Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Stabbing Black Woman in Subway During Hate Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 30, 2020

 

Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Stabbing
Black Woman in Subway During Hate Crime

Defendant Sentenced to Additional Two to Four Years Concurrent Time
For Separate Attack on Off-Duty Police Officer a Day Earlier

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for attacking a 57-year-old black woman and stabbing her in the back in a hate crime attack in a Brooklyn subway station. The defendant was sentenced to an additional two to four years concurrent time in prison for a separate incident in which he assaulted an off-duty police officer a day earlier.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant viciously assaulted a fellow subway rider for no other reason than the color of her skin—one of two unprovoked attacks he waged over the course of two days. Acts of hate are not tolerated in Brooklyn, a place that prides itself on the diversity of its communities. I hope this sentence sends a clear message that racism and intolerance are unwelcomed here.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Aleksejs Saveljevs, 34, of Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. He was sentenced yesterday day to 10 years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun following his guilty plea to first-degree attempted assault as a hate crime. The defendant also pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted assault for attacking a police officer and was sentenced to two to four years for that incident. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on November 9, 2018, at approximately 7:30 p.m., inside of the Church Avenue subway station, a Black woman who had just gotten off the Q train was walking on the platform towards the station exit when the defendant approached her from behind, grabbed her and repeatedly struck her about the shoulders and upper back. An eyewitness approached and attempted to help, asking: “What is going on here?” The defendant replied: “You (expletive) black (expletive).” The eyewitness then helped the victim up the stairs and shielded her from the defendant, who continued to approach them. The eyewitness told the defendant to back off and he fled the scene.

The victim went up the stairs and began to spit up blood. She was examined at the scene by emergency medical personnel, filed a report with police and went home. Later that night, the victim began to vomit as she was trying to sleep, noticed blood on her sheets and realized she had been stabbed in her back. She called 911 and was taken to Kings County Hospital and treated for a collapsed lung. She was released from the hospital on November 15, 2018.

Two days later, while going through items she was carrying during the assault she found a screwdriver inside of her lunch bag that didn’t belong to her and called police. The defendant’s DNA, which was stored in the City’s database following an unrelated arrest, was recovered from the screwdriver.

In addition, on November 8, 2018, at approximately 8:55 a.m., the defendant assaulted an off-duty police officer while the victim was walking his dog on Williams Court near East 11th Street in Sheepshead Bay. The defendant struck the victim’s head and face with a sharp object and stated, “I am going to (expletive) you up.” The defendant continued to strike the victim’s head and face as the victim fled.

The victim was treated for a broken cheek bone at Lutheran Hospital and required several staples and stitches to treat cuts to his head and face. The defendant’s building manager identified the defendant from surveillance images taken the day of the assault. The victim also identified the defendant during a lineup procedure conducted at the 61st Precinct.

The hate crime case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adriana Rodriguez, of the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kelli Muse, Bureau Chief.

The assault case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Lino J. De Masi of the District Attorney’s Green Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney James Lin, Bureau Chief.

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Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Sexually Abusing Woman After Dragging Her into an Alleyway in Bushwick

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

 

Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Sexually Abusing Woman After Dragging Her into an Alleyway in Bushwick

Defendant Grabbed the Victim as She Walked to Laundromat

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Bushwick man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing a young woman after dragging her into an alleyway at knife point.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “The defendant’s guilty plea spared the victim from testifying in court about this horrific attack and the sentence imposed holds him accountable for his actions. I am committed to bringing to justice sexual predators like this defendant who commit such brutal acts of violence against women.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Thomas Gallishaw, 25, of Bushwick, Brooklyn. He was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison and 10 years’ post-release supervision by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic. The defendant, who pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree robbery on July 1, 2020, must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, on June 12, 2018, at approximately 10:30 p.m., the defendant targeted a 23-year-old female victim in front of 28 Stuyvesant Avenue, in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The victim had just exited a nearby building and was walking to a laundromat. The defendant placed his arm around her neck and placed a knife to her neck. He then dragged her to the alleyway in the rear of the building, threw her to the ground and sexually abused her.

A neighbor heard a commotion in the alleyway and called 911, according to the investigation, at which time the defendant fled with the victim’s iPhone and purse. When the police arrived, a responding officer passed the defendant on the way out of the alleyway. After seeing the woman crying on the ground, the officer called out to the sergeant on the scene to stop him from leaving. As the sergeant tried to stop him, the defendant fled. He was pursued by police, who eventually located him using the Find My iPhone app on the victim’s iPhone. The phone and a knife were recovered on the defendant when he was apprehended.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Linda Weinman, of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Bureau Chief.

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Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Announces Creation of Dedicated Street Safety Bureau

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 16, 2020

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Announces
Creation of Dedicated Street Safety Bureau

Adds Resources to Support Investigations of Traffic Fatalities from Their Outset; Will Provide Assistance to Victims and Liaise with Advocates and Lawmakers to Improve Road Safety

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced the creation of a Street Safety Bureau to assist in police investigations of traffic violence cases, with emphasis on protecting bicyclists and pedestrians, respond to scenes of serious collisions in real time and coordinate support services for victims and their families. Bureau members will also work directly with legislators to assist in drafting and revising bills to combat vehicular violence, attend Safety Board meetings and host regular meetings with traffic safety advocates, among other duties.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “We must do all we possibly can to battle traffic violence in Brooklyn to decrease the number of cyclists and pedestrians who are killed and maimed by drivers. With my new Street Safety Bureau, we aim to achieve that in a number of ways: adding resources to assist in collision investigations early on, partnering with advocates on safety initiatives and working with legislators to improve vehicular laws. We need to invest resources and shift our focus regarding these cases – they are often not accidents but preventable tragedies, caused by dangerous, reckless and unlawful driving. Now more than ever, as vehicular traffic in the city is expected to increase in light of the pandemic, protecting all who use our streets is paramount.”

“Traffic violence is an epidemic which impacts thousands of New Yorkers every year, so we are pleased to see that Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s new Bureau will refocus efforts to not only prevent reckless driving, but to also provide a new model of support for crash victims and their loved ones,” said Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Families for Safe Streets is grateful to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for launching a new Street Safety Bureau, a proactive, preventative and trauma-informed approach to addressing the epidemic of traffic violence. As victims of traffic violence, we are particularly thankful for the support crash victims will receive, as well as the new efforts to prevent others from suffering as we have,” said Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets and mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein (12/8/00-10/8/13).

“Dangerous drivers with long records of recklessness and speeding often face little accountability for their harmful behavior. I am encouraged that the new Street Safety Bureau will center victims of dangerous driving and partner with street safety advocates and criminal justice reformers to develop new metrics and strategies for preventing traffic violence. By gathering information at crash sites and making data available about the most harmful driving patterns, this Bureau has the potential to break new ground in street safety and driver accountability. I look forward to joining our advocacy community in partnering with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

The District Attorney said that, much like in homicide cases, his prosecutors now get involved in the investigation of collisions with fatalities of cyclists or pedestrians at an earlier stage. Once the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is activated, the Street Safety Bureau immediately dispatches a prosecutor to the scene at any time, day or night. The attorney assists police in identifying evidence, speaks to witnesses while their memories are fresh, documents relevant information, drafts warrants to facilitate the gathering of evidence and makes initial contact with victims and their families. This real-time presence helps prosecutors determine early on whether criminality is suspected and ensures that all the evidence at the scene is preserved and reviewed.

When appropriate, the Bureau sends a social worker from the District Attorney’s Victim Services Bureau to the hospital. Support remains available to victims whether the incident proceeds as a criminal matter or not, like services currently provided to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

In addition, the Bureau is taking steps to accumulate reliable statistics regarding crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists in Brooklyn to coordinate proactive enforcement and community outreach in areas prone to vehicular violence. Members of the Bureau will also meet on a regular basis with advocates and other stakeholders to answer questions and discuss strategies to improve safety by promoting better laws, identifying collision hot spots and pursuing other ideas and initiatives.

From the start of 2020 through June, cyclist fatalities in Brooklyn are down 80% compared to the same period last year and pedestrian fatalities are down 11.8%. Cyclist injuries are down 15.6% and pedestrian injuries are down 38.2%. The decrease of people on the road due to the pandemic likely skewed these numbers downward.

Assistant District Attorney Ronald Snyder, an avid bicyclist for the past 15 years, was recently appointed Deputy Bureau Chief and, in addition to his day to day duties, will serve as a liaison with the cyclist community and other partners. Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein is the Chief of the Street Safety Bureau.

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AG James and DA Gonzalez Partner to Expand Housing Protection Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

 

AG James and DA Gonzalez Partner to Expand Housing Protection Initiative

“Protect Our Homes” Initiative to Combat Deed Theft Will Now Also Focus on Illegal Evictions

BROOKLYN – New York Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that they will be expanding their joint homeowner protection initiative to include protections for renters in New York City. The “Protect Our Homes” initiative, launched in January 2020 to educate New Yorkers about deed theft and other housing scams, will now include support for New Yorkers threatened with illegal evictions and other issues plaguing renters. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, more New Yorkers are struggling to remain in their homes, and as a result, there is an increased risk for illegal evictions, deed theft, and other housing scams.

In January 2020, Attorney General James launched the office’s “Protect Our Homes” initiative with the formation of an interagency taskforce to focus on deed theft and homeowner fraud issues. The taskforce includes District Attorneys from all five boroughs in New York City and the New York City Sheriff’s Office. Attorney General James and District Attorney Gonzalez will convene a meeting of the expanded taskforce on Thursday, July 16, that will include The Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC, and other providers of eviction prevention services in New York City. The taskforce will now expand its efforts to include issues targeting renters and evictions.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are on the verge of an acute housing crisis in New York,” said Attorney General James. “Longtime homeowners in New York City were already grappling with deed theft fraud, and economically challenged renters will soon be facing evictions. I am committed to working with District Attorney Gonzalez and our other government and legal service partners to use a combination of education and enforcement to help our neighbors stay in their homes.”

“The impending housing crisis in Brooklyn will have devastating effects on our community,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez. “We must do everything in our power to protect homeowners and renters from unscrupulous actors. I look forward to continue working with Attorney General James to ensure every Brooklynite can be safe in their home.”

As housing courts begin to reopen and the eviction moratoriums lift, New Yorkers who lost their jobs and income due to the COVID-19 pandemic are at high risk for eviction. The taskforce will discuss emerging trends that are putting people at risk of displacement, review complaints, and take appropriate action as needed. The taskforce will also work to educate renters facing eviction about their rights, and, as appropriate, connect them with lawyers through New York City’s Right to Counsel law.

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Brooklyn District Attorney Publishes Report That Analyzes And Presents the Findings of His Conviction Review Unit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 9, 2020

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Publishes Report That Analyzes
And Presents the Findings of His Conviction Review Unit

First-of-its-Kind Study Conducted with the Innocence Project and WilmerHale Law Firm;
Examined Cases of 25 Wrongfully Convicted People Who Spent a Combined 426 Years in Prison

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with the Innocence Project and the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP, today announced the publication of a Report titled, 426 Years: An Examination of 25 Wrongful Convictions in Brooklyn, New York that illustrates and explains the findings and processes followed by his Conviction Review Unit (CRU) in connection with its first 20 cases that led to the exonerations of 25 individuals. It is the first such review of a CRU to be authored on the topic in partnership with a prosecutor’s office.

The Unit, which was established in 2014, is the largest dedicated CRU and is considered a national model. Its case reviews have led to the reversal of 28 wrongful convictions to date. The purpose of the Report is to provide a new level of transparency and to underscore some of the common factors that lead to wrongful convictions, and ultimately to avoid such miscarriages of justice from happening in the future in Brooklyn and throughout the nation.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I am very proud of Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit and the commitment to justice it represents. With this Report, we hope to share the methods, analyses and findings of the CRU with others around the country who are engaged in this critical work, and with the public at large. Wrongful convictions devastate lives – each one of the 25 cases in this Report is its own tragedy – and strike at the heart of our criminal justice system.

“For us to build community trust, especially now, when so many people in this country are expressing anger and despair with the system, we must reckon with and be transparent about the mistakes of the past. We must also learn from these errors so that we can avoid them in the future. It is my hope that this study will contribute to these goals. I am grateful to the Innocence Project and WilmerHale LLP for their extensive work to create this first of its kind Report.”

“Today’s groundbreaking report marks the first time an elected District Attorney has conducted a comprehensive study of his office’s own wrongful convictions,” said Nina Morrison, Senior Litigation Counsel with the Innocence Project. “This report shows the devastating human toll caused by these miscarriages of justice – and how many of them could have been prevented before they became wrongful convictions. We look forward to working with policymakers and advocates to take the lessons learned from this study to reform the system and prevent future injustices like these.”

“Doing justice must be the first duty of District Attorneys. This Report is born of that duty and recognizes that in these cases the system failed. Wrongful convictions are tragedies for the individuals whose lives are damaged, for their families and communities, and they also erode the trust in the legal system that our democracy requires,” said Debo P. Adegbile, a WilmerHale partner and co-chair of the firm’s Anti-discrimination Practice who oversaw the firm’s pro bono team that participated in analysis and drafting of the Report. “District Attorney Gonzalez’s commitment to sharing these tragic stories publicly is commendable. Correcting miscarriages of justice and learning how to avoid them is important for those directly affected, and indeed for all of us.”

The Report is organized by sections, each discussing a contributing factor for wrongful convictions. It uses CRU investigations and findings as case studies because each of the 25   exonerations feature one or more of these eight factors:

  • False or Unreliable Confessions
  • Eyewitness Misidentifications
  • Significant Witness Credibility Issues
  • Nondisclosure of Favorable Evidence
  • Police Conduct
  • Prosecutor Conduct
  • Defense Conduct
  • New Evidence, Witness Interviews and Expert Consultations

Most of the cases examined in the Report pertain to crimes that took place in the 1980s and 1990s, with the oldest crime occurring in 1963 and the most recent in 2011. All but one of the 25 exonerees are people of color. While racial bias is a factor in wrongful convictions, the Report doesn’t directly address the issue because it is focused on factual findings in each particular case and not on structural or underlying reasons for injustice.

Brooklyn’s CRU recommends that a conviction be overturned under circumstances where the defendant was “legally innocent,” either due to actual innocence, grossly insufficient evidence or insurmountable reasonable doubt; or the investigation reveals credible facts, circumstances or events which so grossly corrupted the fact-finding process as to substantially deny the defendant a fair adjudication, thereby violating due process rights.

Under New York law, convictions that have been vacated and dismissed are typically sealed and remain confidential. Given the importance of this research to the justice system and, in particular, because the lessons learned from these wrongful convictions may prevent future miscarriages of justice, the authors obtained judicial permission to unseal certain records from these cases for purposes of writing the Report. The study relied on the internal memoranda that CRU routinely issues for each case, recounting its investigation and analysis and explaining the circumstances in which it recommends that the District Attorney seeks to vacate a given conviction. The authors built the Report from the analyses contained in the CRU’s memoranda and conducted no independent or new investigations into the cases.

The initial review of the memos was performed by at least two reviewers from outside the Brooklyn DA’s Office (one from the Innocence Project’s Department of Science and Research, and at least one attorney from WilmerHale) using structured questionnaires. The first questionnaire was designed to extract information about attributes of the crime, evidence, investigation and prosecution; the second gathered information about witnesses who were key to the prosecution’s case (with separate questionnaires for each witness); and the third covered a broader range of categories, including actions and failures by police, prosecutors, and defense, and the different kinds of forensic and other evidence. Following that process, summary analyses were performed that helped to categorize the cases and identify common themes.

The Innocence Project is a national nonprofit organization based in New York City which was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld and is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. The Innocence Project works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and advocates for broader changes in the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions. In recent years, it has worked closely with many District Attorneys – including the Brooklyn DA – to establish independent conviction review units (sometimes called conviction integrity units) within prosecutors’ offices and to develop best practices for those units.

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP is an international law firm with nearly 850 lawyers and offices in 13 cities. The firm has a long and proud history of advocating for equal justice, including in the area of criminal justice.

The Report’s authors and advisors from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office were Tali Farhadian Weinstein, General Counsel, Mark Hale, Chief of the Post-Conviction Justice Bureau and CRU, and Rachel Nash, CRU Deputy Chief.  The authors and researchers from the Innocence Project were Nina Morrison, Senior Litigation Counsel, Glinda Cooper, Director of Science and Research, and Vanessa Meterko, Research Analyst. The authors and researchers from WilmerHale were Debo P. Adegbile, Jeanine Alvarez, Emma Bennett, Alyssa R. Budihas, Danielle Calamari, Janet Carter, Matt Celestin, Ryan Chabot, Cyndy Chueh, Jamie Dycus, Alexandra Hiatt, Brittany Llewellyn, Saurabh Sanghvi, and Jarret Zafran.

Additional colleagues from WilmerHale who supported the completion of the Report included Casandra Ferrante, Frank James, Lauren Kennedy, Amy Szydlo, and Flor Zervoudis. Serrin Ransom, Design Director, of GMMB provided graphic design support for the Report.

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Flatbush Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of Two Teenage Girls and Gun Charge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 1, 2020

 

Flatbush Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking
of Two Teenage Girls and Gun Charge

Victims Rescued by Undercover Police Officer Following Tip from the
Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Flatbush man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison following his guilty plea to two counts of sex trafficking of a child and one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant, who took advantage of two vulnerable young girls, trafficking them for money in exchange for sex, has now been brought to justice. I am committed to rescuing and protecting our at-risk children and teens from predators who are intent on exploiting and abusing them.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Hakeem Bennett, 24, of Flatbush, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to eight years in prison for two counts of sex trafficking of a child and two years in prison for second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon. The judge ordered the sentences to run consecutively, for a total of 10 years in prison. The defendant was also sentenced to five years’ post-release supervision and must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on September 30, 2019, the New York City Police Department received information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (which received a tip from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) regarding the possible sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl. On October 3, 2019, an undercover officer responded to an escort advertisement provided by the FBI, which included photographs of three girls, including the missing 17-year-old and the 15-year-old.

The undercover officer called the phone number provided in the advertisement and engaged in a conversation with a woman regarding sex for money. He later was directed by that same woman to meet her at an address on East 29th Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

When the officer arrived at the location, he was met by the 15-year-old victim, who brought him to a house where he met with the defendant and the 17-year-old victim and another, unidentified woman. The undercover and the defendant agreed that the undercover would pay $250 to have sex with the 15-year-old and the 17-year-old. As the undercover, the defendant and the two girls began to walk down the street to a location the defendant agreed to make available for the encounter, he was apprehended by the undercover’s field team.

Upon further investigation, the defendant had been selling both teenagers for sex for several weeks by posting his phone number in escort advertisements and would pretend to be the girl when customers called the number. The defendant would then dispatch the victims to an agreed upon location, after telling them what to do and how much to charge, to meet the customer. In some instances, the defendant had the customers send the money directly to him via payments apps.

The sex trafficking case was investigated by Detective Joseph Spataro of the New York City Police Department, Brooklyn North Vice Module under the supervision of Lieutenant Amy Capogna and in coordination with Detective Elizabeth Gonzalez and Lieutenant Christopher Sharpe, of the NYPD’s Human Trafficking Team. Lieutenant Amy Capogna is the current Commanding Officer of the NYPD Human Trafficking Team.

Supervising Intelligence Analyst Brooke Middleton, of the District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit, assisted in the investigation.

The gun case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Nicole Manini of the District Attorney’s Green Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney James Lin, Bureau Chief.

The sex trafficking case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Anna Federico, of the District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit, and Assistant District Attorney David Weiss, Deputy Unit Chief, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Chief of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau.

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District Attorney Gonzalez and Attorney General James Win Lawsuit Against Trump Administration’s Illegal Policy of Making ICE Arrests at State Courthouses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

 

District Attorney Gonzalez and Attorney General James
Win Lawsuit Against Trump Administration’s Illegal Policy of
Making ICE Arrests at State Courthouses

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that they won a major victory against the Trump Administration and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), preventing the practice of making civil immigration arrests in and around state courthouses in a manner that interferes with the state’s administration of justice. Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted DA Gonzalez and AG James’ motion for summary judgment to immediately end the policy that allowed ICE agents to conduct immigration raids in and around courthouses, thereby jeopardizing public safety.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “For more than three years, I have been calling on ICE to stop its unconscionable practice of conducting immigration raids in and around our courthouses because they jeopardize public safety. But the Trump Administration only escalated this unlawful and dangerous tactic, creating a chilling effect in immigrant communities, which discouraged victims and witnesses from reporting crimes and participating in the legal process. I joined Attorney General James in filing a federal lawsuit to bring this practice to an end, so I am extremely gratified that U.S. District Judge Rakoff today agreed and enjoined ICE from making those arrests, finding that it was a violation of longstanding practices, of their own policies, and interfered with the administration of justice. Allowing every resident equal access to our justice system is crucially important and necessary for maintaining fairness and public safety.”

AG James said, “Our victory over the Trump Administration’s over-policing policies ensures the important work happening in local courts will continue undeterred without the targeting of immigrants seeking access to our courts. By allowing federal agents to interfere with state and local cases, the Trump Administration endangered the safety of every New Yorker, while targeting immigrants. All New Yorkers — immigrant or not — can sleep better tonight knowing justice can continue to be carried out. I thank DA Gonzalez for his invaluable partnership in bringing this lawsuit forward and fighting for New York’s immigrant community.”

Lilia I. Toson, supervising attorney in the civil law reform unit, The Legal Aid Society, said, “We commend Attorney General Tish James’ strong advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers seeking justice and all those who should have unfettered access to our courts. Today’s decision is a clear statement that our judicial system will no longer stand for brazen abductions by ICE agents, and we hope that a forthcoming decision in our parallel lawsuit reinforces that statement.”

Last September, AG James and DA Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, challenging the legality of the federal government’s expanded policy of arresting immigrants in or around state courthouses. The suit sought to halt a three-year pattern of civil immigration arrests by federal ICE agents in and around state courts, which have caused a major disruption to state court operations. By targeting witnesses and victims for arrests, noncitizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned — or never pursued — making communities less safe.

After the lawsuit was filed, President Trump and his Administration immediately filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but, in December, Judge Rakoff denied the motion, saying, “Courts cannot be expected to function properly if third parties (not least the executive branch of the government) feel free to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the parties and witnesses by staging arrests for unrelated civil violations in the courthouse, on court property, or while the witnesses or parties are in transit to or from their court proceedings.”

Earlier this year, both sides in the case asked the district court to rule expeditiously in the case, and, last month, the court heard oral arguments on both plaintiffs’ and defendants’ motions for summary judgment.

Since President Trump took office, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed in New York, leading to a widespread, chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Hundreds of immigrants have been arrested while appearing in and around state courts since January 2017, including those accused of a crime; parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; and LGBTQ+ individuals; among others. These arrests have happened on a near-daily basis.

Moreover, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing state courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the state.

The case was handled by the District Attorney’s former General Counsel Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Chief of Policy Jill Harris, Civil Litigation Bureau Chief Toni Lichstein and John Carroll, Deputy Bureau Chief. The District Attorney’s Chief of Staff Maritza Mejia-Ming and Domestic Violence Bureau Chief Michelle Kaminsky testified in depositions.

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Police Officer Charged with Assault of Woman During George Floyd Brooklyn Protest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 9, 2020

 

Police Officer Charged with Assault of Woman
During George Floyd Brooklyn Protest

Allegedly Violently Pushed 20-Year-Old to the Ground Causing Physical Injury

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a New York City Police Officer has been charged in a criminal complaint with assault, criminal mischief, harassment, and menacing for allegedly shoving a demonstrator to the ground during a march to protest police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. The incident was captured on video recording.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I fully support the long-held American tradition of non-violent protest. As District Attorney I cannot tolerate the use of excessive force against anyone exercising this Constitutionally guaranteed right. This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law. I am deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault. We will now seek to hold this defendant accountable.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Vincent D’Andraia, 28, of the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He is expected to be arraigned today in Brooklyn Criminal Court on a criminal complaint in which he is charged with third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree harassment and third-degree menacing.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on May 29, 2020, at approximately 8:44 p.m., near the Barclays Center, the defendant was walking with a contingent of police officers assigned to monitor a large crowd of demonstrators protesting racial injustice and the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The victim, a 20-year-old woman, was in the street when the defendant told her to move. As she asked why, the defendant allegedly smacked her cell phone out of her hand, and violently shoved her to the ground, according the investigation. She can be seen rolling on the street and into a curb. Meanwhile, the defendant and fellow officers can be seen to continue walking.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Daphney Gachette, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patrick O’Connor, Chief of the Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau and Executive Assistant District Attorney Joseph P. Alexis, Chief of the District Attorney’s Trial Division.

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A criminal complaint is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Rep. Rose, DA Gonzalez and DA McMahon Announce PPE Donation to Help Protect Brooklyn and Staten Island DA Staff

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

 

Rep. Rose, DA Gonzalez and DA McMahon Announce PPE Donation to
Help Protect Brooklyn and Staten Island DA Staff

Axon donated 35,000 masks, 15,000 gloves, and 350 gallons of hand sanitizer to Richmond and Kings County DA offices

Photos from the drop-offs HERE.

Congressman Max Rose announced today with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon that Axon Enterprise, Inc., a company which develops connected public safety technologies for law enforcement agencies, donated critical supplies to help protect prosecutors, criminal investigators, and support staff in the District Attorney’s offices who are on the front lines working with victims of crimes to ensure justice is served.

“In order to bring our courts and justice system back online, those on the frontlines of our justice system need to have the protection and equipment necessary to protect themselves as well as victims and witnesses of crimes,” Congressman Max Rose said. “As someone who worked in a District Attorney’s office, I’ve seen first-hand how important it is for investigators and prosecutors to be on the ground and at the scene to ensure victims are heard and justice is served. We’re all very grateful to Axon’s generous donation to ensure that work will be able to continue safely.”

Axon donated to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office: 25,000 blue medical masks, 8,000 gloves (4,000 pairs), and 175 gallons of hand sanitizer, and to the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office: 10,000 blue medical masks, 7,000 gloves (3,500 pairs), and 175 gallons of hand sanitizer.

“Throughout this public health crisis the men and women of the Brooklyn DA’s Office have been committed to continue the work of keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening community trust.” Brooklyn DA Gonzalez said. “The majority of prosecutors and non-legal staff successfully transitioned to remote operations at the start of the coronavirus pandemic but, beginning this week, the number of employees returning to court will start to increase as we resume hearings and work with the public. The timing makes this generous donation of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers especially helpful. I extend my warmest and deepest thanks to Congressman Max Rose and Axon for stepping up during this difficult time to help ensure that we are able to do the essential work of our office and to carry out our mandate as court operations expand, while keeping our staff, our witnesses and our victims safe. I commend Congressman Rose for the much appreciated leadership and thoughtfulness in remembering our front line workers in the criminal justice system.”

“While much of the City’s operations have been shut down for months, I’m proud of our incredible team at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office who have re-doubled their efforts to ensure the continued safety of the people of Staten Island,” Richmond County DA McMahon said. “Although we have many staff who are able to do their work from home, there remains a core group of prosecutors, investigators, and support staff that simply must continue reporting to work and interacting with the public. This frontline group will grow starting next week and will continue to expand in the weeks ahead as court functions begin to reopen. I am grateful that Congressman Rose, working in partnership with Axon, has recognized these essential women and men by providing this generous donation of personal protective equipment (PPE), which we will put to immediate use in furthering our shared goal of a safe and just Staten Island for all.”

“Even throughout this global pandemic, first responders are still stepping forward and risking their lives to assist people in need,” Axon CEO and founder Rick Smith said. “Axon’s mission is to protect life and when technology isn’t the answer, we must look for another solution. In this case, helping people meet the most basic needs is the most important thing we can and will do.”

Axon has committed over $1 million for personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders, including a partnership with the National Police Foundation and will match up to $500,000 in community donations. 100 percent of funds will go directly towards helping reduce first responder exposure to COVID-19 by purchasing medical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

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Know Your Rights: Cyber Sexual Abuse

Know Your Rights: Cyber Sexual Abuse

Technology has given abusers new ways to harass, intimidate and inflict harm on their victims. One way that an abuser may try to extend their control is by threatening to post intimate photos or videos of the victim on the internet. But what happens when an abuser follows through on that threat? In this Q&A, Jessica Morak, a Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families and co-chair of the New York City Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force, discusses how survivors can fight back against nonconsensual pornography.

What is nonconsensual pornography and what role does technology play in this? 

Nonconsensual pornography is a form of gender-based violence called cyber sexual abuse.

Nonconsensual pornography most often refers to the nonconsensual dissemination, or threat of dissemination, of intimate photographs or videos shared without the survivor’s consent. These can be intimate photos or videos that the survivor shared with the abuser during the course of the relationship, those recorded or taken without the survivor’s knowledge, or can be fake photos or videos, otherwise known as “spoofs,” that the abuser themselves created.

Nonconsensual pornography is just one type of cyber sexual abuse. One other type that we often see is when abusers use dating apps or social media platforms to create fake accounts in survivors’ names. Once created, abusers then invite individuals to solicit the survivor for sexual acts, often times by giving out personal and identifying information.

There are many different forms of cyber sexual abuse, but all feature an abuser using technology to exert power and control over the survivor. For this reason, cyber sexual abuse falls under the umbrella term of technology-facilitated abuse. This term appropriately describes the behavior, as it is the abuser’s choice to utilize routine and ordinary technology in a specific and intentional way – to cause harm to another individual.

 

Source: Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

What are some misconceptions about ‘cyber sexual abuse’ or ‘revenge porn’?

The term “revenge porn” in and of itself illustrates a huge misconception about this form of abuse. “Revenge porn” is a term that has become popular when referring to the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images. Webster’s dictionary defines the word revenge as “to avenge (oneself or another) usually by retaliating in kind or degree” or “to inflict injury in return for.” Therefore, use of the word “revenge” would suggest that the survivor deserved to have their photos or videos shared without their consent as payback for some past wrong. This is nonsense and victim-blaming in its most classic form. The nonconsensual sharing of, or threat to share, intimate videos or photographs is gender-based violence that no one deserves.

People are often confused about what “nonconsensual” in the term “nonconsensual pornography” refers to. The “nonconsensual” refers to the dissemination, or threat of dissemination, of the photographs or videos to others without the survivor’s consent. It does not have anything to do with whether or not the photograph or video was consensually created or taken. If an individual A consensually shares a nude photograph with their partner, B, it is still nonconsensual pornography if B disseminates, or threatens to disseminate, that photograph without A’s consent.  It is completely irrelevant that A consented to sharing the photograph with B; the fact that A did not consent to B disseminating to others means that B has engaged in nonconsensual pornography, cyber sexual abuse and gender-based violence.

Another huge misconception when it comes to nonconsensual pornography and other types of cyber sexual abuse is its effect on the survivor. People often react to narratives of this type of abuse with a certain amount of levity and humor, questioning, “what the big deal is” or claiming that the conduct “is just a joke.” But the harm is real, tangible and well documented. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative:

  • 93% of victims reported they had suffered emotional distress as a result of being victimized;
  • 82% of victims reported significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning due to being a
    victim; and
  • 51% of victims reported having had suicidal thoughts as a result of being victimized.

For these very real survivors, cyber sexual abuse is more than just a “big deal.” It is a debilitating type of gender-based violence that has affected them personally, professionally and emotionally.

 

(L-R) Rebecca Dince-Zipkin, Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, and Jessica Morak, discuss resources available to student survivors of gender-based violence at the Third Annual Symposium on Campus Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence.

What civil or criminal actions can you take if nude photos or videos have been shared without your consent?

If someone has disseminated your intimate photographs or videos without your consent or threatened to disseminate your intimate photographs or videos, you can report this conduct to the police. It is both a state and local crime
(in New York City, Suffolk, and Nassau counties) for which the perpetrator could face arrest and criminal prosecution, often resulting in the survivor being issued an order of protection through Criminal Court.

If you have an eligible relationship with the perpetrator, i.e. you were formerly or are currently married, related by blood or marriage, have a child in common, or were involved in an “intimate relationship,” you could also file for an order of protection in Family Court based upon the cyber sexual abuse.

Additionally, victims of nonconsensual pornography can initiate civil cases (i.e. lawsuits for money damages) against perpetrators. All of these legal options are not mutually exclusive and survivors can choose one, or more than one, of these legal avenues as their pathway to safety and justice.

Is there anything that survivors can do to get intimate photos or videos removed from the internet? 

Many websites have mechanisms allowing you to report the photograph or video that was disseminated without your consent. For example, Pornhub, a website that many survivors’ have unfortunately discovered their intimate photographs and videos on, has a specific form that survivors can fill out. Most of these mechanisms can be located by accessing the website’s Help or Support page.

Survivors can also initiate the process to have a takedown notice sent to an internet service provider, requesting that the provider remove specific material because it constitutes copyright infringement (if you took the photograph or recorded the video, you can argue that you have a copyright to it).

Under New York State law, a survivor may also be able pursue an action for a court order against a website that is hosting the material through a special proceeding, pursuant to NY CLS Civ. R. §52-b.

What’s your message to those struggling with cyber sexual abuse? 

My message to those struggling with cyber abuse is this: You are not alone. There is an incredible amount of resources available to survivors of cyber sexual abuse. I would encourage anyone who is experiencing this type of abuse or other forms of gender violence to seek help if it is safe to do so. You can call the Sanctuary for Families Legal Helpline at 212-349-6099, Extension 246, where you will be connected with an attorney who can assist you with legal issues, including those related to cyber sexual abuse. We know that this abuse can be difficult to talk about, but you do not have to suffer through this trauma alone. We see you. We hear you. We support you. We believe you and we know this is not your fault.