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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

No Destroying Evidence By New Jersey Police

Law enforcement in New Jersey will now have a tougher time destroying evidence it finds inconvenient or damaging to its cases under the pretext of following "official policy" or "administrative convenience" or some other nonsensical excuse, thanks to a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling issued today.

The impact should be to make it easier for defense counsel and defendants to access exculpatory evidence which could, in some cases, shed serious doubt on allegations of their crimes.  This ruling should help the wrongfully accused and entirely innocent, and prevent some people from being "railroaded."  In legalese, it should become easier to establish the "reasonable doubt" needed to argue for the acquittal of a criminal defendant.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who is also admitted to practice in New Jersey.  This article is an opinion and is not meant to be legal advice.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dorm Webcam Witchhunt Continues With Indictments

The tragic case of Rutgers freshman and suicide victim Tyler Clementi continues with today's news that Clementi's roommate Dharan Ravi was indicted by a Middlesex County, NJ grand jury on various criminal counts including invasion of privacy.

Ravi, also an 18-year-old freshman, faces jail for the essentially political crime of web streaming video of his roommate having a romantic encounter -- with another male -- in the dorm room shared with Ravi. (Another freshman accomplice, Molly Wei, faces charges too but the grand jury has not yet indicted her.)

Several questions must be asked here.

Is it criminal to web-record activities occurring in your own room? If so, when does your room stop being your room? 

Does your roommate have the right to kick you out in order to engage in certain activities? (Do some roommates have this privilege, and not others?) What activities might those be? And does it make a difference if the activities are engaged in solo, with an opposite-sex friend, or same-sex friend?

Is Ravi really being charged with minor crimes in order to punish him for Tyler Clementi's suicide? I mean, it's not as if Dharan Ravi drove Tyler to the George Washington Bridge and threw him off it.

(Speaking of which, who is the "other man" supposedly on tape?  Could this "other man" have had a nefarious role here?  Certainly the "other man" might have been interested in covering up his involvement in the romantic encounter.  Could the "other man" have had a role in Tyler's murder?)

And if Tyler's encounter was with a female, would we be hearing anything about bullying?

I mean, is the real crime here that a student was being bullied for having a same-sex encounter? And while distasteful and objectionable, does such action really rise to the level of a felony? Is this worth putting someone in jail? Are we as a society so intent on modifying behavior or compelling "acceptance" that we must resort to criminal prosecution and imprisonment in the hope of deterring bullying?

None of these questions are meant to criticize the gay community, which is right to raise the issue of gay-bashing and bullying. However, bullying comes in many forms and these distasteful, juvenile actions may have been repeated if this had been an opposite-sex encounter.

Moreover, it should be said that some objections to the Ravi prosecution are really grounded in -- and heavily cloaked to disguise -- an objection to homosexuality.

There can be punishment...punishment of the actor which fits the act committed by the actor. Punish Ravi for what Ravi did -- and not for what Tyler Clementi allegedly did. (As indicated above, I am not totally sold on this being a suicide.)

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who handles and investigates complex cutting-edge matters. He may be reached for further comment at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.

 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sleep Deprivation and Criminal Intent: A New Defense?

Could your lack of sleep put you at risk of being charged with a serious crime?

Tomorrow's New York Times Magazine  has an article which may spark debate about the adverse effects of sleep deprivation.  The article goes back to a 2003 study finding that just one all-nighter reduces cognitive ability to the level of someone legally drunk, while cognitive performance deteriorates significantly after even mild but prolonged sleep deprivation.

In an age of renewed white-collar criminal prosecutions focusing on insider trading and similar, sometimes hard-to-define crimes where issues of criminal intent may be fuzzy, such findings may give renewed vigor to a line of defense based on the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation in corporate cultures where workers routinely operate on four to six hours of sleep each weeknight. 

According to the seminal 2003 study by the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania's Dr. David Dinges (perhaps one of the foremost authorities on this topic), cited in the Times article, test subjects who received six hours of sleep each night for a 14-day-period were found by the end of the test period to be as cognitively impaired as a person who had gone without sleep for one 24-hour-cycle (see page 4 of this 2003 report), which the Times Magazine article writes is the equivalent of being as impaired as a legally drunk person.  (Interestingly, in New Jersey, an automobile driver who operates a vehicle without any sleep for the preceding 24 hours is presumed incapable of operating that vehicle and held liable for any accidents that may occur.) 

See this 2003 Dinges slide presentation on the topic.  I suggest looking carefully at slide 21, which details how sleep deprivation may affect us the worst during the hours of 6:00-10:00am before we "catch our second wind."  Also look at slide 25, listing the neurobehavioral effects of sleep loss and ominously citing "behavorial lapses (errors of omission)" and that "working memory and related executive functions decline."  Another interesting section includes slides 32-34 and slide 37, all of which show how logical reasoning and other functions really decline sharply (like falling off a table) with sleep loss.  Perhaps the most visually compelling chart is the bottom chart on slide 37. 

For those of you with the patience to read serious scholarly articles, I strongly recommend this concise 2003 report by a team including Dinges, or this still-rather short 2005 article co-written by Dinges and Hans Van Dongen. 

The cited study goes on to report that even mild nightly deprivation results in accelerating declines in performance, such that one quarter of the test subjects with successive nights of six hours' sleep were falling asleep in front of their computers by the sixth day.

The article should renew questions as to whether sleep deprivation or disorders can be used as effective defenses when civil lawsuits allege claims based in part on a person's professional judgment, or criminal cases where circumstantial evidence may exist as a result of a person's action, or failure to act, which could very plausibly be the result of a misconception, misperception or other cognitive impairment.

Could your lack of sleep put you at risk of criminal liability?

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who investigates complex matters and will help defend people against certain claims.  Mr. Dixon can be reached at 917-696-2442 and via e-mail at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com. 

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Pension Watchdog Gets Prison in Major Corruption Scandal

Former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi was sentenced to one to four years in state prison on corruption charges involving his stewardship of the state employees' pension system.

Hevesi, whose career in public service lasted 35 years until his resignation in 2006 after pleading guilty to a separate felony charge involving misuse of a state car to transport his disabled wife, will be up for parole in about 10 months and likely will be out of prison by this time next year.

The Hevesi scandal, which also brought down former political consultant Hank Morris, shows how the electorate needs to do its own "due diligence" on elected officials.  Particularly when those officials are not doing their own proper "due diligence" on investments and hedge funds which are the recipients of pension fund monies.

It is outrageous when the public needs a "watchdog" to watch over the people elected to serve in that very same "watchdog" role.

For more extensive coverage, check out a nice listing of stories compiled by iconoclastic New York political blogger VJ Machiavelli (aka Vampire J. Machiavelli).

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who has extensive experience in the federal securities laws.  Mr. Dixon handles business due diligence, corporate investigations and other complex investigative matters -- on either the "offense" or "defense" side depending on the client -- involving sensitive personal, business and political affairs. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Preparing for Jail?

Going to prison can be a harrowing experience.  Prospective inmates who have been sentenced should consider counseling to best prepare for the ordeal.  An adjustment to prison life is a major change.

Eric Dixon LLC has access to a consultant with experience in this field as a former guest of the government.  Those people sentenced to prison should call the firm to make an appointment to discuss their situation.

Eric Dixon LLC also engages in litigation stress counseling to help people facing lawsuits, investigation or prosecution cope with the stress of those processes and develop the mental stamina required to fight in court. 

Eric Dixon may be reached at 917-696-2442 or by email at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.  whistleblower lawyer fraud lawyer criminal defense wrongfully accused innocent but still accused wrongfully convicted investigative lawyer criminal investigation fraud investigation corporate investigation sham investigation Dodd Frank expert Dodd Frank whistleblower law Dodd Frank lawyer rape in jail anal rape anal sex in jail sexual abuse prison food bad gards beat up inmates guards abuse prisoners rap prisoners boring in jail televiion in jail solitary coninement solitary confinement prison overcrowding immigrant illegal in jail  detention immigration detainer  



  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Organ Donation Resources and Organ Shortages

Several months ago, this blog pointed out the prospective hazards of a New York City pilot organ harvesting program that sought to recover "fresh" organs from the just-deceased.

There is a big shortage of usable organs, particularly when contrasted with the demand by patients.

Clearly, increased voluntary donations should reduce any temptation for nefarious motives such as organ buying or even allowing people to die (such as through withholding necessary care) in order to source desired organs.

Courtesy of organ donation activist Phoebe Stone, here is a good list of resources for those interested in this subject.

1. http://donatelifeny.org (website of the New York Organ Donor Network, with interesting statistics and information on becoming a legally registered organ donor)

2. http://www.transplantliving.org (website maintained and operated by OPTN, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, and UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing; see specifically,
http://www.transplantliving.org/beforethetransplant/finance/costs.aspx, for a chart detailing the costs associated with transplantation; also see
http://www.transplantliving.org/livingdonation/financialaspects/statetax.aspx, for information regarding tax incentive and employment leave legislation in various states)

3. http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_subpage.php?pk_id=0000007018 (this is the sound file for the Flynn v. Holder argument before the Ninth Circuit regarding NOTA's ban on compensation for bone marrow donation)

4. http://unos.org/ (website of UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing)

5. http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/ (website of OPTN, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network)

(Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer; he is available for further comment at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com)

Eric Dixon
Eric Dixon LLC
World-Class Strategic Analysis
917-696-2442

Barry Bonds' Victory

sBarry Bonds' conviction on one count of perjury, on arguably irrelevant questions, and hung juries on three other counts must be viewed as a win for the onetime baseball star.


It is debatable whether Bonds told the "truth" about his childhood, or his relationship with trainer/childhood friend Greg Anderson, the central topics of the one charge of which he was convicted. Although perjury is serious, and in fact needs to be investigated more, one must question whether this trial was less about deterring and punishing perjury and obstruction of justice, and more about prosecutorial ambition and headline chasing.


Perhaps in retrospect the mistake Barry Bonds made was in ever talking to a grand jury.


The risk prosecutors now face is that prospective witnesses may be advised by their lawyers to never say anything to federal officials or a grand jury. If perjurious statements -- lies -- become subjective and "in the eye of the beholder," then any statement carries some risk of being characterized as a lie, as criminal perjury.


The best, and only, way to avoid the risk of a perjury charge is to remain silent.  Otherwise, you run the risk of being wrongfully accused, wrongfully prosecuted, and wrongfully convicted.


If normally cooperative witnesses become understandably reluctant to testify, the government will have to depend more on testimony from cooperating witnesses -- i.e. People who have been caught committing crimes and want to get leniency at sentencing. Such dependence also carries the risk of perjured testimony as well as diminished credibility of government witnesses.

The government's job fighting crime will only get harder due to the prosecutorial ambition that drove the Bonds case.


Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who may be reached at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What Is The Tea Party?

As we approach the annual individual tax deadline (which this year is April 18th), there are some noteworthy Tea Party protests around the country, including one major event in New York City's Foley Square on Friday evening, April 15th.

It gets one to thinking -- and as many people ask me: Just what is the Tea Party? 

There are some basic ground rules to remember for this question.

1.   There are many Tea Party organizations.

2.   No two Tea Party organizations are alike.

3.   Anyone can form a "tea party" and claim to be "tea party."  There is no licensing body to approve or disapprove of organizations.

4.   The principles espoused by one "tea party" may not be in common with the principles of any other "tea party."  See point 3, above.

5.   Many politicians -- particularly Republicans -- may claim to be "tea party" Republicans or have the "tea party" endorsement.  These claims should be viewed with suspicion, either because the "tea party" at issue is questionable on either the issues and facts, or on matters of integrity.  Furthermore, there are savvy politicians who have either infiltrated or formed their own "tea party" groups simply to seek legitimacy and positive press coverage.

6.   For the same reasons stated in point 5, above, "tea party" opponents can and have tried to form bogus "tea party" groups simply to attach disreputable people and positions to the movement.  The malevolent objective here (as is true in much of political "black ops") is to create an apparently valid basis upon which to impute the vilest of motives to the "tea party" movement.

7.   The "tea party" is not a political party, but a political movement.  I believe the true "Tea Party" spirit is embodied by a commitment to nonpartisan activity, and to one single bedrock issue: fiscal responsibility.  While certain tea party groups and their members may share agreement on certain other issues, those issues are separate from the central "tea party" fiscal responsibility issue. 

While members of a tea party organization are certainly free to run for public office or for "party" positions within the political party in which they have enrolled (e.g., Democrats or Republicans in New York), such candidates would be running as enrolled Democrats or enrolled Republicans and would be eligible to run for the nomination of their party.

Anyone wishing for clarification on this issue is welcome to contact me.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, political consultant and strategic analyst on legal, business and policy matters.  Mr. Dixon has previously represented former presidential and gubernatorial candidates on New York election law matters for their campaigns, including managing petition drives.  New York tea party New Jersey tea party Manhattan bronx tea party brooklyn queens tea party staten island nassau tea party long island suffolk tea party westchester putnam tea party rockland tea party patriots tea party express tea party candidate    

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Coming New York Electric Rate Hike

The New York Post lead editorial Tuesday blasts federal regulators for approving a 12 percent rate hike for electricity.

New York customers have another option.  A new company that gets its power outside the state -- and is not subject to the state tax (soon to be increased by four percent, meaning a total rate increase of 16 percent!) on electricity generated within the state -- promises cost savings.   Customers interested in finding out how to save on their electric bills can click here to find out more. 

 

Crooked Newark Lawyer Faces Jail For False Confession Conspiracy

Your lawyer may be your own worst enemy.

Is your lawyer honest?  Is your lawyer ready to sell you out for a few bucks?

New Jersey criminal defendants will be asking these questions after the guilty plea in federal court by a prominent Newark criminal defense attorney, who took a bribe to convince his own client to admit to something he didn't do (gun possession, a felony).  

Clifford Minor, a former Newark mayoral candidate and Essex County Prosecutor, admitted to taking $3,500 to have his own client take $10,000 to falsely confess to the gun possession felony.  (See Crime, Politics and Policy's earlier coverage of the Clifford Minor case here.)

Just as shocking is the puny amount of money needed to get Minor to sell out his own client.  This is the type of case, involving a "high profile" lawyer whom clients would expect to uphold the better values of the legal profession, that can make many clients explicitly question whether their lawyer is putting his interests ahead of their own interests -- and in the case of people being prosecuted and under indictment, their very freedom.  After the Minor case, many clients will be entitled to ask:  

Where can I find an honest lawyer?

At the very least, a lawyer owes his client a duty of loyalty, a duty of fidelity and a duty of candor.  The overt conflict of interest demonstrated and exploited by Minor calls for a significant sentence for its deterrence value.
Under New Jersey attorney discipline rules, this felony conviction should lead to a prompt disbarment of Minor and likely will preclude him from ever being reinstated to practice in New Jersey.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.



















Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Mob Lawyer Gets Kicked Off Case

Zealous representation by a lawyer of a criminal client may have gotten the lawyer booted from the case.

Reputed mob lawyer Joseph Corozzo, Jr., reported to be considered by federal prosecutors to be a "house counsel" for the Gambino crime family, was disqualified from a federal criminal case by a Brooklyn federal judge for apparently arranging a meeting between a reputed crime figure and another man (identified by "sources" as Sebastian Saracino) who is expected to testify against his brother, Dino Saracino, whom Corozzo represents.

Let's get this straight:  Corozzo represents a client who is facing criminal charges, and is alleged to have arranged a meeting involving a potential witness against his client.

What is wrong with this picture?  Isn't this good investigative work -- trying to get "impeachment" evidence against a witness?  Isn't this within the permissible bounds of what is called "zealous representation"?  Or is the real problem that the lawyer's work is too good -- too effective -- and getting the lawyer bounced from the case is simply a strategic shot?

This might make an interesting case on appeal.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Watch Your Step! The Dog Poop Land Mines

Sidewalk dog poop has forced local residents to walk around as if they are "trying to avoid land mines," says Union City, NJ mayor (and New Jersey State Senator) Brian Stack.

Stack proposes doubling the local fine for not picking up after your doggie from $250 to $500.
Memo to Mike Bloomberg: Giving tickets to inconsiderate dog owners would be a political winner in New York.  There are more non-dog owners than dog owners.  Instead of persecuting small business owners who drive into the Citycracking down on drivers and parkers, removing parking spots, jacking up the rates for the remaining spots and otherwise making it hostile for anyone to make a delivery in Manhattan south of 96th Street, you should have your traffic agents (formerly known as "brownies") issue summonses for dog waste.
 Continuing this blog's recent trend of concentrating on hygienic violaions and public health hazards (some of which can be cured with professional help) dog owners and walkers should be advised that their hands do not stay "clean" merely because they use a plastic bag to collect and dispose of the canine waste.  Plastic is permeable, and those hands get soiled and odoriferous. (This means that the hands of dog walkers qualify as among the dirtiest, filthiest and most toxic objects in all of New York.)  Soap and water -- preferably hot water and plenty of soap, scrubbed together for a minimum of a few hours minutes, are needed to make you safe for human contact. 

Incidentally, for the New Jersey tax-cutters out there, Stack's proposed dog poop fine increase qualifies as a hidden tax, however worthy.  This continues the trend of user fees replacing direct, overt taxes as revenue-raisers in New Jersey.  It is worth noting that Senator Stack is one of the leading Democratic allies (DINO: Democrat in name only) of Republican rock star and next president of the United States Governor Chris Christie 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why Housing Is Going To Zero: Bergen County Special

Northern New Jersey suburbs are seeing growing levels of homes left vacant, according to this report from the Bergen Record.

As Crime, Politics and Policy has chronicled for two years, there are many factors supporting a prolonged downward trend in home prices.

Vacancy levels indicate that homeowners are unable to rent these homes -- that is, at the desired rent level -- or in some cases, represent abandoned homes that often are in some stage of foreclosure.

Continued delays in the processing of foreclosures through both the banks' back offices and then the legal system, the likelihood of substantially higher interest rates, the additional likelihood of increased restrictions on mortgage financing including but not limited to the requirements for down payments of at least one-fifth of the purchase price, and a continuing economic stagnation which promises to slowly deteriorate many homeowners' financial wherewithal to resist selling -- all of these factors should contribute to a growing supply of homes, at all price levels, in northern New Jersey suburbs and, naturally, in many other areas around New York City and across the nation.

Of course, arbitrary and unfair principal reductions being granted to the least financially worthy of the homeowner-borrower class will only encourage more strategic defaults, particularly among the most well-to-do who are the most "economically rational" and most likely to be "ahead of the curve" in terms of sensing and responding to economic trends (i.e., dropping home prices).

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political consultant who analyzes the residential real estate market.  Mr. Dixon is a 1994 graduate of Yale Law School and has been practicing law for 17 years.