Monday, February 27, 2006

A Victory For That Lawyer Dude

Last Tuesday, a Nassau Grand Jury voted not to indict my client Jillian Greico for Assault in the Second or Third Degree or for Harassment. In other words they acquitted her of all charges. In fact they didn't just find her not guilty, they found her to be INNOCENT!!
Too little, too late.

On Halloween, Jill went out with a few friends and participated in the age old "tradition" of egging each other. One kid's egg(not Jill's) accidentally struck a younger kid under the eye. When the egg cracked part of the shell cut his cornea. He is allegedly partially blinded. I say allegedly because I have heard all kinds of reports from full blindness to no issue. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

At the time of the incident, no one knew the boy had been injured. The next day, the injury was reported on the front page of Long Island's daily newspaper of record Newsday, and in all of the major area media on Long Island and in NYC. When Jill learned of the injury, she immediately went to the police. They thanked her for her information and honesty by arresting her and all but one boy, who took part in the prank. That boy's parents lawyered him up, so he went to the police with a lawyer and he got immunity for ratting out his friends. Of course it turns out that he was the kid who supplied the eggs. Seems that ,but for that kid, nobody would have gotten hurt. Thus it makes sense that the guy who is most responsible walks away and isn't even charged.

Now this was, as I said, an accident. Even the police admitted that no one meant for anyone to get hurt. Nevertheless, police and prosecutors at the victim's family's insistence made arrests and tried to upgrade the original charges to a felony. That seemed to me to be absolutely ridiculous. What bothered me more however was the reaction of the other boys charged. Instead of fighting this indictment the way Jill did, they caved in and entered guilty pleas to the original misdemeanor charges. Whatever they were thinking, it is sad someone didn't tell them that accidents happen. Now those guys who all took guilty pleas must do 3 years probation. What a waste of taxpayers money.

When I juxtapose this incident to the accident Vice President Dick Cheney just had, it is clear that the best intentions can still put one at risk of hurting another. In our ever litigious country every childhood act calls out for not only a negligence action but a criminal prosecution to boot. Somebody please tell me how this was a criminal act. I am wondering how many children are going to be deterred next year from throwing eggs on Halloween because of this accident and prosecution. If the answer is none I would not be surprised. Eggs crack just like water balloons explode and snowballs disintigrate on contact. No one in their right minds (except for comedian Kevin Meaney's mother) thinks tossing one on Halloween is going to put someone's eye out. It just isn't a crime even if you live in Oyster Bay Cove and the people throwing eggs at you live in Woodbury, two of the richest neighborhoods on Long Island (or in America.)

Another thing, does anybody here think the Nassau District Attorney's office and the Police would have made an arrest if this had happened in Hempstead or Roosevelt? Would the TV cameras covered it? I strongly doubt it.

Of course the damage is done to Jill already too. Her name and address as well as her picture have been placed all over the NY Televison and Newspaper scene. She has received hate mail and threats on the phone and through the internet. She has had her innocence stolen. Although she is an honor student and a real good person, people now think her irresponsible and sophomoric, and for what? In her case, her egg didn't even hit anyone, it just landed harmlessly on the ground.

Maybe we are spending too much money here on Long Island for prosecutors and Police. Maybe they need more real crime to prosecute or maybe we just need less of them. I didn't think so until this case came along. Two detectives, two days or more of Grand Jury time, a top prosecutor (nope they didn't use a newbie out of the District Court bureau for this case)the time of four well known and expensive attorneys (yes That Lawyer Dude is expensive when he charges for his time)numerous court appearances (which entailed the use of judge's time, court personnel, and courtroom facilities.) All this waste over a childhood prank and a terrible accident. I estimate that the total cost of this fiasco to the kids, families, and our county, equaled over One Hundred Fifty Thousand($150000.00) Dollars. Imagine the impact half that amount could have if we donated it to a charity that provides sight to the needy, or to a Lions club that provides glasses to those who cannot afford them.

A year ago or more an Eighteen year old kid took a twenty six pound frozen turkey and hurled it from a moving car into the windshield of an on coming car and almost killed the driver of that oncoming car. That was an act of stupidity that called for prosecution. Hurling twenty six pounds of any frozen material can only have one end, damage. That is different than tossing a Three ounce egg five to ten feet. Eggs are supposed to crack and this one did. Frozen turkeys don't crack, they are hard as rock. There is a difference and legal professionals are supposed to comprehend that difference and explain it to angry parents or victims. I guess the combination of rich victims and flashbulbs was too much for the powers that be to deal with. They needed that 1.5 minutes of fame. Too bad they had to ruin a girls life to get it.

EDITED 7/16/08: To exclude the name of the kid that received immunity from prosecution. I still think what he did (seeking to minimize his role and taking immunity from prosecution while still being morally responsible for the actions thus allowing his friends to "take the weight") is dispicable, but he is about to enter adulthood and I suppose that he should no longer bear the scares of this case nor of his actions taken while a scared kid. A dear friend of mine asked that I remove it, on behalf of the boy, so Rick, this is the ONLY time I will do this, but this one is for you.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Nassau County (NY) New Democrat DA Already Is Wasting Taxpayers Money

I voted and supported the new Democrat District Attorney, because I expected that, with her time in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, she would be capable of streamlining the criminal justice system in Nassau County (NY). I hoped that she would understand that serious criminal cases needed more effort, and that she would push drug and dwi cases into the mandatory therapy necessary to reduce recidivism in those areas. Sadly she fooled me. I was mistaken. She has instead taken the tact of trying to be a hardball DA who is more interested in stats and numbers than effective criminal justice.

In the above cited Newsday story, DA Rice has insisted that she will not plea bargain even the simplest of cases, unless she gets to name the penalty, and there is always a penalty. I firmly believe this is an abuse of her province as a prosecutor. In addition it is a waste of money, TAXPAYERS MONEY! Allow me to elucidate.

On Wednesday I sat in court, and heard the most preposterous plea offer I have ever heard an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) make. The Defendant there was charged with a DWI and an Illegal Left Turn (a traffic violation with a maximum fine of 250 Dollars). Under normal circumstances, the Left turn is dismissed and the DWI is either taken to the charge, or reduced to plea to a Driving While Impaired. For a first offender with a low breath alcohol level, the defendant is placed on probation with DWI conditions.

In the case on Wednesday, the offer was probation and 50 hours of community service. Now if the Defendant lost at trial he still would get a sentence of Probation without the community service. There is no incentive to enter a plea bargain at all. Now some may think this is effective. I find it to be a waste of MY Money! The crime I wish to see corrected is the DWI. Now in order to do this, the DA must try the case, costing us a mininum of One Hundred Thousand ($100,000)Dollars in man hours and wasted effort! Moreover, the Defendant's attorney is a talented lawyer with a lot of trial time under his belt. Hence they may not even get a conviction. More wasted money.

If the DA really felt that the defendant should serve 50 hours, then she could have knocked the DWI down to an Ability Impaired, taken the violation anyway and had a good chance of getting the plea. This offer only wastes time. Even assuming that the defendant is convicted of both charges, if he gets probation and the $250 dollar fine, he saves a minimum of $500 dollars in wasted community service time assuming his time is only worth $10 dollars an hour. I thought this might be an anomaly, a young assistant who doesn't understand the new system. I was wrong again.

On Thursday, I went to County Court on a Felony Grand Larceny with an Illegal right Turn ticket. My client, who had fallen on very hard times, agreed to take a plea to the charge, if he received probation. That seemed to be a resonable request given his lack of a criminal record,the circumstances surrounding his case, not to mention his own cooperation in the case. Nope, the DA wants thirty days. The judge was appropriately incredulous, and offered the probation. I am secure that if the case were tried and we lost, the sentence would still be no worse than probation. The ADA said if I wanted the Illegal Turn dropped, my client would have to do (30)thirty days!! How stupid can they be? Why plead guilty to the whole indictment if I am going to do no worse than probation and might do better? I would have to be a dump truck lawyer to advise my client to plead guilty to this indictment and my client would have to be crazy to accept such a situation especially since the trial will not cost him a penny (If he is denied an application to proceed in forma pauperis, I will try it for free rather than deny him his day in court.)

A trial in this case will last about two weeks. They will have to bring in cops for hearings and trial and will have to pay for transcripts. We will need to do a jury selection wasting the time of 80 or more potential jurors. 14-15 of those poor souls will then sit for a week or more (probably more)listening to this case. We will need courtroom time. We will absorb judicial and court clerk costs. Bailiffs and court officers will have to be paid. Police officers will need to work overtime or be taken off the street. This case will cost the system well over a Quarter of a Million Dollars to try. Other cases, especially incarcerated defendants will have to wait for their trials at taxpayers costs. The ADA trying the case for the People of the State of New York (us taxpayers) will have to take time from cases where the defendant did not offer to plead guilty, cases far more important than a Illegal Turn case, or worse his cases may have to be reassigned. If it happens often enough,(and it appears it will) we will need more ADAs meaning higher costs for DA Rice's bigger budget. (Which I suspect is her motive anyway.)Worse yet, if I lose and the client gets the sentence of probation he is sure to earn, he can still appeal at the government's expense!! A backlog of cases will in turn cause the jail to become overcrowded again and that will result in a Federal District court ordering people who ought to be in jail (unlike my client) be released. We will be forced to expand the jail we presently have. That is not the justice I expected to import from NYC.

Prolonging litigation for the sake of her policy (or worse to increase her budget) is venal, wasteful and seems to be a violation of the ethics rules that a lawyer will not unnecessarily prolong litigation. Moreover her tactics will unfairly effect middle class defendants as the rich can afford it and the poor get their lawyers for free. As Nassau's tax base is mostly middle class, they are screwed a second time.

I believe that being tough on violent crime and big time fraud is important. Cracking down on Traffic violations is ridiculous. I have no idea if the DA is just confused as to her "mandate", or if there are ulterior motives, but either way we better meet this challenge or our criminal justice system threatens to get as bogged down as NYC's and then people who should not be on the streets, will be. Costing us more money, causing us to have to build bigger jails, and making Nassau a more dangerous place to live is not why I voted for DA Rice. This better straighten out quickly, because voters will not be fooled again.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A New Positive Review

I am waiting to reboard the plain here in Charleston SC. We got on, found out there was a delay at LaGaurdia (as if that's new)and deplaned only to be told we would replain in 8 minutes? In the bar the tv movie is "Airplane" is that Irony???? Anyway this gives me a chance to reintroduce our sister blog The Positive Review which I just posted to before leaving my hotel. Check out the great meal I enjoyed last night here. Were reboarding now. (Can you believe this garbage?) see you all in NYC.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

That Lawyer Dude Is Pleased To Introduce You To A New Criminal Law Blogger

Mary Conn is an long time friend and a helluva great lawyer. Formerly a lawyer in Texas she has relocated to Northern California. She is practicing trial law and is a well known lecturer who was Board Certified in Criminal Defense while living in Texas. She is concentrating her practice in Federal/State Criminal law, Family law, and general Trial work. Mary can try a case!

I am looking forward to Mary's wit and dry sense of humor as well as her insight into cases and life. Not only that, but she is also blogging about her love of bluegrass music!! This promises to be a fun and informational blog and I can't wait for her posts. You can visit with Mary here, or visit her soon to be revamped website. Best of all. She's bi-lingual.

Good luck kid.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Quick Spin Around The Blogsphere

Here are a few things I have been reading about:

Seems an unreasonable judge and District Attorney have forced a criminal defense attorney in Grosse Pointe Michigan to go to jail to protect his client. Assuming there is not a lot more to this, it is the judge here who ought to be disiplined. One week for discovery? Come on Judge get a grip.
Hattip to the New York Attorney Malpractice blog.

Teen girls are doing drugs and drinking alcohol at a greater rate than the boys are. I will be blogging about this story in a day or two but read the story now. I have always said it is easier to be the Father of boys. I have two. I have been representing a lot of girls lately though and the psychological issues are amazing. More to come on this.

This could be part of a very interesting defense for Scooter Libby. I wonder if the approval included Justice Department involvement. Read about the latest twist in this case here

Attention Treo users: See this post at I Heart Tech.

The first DNA case on Long Island came from a murder in Valley Stream. The home where the murder took place is now for sale. Seems everybody is happy about it. An amazing case, a circus like trial, and a horrible death see this article

Now this is the correct response to racism. Love and friendship are so often the answer.

If you live and die by your Blackberry (That Lawyer Dude is apopelextic at the thought of losing his)you should see this post from Law Tech Guru.

Ok I have lots more but I have to get to a lecture so check these out for now. For my NY friends I am so happy to be in South Carolina this weekend. Enjoy the snow.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Things To Come (Later This Week)

I am in beautiful Charleston South Carolina for the Nat. Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Midwinter meeting where I am speaking about trends in legal marketing. Hence I am hoping to get some sightseeing in. I will also be doing a lot of blogging over at our sister site Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law. I will be trying to bring my collegues on Long Island the most up to date information from some of the best lawyers and teachers in Criminal Law in America. I am especially looking forward to tomorrows presentation by Terrence MacCarthy and Dale Cobb. Here however, I will try to get out a few posts in my "spare" time. I want to talk about a recent goverment study on teenage girls and drugs, and violence in the courthouse, or how I got punched at my most recent arraignment. See you soon.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Garden City (NY) Finds a Safe Way To Go To The Prom: Now It Is Up To Us Parents To Do Our Jobs.

There has been a move to do away with prom on Long Island. I have felt that this effort is misguided and mostly lead by adults without a vision or a remembrance of the importance of that nights significance as a right of passage. I am glad to see that in Garden City NY the whole community has come together to address the issues that have made proms unsafe. They acted together to do something to keep the tradition alive for those that deserve to enjoy this special night.

As a lawyer who deals with the aftermath of teenage drinking and drugging, I have a special interest in making sure that kids do not drive while intoxicated. While it is my job to help them after they are arrested, my real goal is to help them not do things that might get them arrested in the first place. I always thought that having kids arrive in Limos at the Prom would keep teenage drunk driving to a minimum. After hearing a number of horror stories: Drinking in the limo and with limo drivers; Drivers demanding more cash or leaving them stranded; Some of the dolts among the drivers providing more than just drinks but drugs as well; I have come to the decision that Limos are a big part of the problem. I would rather chauffeur my son myself.

I think that Garden City has taken a mature and balanced view toward the prom at least from the point of teenage drinking and drugging. Parents must however play a bigger part. In my neighborhood, parents seem to have a very difficult time saying "NO!" They turn a blind eye to the drinking, drugging and pressure for sex that the prom brings. They rent homes on the east end of the Island or on the beach, or in the City. I am sure that I will be pressured to allow my son to go to the Hamptons and /or stay overnight with his friends and their dates in NYC. I do not think that he will be doing that. I will do my best to keep the prom a fun and safe event by providing a supervised and temperate night.

Prom time however is not the time to start training a child as to how to behave. There are plenty of parties and opportunities to get into trouble way before the prom. The truth is, parents need to be available and open to being the NO guy for a long time. Parents cannot be asleep when teens come home. If you can't stay up, shorten the curfew. No it is not unfair. Teens need to know that they must face you when they come in. It is not a violation of their constitutional rights if they must tell you where they have been, and what they have done. And yes you should be looking for telltale signs of drug and alcohol abuse. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and an unsteady gait. Are they making sense when they speak? Do they smell of alcohol or marijuana?

Before teens go out, do you ask where they are going? Who they are going with? How you can reach them? Hanging out in a parking lot or at Mickey D's is not acceptable. No place to go means you may have to host. Will other parents be home when a party is going on? Do you check with the parent? Afraid to embarrass your kid? GET OVER IT. Take it from a criminal lawyer. It is better to know before hand than have to ask after something terrible has happened.

Do you know how much money they have to spend? Where are the new clothes coming from? Demand to see receipts. How are they paying for the gas that they use? You must know.

Teenagers have civil rights as to the state and federal government. In your home Parents, you are in charge. I don't care what Dear Abby or Ann Landers had to say. Check up, snoop, follow, and cross examine. It is your job. If they don't know where and when you will show up, they will be very unlikely to be in places they don't want you to find them in.

The saddest part of my job has always been looking otherwise good parents in the eye and trying give them an answer to the question "Where did we go wrong?" SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!!The rest of it will then fall into place. The kid who knows his manners, who is in a strong family relationship, who has a schedule and is expected to keep up with it, is very unlikely to stray. I encourage my children to question every authority except one, mine. Why, because my covenant with them is different than the governments. I have promised to provide for them and to care for them and to keep them safe from as much as I can. I do not need a nanny state to do that. That is my job. If you want to keep government out of your home and out of your kid's life, then it is up to you to be in your kid's life as much as possible. Not as much as you can...As much as is possible. There's a difference.

My oldest son gave me a gift on Friday night. I have waited for Eighteen years to hear it. He told me that looking back on how he was raised, he often bristled under the amount of intrusion and the rules my wife and I put on him. Now in hindsight, he realizes that what we did was not only right, but has helped prepare him for what he faced in High School and what he faces in college. Salvatore is a very talented musician. He has performed music all over our state and county. He plays in a few jazz bands and school bands as well. His words this weekend however were the sweetest music he ever gave me. My job with him is far from over, but at least for right now, it seems to be right on track.

By the way, If you are having a problem with your teen, please feel free to contact your school counselor and local bar association for help. If that doesn't work call That Lawyer Dude or send me an e-mail by clicking on the contact button at and I will personally see to it that we get you a contact person, counselor or lawyer that can help, no matter where in the USA you live. Parenting is not easy work, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Good luck.