Case dismissed in an elevator
Regardless of what happens over the course of my career, I’ll never forget this case. Really great client hires me for a violation of a restraining order (contempt) charge and a harassment charge out of Newark (Essex County). The case was first in Newark Municipal Court. Somehow, the person who wrote up the complaint, did not realize that Newark Municipal Court does not have jurisdiction to hear a contempt charge. Thus, on the first day of court, I got the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
That victory was short lived as the victim refiled the case properly and the case was scheduled to be heard in Essex County Superior Court. The prosecutor called me and offered me probation if my guy pleas to the contempt charge. Of course, that’s not much of a deal at all but most attorneys would just take that crap. Otherwise, he would not have offered it in the first place.
I explained that the only deal I could accept is a dismissal of the contempt in exchange to a plea to the harassment charge. The purpose of that is to avoid the mandatory 30 days in jail that comes with a second contempt charge. In other words, if my guy plea out to the contempt charge now, I could keep him out of jail. But if picks up another contempt charge at any other time, the best plea offer will be 30 days in jail; and he could face up to 180.
The prosecutor explained that they never give such a deal and that he would have to get special permission to do this which was highly unlikely to be granted. He called me back a few days later and told me that I had the deal.
I should probably back up for a second and tell you about the first real battle in this case. The allegations in this case involve my guy calling his ex-girlfriend on her cell phone and her former employer. So naturally, I want the victim’s cell phone records. Most prosecutors tell me that I am crazy and that they don’t order the phone records in these cases. Again, this goes to show you the high quality representation that is out there, huh? So, I force him to get the records and a few days later I have the deal I just told you about even thought I never actually got the records.
So, we go to court to put the deal through. The judge actually kicks out the deal as she says that what my guy did was actually not harassment which is just amazing. While I agree with her, most judges are not that, uh (gotta be careful here) um, specific?. Anyway, she sets it down for trial a few weeks later which was yesterday.
In between the two dates, I filed a motion in limine which is a fancy way of saying that I am asking the court to exclude evidence. In this case, I was seeking to have all evidence and testimony about my guy’s calling of her employer kept out of the trial since the court had already held that it did not violate any laws.
As I got to court, I met the prosecutor in the elevator. She recognized me from her days as a law clerk in another county. I had a case where I battled the presiding criminal judge for two months who told me that I could not file a motion to suppress on behalf of my client who wasn’t even arrested. Of course you can but I was apparently the only attorney in that county to ever do so. Thus, she knew my reputation and that I was not going to sell out my guy.
In the short elevator ride up to the ninth floor she advised me that she read my motion and I told her that with that testimony excluded her case would collapse becuase even though I still did not have the victim’s cell phone records, I had my client’s records and I knew that the victim’s records would show that my guy is innocent. Thus, she advised that the case would be dismissed so that my motion was moot. Another prosecutor that was with her was shocked that I accomplished all that in a short elevator ride. In fact, she came out of court about a half hour later and again remarked that she was shocked that I got a case dismissed in an elevator.
I kept it a secret from my guy and the look on his face when the prosecutor told the judge that the case was dismissed was just priceless. I thanked the prosecutor for her professionalism because it is unfortunately rare these days. Just another day at the office for me.