Articles Posted in In The News

Steve Katz, an Assemblyman from Yorktown who was first elected in 2010, was charged on Thursday, March 14 with unlawful possession of marijuana and speeding after being stopped by a trooper on the New York State Thruway near Albany, New York. Katz was ticketed for traveling at 80 miles per hour in a sixty five m.p.h zone. Apparently, when the trooper approached Katz’ car, he detected an odor of marijuana. Katz then handed over what is described as a small bag of marijuana to the trooper.

Mr. Katz is a member of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Last year, he was vocal in his opposition to the legalization of medical marijuana and voted against a bill to do so in the assembly. During the consideration of the legislation, Mr. Katz was quoted as stating: “Our community has been stricken with an increase in drug use and drunk driving by our youngest citizens.”

Katz was given an appearance ticket and must appear in the Coeymans Court on March 28, 2013. For the unlawful possession of marijuana violation, Katz could be fined $100.00. For the traffic infraction of excessive speed based on 15 miles an hour over the posted limit, Katz is facing a fine in the range between $90.00 and $300.00 in addition to a mandatory New York State surcharge of $85.00. Further, drivers who are convicted of or who plead guilty to driving 11-20 miles per hour over the speed limit will have 4 points assessed on their licenses. Drivers who accrue 11 points in an 18 month period will have their licenses suspended.

I would expect that Mr. Katz will retain an attorney to plead the speeding infraction to a non moving violation such as failure to wear a seat belt, which would still involve fines and surcharges of approximately $135.00 total, but not result in points on his driver’s license. As for the criminal violation of unlawful possession, Mr. Katz will probably seek what is called an “ACD”, or adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. This means that if has no other charges with a 6 month or one year time frame, the charges will be dismissed. A conviction on an unlawful possession of marijuana violation would result in fines with mandatory surcharge of approximately $200.00 for a first offense under the New York Penal Law Section 221.05.

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Julio Acevedo, the 44 year old suspected driver in the March 3 fatal car crash in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, was taken into custody in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on March 6th. 21 year old Raisy Glauber, who was several months pregnant, and her 21 year old husband Nachman, were en route to a nearby emergency room for a medical examination when the fatal car crash occurred at the intersection of Kent Street and Wilson Street in Williamsburg. The Glaubers were passengers in a cab driven by Pedro Nunez Delacruz.

Mr. Delacruz was turning from Wilson Street where there is a stop sign; it is unclear if he stopped before making his turn. Mr. Acevedo who was traveling on Kent Street, which has no traffic control at the intersection, was driving a BMW at approximately 60 miles per hour. He struck the driver’s side of the cab with such force that the engine of the cab ended up in the back seat and Ms. Glauber was thrown from the vehicle. In addition to killing both Glaubers, the blunt force impact caused the baby to be delivered 3 months early by Caesarian section at Bellevue Hospital. The baby died of what was described as “extreme prematurity due to maternal blunt force injuries” by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office on March 4th.

After the accident, Mr. Acevedo fled the scene and was charged initially with leaving the scene of an accident with serious injuries, which is a felony under the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law. After the Glaubers and their baby died, the charges were upgraded to three counts of criminally negligent homicide, also felonies, (Criminally negligent homicide is an E felony with a maximum sentence of four years in prison) and one additional count of first degree involuntary manslaughter in the death of the baby, which is also a felony. It is uncertain if the Kings County D.A.s office will pursue the involuntary manslaughter charge against Mr. Acevedo, as it will be harder to prove.

The key evidence in the criminally negligent charges against Acevedo will involve a reconstruction of the accident by investigators to determine whether one or both drivers committed traffic infractions which led to the fatalities, including disregarding a traffic control device, speeding, and reckless driving. Additionally, officials will examine whether distracted driving such as texting, or alcohol was involved.

Acevedo may have fled the scene because he is presently facing DWI charges from a February 17, 2013 arrest in which his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was allegedly 0.13%, well over the New York State limit of 0.08%. Additionally, according to reports, Mr. Acevedo served approximately 8 years in prison for a conviction of manslaughter in the death of a Brooklyn man known as “50 Cent”. The rap star Curtis Jackson later utilized this as his stage name.

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On September 27, 2012, the trial began for 41 year old Ophadell Williams, the tour bus driver charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the March 12, 2011 accident on I-95 in the Bronx which killed 15 passengers. The prosecution contended that Williams was fatigued and speeding when he lost control of the bus while returning from the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. As we originally reported on September 6, 2011, the bus struck a guardrail, flipped over, struck a stanchion and the roof was sheared off, killing 15 people and seriously injuring 23, including one man whose arms were torn off trying to protect his head. Williams was indicted by a Bronx County Grand Jury on 15 counts of vehicular manslaughter; 15 counts of criminally negligent homicide; and 23 counts of vehicular assault. Additionally, he was charged with reckless driving and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

In its opening statement, the prosecution contended that Williams was fatigued and driving recklessly, swerving in an out of lanes and never slowing down, when he lost control of the bus and struck a signpost stanchion on I-95 in the Bronx, “peeling off the roof like a sardine can and wreaking death and destruction.” The prosecutor acknowledged that Williams was not on drugs and was not intoxicated, but argued that Williams was so sleep deprived that it affected his reflexes as if he were intoxicated.

Williams’ defense attorney repeated the defense that his client made since the accident happened, that he was cut off by a tractor-trailer, and that this maneuver led to the fatal crash. He also argued that despite Williams’ own injuries, he made a valiant effort to rescue some of the passengers from the wrecked bus.

Investigators have never been able to substantiate that there was any tractor trailer involvement in the accident. What is known is that Williams was traveling at approximately 78 miles per hour shortly before the crash (the speed limit in that area is 55 m.p.h). and there is no evidence to show that Williams either slowed down or downshifted before the accident.

To prove that Mr. Williams is guilty of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecution must establish that Williams knew or should have known of a substantial and unjustifiable risk in his operation of the bus and disregarded the risk. For the criminally negligent homicide charges, there is a somewhat lesser burden of proof on the prosecution, to prove that Mr. Williams “failed to perceive” the substantial and unjustifiable risk in driving while fatigued and speeding, in contrast to a reasonable person who would have perceived these risks and avoided the conduct. Frequently, the prosecution files different levels of charges, so that if they do not obtain a conviction on the highest level, they have the opportunity to establish the lesser charges and still get a guilty verdict.

To substantiate their contention that Williams drove the bus recklessly and was speeding, the prosecution called Robert and Sonia Varley to the stand. Mr. Varley was driving with his wife south on I-95 at approximately 4:15 am when they observed a brightly colored bus weaving in and out of lanes and speeding. Mr. Varley testified that he was using his cruise control in the range of 63 to 73 m.p.h., and Williams would pass him and then slow down. Varley thought the driver might have been intoxicated and he testified that he was “afraid to be near him” and honked his horn at the bus.

The prosecution also put on testimony from some of the surviving passengers on the bus, including Truc Thanh Tran, who testified that she heard people screaming and yelling, and saw people dying. They showed the jury a 55 minute video of the investigation of the accident, replete with flattened guardrails, crushed bus parts, a blood splattered metal pole and shoes and cell phones spread around the bus. Ms. Tran also testified that the man seated next to her died in the accident, and that she was pinned in her seat and had to be removed by emergency personnel. In his cross examination of Ms. Tran, the defense attorney for Mr. Williams attempted to show that Ms. Tran’s injuries were not serious and that she, along with numerous family members and surviving passengers, are suing Mr. Williams and the bus company, World Wide Travel, in civil lawsuits for money damages. Other passengers were expected to testify during the trial, which is expected to proceed for several weeks.

Mr. Williams has been in jail since September of 2011, as he has not been able to raise the $250,000 bail. World Wide Travel has since gone out of business but the tour bus industry appears to be a thriving business, despite significant safety concerns.

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In New York County Criminal Court this week, the trial of 63 year old postal truck driver Ian Clement commenced. Clement is charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident under Section 600 of the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law, which carries with it a maximum sentence of 7 years as a D felony under the Penal Law. The case involves an accident on July 2, 2011. 68 year old Marilyn Dershowitz, the sister in law of well known attorney Alan Dershowitz, was riding her bicycle with her husband Nathan on West 29th Street in an area which was clogged with postal trucks both parked and moving in and out of traffic. Mr. Dershowitz was riding ahead of his wife. Apparently Ms. Dershowitz attempted to operate her bicycle between two postal trucks when she was struck by the seven ton postal truck operated by Mr. Clement.

Ms. Dershowitz was pinned under the right tire of Clement’s truck. The prosecution claims that rather than remain at the scene and report the accident, Mr. Clement drove off, despite the screams of onlookers and honking horns of other drivers in the vicinity. Mr. Clement pulled the truck into a Postal Service parking lot at the end of the street, where a co-worker supposedly asked him: Did you see the terrible accident?” The Manhattan A.D.A. prosecuting the case, Erin La Farge, stated to the jury that “Practically everyone went to her side, except the person who caused her death.” She argued that Mr. Clement either knew, or should have known that he struck someone, but kept driving. Clement did acknowledge that he “felt a bump” and the truck shook somewhat, but he admittedly left the scene of the fatal accident.

Ms. Dershowitz died approximately one hour later at Bellevue Hospital.

In what I believe was a very dangerous argument to make to a jury in a case involving a fatality, Mr. Clement’s defense lawyer contended that: “The City would come to a standstill” if truck drivers stopped and investigated every honking horn or bump in the road. He further suggested that there was no one to blame criminally, and that the case was being pursued because of the notoriety of the Dershowitz family. In addition to Alan Dershowitz being a nationally known lawyer, Ms. Dershowitz’ husband Nathan Dershowitz is also an attorney.

Under Section 600 (2) of the Vehicle & Traffic Law, entitled “Leaving the Scene of An Incident Without Reporting”, “Any person operating a motor vehicle who, knowing or having cause to know that personal injury has been caused to another person, due to an incident involving the motor vehicle operated by such person, shall before leaving the place where said personal injury occurred, stop, exhibit his or her license and insurance identification card for such vehicle, …and give his name, residence, insurance carrier…”

Due to the death of Ms. Dershowitz in the accident, Mr. Clement is charged with a violation of the most serious section of this regulation, and faces a maximum of seven years in jail and a fine of not less than $2,000 nor more than $5,000.00.

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In what should come as no surprise to anyone, the first civil lawsuit has been filed against Penn State University subsequent to the guilty verdict against ex-football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual assault involving ten victims last month by a Pennsylvania jury. The lawsuit was also filed on the heels of a scathing 267 page report by ex-FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh, who conducted a eight month investigation during which he interviewed 430 current or former Penn State employees.

Mr. Freeh found that Penn State displayed a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State…the most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” Freeh named Coach Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz as the facilitators of Sandusky’s egregious conduct in “failing to protect against a child sexual predator for over a decade.” He noted that the school officials continued to allow Sandusky to have unfettered access to school facilities and to continue his affiliation with the Penn State football program, and condemned them for failing to intervene after a reported shower incident in 1998, and the sexual assault in 2001 of Victim number 2, witnessed by then Paterno assistant Mike McQueary.

Victim number 2’s attorneys noted that their client was the victim of sexual abuse by Sandusky over several years, not solely the 2001 incident, and that top officials at Penn State facilitated and enabled Sandusky’s access to his victims. If the Sandusky victims were permitted to go to trial, (which would be shocking beyond belief if this happened) the civil attorneys can introduce evidence of Sandusky’s criminal conviction, obtained by a burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”, to prove cases in which the burden would be the much easier civil lawsuit standard of a preponderance of the evidence—meaning essentially by 50.1% of the credible evidence. Additionally, there is damning proof against Penn State, including Curley’s decision not to report Sandusky for Victim 2’s assault but rather recommending professional help and calling his decision “humane”. Curley also apparently sent an e-mail in which he admitted: “the only downside for us is if the message [to get professional help] isn’t heard and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it…” Thus, it is clear that all Penn State officials were concerned about in 2001 was protecting the University and its football program, not the innocent victims of Sandusky.

The sanctions by the NCAA for the Sandusky scandal, including a 60 million dollar fine, the inability to pay in bowl games for the next four years, and the wiping out of all football team victories from 1998 through 2012, seem insignificant in comparison to the damage that Sandusky has caused.

The Penn State Board of Trustees is already on record as stating that their goal is “to find solutions that rest on justice for the victims.” One question that naturally occurs is, does Penn State have enough money through its liability insurance and assets to pay out on all of the presently pending claims and absolutely inevitable claims coming in the future? What is the individual value of each of these cases, in which the victims have been permanently traumatized and as reflected in some of the anonymous statements during the three week trial, bitterly angry. That remains to be seen, and must be keeping the Board of Trustees from sleeping at night.

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On July 25, 2012, Dr. Rohan Wijetilaka, 63, a cardiologist with a practice in Yonkers, was arrested by DEA agents on federal illegal drug distribution charges. It is alleged that Dr. Wijetilaka issued prescriptions for Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and other controlled substances for cash or in exchange for an agreement to bill health insurers for tests that were never performed. Other agencies that were involved in the sting operation included the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health, the Human Service Office of the Inspector General and the Yonkers Police Department. Apparently, the DEA utilized a confidential informant wearing a wire, who was able to obtain an Oxycodone prescription for himself and another person for cash.

The operation began in late April went the informant went in the Yonkers office and paid Dr. Wijetilaka’s receptionist for Oxycodone prescriptions for himself and his ”girlfriend”, although neither was examined by the doctor. Purportedly, Dr. Wijetilaka continued to make sales to the confidential informant through June, in exchange for cash and therapy and exams that were never conducted.

It has been reported that Dr. Wijetilaka also issued prescriptions for Percocet, OxyContin and other controlled substances besides Oxycodone. Also arrested was Dr. Wijetilaka’s assistant and girlfriend, Rachida Naciri, 50, who was charged with criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, which is a misdemeanor. Ms. Naciri’s case is not in Federal Court, but in Yonkers City Court, where she was arraigned, pled not guilty and is due back in Court on August 16, 2012.

When Dr. Wijetilaka was arrested on the 25th, officers allegedly seized $15,000 in cash from his apartment. He was arraigned before a federal magistrate on July 26, 2012 and released on $200,000 bond secured by $50,000 and two co-signers. As conditions of his bond, Dr. Wijetilaka was required to surrender his passport, not practice medicine, not possess firearms and remain in New York. Interestingly, it has been reported that Wijetilaka’s medical license had recently been revoked earlier in July for performing unnecessary tests, failing to keep records, and for gross incompetence. He was fined $50,000.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, has been very aggressive in his pursuit of illegal drug distribution and corruption by public officials, with several high profile convictions in New York and Westchester, most recently of ex State Senator and assemblyman Nick Spano earlier this year.

Dr. Wijetilaka is due back in White Plains Federal Court on August 22, 2012. If convicted of the charges against him, Dr. Wijetilaka faces a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of $1,000,000 or twice the gain from his alleged crimes, whichever is greater.

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As we all know by now, 68 year old ex-Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted by a Centre County, PA jury on June 22, 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse of children. Sandusky was acquitted of only 3 of the total of 48 charges against him. The relatively brief trial included the testimony of eight victims, as well as that of former assistant coach Michael McQueary, who testified that he observed Sandusky engaging in sexual conduct with a ten year old boy in the university showers back in 2001 and reported this abuse to university officials.

In the wake of the long anticipated and emotional conviction of Mr. Sandusky, with a cheering crowd outside the Bellefonte, PA Courthouse when the verdict was announced late last Friday, Penn State is now facing significant issues that will have long-lasting repercussions for the reputation and finances of the institution. First, there is the ongoing perjury case against the two ex-officials that McQueary claimed he informed of the Sandusky sexual abuse, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz. The charges are that Curley and Schultz lied to a grand jury investigating the abuse charges and testified that McQueary never informed them of his observations. Concurrently, former FBI director Louis Freeh, who was hired by the Penn State to do an investigation into whether the school responded properly to allegations against Sandusky in the late 1990’s, will be issuing his findings in the very near future.

Without question, if Schultz and Curley are convicted, this is strong evidence that the university allowed a sexual perpetrator to continue his conduct on school grounds for at least several additional years after they knew there was a problem and could have averted same by alerting authorities and not permitting Sandusky to have access to school facilities and an office on campus.

Another huge problem Penn State is facing are the inevitable civil lawsuits which will now be filed by at least some, if not all of Sandusky’s victims for monetary damages. From an evidentiary point of view, the burden of proof in a civil action, a “ preponderance of the evidence”, (which means that it is slightly greater than 50% that the plaintiff’s version of the events is accurate) is a much easier burden to prove than beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of proof required to convict in a criminal case. We saw this 16 years ago when O.J. Simpson was acquitted by a criminal jury of the murder of his wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, yet found liable for the killings by a civil jury a year later.

There is no question that Penn State is plenty worried about the possibility of significant civil verdicts against the university, and in keeping with this fear has already begun attempting to begin negotiations to resolve potential civil cases. In a statement, Penn State indicated: “Now that the jury has spoken, the university wants to continue that dialogue and do its part to help victims continue their path forward…to that end, the university plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse to…facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky’s conduct.”

Even if Penn State is able to resolve the potential civil claims from the victims that testified in the Sandusky trial, that will still not end its legal difficulties and financial concerns. Matt Sandusky, his adopted son, recently revealed that he was also a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of his father. Matt was prepared to testify as a rebuttal witness at the recently concluded trial if Mr. Sandusky took the stand in his own defense, which he elected not to do, as is the case with the great majority of criminal defendants. Further, a state grand jury is still in place, and there is a strong likelihood that either additional victims, other defendants involved in the failure to stop Sandusky, or both, will be identified in the near future.

In sum, Penn State officials are probably being overly optimistic if they believe that they can end their legal problems with an overture to resolve civil claims with the presently known Sandusky sexual abuse victims. Their legal issues as a result of the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal may persist for years to come.

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In an eye opening article by Brent Staples in the New York Times this past week, the issue of the substantial number of NYC Summons Court dismissals was highlighted. The numbers are rather astonishing: in 2011, of the 528,618 summonses issued for a variety of low level offenses, 330,364 were either dismissed outright or thrown out for various evidentiary reasons. The top ten offenses for which summonses are issued include public drinking, (124,498) at number 1; pedestrians obstructing traffic, (35,051) at number 2; and bicycling on the sidewalk, (28,101), at number 3. Public urination was charged both criminally as a misdemeanor and as an administrative violation a total of 25,419 times. Reckless driving, which is a violation of the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law Section 1212 and is both a misdemeanor charge and a 5 point traffic infraction, (11 points results in a suspended driver’s license), resulted in 11,803 tickets.

Failure to appear in Summons Court is a serious mistake, particularly when such a large number of the summonses are dismissed. A failure to appear will result in a warrant for the person’s arrest. The defendant will likely then be handcuffed, fingerprinted, and jailed. In New York City, there could be a several day wait before the person is brought before a Criminal Court judge. The issuance of a warrant could lead to a permanent criminal record, which clearly can cause significant difficulties obtaining employment or being granted citizenship, for example.

The civil rights suit which was certified by Judge Robert Sweet of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Stinson v. City of New York, alleges that a huge number of the summonses were issued without probable cause by officers who have departmental quotas to meet. The plaintiffs claim that they lost time from work and school and were subject to detention for crimes that never happened. In the lead plaintiff’s case, Sharif Stimson, he alleges that he was leaving his aunt’s apartment building on New Year’s Eve 2009 when several officers appended him without cause, and then threw him in a jail cell for four hours. He was issued a summons for disorderly conduct, which was dismissed three months later.

Another allegation addressed in the suit is the apparently disproportionate number of summonses for public drinking issued to minorities. Officers routinely demand to smell juice containers and coffee cups in an effort to find violators of the public drinking law. Lawyers for the City deny the charges and have requested that Judge Sweet reconsider his certification decision.

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A former Westchester County Police Officer was recently sentenced in New Haven Federal Court to 37 months in prison for his reported role in a drug smuggling ring. 36-year-old Michael Brady of Thornwood was accused of taking approximately $20,000 in cash in exchange for allegedly assisting drug smugglers pass through security at the Westchester County Airport on multiple occasions between December 2010 and April 2011. Mr. Brady reportedly allowed large quantities of the painkiller Oxycodone to pass through security while he was stationed at the airport in his capacity as a Westchester County Police Officer. The United States Justice Department stated drug smugglers carried as many as 8,000 pills per trip through the airport. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, the drugs were smuggled from Florida and later distributed in Connecticut.

Mr. Brady and about 20 other people who were allegedly related to the purported drug smuggling ring were arrested in September 2011. Following a November 2011 indictment, Mr. Brady resigned from the Westchester County Department of Public Safety after 11 years on the police force. In February 2012, Mr. Brady pleaded guilty to two federal offenses: receipt of a bribe by a public official (18 U.S.C. § 201) and extortion under the color of right (18 U.S.C. § 1951). In addition to the 37 month prison term, Mr. Brady was also ordered to forfeit the money he reportedly received as a result of his involvement in the drug smuggling ring and sentenced to three years of additional supervision following his release from prison. If the case had gone to trial, Mr. Brady faced up to 35 years in prison.

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Last Friday, a New Brunswick, New Jersey jury reached a verdict in the case of Dharun Ravi, the 20 year old Rutgers sophomore charged with bias intimidation as a hate crime, invasion of privacy and various evidence tampering charges in connection with webcam spying on his roommate Tyler Clementi, as well as text messages, twitter messages and e-mails he sent to several students to watch the video with him. who three days later committed suicide by jumping off the GW Bridge. After 13 days of testimony and 30 witnesses’ testimony, the jury found Ravi guilty on all fifteen counts against him, with the most serious charge of bias intimidation carrying with it the possibility of ten years in prison. Further, as Ravi is not a citizen of the United States, he is subject to removal (previously called deportation) from the United States after his prison term, if he is sentenced to jail by the Court, or immediately, if he is not.

I was somewhat surprised at the conviction of Ravi for bias intimidation, based on the reports of the testimony in the case, with testimony from both prosecution and defense witnesses that Ravi did not hate homosexuals, had never expressed opinions in this regard, and simply was an immature student who was involved in a prank without much consideration to potential consequences. Although it was not well publicized, it is ironic that Ravi apparently apologized to Clementi in a text at approximately the same time that Clementi updated his Facebook page with this ominous message: “Jumping off the GW Bridge, sorry.”

From quotes I’ve read from the jury, it appears that critical evidence against him on the bias intimidation charges was that he attempted to spy on Clementi a second time, two days after the first webcam video on September 19, 2010, and sent numerous texts and twitter messages to friends to watch the potential sexual encounter between Clementi and his male friend. One juror, Bruno Ferreira, indicated that the jury voted to convict on these charges because Ravi sent multiple twitter messages and Clementi’s sexual encounter, and did this on two separate days. Similarly, Lynn Audet, a 45 year old schoolteacher, said that what convinced her on the bias intimidation charge was “to attempt a 2nd time…A reasonable person would have closed it and ended it here, and not tweeted about it.” She also believed, despite arguments from Ravi’s attorney, that it was Clementi, not Ravi, who turned off the camera on that second occasion, preventing any video from being taken.

In any criminal case, the defense attorney is always faced with the conundrum of whether to put his client on the stand, and perhaps in this case, Ravi might have been able to convince the jury that he did not have malicious and homophobic intentions in setting up the webcam to watch his roommate’s gay sexual encounter. The problem, particularly in this case, is that the prosecution was armed with several inches worth of twitter feeds, text messages, and e-mails in which Ravi was quoted as saying things like “got to keep the gays out”, which he certainly would have been confronted with on an extended and grueling cross examination.

The jury obviously soundly rejected the defense theory that the webcam, spying and twitter/text messages were the actions of an immature kid who had no hostile intentions. The defense had offered the clearly weak explanation that Ravi believed Clementi’s older male visitor (identified only as “M.B.”) was “shady” and might try to steal some of Ravi’s possessions while in the room he shared with Clementi. Further, the jury was persuaded that Clementi felt intimidated by the fact that Clementi checked Ravi’s Twitter feed 38 times from the time he learned of the webcam spying until his suicide three days later.

Ravi rejected two plea deals prior to trial. The first would have required a plea of guilty to the bias as a hate crime charge, with a recommendation of 3-5 years in prison, although the judge could have decided to waive the jail time. The second would have included no jail time, probation, 600 hours of community service, and counseling. It is hard to fathom why Ravi would turn down that deal, particularly because the prosecutors were also offering their assistance in working with immigration authorities to prevent Ravi’s removal from the United States.

Ravi’s attorney has vowed to appeal the verdict. He will be sentenced on May 21, 2012 and faces a maximum prison term of 10 years. If Ravi does get prison time, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials (ICE) would be informed when Ravi is being released from jail, and he could be removed to his native India at that time. Bottom line is that the New Brunswick jury sent a message which will have far reaching and long lasting reverberations: Cyberbullying is just as serious as physical intimidation and the “kids will be kids” defense is, literally, not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

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