Defendant blacked out after drinking numerous alcoholic beverages and awoke in the victim’s home later after the victim called police and accused him of raping her. He had no memory of the incident. As a result, ultimately pled guilty to two counts of first-degree
aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to an aggregate term of fourteen years, subject to the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. Defendant’s trial counsel did not file a direct appeal.

Thereafter, defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Defendant contended in his petition that his trial counsel failed to file an appeal despite his request to do so. According to defendant, he had meritorious grounds for his appeal. Specifically, defendant claimed that the trial court improperly failed to consider whether defendant’s extreme intoxication was a mitigating factor duringsentencing.
of the sentence. The trial court denied the motion.

The Appellate Division reversed, and permitted Defendant to file a notice of appeal to directly appeal his conviction and sentence.

 

Read the decision HERE:

a3965-16

After two eyewitnesses gave videorecorded statements identifying Defendant-Appellant as the shooter, he was charged with first degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1(a)(1) and 2C:11-3(a)(1), (count one); second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1) (count two); third-degree aggravated assault, 2C:12-
1(b)(2) (count three); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a)(1) (count four); unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b)(1) (count five); and
fourth-degree aggravated assault, 2C:12-1(b)(4) (count six). Defendant was detained pretrial with a scheduled release date of January 6, 2018.

Defendant demanded discovery, but the State failed to provide the videorecorded statements, the victim’s medical records, or transcripts of the statements until the day before trial. Defendant moved to preclude the testimony of the two witnesses, and the court granted the request. The State filed an interlocutory appeal.

The Appellate Division reversed and remanded with instructions to permit the testimony, finding the preclusion of the evidence was an abuse of discretion. The Court held that “the sanction of preclusion is a drastic
remedy and should be applied only after other alternatives are fully explored[.]” Because the trial court did not explore other alternatives, reversal was required.

Read the decision HERE:

a2263-17 (1)

Defendant was charged and convicted of committing sexual offenses against his girlfriend’s 8-year old granddaughter. The prosecutor repeatedly injected her own credibility into the trial while cross-examining the complainant’s grandmother, who was the sole witness for the defense other than the defendant, about pretrial out-of-court statements the grandmother made to the prosecutor concerning the complainant’s outcry. The Second Department held that given the importance of the grandmother’s testimony to the defense, this
conduct deprived the defendant of his right to a fair trial. The convictionw was reversed and a new trial ordered.

http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/Handdowns/2018/Decisions/D55909.pdf

Defendant was pulled over by officers for vaarious traffic offenses. During the stop, officers observed a bag of marijuana near Defendant’s feet. He was removed from the car, handcuffed, frisked, and police opened his wallet to look for pedigree information. The officer found 3 credit cards in the wallet which he determined were forged. His motion to suppress was denied.

The Second Department reversed, finding that the search of the wallet was unlawful, since it was akin to searching a small bag. “[E]ven a bag within the immediate control or ‘grabbable area’ of a suspect at the time of his [or her] arrest may not be subjected to a warrantless search incident to the arrest, unless the circumstances leading to the arrest support a reasonable belief that the suspect may gain possession of a weapon or be able to destroy evidence located in the bag.”

http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/Handdowns/2018/Decisions/D55885.pdf

Defendant went to the decedent’s home with the intention of killing him because another individual threatened to kill Defendant and his mother if he did not do so. Defendant found the victim outside of his home and pointed a gun at him, and a struggle over the gun ensued, causing the gun to go off and the victim to die. Defendant told police he did not intend to pull the trigger. At trial, Defendant requested Manslaughter in the Second Degree be charged as a lesser-included offense, but the trial court denied the request.

The Second Department reversed, finding that Manslaughter in the Secodn Degree was a lesser included, and that there was a reasonable view of the evidence that the defendant did not intentionally pull the trigger at the time
the gun was fired.

http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/Handdowns/2018/Decisions/D56038.pdf

Orlando, Florida (July 2018) — Halscott Megaro, P.A. has announced that attorney Patrick Megaro has filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court to challenge Corvain Cooper’s sentence of life without parole under the Federal “Three Strikes” law. The petition was filed by Cooper’s attorney in the Supreme Court on July 6, 2018, asking the Court to stop the injustice of mandatory life sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Explains Corvain’s attorney who filed the petition, Patrick Megaro: “In the legal realm, you have to present the issue as a legal query. In this case, the official query presented to the U.S. Supreme Court is ‘Whether a Petitioner Who Was Sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole, Which was Enhanced By Two Later Invalidated State Convictions, May Apply for Resentencing …’ The reality of the situation is that drug law reform, especially marijuana reform, is at the forefront in many state legislature’s agendas. Marijuana is now legalized, decriminalized, or approved for medicinal use in one form or another in the majority of States. Due Process and fundamental fairness are at the heart of this case. Boiled down to its essence, the question for this Court is whether a sentence of life without parole is justified for a person who now has no predicate felony convictions.”

Corvain Cooper was charged in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring transactions.  A special information was also filed against Cooper, alleging two prior felony convictions for possession of drugs (one for marijuana, one for codeine cough syrup) in the California state courts. The filing triggered a mandatory life sentence without parole.  The reason for the unusually harsh sentence is the so-called “Three Strikes” law.  These laws require a person guilty of committing a drug felony and two other previous drug felony convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison.  The “Three Strikes” law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or drug felonies, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence.

Mr. Cooper tried appealing his conviction and sentence, stating that the sentence of life for non-violent crimes was against his Eighth Amendment (Amendment VIII) of the United States Constitution which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments.  However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the case, and the Supreme Court declined to even hear the case.

The State of California enacted Proposition 47 in 2014, which re-categorized several non-violent offenses as misdemeanors. Prior to enacting Proposition 47, possession of marijuana was considered a felony. This also allowed people who had prior felony convictions under the old statute to vacate them.

Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was enacted on November 9, 2016, by the State of California which legalized the use of recreational marijuana. This Act permitted certain people who had been convicted of marijuana felony offenses to apply to vacate those convictions and reclassify them as misdemeanors.

Adds attorney Patrick Megaro, “I have been representing Mr. Cooper and I have said from day one, that I am in this fight to represent Corvain Cooper no matter how long it takes.  Today, is yet another example of my strong commitment.”  Mr. Megaro went on to add, “We need to quit playing political games and allow the sentence to fit the crime, as both of these Propositions (47 and 64) favor individuals, such as Corvain Cooper.”

Patrick Megaro has also simultaneously filed a petition for commutation of sentence with President Donald Trump on Corvain Cooper’s behalf, and has started a petition on Change.org in support of the petition that already has over 3,000 supporters.

The “Petition for Certiorari” filed on behalf of Corvain Cooper with the U.S. Supreme Court should be available soon on the Court’s website at https://www.supremecourt.gov under “Docket Search.”

You can read the petition here:

Petition for Writ of Certiorari FINAL PDFA

A Wikipedia article on Three-Strikes Law is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-strikes_law

Background

The underlying court cases are United States v. Cooper, 624 Fed.Appx. 819 (4th Cir. 2015), and United States v. Cooper, 714 Fed.Appx. 259 (4th Cir. 2018). According to a press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “from in or about 2004 through January 2013, Cooper was involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked marijuana from California to the Charlotte area. Court records show that Cooper was charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute at least one thousand kilograms of marijuana as well as money laundering conspiracy and structuring financial transactions through banking institutions to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cooper, along with two co-defendants, Evelyn LaChapelle and Natalia Wade, were convicted of all charges on October 18, 2013, following a three-day trial.” He was sentenced to life in prison on June 18, 2014. See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/pr/california-drug-trafficker-sentenced-life-prison-drug-conspiracy-and-related-charges

For more information, contact:

Patrick Michael Megaro, Esq.

Halscott Megaro, P.A.

1300 North Semoran Boulevard, Suite 195

Orlando, FL 32807 USA

Phone: (407) 255-2164

pmegaro@halscottmegaro.com

 

http://www.halscottmegaro.com

Please check out our latest Change.org petition, which , and sign and support this worthy cause:

https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-release-corvain-cooper-from-life-imprisonment-without-parole-for-a-non-violent-drug-crime

 

People v Smarthttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/107975.pdf

Defendant convicted after a bench trial for endangering the welfare of a child and criminal mischief in the fourth degree. The Court deemed trial counsel ineffective for failing to make a motion to dismiss on statutory speedy trial grounds where the Prosecution declared readiness on nineteen (19) days after the accusatory instruments were filed and then “expressly stated” at an appearance “on February 9, 2015 that they were not ready for trial and sought an adjournment for the very purpose of trial preparation. The People did not thereafter declare their readiness until June 15, 2015, beyond the 90-day period”. Judgment reversed and Misdemeanor informations dismissed.

People v Searshttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/108219-109144.pdf

Defendant appealed her conviction on two (2) counts of criminal contempt in the second degree and revocation of probation premised upon an illegal search of her apartment. On the evening of her arrest, the police received a telephone call from the defendant’s downstairs neighbor reporting that she heard noises coming from the defendant’s apartment and believed the defendant was incarcerated. Although the police officer contacted the local jail “and learned that defendant had been released and was no longer incarcerated”, he entered the defendant’s apartment without a warrant based upon “a faint chirping sound that sounded like a low battery alert from a smoke detector and a low, muffled sound that he could not identify.” He knocked on the door “several times and “[w]hen there was no response, he forced the door open and entered the apartment with his pistol drawn. The apartment was dark, with the only light provided by his flashlight.” When the officer entered he ordered anyone present to come out of the bathroom to which the defendant complied. She claimed that she was merely watching television and no one else was present in the apartment.  Although “[s]he did not ask for any assistance nor provide consent for a search of her apartment” the officer proceeded to search the bedroom and found the protected party present under a pile of clothes.

The Court rejected the Prosecution’s argument that the emergency exception to the warrant requirement was present as the police officer’s “testimony established that there was not an objectively reasonable basis for him to believe that there was an ongoing emergency in defendant’s apartment that required immediate assistance to protect life or property.“ The Court further believed that the officer’s testimony further established that the police may have been motivated to search defendant’s apartment by the possibility of locating [the other individual found] there and arresting him” as the police knew there was a warrant for his arrest and had reason to believe that he may be present there.

The Court further held that even if the officer’s initial was lawful, the subsequent search of the apartment was not. “A protective sweep is justified only when the police have articulable facts upon which to believe that there is a person present who may pose a danger to those on the scene;” (internal quotes omitted) and the facts known to the officer “did not reasonably support the belief that there was any danger to himself or to defendant”. As to the Probation violation, the Court reaffirmed its holding that “[e]vidence that is unlawfully seized cannot be used as a basis for revoking a probationary sentence”. Judgment on the conviction reversed and the Violation of Probation petition dismissed.

People v Yerianhttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/108531.pdf

Defendant convicted after trial of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree after a “one-pot” meth bottle was located in a garage she was in. Although the evidence established that the defendant had purchased pseudoephedrine a “couple of days” prior to her arrest and her “knowledge of the presence of illegal substances does not, without more, meet the People’s burden to demonstrate that a defendant had the ability and intent to exercise dominion or control over the contraband.” Moreover, there was testimony that “the substance in the one-pot was not necessarily recognizable as methamphetamine to a prior user of the drug, as it was not yet in usable form”. In reversing judgment, the Court concluded that “[i]n the absence of evidence that defendant had experience in the manufacture of methamphetamine or was otherwise familiar with its appearance in a one-pot or the process of producing it, neither the presence of the one-pot near the couch nor that of the batteries, drain opener and other substances and tools that were found in the garage – all of which were legal to own and were mixed with innocuous household items all over the garage – was sufficient to give rise to an inference that defendant had dominion or control over the methamphetamine that proved to be present in the one-pot.”

People v Wilsonhttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/108688.pdf

Prior to entering an Alford plea to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, the defendant represented himself pro se at a trail which ended in a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury. After deliberating “for a little over two hours” the jury sent out a note stating that “there appears not to be any way to a unanimous decision”. “Without consulting the parties for input on the appropriate response, County Court summoned the jury into the courtroom, noted that it had not been deliberating for very long, provided an Allen charge and asked the jury to resume deliberations and advise the court if it was unable to arrive at a verdict after a reasonable period of time. Fifty-one minutes after the jury had resumed deliberations, County Court recalled the jury back into the courtroom, on its own accord, and inquired whether the jury was still deadlocked. The foreperson confirmed that it was and, without seeking input from the People of the defendant, County Court declared a mistrial.” In dismissing the indictment, the Court held that County Court erred in its recall of the jury by: (1) doing so without first apprising the People and defendant of its intent to do so and seeking their comment; (2) doing so only 51 minutes after it had instructed the jury to resume deliberations; (3) not exploring the possibility of a dinner break or an overnight recess upon learning of the continuing deadlock; and (4) not seeking input from the parties before declaring a mistrial upon learning of the continuing deadlock. Because a mistrial was not manifestly necessary under the collective circumstances, County Court abused its discretion in declaring a mistrial, jeopardy attached and the People were precluded from reprosecuting defendant on the indictment.”

People v Lentinihttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/108891.pdf

Defendant convicted after trial on leaving the scene of an incidence without reporting an personal injury. The crux of the appeal centered on Defendant’s argument that County Court abused its discretion in failing to declare a mistrial “after repeated references to her desire to speak to an attorney on the night of the accident.”  In short, the Defendant’s theory at trial was that she failed to contact authorities after the accident because she was “in shock and incapable of doing so” and any mention of her seeking counsel to consult with on that night “would undermine the foundation of this defense by prejudically suggesting that she was conscious of guilt, rational enough to consider the question of counsel and, perhaps, capable of reporting the accident or taking steps to avoid doing so”.  Defendant moved during jury selection to “preclude any testimony regarding [defendant’s] determination or consideration to consult with counsel” on the night of the accident. The People gave assurances that they did not intend to elicit that testimony and County Court directed them not to do so.” However, the Prosecution’s second witness, a deputy sheriff who responded to the scene, testified that the defendant chose not to be interviewed “…without a lawyer present”. County Court denied the Defendant’s motion for mistrial since the offending testimony was no “deliberately elicited” but did strike his testimony and provided an “immediate and appropriate curative instruction”. The defendant’s boyfriend later testified that the defendant “wanted his attorney’s number” when they spoke just after the accident. The judge again denied the defendant’s motion for a mistrial. “The People expressed their surprise at the testimony, but acknowledged that they had not instructed Walton to avoid the topic. County Court found the People’s conduct ‘extremely disturbing’ and addressed it by striking [the boyfriend’s] testimony in its entirety, precluding any further testimony from him and giving a curative instruction to the jury.” The Court held that County Court abused its discretion in not granting a mistrial due to “these repeated violations of the pretrial ruling, in a case where defendant’s capacity to act and her actions after the accident were in serious dispute, caused harm that could not be reliably dissipated”. Judgment reversed.

People v Croleyhttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/109062.pdf

Defendant convicted after trial of murder in the second degree. The Court agreed with the Defendant that the verdict was not supported by the weight of the evidence and reversed judgement. The evidence at trial “was largely circumstantial”. Neither a murder weapon was located nor were there any eyewitnesses to the event. The Prosecution’s theory was that another individual “deliberately sought out the victim and intentionally killed him and that defendant assisted [the co-defendant] by tracking the victim’s whereabouts, transporting [the co-defendant] to the scene and acting as the getaway driver.” Even in reviewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the People, the Court found that the Defendant “intentionally aided [the co-defendant] in locating and isolating the victim, [but] the evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knew – before the shooting occurred – that [the co-defendant] planned to kill the victim, because defendant could have had other equally plausible reasons for wanting access to the victim, such as robbery or assault. Similarly, the fact that [the co-defendant] did not enter [a tavern] does not establish that defendant knew that [the co-defendant] was armed with a gun; [the co-defendant] could have chosen not to enter for a variety of other reasons, such as being armed with a knife, possessing drugs or wanting to avoid being seen by the victim.”

People v Parkhttp://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2018/109421.pdf

The Prosecution appealed County Court’s dismissal of ten (10) counts of a fifteen (15) count indictment relating to charges of falsifying business records in the first degree, offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and prohibited employment of a minor. The case was initiated due to the death of a fourteen (14) year old child while operating heavy machinery at a family farm. In the course of the investigation “it was discovered that the farm, among other things, failed to report the wages of certain employees in quarterly unemployment insurance tax returns (hereinafter NYS-45 forms), resulting in an underpayment of employee insurance contributions” which lead to the indictment. County Court found that as to counts one (1) through (8) that there was legally insufficient evidence to establish that the Defendant had “knowledge of the content of the NYS-45 forms. The court also dismissed the two counts of prohibited employment of a minor (counts 14 and 15) on the ground that the section of the Labor Law referenced therein did not constitute a chargeable offense.” In reversing County Court, the Court found that on the first eight counts “the grand jury could have rationally inferred that defendant played a role in providing payroll information to Farm Credit East or, at the very least, knew that the information contained within the relevant forms was not accurate. (internal citations omitted) Such evidence likewise supports the logical inference that defendant acted with the intent to defraud the state of unemployment insurance contributions.” As to counts fourteen and fifteen the Court held that “[w]hile County Court correctly noted that Labor Law § 145 does not state a substantive offense, each count then goes on to specify the particular section of article 4 of the Labor Law which defendant is alleged to have violated, as well as the conduct forming the basis of the charges. This was more than sufficient to provide defendant with fair notice of the charges against him.”

Defendant and his codefendant Fred D. Mosley were charged in an indictment with thirty-four offenses arising out of eight residential burglaries and a robbery and kidnapping occurring in Atlantic County between November 20, 2012, and February 1, 2013. All of the offenses were charged in a single indictment.

Defendant moved to sever a number of counts from thirty burglary-related charges. The State opposed, and sought to join unindicted burglary and theft charges against Defendant from another county, and to permit the State to introduce evidence concerning those out-of-county offenses under Rule 404(b).

The court denied the motion, relying upon Grand Jury testimony, and held that the evidence was admissible to prove identity and similar modus operandi, and therefore, severance was not required. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal.

The Appellate Division reversed, finding that although some of the burglaries were committed in a similar manner, they were not so unusual and distinctive, and they were dissimilar in certain respects. As a result, the State did not meet the “high burden that . . . [is] required when other-crimes evidence
is admitted to prove identity through the use of signature crime analysis.”

Because the court did not hold a N.J.R.E. 104 hearing, the evidence showing Defendant committed the robbery and kidnapping was limited to the case detective’s Grand Jury testimony about the co-defendant’s statements to the police. Although the testimony of an uncorroborated accomplice may constitute clear and convincing evidence of a defendant’s commission of another crime, hearsay does not support a finding the State proved a defendant’s commission of another crime by clear and convincing evidence.

 

Read the decision here:

State v. Howard Dunns a0481-15

 

https://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/attorneys/assets/opinions/appellate/unpublished/a0481-15.pdf?cacheID=XHAGzeY

Defendant was a substitute teacher at a local high school, and permitted his 18-year old cousin (who was a student at the school) and his friends to hang out at his apartment, play games, drink beer, and smoke marijuana. One student hung out at the apartment, took a blue pill, blacked out, and woke up naked in Defendant’s bed. The student reported the incident to police, who interrogated Defendant. He admitted to having marijuana in his apartment, and that two students slept over his apartment. Vineland Police then executed a search warrant and found alprazolam (Xanax), two bags of marijuana, two digital scales, and $1595 in cash.

Defendant was charged in an indictment with committing second degree attempted aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact fourth-degree possession with intent to distribute
marijuana, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(12) (count three), third-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, alprazolam, and third-degree reckless endangering. The endangering charge was dismissed right before trial, and a jury acquitted Defendant of all counts except the fourth degree marijuana count.

At trial, the State was permitted to introduce evidence under Rule 404(b) that on a date not charged in the indictment, Defendant gave marijuana to other individuals to roll up and smoke, and that others used marijuana at Defendant’s apartment on other occasions. The trial court did not conduct a Cofield analysis concerning its
admissibility, and essentially determined the evidence constituted intrinsic evidence that was admissible without regard to the
requirements of N.J.R.E. 404(b).

The Appellate Division held this was error. The indictment charged Defendant with possession with intent to distribute on a specific date in connection with a specific event. The other instances of marijuana use did not not describe “uncharged acts performed
contemporaneously” with or that “facilitate[ed] the commission of[,] the” December 26, 2010 offense charged in the indictment.

As a result, the conviction was reversed and a new trial ordered.

Read the decision here:

State v. Remarno Chambers a114-15

 

https://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/attorneys/assets/opinions/appellate/unpublished/a1144-15.pdf?cacheID=35FQnsh

During trial, the court received a note that the jury had reached a partial verdict and still had work to do on deciding another count. The People argued that the presence of media in the courtroom justified the court’s failure to provide counselw ith meaningful notice of the note.

The Court of Appeals held that the failure to follow the procedures of CPL 310.30 and People v. O’Rama mandate reversal, regardless of the reason for the failure to provide counsel with notice of a jury note.

http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2018/2018_04777.htm

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