “revenge porn,” the state of New York added Penal Law Section 245.15 to its list of criminal charges. Specifically, it is now a class A misdemeanor for a person to unlawfully disseminate or publish an intimate image without the consent of the person depicted in the image. This generally prevents an ex-boyfriend from humiliating an ex-girlfriend by using intimate photos taken during the relationship and sharing them with friends or posting them to the internet. So, even though the images might have been freely given during the relationship, a person is not necessarily free to distribute or dispose of those images however they want. Of course, a person could be subject to a civil lawsuit for engaging in “revenge porn” behavior as well. Depending on the circumstances, other charges might also be brought against an alleged “revenge porn” offender, including extortion, aggravated harassment, stalking, or unlawful surveillance.

The criminal charge states:

1. A person is guilty of unlawful dissemination or publication of an intimate image when: (a) with intent to cause harm to the emotional, financial or physical welfare of another person, he or she intentionally disseminates or publishes a still or video image of such other person, who is identifiable from the still or video image itself or from information displayed in connection with the still or video image, without such other person’s consent, which depicts: (i) an unclothed or exposed intimate part of such other person; or (ii) such other person engaging in sexual conduct as defined in subdivision ten of section 130.00 of this chapter with another person; and (b) such still or video image was taken under circumstances when the person depicted had a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private and the actor knew or reasonably should have known the person depicted intended for the still or video image to remain private, regardless of whether the actor was present when the still or video image was taken.

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Crystal Methamphetamine Defense Attorney

Crystal methamphetamine is a frequent target of law enforcement in New York. The simple possession of a small (personal use) quantity is typically prosecuted in state court as a misdemeanor pursuant to NY Penal Law Section 220.03. The possession or trafficking of very large quantities of crystal methamphetamine is oftentimes prosecuted in federal court pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Sections 846 and 841, and can carry significant mandatory minimum penalties depending upon the quantity and the defendant’s criminal record. These federal charges also typically involve presumptive pre-trial detention, meaning that it may be difficult if not impossible to secure a defendant’s release pending trial. Larger-scale trafficking and possession of crystal methamphetamine can also result in New York state Class A-II felony charges for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (Penal Law 220.18) and/or Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (Penal Law 220.41).

Matthew Galluzzo has extensive experience defending individuals accused of possessing or trafficking crystal methamphetamine in New York state and federal courts. His clients have gotten great results in these matters. For example, on several occasions, Mr. Galluzzo has negotiated outright dismissals of serious felony charges in exchange for participation in drug rehabilitation programs. In multiple federal cases involving the trafficking of many kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, he earned his clients sentences far below those called for by the Sentencing Guidelines. In short, his track record with these sorts of matters is second to none.

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Federal prosecutors sometimes have a powerful statute to use against drug sellers whose products cause fatal overdoses. Specifically, 21 U.S.C. Section 841 – the most common federal narcotics distribution charge – includes enhanced penalties for situations in which the defendants have sold or distributed narcotics that caused overdose deaths. A charge with no mandatory minimum under normal circumstances might carry a 20-year minimum where it can be proven that the drug that was sold caused someone to die. Some prior felons can also face potential mandatory life sentences for selling narcotics that cause fatalities. Even in a case in which the prosecution may not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the narcotics caused a death, the prosecution may be able to secure a very stiff sentence under the federal Sentencing Guidelines, where the evidence proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant’s product is responsible.

First, the government has to prove that the defendant actually sold drugs to the deceased person. Law enforcement frequently uses text messages and phone records to prove transactions in these cases. Law enforcement also frequently attempts to purchase narcotics themselves (undercover) from the target/suspect. That way, in the very least, the government can prove a charge of 21 U.S.C. Section 841, if not the overdose aspect.

Many drug overdoses are polydrug situations, meaning that the deceased person ingested more than one drug recently. In those cases, it can be more complicated to ascertain the precise “but for” cause of death. Certain drugs may interact with each other in unclear ways, and other drugs may work together in aggregate towards the same toxidrome. It is critical to have the assistance of a toxicological expert and an attorney familiar with some of the issues in overdose analysis. Many if not most of the federal prosecutions in this sphere nowadays involve fentanyl, and that drug is indeed far more potent, prevalent and deadly than most others. But that doesn’t mean that fentanyl – even when it shows in the victim’s bloodwork – is always the but for cause of death.

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Last week, a client of the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC was very pleased to receive a very lenient sentence in a federal case involving charges of 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g). Our client – a 49-year-old man with several prior (but old) felony convictions – was arrested after shooting another person in the leg following a dispute on a Brooklyn sidewalk. The federal government charged him violating 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g) for possessing ammunition and having previously been convicted of a felony. The charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

The entire incident was captured on surveillance tape from nearby buildings, and a witness identified our client as the shooter. Initially, the prosecutors sought a sentence near the maximum, between 8 and 10 years in prison. After a lengthy period of negotiation, the client’s attorney, Matthew Galluzzo, secured a plea agreement for the client with a sentencing range of between 33-41 months under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. However, following the client’s guilty plea, it was up to the federal judge to decide his ultimate sentence (the Sentencing Guidelines are advisory but not mandatory).

Prior to the sentencing hearing, Mr. Galluzzo submitted a lengthy memorandum detailing the client’s difficult upbring, his long period of productive employment, his supportive family network, his remorse for the crime, and the terrible conditions the client had endured at MDC Brooklyn during the pendency of the case. The federal judge (Judge Donnelly) was thus persuaded to give our client a downward variance far below the sentencing Guidelines, in sentencing him to 24 months in prison. Given the time that he has already spent in custody, that amounts to a sentence only slightly longer than time served. The client was thrilled was this result and with the prospect of returning home to his wife and son soon.

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Following her conviction at trial in the Southern District of New York for various federal charges relating to the sex trafficking of minors, disgraced Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell received a sentence of 20 years in prison. She will get credit towards that sentence for the time she has already spent in prison, and assuming she receives the maximum amount of good time credit for her behavior in custody, she will probably only serve about 85% of that sentence, or 17 years.

The question on everyone’s mind has been whether Ms. Maxwell will finally disclose the names of the other purportedly rich and powerful celebrities who engaged in illicit conduct with minors and Jeffrey Epstein. Ms. Maxwell has steadfastly refused to do that, even after Epstein’s death (to the surprise of some). Ms. Maxwell initially denied being knowingly involved in any criminal conduct, and her statement at sentencing was hardly an apology, either.

Ms. Maxwell may also have a legitimate ground for an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. After the verdict, a juror disclosed that they had not told the Court during jury selection about having been a victim of a sexual assault. Judge Nathan (the trial judge) denied a motion for a new trial on that basis, and Maxwell will almost certainly pursue that argument on appeal.

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Recently, Matthew Galluzzo, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney and criminal appellate lawyer, was appointed by a federal court to represent an individual previously sentenced to 48 years in prison in connection with two armed robberies in the 1990s. The client, Leonard Johnson, had been so harshly penalized in part because of the now outdated laws relating to the “stacking” of federal firearm sentences pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c). Mr. Johnson filed a pro se motion for reconsideration under 18 U.S.C. Section 3582(c), and Mr. Galluzzo was appointed to supplement that appeal and improve upon it with his legal expertise.

Previously, judges were required to impose 25-year consecutive sentences on convictions for 924(c) firearm charges when the defendants had previous convictions for 924(c). However, the problem with this law is that a person who committed two violations of 924(c) would be sentenced to a 25-year mandatory minimum consecutive sentence, even if they committed that second 924(c) violation before being convicted of the first 924(c). That is precisely what happened to Mr. Johnson: he was arrested in North Carolina for a bank robbery with a firearm, and then charged shortly thereafter with another robbery with a firearm in New York. Even though he had not yet been convicted of a 924(c) charge when he committed the robbery in New York, he got the mandatory minimum consecutive 25-year sentence because the other 924(c) crime happened in North Carolina (and he was convicted in that case) before being sentenced in New York.

Congress clarified this issue recently such that in order for the mandatory consecutive 25-year sentence to apply, the first conviction for 924(c) had to have been final before the commission of the second 924(c) crime. Judges then generally have discretion to modify sentences imposed under the old scheme. United States v. Ballard, 2021 WL 3285009, at *4-*5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 2, 2021); 18 U.S.C. Section 3582. Mr. Galluzzo and Mr. Johnson argued that Mr. Johnson had undergone significant rehabilitation, that he suffered from a variety of health ailments, and that the requested sentence modification still constituted sufficient punishment for his offenses, in which no one was injured.

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Yesterday, during the Oscars award show in Los Angeles, comedian Chris Rock – the emcee/host of the event – made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss. Will Smith, her husband and a famous actor, promptly walked onstage and smacked Rock hard in the face. Smith then sat back in his seat and cursed repeatedly at Rock. Obviously, this happened in California, so California state law applies to Smith’s slap. Apparently, Chris Rock has decided not to file any criminal charges or make any police reports in connection with the event, which was obviously witnessed by millions of people on live television.

This interesting and unexpected exchange provides a fun example to consider New York criminal law: What charges, if any, might have applied to this slap had it happened onstage in New York?

The most significant plausible charge here would be the Class A misdemeanor or Assault in the Third Degree (Penal Law Section 120.00). That statute makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to intentionally cause physical injury to another person. Here, however, it does not seem that Chris Rock suffered any physical injury significant enough to justify the charge. Indeed, although he was obviously dazed and it appeared to be a fairly hard slap, Rock carried on with his emcee duties and even made a few quips about what had happened. A physical injury, as defined by New York law, is supposed to be “substantial pain” and/or “impairment of a bodily function.” Surely Rock felt some pain from the slap, but it appears to have been too temporary to have really justified an assault charge under New York law.

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