Today, New York-area.news outlets reported that an Instagram model with about 34,000 followers, Genie Exum, had been arrested and was awaiting arraignment in Manhattan on felony charges. Allegedly, she stabbed her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend) numerous times during an argument. The author of this post, Matthew Galluzzo, is a former supervising attorney in the domestic violence unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and has defended dozens of people charged with felony domestic violence. This is his analysis of what might happen to Ms. Exum and her case, and why.
Ms. Exum is being charged with one count of Assault in the Second Degree, a class D violent felony in violation of New York Penal Law Section 120.05. A person is guilty of it when they intentionally cause injury to another person by means of a weapon or dangerous instrument. Stabbing someone definitely qualifies (indeed, if the injuries were more serious, she would be looking at Assault in the First Degree). This the appropriate charge here.
At arraignments, the judge will issue an order of protection in favor of the victim of the stabbing (i.e. Ms. Exum’s boyfriend/ex-boyfriend), precluding her from having any contact with him whatsoever. She cannot contact him electronically, through social media, in person, or through third parties (some judges even go so far as to say that you cannot like the other person’s social media postings). Even if Ms. Exum’s boyfriend forgives her and tries to call her, for example, she cannot speak with him or communicate with him without violating the order of protection and risking a re-arrest by the police. The order is not the victim’s to apply as he sees fit – it is issued by the court and must be obeyed. These sorts of orders are particularly complicated when the parties lived together, as the criminal defendant simply has to vacate and find somewhere else to sleep.
Frequently, victims/complainants in these cases do not wish to cooperate with law enforcement. When someone gets stabbed, the police are usually called, and an arrest usually happens. Police basically have to make an arrest in a situation like this. It is hardly uncommon for these victims to immediately try to undo the arrests or ask prosecutors to dismiss the cases. That doesn’t always work, however. Ms. Exum’s boyfriend/ex-boyfriend is not a plaintiff in a civil case, he is simply a witness in a criminal case prosecuted by the state. As such, prosecutors will get to decide whether to dismiss the case or not, regardless of the boyfriend’s preferences. And, the order of protection will remain in place so long as the prosecution continues. This is a frustrating reality for a lot of people involved in domestic violence cases.
As a practical matter, though, it can be very difficult for prosecutors to successfully prosecute domestic violence cases without cooperative victims. After all, their testimony is normally necessary to prove what happened during the crimes. However, there are some circumstances in which a prosecutor can prosecute a case even without a cooperative witness. Police have probably taken photographs of the injuries to Ms. Exum’s ex-boyfriend, and may have a 911 recording describing the crime in the heat of the moment (possibly causing it to be admissible at trial). Ms. Exum may have made admissions to police as to what happened, too. The statements that the ex-boyfriend made to emergency medical personnel might also be admissible at trial, even without his cooperation. Finally, it could be possible for prosecutors to subpoena the ex-boyfriend to testify about what happened, forcing him to either tell the truth or commit perjury under oath.
A stabbing case is serious and can certainly result in multiple years in prison. Assuming Ms. Exum does not have a criminal record, and the injuries are not too terrible, it may be possible for her to negotiate a deal for a misdemeanor with probation and anger management and counseling. But should she lose at trial, she could definitely face some time in prison.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for domestic violence, you should strongly consider contacting Matthew Galluzzo, an experienced criminal defense attorney who has helped celebrities, athletes, actors, models, doctors, lawyers, and a variety of financial professionals defend against charges of domestic violence.