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.

What to Expect at Trial

What to Expect at Trial

Being a victim of a crime can be a traumatic and confusing experience. If a case is brought against your alleged perpetrator in Criminal Court, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, scared or anxious. Understanding the court process can help you to feel more comfortable participating in the justice system.  

Does every case go to trial? 

No. The majority of cases do not go to trial. In fact, most cases are resolved by a plea of guilty.  If a case does go to trial, a jury of everyday citizens will decide the verdict. A guilty verdict is never a guarantee. Additionally, the process itself may cause both emotional and mental stress on the victim. Thus, a careful analysis is done in each case to assess whether the case should be taken to trial or whether a plea agreement should be reached.

What happens if a case goes to trial?

The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) assigned to the case will have likely already discussed this case at length with you as part of their initial and ongoing investigation. It can take many months, even over a year in some cases, for the case to reach the trial phase. Once the case is ready to go to trial, the ADA will reach out to witnesses and schedule a convenient time for trial preparation. It is important to remember that when a trial starts, witnesses need to be flexible with their schedules.

What kind of support is available to victims during the hearing and trial process? 

The Brooklyn DA’s Office has a team of caring and compassionate social workers and advocates who are available to provide support throughout this process. They are known as the Victim Services Unit (VSU). They are experts in this field and will be able to provide not only guidance and emotional support, but also practical support, such as helping you file a claim to help cover costs resulting from being the victim of a crime, including but not limited to medical bills, counseling expenses, burial and funeral costs, and lost wages. 

What can I expect if I am asked to testify during a trial? 

There are three major components to testifying: Preparation, direct examination and cross examination. To prepare you for testimony, the ADA who will be trying the case will schedule an appointment for you to come into the office. Additional appointments are scheduled when necessary. During that time, the ADA will let you know what questions they anticipate asking you on the witness stand and what questions to expect from the defense attorney on cross examination. If there are any questions you don’t understand, or don’t know the answer to, that’s okay. Just let the ADA know, so that they can clarify their questions.

On the day that you’re scheduled to testify, you will be asked to wait outside the courtroom (usually in a witness room or at the DA’s Office), until the court is ready to hear your testimony. This can take some time, so come prepared to spend the day (i.e. bring reading material, a phone charger, snacks, water).

Once called to the witness stand you will be asked to take an oath to swear to tell the truth. This is referred to as “testifying under oath.” After you have been sworn in, the ADA will begin their questioning. This is called direct examination. Direct examination is an opportunity for the ADA to elicit testimony about what happened and submit any relevant evidence for the jury’s consideration.

Once the ADA has completed their direct examination, the defense attorney will begin their questioning. This is called cross examination. Cross examination is an opportunity for the defense attorney to ask you questions about what happened. After cross examination, the ADA will be permitted to ask you follow up questions if needed. This is called re-direct examination.

There are many rules of evidence that dictate what questions attorneys are permitted to ask witnesses. For example, you may want to tell the jury about something that happened before or after the incident occurred, the Judge will have to rule on whether it is relevant and/or permissible. In addition, the Judge may also ask you questions for clarification during your testimony.

What are some courtroom rules or guidelines that are important to be aware of during a trial? 

Basically, follow the Judge’s instructions. Only answer the questions you are asked. Sometimes an attorney will object to a question. You must not answer that question until, and only if, the Judge “overrules” the objection. If the judge “sustains” the objection, you are not permitted to answer it. Try to speak clearly and project your voice so that you can be heard. Take your time and remember to breath. Remember that attorneys are human too, so they may incorrectly phrase a question. If you don’t understand a question being asked, simply let the court know and the attorney will rephrase the question. Once questioning by both the ADA and defense attorney is completed, the Judge will excuse you and you may leave the courtroom. Witnesses who have not yet testified are not permitted to observe the trial. This is to prevent a witness from being tainted by another person’s testimony. You also may not be permitted to sit in the courtroom after you’ve testified if there’s a chance you may be called to testify again.

Who will be in the courtroom? 

One of the most common questions we get is “will the person who did this be there?” That is a good question, and the answer, in almost all cases, is yes. That is because each person accused of a crime, referred to as the defendant, has a Constitutional right to confront the witnesses against them. They will be seated at a table with their defense attorney. There will also be court officers to maintain safety and decorum both in the courtroom and in the courthouse. In addition, there will be a jury, seated in rows of seats next to the witness stand. There will be a court reporter transcribing everything that is said. There will be other court staff such as the Judge’s law secretary and court clerk. The ADA will be there and of course, the Judge, who will be presiding over the trial.

Finally, all courtrooms, unless ordered sealed by the Judge, are open to the public. Thus, sitting in the pews will be other people which may include family members and friends, other people who have cases on that day in that court, attorneys, law enforcement or members of the press. 

Can I have anyone in there to support me when I testify? 

Yes. You can have members of your family or friends present in the courtroom. In addition, if you choose, a counselor from VSU can accompany you to and from the DA’s Office and can be present in the courtroom when you testify.

What happens after the trial has ended? 

After the ADA has called their last witness, they will “rest” their case. The defense can then present a case and call witnesses to testify.  The defendant can also testify if he or she so chooses. Once the defense has called all their witnesses, they will also “rest.” Then both the ADA and the defense attorney make their closing arguments. This is known as summations. The Judge then charges the jury on the applicable laws.  The jury is then sent to a private room to begin deliberations. There is no set time that a jury has to deliberate; they can take as long or as little time as they need. During that time, they may ask for testimony to be read back to them or to see items that have been admitted into evidence. Once the jury reaches a verdict, they send a note to the Judge. The case is re-called in the court part and the verdict is rendered or read out loud.

There are three possible outcomes. If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the jury is considered “hung” and a mistrial is declared.  If this happens, the case can be re-tried at a later date before a new jury.

If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then all the charges are dismissed and the case is sealed.  The defendant is then free to leave.  If the defendant was being held in jail on bail, the bail will be exonerated and the defendant free to leave unless they have holds on other criminal matters. If there was an order of protection in effect, that order is no longer valid. However, VSU counselors are still available to work with the victim to help safety plan and look for civil remedies when appropriate.

If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the case will be adjourned for a sentencing date. On that date the Judge decides what the sentence should be and sentences the defendant. This will be based on strict sentencing guidelines that determine the minimum and maximum sentence a person can receive based on the type of crime they’ve been convicted of and their criminal history. In some cases, a victim may choose to give a victim impact statement. This is an opportunity for the victim to tell the Judge and the defendant the impact their criminal actions had on their lives.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, VSU and the assigned ADA are available to answer any questions and to help a crime victim access services.  Keeping victims safe and informed is of utmost importance to the Brooklyn District Attorney. We will do our best to make this process trauma informed and manageable.

Tracey Downing is a Deputy Bureau Chief in the Domestic Violence Bureau, where she is responsible for supervising the prosecution of cases in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Previously, she handled serious felony domestic violence crimes as Senior Trial Attorney in the Domestic Violence Bureau and was the designated point person for all domestic violence crimes relating to strangulation. Tracey also provides training to law enforcement, attorneys, advocates and medical practitioners on strangulation, trauma-informed interviewing, nonconsensual pornography and stalking.

Service Changes and Resources in Response to COVID-19


Last Updated: 5/19/2020

Statement from Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez

DA’S ACTION CENTER

The District Attorney’s Action Center is available to assist the people of Brooklyn with criminal justice matters such as domestic violence, child abuse, fraud, human trafficking, gun and illegal drug activity in their community and other crime-related or quality of life issues. Complaints can also be made anonymously. Trained specialists in the DA’s Action Center are available to evaluate complaints and determine the next step to resolve the matter.

DA’s Action Center Hotline: (718) 250-2340


VICTIM SERVICES & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

If you are suffering from abuse or intimate partner violence while being quarantined, require safety planning, shelter assistance, referrals or other services, help is available.

Victim Services Unit: (718) 250-3820 or VSU2@BrooklynDA.org

Brooklyn Family Justice Center: (718) 250-5113

New York City 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 621-HOPE (4673)

Safe Horizon 24/7 Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline: (212) 227-3000

***For emergencies, call 911.

How to Virtually Apply for a Civil Order of Protection in Family Court

All temporary orders of protections that have been issued by criminal and civil courts in NY have been extended until the next court date.

To file a temporary order of protection (when no arrest has been made):

  • You will subsequently appear before a judge via Skype or phone

***For inquiries, call 646-386-5299  or email NYFCinquiry@nycourts.gov


SPECIAL VICTIMS

We are still here to help sexual assault survivors and are working closely with hospitals to ensure that rape kits can be performed safely during this public health emergency.

If you are the victim of sexual assault and are seeking resources, we will continue to be here for you.

Special Victims Bureau: 718-250-3170

24-Hour NYPD Special Victims Division Hotline: 646-610-7272

Brooklyn Family Justice Center: 718-250-5113

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)


Child Abuse

Our Special Victims Bureau works in close partnership with the Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center.  The Brooklyn CAC remains open and has developed a COVID-19 Response Protocol to ensure that all child victims and their families remain our top priority.

To report suspected cases of child abuse or maltreatment, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720.  If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Special Victims Bureau: 718.250.3170

Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center: 718.330.5400


HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

The Human Trafficking Unit remains committed to holding accountable those who, through such means as psychological and physical coercion, beatings, extortion, starvation, confinement, and compelled drug use, have forced individuals (often young girls and women) into prostitution and instances of labor trafficking.

COVID-19 Effects on Human Trafficking Responses

Report Incidents of human trafficking: (718) 250-2770

National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888)-373-7888


FRAUD

In addition to white-collar crimes, scams targeting immigrants and homeowners, wage theft and healthcare schemes, our Action Center’s Hotline is open to report scams related to COVID-19.

DA’s Action Center: (718) 250-2340

NYC311: Call 311 or (212) NEW-YORK

NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Coronavirus Overcharge Complaint Form

New York State Attorney General Price Gouging Complaint Form

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to avoid coronavirus scams:

  • Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
  • Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

Brooklyn DA’s Community Notification: Coronavirus Scams to Avoid


RE-ENTRY SERVICES

The Re-entry Bureau is available to connect individuals with emergency shelters, substance abuse treatment, health insurance enrollment, clothing assistance and other services. If you have a NYSID or DIN number, please include it in your request.

Re-entry Bureau: 718-250-4374 or Reentry@BrooklynDA.org


KCDA COMMUNITY RESOURCE EMPOWERMENT CENTER

Our Community Resource Empowerment Center is still available to assist with health insurance applications, mental health services, housing and referrals to community-based organizations. In addition, our community partner Brooklyn Perinatal Services will continue to process health insurance applications over the phone. To learn more, call 718-250-3995.


HATE CRIMES

The Hate Crimes Bureau investigates and prosecutes crimes that are motivated, in whole or in substantial part, by a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of the victim, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.

Report bias-motivated crimes to our Hate Crimes Hotline: (718) 250-4949


ADDITIONAL SERVICES & RESOURCES

Mental Health 

  • During this difficult time, New Yorkers can access a range of mental health services by phone or online—regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status. Find FREE support here.
  • New York State is partnering with Headspace, a global leader in mindfulness and meditation, to offer free meditation and mindfulness content for all New Yorkers at www.headspace.com/ny.
  • New York State’s Office of Mental Health operates a COVID-19 Emotional Support Line at 1-844-863-9314. The Help Line provides free and confidential support, helping callers experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus emergency.
  • If you’re an older New Yorker feeling lonely or isolated, the Friendly Visiting program can connect you with a friendly volunteer to talk with over the phone. Call 212-Aging-Nyc (212-244-6469) and ask about the Friendly Visiting Program.

Remote Learning & Enrichment Resources

NYC Department of Education

To help students stay connected during emergencies, the DOE is lending internet-enabled iPads to support remote learning for students.

Visit https://coronavirus.schools.nyc/RemoteLearningDevices to request a device.

Additional resources via the DOE:

NYPL Remote Learning Resources for Kids & Teens


Face Masks

  • New York City is distributing FREE face coverings in parks across the city! Find out where you can get yours at http://nyc.gov/facecoverings

Housing

  • If your work schedule was reduced as a result of the coronavirus and you are unable to pay your rent, you can apply for a Cash Assistance special grant request to get benefits for emergencies.
    If you have an active Cash Assistance case, visit ACCESS HRA
  • NYCHA residents that experience a loss of income may qualify for a rent reduction. Households that have experienced a complete income loss may qualify for the Zero Income Policy.

Food 

  • Three free meals will be available daily for ALL New Yorkers in more than 400 Meal Hubs across the 5 boroughs. To find a location near you visit http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals or text
    “NYC FOOD” to 877-877.
  • One week of free groceries are available to all New Yorkers in five boroughs at the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) Nutrition Kitchens, in partnership with the Food Bank of NYC and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)

Learn more: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/neon/programs/nutrition-kitchen.page

  • Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guides
  • COPO’s Halal Food Pantry is still open with COVID-19 safety measures in place. The food pantry is held every Friday from 1:30-4:30 PM. The senior shopping hours are every Friday from 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM. Please call 929-282-2766 to register. Visit https://copo.org/ to learn more
  • The Salvation Army in Sunset Park is also offering emergency food pantry services Monday – Friday from 10 AM – 12 PM and hot grab and go meals on Tuesday and Thursday from 12 PM- 1 PM. Bring an ID to participate. To learn more, call (718) 438-1771.
  • Local churches offering food pantries.

Unemployment Assistance

  • New York State is waiving the 7-day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. Visit the
    New York State Department of Labor website for more information.

Funeral Rites and Burial Assistance

  • In order to ensure that those we’ve lost are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, the City signed an emergency rule to expand the number of low-income people who can receive burial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistance is available to everyone, regardless of immigration status, with proof of low-income status. For more information, visit the Help Now NYC website, call 929-252-7731, or email BurialServices@hra.nyc.gov for application assistance.

Resources for Immigrant Communities

  • Many city services are available to everyone no matter what your immigration status is and regardless of your ability to pay, although other eligibility requirements may apply. Learn more HERE.

Resources for People with Disabilities

  • The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has gathered information specifically to inform people with disabilities on the resources available to the population during NYC’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more HERE.

Resources for LGBTQ+ Communities 

  • On May 12, the NYC Unity Project in the NYC Mayor’s Office, in partnership with representatives from 15 city agencies and over 200 LGBTQ+ community partners across NYC, launched the NYC LGBTQ+ COVID-19 Guide. The guide includes LGBTQ+ affirming programs and services—both city and private/non-profit resources— still available during the COVID-19 pandemic include: mental health, physical health and wellness, and sexual health services; peer and community support; food assistance; legal services; housing and shelter; and financial/funding opportunities. Learn more HERE.

Resources for Seniors

  • To prevent the spread of COVID-19, senior centers are currently closed for congregate programming and meals are being provided through a centralized meal delivery system. Call your local senior center with questions about how to receive delivered meals. You can also call Aging Connect at 212-Aging-NYC
    (212-244-6469) or 311. For more information visit the DOHMH website for coronavirus updates.

To stay up-to-date with the Brooklyn DA’s Office, follow @brooklynda on Twitter and Facebook.

Staten Island Man Indicted for 1980 Cold Case Murder of Lorraine Snell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 12, 2020

 

Staten Island Man Indicted for 1980 Cold Case
Murder of Lorraine Snell

Defendant Allegedly Strangled Woman,
Her Body Was Found in Vehicle Parked in Rear of Flatbush Supermarket

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, today announced that, following a lengthy and thorough reinvestigation of the 1980 strangulation death of 19-year-old Lorraine Snell, a 63-year-old Staten Island man who was married to her cousin at the time of the crime has been indicted for the murder.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “My thoughts today are with Lorraine Snell’s mother, Pearl, who has waited for decades to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. With this indictment, the result of a thorough reinvestigation of the case and the evidence, including a crucial DNA association, we will now seek to hold the defendant accountable. I commend the NYPD and my Cold Case Unit for the meticulous work they did to put this case together.”

Police Commissioner Shea said, “These charges prove that the best investigators in the world do not ever forget victims, and they do not ever forget the justice that is owed to those victims’ families. I commend the Cold Case detectives whose dedication resulted in this arrest and our colleagues at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as James Burrus, 63, of Staten Island. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with one count of second-degree murder. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on March 25, 2020. The defendant faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on September 25, 1980, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Lorraine Snell left her home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, where she lived with her mother, grandmother and three siblings. She went to the Midwood Terrace catering hall located on Flatbush Avenue to reserve the space for a party for her boyfriend. She was allegedly seen in the company of the defendant at the Midwood Terrace, according to the investigation, and the two left together at approximately 11 p.m.

On September 26, 1980, Lorraine Snell was discovered on the back floor of a station wagon that was parked in the rear of a C-Town grocery store located at 1895 Nostrand Avenue in East Flatbush. The cause of death was strangulation. The station wagon belonged to the owner of the C-Town supermarket, where the defendant was once employed.

The defendant allegedly admitted to police that he was with Snell at the Midwood Terrace and told police he walked her part of the way home. As a result of the reinvestigation, the defendant’s DNA was allegedly positively associated to foreign DNA found under the victim’s fingernail.

The case was investigated by Detective William Simon of the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and Detective Michael Gaynor, of the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad, under the supervision of Lieutenant Dennis Klein.

Forensic Specialist Susan Horan, of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science Unit, assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Silver, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Andrea Orlando, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Blue Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Chief of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Rachel Singer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science and Cold Case Unit.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt

 

Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Accepting Applications For Five-Week Paid High School Internship Summer Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

 

Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Accepting Applications
For Five-Week Paid High School Internship Summer Program

Internships Will Offer Insight into Criminal Justice System, Public Service and the Law

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced the launch of the application process for high school juniors and seniors interested in participating in a five-week paid summer internship program. The summer internship is open to students who live and/or attend high school in Brooklyn and are interested in learning about the different careers and responsibilities within the criminal justice system. The summer internship runs from July 7 to August 7, 2020.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Our goal every year is to provide interns with an understanding of how the criminal justice system operates and how my office works to keep Brooklyn safe and strengthen community trust. We are delighted to offer an opportunity for high school students to gain hands-on experience into how criminal cases develop, from the steps taken to investigate and build a case, to how cases are presented in court. The interns are exposed to a plethora of careers available in the criminal justice system, as they consider their future professional goals.”

Selected students will be assigned to one of the many specialized units within the DA’s Office, while also getting an overview of the criminal justice system. They can expect to assist with legal research and analysis; help prosecutors to prepare for trial; work on discovery; carry out file maintenance and organization of court documents; participate in Trial Zone workshops; participate in judicial, legal and law enforcement-related field trips; and observe criminal proceedings, including trials, guilty pleas and sentencings.

During the five-week internship, participants will receive a $150 weekly stipend plus a MetroCard. Internship hours will be Monday through Thursday 9:30am-4:00pm and Friday 9:30am-Noon. Interested applicants must submit their most recent school transcript, a one-page resume, and a 300-word typed essay (12 pt. font and double-spaced) on why they are interested in interning with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and how the internship will impact their future career goals.

To apply, please visit: http://apply.brooklynda.org  beginning March 9, 2020, to upload transcript, essay and resume. All application materials must be received no later than April 30, 2020. For questions or assistance please contact (718) 250-4873, (718) 250-3191 or email hsinternships@brooklynda.org.

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Seven Brooklyn Men Indicted for Stealing over $1 Million From Owners and Couriers Who Were Delivering Funds to Private ATM Machines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

 

Seven Brooklyn Men Indicted for Stealing over $1 Million From
Owners and Couriers Who Were Delivering Funds to Private ATM Machines

Allegedly Followed Cars, Deflated Their Tires and Stole Cash When Drivers Stepped Out;
15 Larcenies in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Bronx Charged in the Indictment

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that seven men from Brooklyn have been variously charged with conspiracy and larceny in connection with a long-running scheme in which they allegedly stole more than $1 million by breaking into vehicles that were delivering funds to replenish private ATM machines throughout New York City. The defendants allegedly surveilled two Brooklyn warehouses, targeted cars that were carrying cash from those locations and used various methods – including releasing air from a tire to facilitate entry – to enter the cars and steal the money.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly ran a brazen and lucrative scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from our local businesses. An intensive investigation by the NYPD and my Office has ended their citywide crime spree and we will now seek to hold them responsible for their numerous crimes.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as Brooklyn residents William Jackson aka “Smoke,” 47, Lance Spearman aka “Lo,” 39, Jamel Cooper aka “Coop,” 44, Jeffrey Blount, 55, Sherrod Coleman aka “Rod,” 45, Johnnie Corbett, 31, and Freddie Barnes, 46. They are named in an 81-count indictment in which they are variously charged with fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy, multiple counts of second-, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny, third-degree burglary and related charges.

The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, between December 2017 and July 2019, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to steal money from ATM owners and their drivers while they were delivering funds to refill private, non-bank-affiliated ATM machines throughout New York City. In order to facilitate the scheme, the defendants allegedly conducted surveillance on at least two ATM warehouses in Brooklyn – in Vinegar Hill and East Williamsburg – where cash is packaged and distributed to refill ATMs.

It is alleged that the defendants targeted commercial vehicles that left these facilities and used multiple cars to conduct the surveillance, the lookout, the theft and the get-away. The conspirators allegedly entered the target vehicles through unlocked doors, by force or, in some occasions, by releasing air from the rear passenger tire to gain entry when the driver attended to the flat tire. In total, the defendants allegedly stole $1,003,670 in 15 incidents charged in the indictment.

Those incidents include:

  • On February 27, 2017, defendants Jackson, Spearman, Blount and Coleman allegedly followed a van to a gas station in New Hyde Park, Queens. Surveillance video shows a sedan driven by one of the defendants obscure the van, which was left unattended, while Blount opens the back door and removes a box containing $4,000. Shortly thereafter, he is seen entering another vehicle with the box and drives away.
  • On March 2, 2018, defendants Jackson, Spearman, Blount and Coleman allegedly followed an ATM owner from the East Williamsburg warehouse after he withdrew $480,000. When he reached his Queens home and exited his vehicle to open the garage, one of the conspirators entered his car and drove away. The defendants then all drove to Nassau County, LI, and moved bags of cash into their own minivan.
  • On July 30, 2018, defendants Jackson, Cooper and Blount allegedly followed an ATM courier to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, released air from his car’s rear tire and stole $14,000.
  • On September 5, 2018, defendants Jackson, Cooper, Corbett and Blount followed an ATM courier to a location in Bushwick, Brooklyn where the three other defendants were waiting on foot. Spearman and Blount then allegedly entered the vehicle and removed an ATM cassette containing about $73,000 before the group fled in several vehicles.
  • On October 15, 2018, defendants Spearman and Blount allegedly followed an ATM courier in Brooklyn and released air from his vehicle’s rear tire. When he stopped at a gas station to refill the air, they stole $112,000 from his vehicle.
  • On May 14, 2019, defendants Spearman, Cooper and Blount allegedly released air from the vehicle of an ATM courier. When he stopped at a mechanic’s garage in Jamaica, Queens, Blount entered his vehicle and removed $50,000.
  • On May 21, 2019, defendants Spearman and Blount allegedly followed an ATM courier to a gas station in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. When the driver left his car unattended, briefly, Blount allegedly shattered the rear passenger window and stole $50,000.

The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detective Javier Munoz of the Organized Theft Squad under the supervision of Deputy Inspector Christopher Flanagan of the Financial Crimes Task Force and Organized Theft Squad, and Deputy Inspector Timothy McCoade, Chief of the Grand Larceny Division. He was assisted by Sergeant Joseph Tarsio, Sergeant Beslity and Detectives Michael McFadden, Rigel Zeledon, Brett Huzar and Edrian Irizarry.

Additional assistance in the investigation was provided by Supervising Analyst Brooke Middleton and Intelligence Analyst Alexandra Aber, of the District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit, and Senior Intelligence Analyst Danielle Jackson and Paralegal Kimberly Bifulco, of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Kyriacou of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, under the supervision of Jennifer Cilia, Deputy Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Alfred Deingeniis, Bureau Chief, and Raymond Tierney, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Crime Strategies.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.