Rebecca J. Kavanagh Profile picture
Jun 16, 2018 24 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
NIGHT COURT: About to stand on case where my 19 year old client & his girlfriend were jumped by 4 people all older than them. My client has bruises & a stab wound. But he’s charged w/ assault. The reason: the people who jumped him called the cops first. It really is that simple.
This is so common. Even when then there is so much evidence to the contrary. For instance, the people who jumped my client came to his building. They had no visible injuries. The police didn’t even ask my client what happened. It honestly feels crazy at times.
Police often make decisions as to who to arrest in assault cases based on very random factors rather than careful consideration of the evidence. For instance, when one person has an order of protection, they will arrest the other.
Sometimes, especially in misdemeanor assault cases, where injuries can be rather minor, they will to see who has the most "obvious" injuries and arrest the other person. Sometimes for whatever reason they just speak to one party and not the other.
There are some cases (for instance the one tonight) where they have the facts so obviously wrong that I am confident the case will get dismissed, but mostly this doesn't happen. Misdemeanor prosecutors carry a caseload of 200 - 300 cases.
They often don't do any real investigation after arraignment. They don't follow up to see if the complainant is cooperative. This has devastating consequences for our clients. If they are not citizens coming back & forth to court, they are vulnerable to arrest by #ICE.
NEXT CASE is so problematic in terms of recent proclamations by @NYCMayor and @BrooklynDA about not prosecuting marijuana cases. An undercover cop approaches my client, who is smoking a J. He asks her where he can get weed. She gives him some. She is charged with Marijuana Sale.
Prosecutor says u/c cop gave her $20. My client says she just gave it to him. Under the statute, either qualifies as a sale. This is a common ruse used by cops but usually to buy more hardcore drugs like heroin, & to entrap addicts not big time or even small time drug dealers.
My client is neither. She was just smoking a marijuana cigarette. This u/c cop was part of a 10 person "buy & bust" operation deliberately targeting people like my client smoking marijuana. For what? My client's case was dismissed & immediately sealed.
Even the prosecutor looked a bit sheepish about the whole thing. When I asked him (after I got him to agree to dismiss & immediately seal the case) how this fitted in w/ @BrooklynDA's old/new/in-between marijuana policy, he said "well we are still prosecuting the sellers."
So, about to head back to court from dinner break. Had a slice, which was smart move, because before dinner had been working on 3 diet red bulls & 2 packs Swedish Fish.
LAST CASE of the night is the most tragic. Client's wife & 2 small children have been in courtroom since yesterday morning when he was arrested. One child is a 6 month old baby sound asleep in a stroller, another 4 years old, fast asleep resting on her mother's chest.
So they are the most well-behaved children ever. Normally children understandably get grumpy & noisy in court, & families w/ children get thrown out to wait in corridors. They are also in the prettiest dresses w/ immaculately braided hair w/ little beads.
Until recently my client & his family rented a room in a house. One of the tenants who rented another room in the same house got into an argument w/ my client a few months ago & my client was charged w/ misdemeanor assault. He was released & an order of protection was issued.
My client's family stayed living in the room. He crashed on a family member's sofa while they all looked for somewhere else to live. The complaint tenant is described by other tenants as a menace, they are scared of him, he isn't paying rent & the landlord is trying to evict him.
It is very very common for cases that should be in landlord tenant court or housing disputes to end up in criminal court. A criminal court order of protection is a very useful tool to get someone out of an apartment or to stay put in an apartment or to avoid paying rent.
My client's wife & children completely depend on him financially. They have very limited means, even with my client working. They were a 4 person family living in a room in a house where they had a shared kitchen, bathroom & living space.
So, tonight, my client comes through arraignments charged with criminal contempt a non-violent felony, based on allegations that he violated the order on 3 separate occasions by being at the residence where his wife & children live. The prosecutor asks for $20,000 bail.
There is a ray of hope, b/c my client is eligible for what we call supervised release, an alternative to cash bail. If released under supervision, a client must report every week & comply with certain other conditions. But the judge says that would not be appropriate here.
She sets $7,000 cash or bond. My client cannot make it. It is devastating. There is a reporter in the audience. Her eyes well up because it is so heartbreaking: the mother & her children have been sitting there all night. We thought the judge would release him under supervision.
My client's case is adjourned to Thursday. The prosecutor has until then to present the matter to the grand jury & vote an indictment or my client will be released. The complainant tenant would have to testify.
Alternatively, the prosecutor could reduce the case to a misdemeanor, & the complainant tenant could sign what we call a supporting deposition (like an affidavit swearing to the facts in the complaint). If that happened, my client would be held in but bail would be reduced.
If bail were reduced to below $2,500 we could apply to @BKBailFund to pay. But all of these things are so uncertain at this point. They depend of course largely on whether the complainant tenant cooperates. My client's family's fate is dependent on his whim.
All of this is terrible, but it is also normal. There are many cases on which bail is set at arraignments, & they are all devastating. There will also inevitably be 1 or 2 like this that just make your heart sink. B/c this is what justice looks like for poor people in America.

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More from @DrRJKavanagh

Oct 6, 2018
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN: Poised to work Saturday night arraignments, 5PM to 1AM, representing poor New Yorkers arrested in the last 24 hours. I’m the felony conflicts attorney and have the pleasure of working with my @BklynDefender colleagues.
I say “arrested in the last 24 hours” and people have a legal right to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest, but many people wait much longer.
The reason there are excessive delays tonight is b/c there's an issue w/ fingerprinting in central booking. When I arrive the courtroom is empty, but for some @CourtWatchNYC volunteers. I say hi & tell them about the problem, b/c I don't want them to be waiting for nothing.
Read 27 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
Before he was accused of sexual assault, I looked at #BrettKavanaugh & I saw the face of an alcoholic. My father was a severe alcoholic. Today - the sporadic moments of belligerence then outpouring of emotion, the victim mentality, denial, all of it - it couldn't be clearer.
My father died from complications resulting from alcoholism. For a long time, I had been angry w/ him. It was only when he died that I appreciated this was an addiction over which he had no control, so I do not mean this as judgment of people who struggle w/ alcohol addiction.
People w/ alcohol addiction often have two faces - one they present to the world, one they present to their families. So it is no surprise that Judge #Kavanaugh would have so many of his colleagues & others attest to his character & fitness to serve on the Supreme Court.
Read 7 tweets
Sep 2, 2018
CRIMINAL COURT, DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN. I'm working arraignments first night of Labor Day weekend. Also day one of @NYCMayor's super hyped new marijuana policy, where most people are not supposed to get arrested for possession of small amounts of weed. Let's see how that plays out.
Seems like a lot of people don't realize you may not get arrested, but you will get a summons, & the summons will be for the exact same charge. You still have to appear in court, just summons court. This doesn't address racial disparity at all, at most it changes the venue.
So far no weed cases have come through, but that's because hardly any cases have come through. That's because a lot of police are on vacation through Sunday & so there have been very few arrests. Arrest numbers are always directly proportional to the number of cops on the street.
Read 13 tweets
Mar 18, 2018
1. In arraignments in Brooklyn court last night, first client I arraign is teenager charged w/ stealing small amount of candy incl. apple green gummies & milky way bar w/ his friend from 7 Eleven next door to their school. Attaching the (redacted) criminal complaint here.
2. He is 17 but charged as an adult. The police have the option to give him a desk appearance ticket (DAT) to allow him to come back to court rather than put him through the system. They don't. He is held for almost two days in a cell with adults some charged w/ serious crimes.
3. The prosecutor had the option to decline to prosecute the case. They don't. The complainant of course didn't have to bring the charges. The 7 Eleven is located next to a school. Children steal from the store all the time.
Read 13 tweets

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