Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Recently, in response to the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, there have been protests in major cities across the United States. An upstate woman and two New York attorneys were arrested and charged in federal court with crimes relating to their alleged throwing of Molotov cocktails at police vehicles during the protests in Brooklyn. However, most protestors arrested in New York City are charged with Desk Appearance Tickets in state court, and are typically charged with some combination of the following crimes: Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree (Penal Law 195.05, a Class A misdemeanor), Assault in the Second Degree (Penal Law 120.05, felony assault on a police officer, a class D felony), Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (Penal Law 120.20, a Class A misdemeanor), Resisting Arrest (Penal Law 205.30, a class A misdemeanor), or Disorderly Conduct (Penal Law 240.20, a violation). (Note: the charge(s) listed on the Desk Appearance Ticket are not necessarily the same as the charges that will appear in court on the actual criminal complaint – in fact, the number of charges usually increases from the Desk Appearance Ticket to the actual court complaint).

Oftentimes, in these cases in which no one was injured, a protester-defendant could – with the help of an experienced attorney – successfully negotiate a plea bargain whereby the protester will have no criminal record and spend no time in jail (such as an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal or a violation like Disorderly Conduct). In cases involving Desk Appearance Tickets, such negotiations may even be possible prior to the return date (i.e. the first court appearance). However, for reasons relating to principle, many protester-defendants refuse to accept any such deal, preferring to demand dismissal or a trial where their voices can be heard by a jury. Such an attitude is certainly understandable but it does tend to increase the risk of a negative result (such as a permanent criminal record).

Unfortunately, some protests escalate into confrontations with police officers. In those cases, charges like Assault in the Second Degree can sometimes be levied against arrested protesters alleged to have injured police officers. That charge is a serious felony that can carry real jail time, and should not be treated lightly at all. The best defense in these cases is often to argue that the defendant did not act unreasonably, and that any injuries to the police officer were sustained on account of his/her own aggressive or improper actions. In today’s current climate, that argument can have real traction with some jurors.

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Appeals (440.10) for Sex Offenders that were Civilly Committed without Being Advised by their Attorneys of That Possibility

Under CPL 440.10, a defendant can ask the trial court that accepted the guilty plea to vacate the conviction if the defendant did not receive the effective assistance of counsel in some way that was not apparent from the trial record. Typical claims of this sort tend to focus on attorney conflicts of interest, failure to advise clients on the immigration consequences of their pleas, failure to interview witnesses or investigate leads, or failing to communicate plea bargain offers.

Article 10 of the New York Mental Health and Hygiene Law gives the state the power to seek the civil commitment of certain convicted sex offenders following their release from prison. In short, a sex offender can serve his sentence for his sex crime but still be kept in custody against his will if it is proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he has a “congenital or acquired condition, disease or disorder that affects the emotional, cognitive, or volitional capacity of a person in a manner that predisposes him or her to the commission of conduct constituting a sex offense and that results in that person having serious difficulty in controlling such conduct.”

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Matthew Galluzzo was recently quoted as a civil rights expert in the NY Daily News pertaining to the NYPD's Operation Take Back, a sting used to arrest people for buying "stolen" iPhones from undercover officers. The operation has been much criticized by Matthew Galluzzo, who has successfully sued the NYPD on behalf of individuals falsely arrested pursuant to this operation.

The article is available here:

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Last night a rookie police officer shot and killed a 28 year old unarmed man named Akai Gurley as he was walking down a staircase in East New York’s Pink Houses. New York City Police Commissioner Bratton described the police shooting as “unintentional, ” and the result of an ‘”accidental discharge.” Whether or not this is actually the case remains to be seen; as we’ve seen first-hand in the cases of our victims of excessive force and police brutality, the New York City Police Department is usually quick to cover themselves with self-serving statements.

According to Mr. Gurley’s girlfriend, Melissa Butler, Mr. Gurley did absolutely nothing wrong and was merely walking down the stairs when the rookie cop gunned him down. Why the officer felt the need to even unholster his firearm is unknown.

Mr. Gurley’s estate will undoubtedly have a compelling civil lawsuit against the officer and the City of New York for the violation of the innocent man’s constitutional rights, as well as claims for wrongful death and quite possibly negligent training. A police officer CANNOT use deadly force unless the officer has probable cause to believe that a suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. In this instance, Mr. Gurley appeared to have been violating no law whatsoever, and the police officer who shot him is going to be hard-pressed to demonstrate that he posed a threat to his or anyone’s safety.

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Matthew Galluzzo, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney in Manhattan, was recently quoted as an expert in the New York Post concerning possible criminal charges for the police officers that caused the recent death of Eric Garner. The story is available here:

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On Tuesday evening, May 6, Fox 5 New York interviewed former prosecutor and criminal defense/civil rights attorney Matthew Galluzzo about the recent announcement that three men that had been wrongfully convicted of murder were recently exonerated after the Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson concluded that their convictions had been the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct. One of the convicted men was exonerated posthumously, having died in prison, but the other two men were released from prison after 26 years of incarceration.

The link to the story and interview is available here:

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Recently, the federal government’s Department of Education announced that it was formally investigating 55 American institutions of higher education for possible violations of Title IX’s rules relating to the prevention and investigation of sexual assault complaints on campus.Some of those investigations were spurred by complaints made by students directly to the Department of Education, while others were initiated in response to press reports of improperly-handled sexual assault allegations. Four New York universities made the list (available in full here): CUNY Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY Binghamton, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Other notable schools include Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, and UC Berkeley. NYC’s Columbia University was also recently the subject of three separate but related complaints to the federal government signed on by 23 current and former students that claim they were victimized on campus and then systematically mistreated by the administration.

The Obama administration has recently taken notice of the epidemic of rape and sexual assault on American campuses; shockingly, it has been reported that 1 in 5 female college students are sexually assaulted during their time at university. This number is incredibly alarming and has attracted the attention of numerous legislators seeking additional funding to investigate and combat the problem. Other legislators have proposed legislation requiring college administrators to report all allegations of sexual assault on campus to local law enforcement, to prevent the problem of school administrators subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly discouraging students from making the reports themselves. In further response to the growing awareness of this massive problem on American campuses, a task force was convened in January 2014 that proposed a number of protocol suggestions for administrations to reform their policies for handling sexual assault complaints.

Title IX is federal legislation designed to prevent gender discrimination in schools and universities that receive federal funding. Most people familiar with Title IX have heard of it because of its widespread impact upon college athletics. However, the legislation is actually much broader than that, and most certainly creates a duty on the part of school administrations to protect female students from sexual assault on campus.

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Civil Rights attorney discusses the arrest and beating of Kang Wong for jaywalking

The New York Post recently reported on an incident involving an 84 year old man on the Upper West Side that was arrested and beaten by police officers after supposedly jaywalking. The article explained that Kang Wong, an 84-year-old with limited English skills, was stopped by police officers after walking across the street against the light. Of course, jaywalking is so common in New York that it's practically an Olympic sport, but the Mayor's Office defended the NYPD's new crackdown on jaywalkers as being designed to curb the rash of recent pedestrian traffic deaths.

As is often the case in street-level police interactions, an apparent misunderstanding or miscommunication between the police officer and the citizen led to an escalation. Now, instead of a ticket for jaywalking, Ms. Wong has a bleeding head wound to deal with and faces a desk appearance ticket in Manhattan for resisting arrest (Penal Law Section 205.30, a class A misdemeanor), obstruction of governmental administration (Penal Law Section 195.05, a class A misdemeanor), and disorderly conduct (Penal Law Section 240.20, a violation). These crimes are potentially punishable by up to a year in prison.

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Today, the ‘New York Times’ reported on a particularly shocking example of police brutality committed against two New York City college professors, Suzanne LaFont and her husband Karl Anders Peltomaa. The case demonstrates how easily anyone can fall victim to the unjustified force and abuse of authority of the police who are often inadequately equipped to handle the situation before them.

The facts are shocking. Last April, Mr. Peltomaa – who was recovering from open-heart surgery – and Ms. LaFont were home enjoying a quiet night and drinking some wine. Earlier in the evening, Mr. Peltomaa took pain medication prescribed to him after the surgery. At some point in the evening, he felt nervous that the pills and the wine were reacting negatively and he asked his wife to call the police, who were dispatched to the apartment.

Once they had arrived, Ms. LaFont began to explain the situation to one of the officers when her dog ran out into the street, causing her to chase after it before she had a change to fully the inform the officer of what was happenig. According to the article, the officer then inexplicably proceeded to throw her husband against a wall in an attempt to handcuff him, slamming his surgical wounds against the surface. When Ms. Lafont returned, she told the officer not to do this to her husband and SHE was promptly placed under arrest.

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The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo recently settled the federal civil rights lawsuit of a foreign doctor and his wife who were wrongfully arrested at a restaurant in New York City for allegedly assaulting a police officer. MG represented them both in the criminal case and were able to obtain dismissals of all charges by presenting numerous sworn eyewitness statements to the prosecutor, who agreed to the dismissals. MG then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for wrongful arrest on their behalf, and the matter recently settled for a significant amount of money.

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