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Breaking down Alec Baldwin’s plea deal

Our attorneys have represented dozens of people arrested and/or given Desk Appearance Tickets for cases involving assault allegations. The recent disposition of actor Alec Baldwin’s (most recent) case provides an excellent example of what can happen in a straightforward assault case.

Mr. Baldwin was arrested in November after allegedly punching someone over a parking spot in Manhattan. Mr. Baldwin generally denied punching the other person though he admitted to pushing him. Baldwin was actually given a Desk Appearance Ticket and eventually charged with Attempted Assault in the Third Degree (Penal Law 110/120.00), a Class B misdemeanor, and Harassment in the Second Degree (Penal Law 240.26), a violation. Prosecutors reviewed video surveillance footage, spoke to witnesses, and considered the complainant’s medical records before ultimately making a plea bargain offer to Mr. Baldwin. Under the terms of that deal, which Mr. Baldwin accepted in January 2019, Mr. Baldwin pleaded guilty to Harassment in the Second Degree and will undergo a short anger management program.

By pleading guilty, Mr. Baldwin was convicted of Harassment in the Second Degree. However, this conviction is not a “crime” under New York state law, it is a violation and/or criminal offense. As such, in response to the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime,” Mr. Baldwin could answer “no”.  Also, upon completing this short anger management course (typically completed within one day), Mr. Baldwin’s records will be sealed to the public after one year. The most important benefit to this deal, of course, is that Mr. Baldwin avoids the possibility of being convicted of the misdemeanor charge and receiving a possible (though unlikely in this case) sentence of jail.

The downside to this disposition for Mr. Baldwin is that he had to admit, under oath, that he had harassed the complainant. This makes it likely that the complainant will bring a civil suit against Mr. Baldwin, and Mr. Baldwin will have a difficult time defending himself against the underlying facts. To be sure, damages will still very much be at issue in a civil lawsuit, but Mr. Baldwin’s harassment of the complainant has already been settled by way of his guilty plea under oath. The attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone have also successfully defended several individuals accused of assault or sexual assault in civil court following the disposition of the related criminal cases.

All in all, however, it is a fairly standard disposition in a case in which the injuries appear to have been minimal. (Indeed, Mr. Baldwin was only charged with Attempted Assault instead of Assault because the complainant’s injuries did not rise to the necessary level of an assault charge.) We have also been able to secure outright dismissals for many of our clients, or negotiate “ACDs” (adjournments in contemplation of dismissal), which are superior to violation plea bargains in that the charges are totally dismissed after a six or twelve month period of time, and there is no admission of guilt whatsoever. When misdemeanor assault charges involve very serious injuries, then prosecutors sometimes insist upon the defendants being convicted of misdemeanor charges, which can result in jail time. Those cases in particular require especially skillful representation.

If you or a loved one have been arrested or given a Desk Appearance Ticket for an assault related charge, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced former prosecutors at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP.