Articles Posted in Assault

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Today in Queens Supreme Court, multi-platinum selling artist Belcalis M. Almanzar  – better known to the world as rapper “Cardi B” – is expected to be arraigned on a 12-count indictment stemming from a 2018 fight in a strip club. Cardi B now faces two “violent” felonies and a handful of misdemeanor and violation offenses after being accused of throwing bottles, chairs, and ‘Hookah’ pipes at club employees after a verbal altercation spun out of control. Cardi B is also accused of soliciting and facilitating members of her entourage to participate in the fracas. Two of the complaining witnesses are bartenders employed at the club, one of whom was accused by Cardi B of having an affair with her husband ‘Offset’ from the rap group ‘Migos.’ According to news sources citing criminal court documents, one of these complaining witnesses claims to have suffered “burning, itching and temporary blindness in her eyes” after being hit in the face with a drink.

Cardi B is expected to enter a plea of “not guilty” to the following indictment charges:

  • Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, in violation of Penal Law 110/120.05(1);
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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.

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In this continuation from Part I of our discussion on assault, we discuss the sufficiency of allegations of physical injury.

So what constitutes substantial pain and what does not? The Court of Appeals has found sufficient evidence of substantial pain in the following instances:

  • Where victim was struck with a baseball bat resulting in discoloration, swelling and lost sensation to arm;
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Whether it stems from a bar fight, an incident involving road rage, a domestic spat, or even an altercation at the work-place, cases involving charges of Assault in the Third Degree are among the most common – and serious – we see in the City of New York. A Class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail, “Assault 3” cases are among the most serious misdemeanors because they involve allegations of physical injury inflicted upon another, and prosecutors thus subject them to increased scrutiny. In this article, we discuss some of the legal components of Assault in the Third Degree, and a powerful tool our team of former prosecutors often uses to attack assault charges prior to trial: challenges to legal sufficiency.

Assault in the Third Degree lies in Penal Law 120.00, which states that a person can be guilty of that charge in the following three situations:

1. When, with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he or she causes such injury to such person or to a third person; or

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Today, Judge Steven O’Neill (who presided over Cosby’s recent sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania), sentenced Cosby to a sentence of 3-10 years in prison. The court had previously classified him as a sexually violent predator following a prior hearing. The court defended this decision by explaining that although the evidence of Cosby’s guilt had been “overwhelming,” including his own civil deposition, Cosby had refused to acknowledge his guilt or express any remorse for his actions. His attorneys had requested a sentence of house arrest, citing Cosby’s poor health and functional blindness, but the court did not agree. Cosby plans to appeal his conviction and sentence, and could conceivably stay free on bail until his appeals are resolved, though the court may deny the request that he be free pending his appeal.

This sentence is near the top end of the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines for Cosby. Indeed, the guidelines recommended a sentence of between 22 and 36 months, and Cosby essentially got a sentence of 36 to 120 months. This case illustrates a few issues, probably, as it relates to sentencing. First, remaining defiant in the face of sentencing may feel good to a defendant, but judges hate it. The best way to get leniency is to show remorse and ask forgiveness, and the opposite is absolutely true as well. Cosby may think he is going to be vindicated on appeal, but frankly, I would bet a lot of money that he will not. So, copping an attitude like he did throughout the post-conviction and sentencing phase almost certainly did nothing but cost him a few of his precious remaining years of life in jail. Any smart defendant knows that even if he feels like he was wrongly convicted, the best thing to do at sentencing is say you’re sorry to the judge and victim. Cosby does not appear to be a smart defendant.

Second, judges are human, and this case might demonstrate that. Although he is not supposed to the evidence of Cosby’s prior alleged misdeeds and sexual assaults of other victims (some of whom testified at Cosby’s trial in support of Andrea Constand’s complaint), the judge probably factored those things into consideration in concluding that he was a sexually violent predator worthy of serious detention. It would have been understandably difficult for the judge to ignore those other purported complainants, not to mention the dozens of others who have publicly come forward.

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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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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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Delayed flights, crowded airplanes, rude people, and stressful rides to the airport can make airline travel particularly stressful. Sometimes, rude flight attendants or passengers fueled by alcohol can cause tempers to flare, and physical fights sometimes erupt during the flight. These fights or disputes can result in federal criminal charges, as “the special maritime jurisdiction” of federal courts applies to airplanes coming into the United States or traveling across state lines.

Federal assault charges can apply to any person who causes an offensive physical touching to another person on the airplane. Certainly, that can apply to physical violence, but it might also apply to unwanted sexual touching of another person as well. Assaulting another person on an airplane is normally a petty offense under federal criminal law, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(5). (Those accused of sexually assaulting others on airplanes can also be prosecuted with the more serious felony charge of 18 U.S.C. § 2244(b), however, and attempts to maim or murder can be prosecuted as felonies, as well). That means that the crime is a misdemeanor with a maximum prison penalty of six months and/or a fine of $5000.00. Also, it means that the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial. Instead, the defendant must have his case tried by a federal magistrate judge.

Locating and interviewing witnesses in these cases is of paramount importance to the defense. Occasionally, shaky cell phone video footage might be available of the incident or dispute, and it may actually vindicate the accused person. Sometimes defendants have even acted unknowingly or unintentionally, by virtue of intoxicated or sleep disorders, and such defense should be explored and developed if applicable.

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O-1 visas are granted to individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1A), as well as those with a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, and who have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements (O-1B). O-2 visas are granted to those who accompany O-1’s for the purpose of assisting them in a specific event or performance. USCIC requires an O-2 play an “integral” role in the assistance of an O-1A’a activity, or provide “essential” assistance to the completion of an O-1B’s production. O-3 visas are granted to spouses or children of O-1 and O-2 holders. All three types of visas are usually granted for a period of up to three years, after which they may be extended in one-year increments, without limitation.

As in the case of any non-citizen, the stakes are higher for O-1, O-2 and O-3 visa holders who are arrested because they face the risk of visa revocation on top of any sentence which is authorized for the crime they’ve been arrested for. For this reason, our lawyers are extraordinarily diligent in their representation of visa holders (as well as non-citizens in general), where a great deal of effort must be placed on crafting dispositions with an eye towards preserving our clients' immigration status. In addition to being accomplished trial litigators, our attorneys are also top-notch negotiators who have secured many dismissals and non-criminal dispositions for our clients. Specifically, the attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone have represented countless visa-holders with an impeccable record of success. For all of these reasons, it is imperative for any non-citizen who has been arrested (even given a Desk Appearance Ticket) to contact us as early in the process as possible. Even those charged with seemingly “minor” misdemeanors need to be diligent, for example, those charged with: Theft of Services (PL 165.15), Petit Larceny (PL 155.25), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (PL 220.03), Criminal Mischief (PL 145.00), Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL 221.10), Assault in the Third Degree (PL 120.00), and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree (PL 265.01).

Keep in mind, U.S. visa posts routinely perform criminal background checks on visa applicants, which can lead to devastating consequences for those who don't navigate the system properly, including, but not limited to, initiation of removal proceedings. For a myriad of reasons, it is critical for any O-1, O-2 or O-3 visa holder to contact an experienced attorney who understands the delicate nuances and immigration consequences posed in each of these cases. To be sure, the lawyers at Galluzzo & Arnone have successfully represented O-1 visa holder with great success. If you or a loved are faced with a criminal prosecution, contact our attorneys without delay.

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New York City owes much of its energy and excellence to the foreign citizens living and working here. Unfortunately, a visa or green card holder’s right to remain in the United States can be seriously jeopardized by a Desk Appearance Ticket, even when the charges are comparatively minor misdemeanors. Many visa holders fail to take these arrests sufficiently seriously because the charges seem minor (like marijuana or subway fare theft) or because the arresting officer tells them “it’s no big deal.” Truthfully, though, career, educational, and family plans can be completely devastated by even a minor case of walking through the subway gate without paying, so it is absolutely critical that a foreign person arrested and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket retain competent counsel immediately.

In many ways, a Desk Appearance Ticket does not feel like such a big deal. The arrested person is usually handcuffed and taken to a police station where they are fingerprinted. They typically wait a few hours in a holding cell until they are given a piece of paper telling them the date and location of their appearance in court. Before Desk Appearance Tickets became routine, criminal defendants could expect to get “sent downtown” and spend the night in jail before seeing a judge. Obviously, Desk Appearance Tickets are preferable for criminal defendants because they spend less time in custody and also have the opportunity to choose counsel for themselves prior to going to court.

Make no mistake, however: the issuance of a Desk Appearance Ticket is in fact an arrest – it is not “just a ticket”. More importantly for visa holders, this event is not going to “fly under the radar” with the immigration agencies. If you were arrested and given a Desk Appearance Ticket, your fingerprints and the arrest charges have been sent to a New York state agency (the Division of Criminal Justice Services) and to the FBI, which maintains a federal nationwide law enforcement database of all arrest events across the United States (the Interstate Identification Index). Visa and green card holders should understand that the immigration agencies, in processing visa renewal requests, access this database to investigate whether the visa applicant has an arrest record. Indeed, some visa holders actually receive emails from Department of Homeland Security (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) agents after their arrests, because the agency was notified of the arrest via the fingerprint database.
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