Some may have noticed my meltdown the other day (on Twitter). If you care, here’s what happened…
I had met with a client in the holding cell area and I was begging him to let me move his case forward to trial. The facts in the complaint described a violent rape (the complainant in the case being my client’s ex). But my investigation and conversations with the DA revealed that the accuser was probably no victim to what was alleged. The DA was quite vocal about how weak his case was and that he was pretty certain the ex was not raped…
(without looking up from his cell phone) “did you know they’ve been fighting over custody of their children 5 years? And she just applied for a greencard too” the DA said.
Yup. I sure did… in fact, the day after my client was arrested, she had their family court case advanced and she was able to use his arrest as leverage in their ongoing custody battle. On that basis, the DA made a reduced offer of attempted rape (as a misdemeanor) and release from jail. I nearly cackled when he made that offer. “but you said yourself that you’re pretty sure she wasn’t raped!” He looked at me flabbergasted. “duh, that’s why I’m offering the misdemeanor and no jail.” I bark back “but it’s STILL a sex offense that requires SORA registration for the next 20 years!!”
DA tuned me out and went back to playing with his phone. I was certain my client was going to cackle with me when he heard that offer… I was absolutely certain he would fight the case. This was going to be a great trial. I could see it now… Thinking to myself how much fun it will be to try this be case, I went back to the holding cells. But first, I had to tell my client the DA’s new plea offer, (expecting it to be promptly rejected of course).
But he accepted it.
I begged. I shouted. I reasoned. I argued. “I just want to go home… to my country” he said. And that broke me down. All he wanted was to go home, and the DA was the only one who could get him what he wanted that instant. I felt useless. I should’ve taken that moment to go somewhere and cry. But I didn’t think I actually *would* cry yesterday. I never cried in open court and this case wasn’t so bad, so I just went forward with my client’s wishes. I warned him of collateral consequences – deportation, SORA registration, DNA swabs and the like. This wasn’t the first time a client who I believed had a strong defense was taking a plea to get out. The bulk of my work thesse past 4 years has involved – in some way or another – facilitating pleas to get people out of jail. Nothing new here…
But of course there was something new here… I got on the record and my client started taking this horrid plea. Of course. Big old bad SEX OFFENSE. Although a misdemeanor, this was my first time actually taking a plea to a registerable offense under SORA. 20 years of registration AND deportation AND a criminal conviction for life. I cried while mouthing out the standard legal jargon required for the plea. I felt like trash.
so for the first time ever, I cried in court.
(by no means is this post written for the purpose of discussing false accusations of rape. I don’t come across false accusations of sex offenses often, so please don’t think you have an ally if your life’s work is dedicated to discrediting rape-victims & survivors)
This story is heartbreaking… I can’t believe that he would accept this plea. However, considering that he wants to go home, I can understand his wish to take whatever deal he could get just to get out. However, the consequences far outweigh the benefits of immediate release.
I swear, I avoid criminal court like the plague because I know I’d be sick to my stomach some days, particularly if I came across a case like this.
This is so sad! What about his children? Does he ever want to see them again? Why is going home to his country so important to him? And what was the reaction of his ex? Sigh.
Thank you so much for sharing this story, Aisha. I felt helpless just reading this, so I can’t imagine how you would feel living it. And as sorry as I am that you had to go through that, it heartens me to know that there are PDs out there who truly care for their clients.
so sorry u hurt through this. work can b confusing that is for sure. i’m impressed w your writing and connecting to others – #selfcare. blessings.
It’s really sad to see what people have to endure once they’re jailed. Especially in NYC, some people will do ANYTHING just to get the hell out of there.
Wow…I understand how distraught this makes you. It is terribly difficult to fight for justice & have the client not understand the value of it. It’s such a disparaging dilemma because the idea of “freedom” masks itself in so many ways, that it is (sometimes) far more appealing than the chance at an entirely different freedom…justice. All the best in your next cases.
A major issue being lost in the cry for “justice” here is the harsh possibility that as an accused sex offender he is probably facing violent threats or attempts in jail. And if he is indeed innocent and not used to criminals, what he may be experiencing would be overwhelming…ergo his willingness to accept the plea and put distance between himself and his plight.