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Last week, the criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP persuaded the prosecutors at the Brooklyn DA.’s office to dismiss serious Rape in the First Degree charges levied against our client. Matthew Galluzzo, a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor, carefully presented to the prosecutors his client’s version of events along with evidence of the complainant’s repeated lies and motive to fabricate the allegation. The prosecutors were convinced of our client’s innocence and dismissed the charges. Our client, a foreign student earning a graduate degree in the U.S. with an F1 visa, was thus able to obtain his OPT extension after the dismissal of the charges. He is now elated to be finishing his studies and finding work in America.

If you or a loved one have been accused of rape or sexual assault, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Matthew Galluzzo, in particular, is a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor and nationally-recognized expert on sex crimes investigations whose opinion on pending cases has been solicited by radio, television, and print news sources around the world.

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After fighting aggressively for over five months – both in and out of New York Criminal Court – Eric Arnone has secured outright dismissal of all eight charges filed against his 20-year-old client, who faced over 25 years in prison if convicted.

In this challenging case for the defense, Arnone’s client had been falsely accused by multiple complaining witnesses of robbing them of their cell phones while brandishing weapons. These serious allegations were made even more difficult to overcome in light of an allegation that a cell phones belonging to one of the complaining witnesses was recovered from the client at the scene. The client was further accused of acting in concert with a co-defendant to strike one of the complaining witnesses in the head with a broken bottle, thereby causing serious injury. A number of people at the scene were treated by EMS and some were hospitalized.

After conducting an extensive investigation on his client’s behalf, Arnone was able to affirmatively disprove that the robbery ever took place, and demonstrated to prosecutors that any physical force undertaken by his clients was indeed justified under New York law. Thankfully, the defense investigation succeeded in turning up invaluable surveillance camera footage which contradicted the account of the alleged victims.

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Today, a federal jury in Virginia found President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, guilty of eight of the eighteen crimes contained in an indictment filed against him. Specifically, Manafort was found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. The question now is how much jail time he will receive from the sentencing judge.

As a preliminary matter, for the purposes of this analysis, we assume that Mr. Manafort will not be pardoned by the President. Also, we assume that Mr. Manafort will not be convicted of any other charges. The judge in this trial declared a mistrial as to ten of the eighteen counts in the indictment on account of the jury’s inability to decide guilt or innocence on those charges, but that does not mean that Manafort is clear of those charges. Indeed, prosecutors could attempt to convict him again with a new jury. However, I expect that will not happen, as the prosecutors are likely satisfied by the result, and convicting Manafort on the remaining charges would not really change things very much.

Federal sentencing can be extraordinarily complex and is often very uncertain. By statute, a sentencing court must impose a sentence “sufficient, but not greater than necessary,” to serve the ends of justice. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). A sentencing judge is obviously constrained by the statutory maximums and minimums for the crimes of conviction, but oftentimes, the crimes have enormously wide sentencing possibilities (for example, the bank fraud charge for which Manafort was convicted has a potential statutory sentence of between zero and thirty years in prison, 18 U.S.C. 1344). So, federal judges look to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, promulgated by the federal government.

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The case of Jamill Jones and whether he should be charged with homicide.

Recently, an unfortunate tragedy occurred in Queens resulting in a man’s death. A tourist from Florida named Sandor Szabo requested an Uber to take him from a family member’s wedding. In an apparently intoxicated effort to find his Uber, Mr. Szabo banged on several nearby cars with his fists. He eventually banged on the car belonging to Jamill Jones, an assistant coach for the Wake Forest University men’s basketball team. Mr. Jones got out of his car and punched Szabo one time in the face. Szabo fell to the ground and hit his head on the pavement. Jones drove away. Szabo was taken to the hospital and later died from the injury. See “Wake Forest coach could face murder charges,” NY Post, August 10, 2018.

Jones was identified and surrendered himself to police. As of yet, he has only been charged with a misdemeanor assault in violation of Penal Law Section 120.00 (Assault in the Third Degree, to be precise). That charge makes it a crime, punishable by up to one year in prison, to intentionally cause physical injury to another person. This is a typical charge for a single punch to the face. The fact that Mr. Szabo tragically died, however, makes the situation more complicated from a legal perspective. The New York Post article suggests that Mr. Jones could face murder charges, but that is perhaps imprecise or incorrect. Murder charges (such as the most common charge of Murder in the Second Degree, in violation of Penal Law Section 125.25) would require a showing that Jones not only killed Szabo, but that he intended to kill Szabo. That seems unlikely given that he only punched Szabo once.

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In this blog, we continue our discussion of the common criminal charges people face when accused of Making Graffiti.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the various elements of the crimes of Making Graffiti and Possession of Graffiti Instruments, two charges which often go hand in hand in these types of cases. However, in cases where actual damage is caused to property, arrestees may find themselves faced with the charge of “Criminal Mischief” [Penal Law §145.00] (note that the Graffiti statute only requires intent to damage property, whereas this statute requires actual damage be caused). Once again, any argument that graffiti is “improving” property, absent permission by the property owner, will fail and graffiti that defaces property will be deemed to also damage it. Any damage to property, regardless of the dollar amount of such damage, would fall under Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, which is a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. In cases where damage is alleged to exceed $250.00, the charges may be elevated to Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, a Class “E” felony which is punishable up to 1 and 1/3 – 4 years in jail for a first time offender. The addition of these charges can sometimes be problematic for those who seek to preserve their records and change the landscape of any plea negotiation.

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In this two-part series, we endeavor to help our readers understand the law of making graffiti in New York, as well as the usual charges that lie in criminal cases involving graffiti making. While some may view graffiti and “tagging” as a form of art, the New York City Police Department and local District Attorneys beg to differ. With Vandalism Squads and anti-graffiti initiatives in place, law enforcement’s message is clear: tolerance for graffiti making is low and it will not go unpunished. In this blog we discuss the charges commonly found in graffiti cases, most of which involve allegations of “tagging” or painting on public or the private property.

Making graffiti on property without the owner’s permission to do so is a class “A” misdemeanor in New York State, punishable by up to one year in jail. In recent years, the City has stepped up it’s effort to combat graffiti writing and enforce this law, with the New York City Police Department going as far as creating an anti-graffiti task force and offering cash rewards for people who continually violate the graffiti statute.

MAKING GRAFFITI

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A majority of our clients are booked, processed and “put through the system,” meaning they are brought to central booking shortly after arrest and then brought out before a Judge for an arraignment on the charges. Usually, this arraignment occurs within roughly 24 hours of the arrest. Other clients are issued Desk Appearance Tickets (“D.A.T.’s”) or summonses which command them to return to Court on a future date.

In Manhattan, specifically, most arrestees are brought downtown to the 100 Centre Street Courthouse to face charges. However a smaller number of defendants are directed to appear in Manhattan’s Midtown Community Court which is located at 314 West 54th Street in Manhattan. In this blog, we cover some of the Midtown Community Court basics to shed light on what should be expected for those who find themselves in the unfortunate predicament of having to fight a charge or charges there.

Midtown Community Court was launched in 1993 with the primary objective of dealing with quality-of-life offenses, so most of the cases involve misdemeanors and/or violations. Examples of some of the common charges you are likely to face in Midtown Community Court include:

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Under New York state law, there are three degrees of rape, with Rape in the First Degree (Penal Law Section 130.35) being the most serious (a Class B violent felony). Rape in the Third Degree (Penal Law 130.25), however, may be the most common criminal charge, and it can be brought in three different ways.

Per the statute: “A person is guilty of Rape in the Third Degree when: 1. He or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is incapable of consent by reason of some factor other than being less than seventeen years old; 2. Being twenty-one years old or more, he or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person less than seventeen years old; or 3. He or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person without such person’s consent where such lack of consent is by reason of some factor other than incapacity to consent.”

Subsection 2 is the most common charge, which involves a criminal charge being brought against an older person (21 years old or older) and a complainant younger than 17. Notably, this charge can be brought against the will of the younger party, meaning that it is not necessary for the complainant to “press charges” for the older person to be convicted. Sometimes these charges are proven without the testimony of the younger party by medical evidence or pregnancy, third party witnesses (who catch and observe the people in the act of sexual intercourse), or admissions by the older party.

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The New York District Attorney’s Office recently announced that a Manhattan grand jury has indicted Harvey Weinstein for additional sexual assault charges relating to a third complainant. Specifically, Mr. Weinstein is facing an additional charge of Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree (Penal Law Section 130.50). Mr. Weinstein was already facing a charge of Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree based upon the allegation that he had forced a different woman to perform oral sex upon him against her will, and a separate count of Rape in the First Degree for allegedly raping a second complainant. Interestingly, he is also now facing two counts of Predatory Sexual Assault (Penal Law Section 130.95). These new charges significantly alter the forecast for Mr. Weinstein and seriously hamper his defense for tactical reasons discussed below.

Predatory Sexual Assault charges are very serious Class A-II felonies. They carry mandatory minimum prison sentences of ten years in jail, and a conviction for this crime carries a mandatory maximum sentence of life in prison. (Thus, for example, a person sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence of ten years to life would be eligible for parole after roughly ten years, and if granted parole would then be on parole for the rest of his life.) These charges can apply in a variety of circumstances, but here, they have been applied because he is accused of committing the crimes of Rape in the First Degree or Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree against multiple people. See Penal Law Section 130.95(2). Basically, Mr. Weinstein would be convicted of this charge if it is proven that he in fact sexually assaulted more than one of the complainants. (There are two Predatory Sexual Assault counts that presumably apply to different combinations of complainants in this matter).

These charges have an important practical effect on the case (notwithstanding these potential penalties). Specifically, in order to get convictions on these charges, the prosecutor would now have to prove at trial that Weinstein assaulted more than one of the three current complainants in the case. It might at first seem that the prosecutors have made their jobs more difficult by adding these charges, but in actuality, this new evidentiary necessity thwarts an anticipated defense strategy for trial severance.

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A federal appeals Court has held upheld – for now – a criminal statute which makes it illegal to possess a gravity knife in New York.

As former prosecutors who specialize in criminal defense, our attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone have a great deal of experience assisting people who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being charged with weapons possession, in particular what are commonly referred to as ‘gravity knives.’ Indeed, many of our clients lawfully purchase these knives from such on-line marketplaces as Amazon.com or in popular brick-and-mortar stores like K-Mart. Completely unaware that the possession of such knives is illegal in New York, these clients openly carry the knives on their belts, or clipped to their pockets, only to find themselves in handcuffs and  going to criminal court charged with the Class “A” misdemeanor of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree (which is punishable by up to 1 year in jail).

So what exactly is a gravity knife? A “Gravity knife” is defined under New York Penal Law 265.01(5) as “any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application or centrifugal force which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device.” In practical terms, any knife which a police officer can open with the flick of a wrist and which locks into place falls under this definition. Not surprisingly, police officers are particularly adept at opening and locking the knives into place.