March 28, 2024

Law firm files amicus brief in rare en banc review by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

Law firm principal Joel B. Rudin is vice chair of the amicus committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”).  Today, Mr. Rudin filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief, on behalf of the NACDL and numerous other defense lawyer organizations, to be considered by the full, or en banc, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  The issue is an important one:  whether a criminal defense attorney is required to warn a client of the possibility he may be stripped of his citizenship and deported if he pleads guilty to an offense for which such denaturalization is authorized.  Despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that a defense lawyer must warn their client of the “immigration consequences” of a criminal conviction such as deportation, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit, by 2-1 vote, held that this rule did not include the possibility of denaturalization even though it usually leads to deportation.  The amicus brief was authored by Matthew A. Wasserman, a former associate with the firm now employed by the Innocence Project, and edited by Mr. Rudin.  The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the full complement of 13 judges comprising the Second Circuit on May 22, 2024.  The amicus brief can be accessed here.

March 07, 2024

Court orders hearing in unusual murder case handled by our law firm

A State Supreme Court Justice today ordered a hearing into allegations that our firm made in a post-judgment or “440” motion to vacate our client’s murder conviction because of an inappropriate, secret meeting between another judge’s law clerk and “local” counsel for our client, Gregory Thayer, in Ulster County, New York.  During the meeting, our court papers allege, the law clerk revealed to the lawyer that Mr. Thayer would be better off not waiving a jury trial and having his case decided just by the judge, essentially because the judge was not receptive to Mr. Thayer’s temporary insanity defense.  However, the law clerk swore the local counsel to secrecy and counsel did not inform Mr. Thayer or his principal attorney, Robert C. Gottlieb, of the conversation until after the trial, at which the judge convicted Mr. Thayer of manslaughter.  The hearing will be held May 7, 2024, in Kingston, NY.  News articles about the court’s ruling appeared in the New York Law Journal, here, and Law360, here.

October 16, 2023

Law360 covers our motion alleging judicial misconduct in murder case

Law360 reports on our firm’s motion seeking a new trial for our client Gregory Thayer. Mr. Thayer was convicted of manslaughter earlier this year at a bench trial in Ulster County, New York. After the conviction, his principal defense attorney, Robert Gottlieb, discovered that an improper, secret communication had occurred between the judge’s law clerk and Mr. Thayer’s local counsel, but local counsel had not told Mr. Gottlieb about it because the law clerk had improperly sworn him to secrecy. The communication revealed that the judge was biased against Mr. Thayer’s defense. The judge and law clerk also did not reveal to Mr. Thayer that the law clerk, for seven months while Mr. Thayer’s high-profile case was underway, was employed in a high position by the Ulster County D.A.’s Office, the same office that was prosecuting Mr. Thayer. Mr. Gottlieb retained our firm to file a motion to overturn the conviction, which will be heard after Mr. Thayer is sentenced later this month. Our motion papers, which can be read here, were drafted by firm senior associate Jacob Loup. 

July 10, 2023

Joel Rudin extensively quoted in New York Times article on wrongful convictions

Firm principal Joel Rudin is quoted in a lengthy New York Times article reporting on how New York has become “a national hotbed of exoneration” of wrongfully convicted men. Commenting on the remarkable City Council primary victory by Yusef Salaam, one of the members of the wrongfully convicted Central Park Five, Mr. Rudin notes that “there’s a change in the public consciousness” about the criminal justice system and that rules have been adopted to reduce unreliable confessions and identifications. Read the whole article here.

June 16, 2023

Wrongfully convicted firm client’s murder indictment dismissed

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dena Douglas has dismissed a decades-old murder charge against our client Donnell Perkins. As we noted in a previous post, in January, Justice Douglas overturned Donnell’s 22-year-old murder conviction after the firm’s seven-year battle for justice for Donnell culminated in a 440 hearing at which we established that the single eyewitness in the case had misled the jury about his eyesight and that his identification of Donnell could not be trusted. Justice Douglas dismissed the charges after the D.A.’s Office declined to reprosecute Donnell and his codefendant, Kareem Mayo.

June 08, 2023

Materials from Fraser v. City of New York available on firm website

We are making available on our website the litigation materials from Fraser v. City of New York et al., No. 20-cv-04926 (S.D.N.Y.)—including previously confidential NYPD training materials, the trial transcript, and other exhibits and depositions. As discussed in previous postings here, and in coverage by Law360 (gated) and ProPublica, in Fraser, our firm won a $1,925,000 jury verdict against the City of New York and three NYPD detectives who caused the wrongful conviction of firm client Jawaun Fraser. The constitutional violations found by the jury included evidence fabrication, suppression of exculpatory and impeaching material in violation of Brady v. Maryland, and the City’s unlawful disclosure policy and failure to train officers. The materials from the Fraser case can be viewed and downloaded here.

June 08, 2023

Former firm client and employee Jabbar Collins named to police oversight board

The New York Daily News reports that Mayor Eric Adams has appointed Jabbar Collins, a former client and employee of our law firm, to sit on the New York City Commission to Combat Police Corruption, which oversees the NYPD. 

A noted “jailhouse lawyer,” Jabbar was in prison for murder when he uncovered evidence that proved that prosecutors had illegally coerced witnesses into testifying falsely against him. Joel took on Jabbar as a client and obtained a rare grant of federal habeas corpus relief. Jabbar was released after 16 years in prison. 

Joel then represented Jabbar in a lawsuit that exposed systemic misconduct at the Brooklyn D.A.’s Office. The lawsuit helped lead to the 2013 defeat of Brooklyn D.A. Charles J. Hynes after 24 years in office, the election of reform candidate Ken Thompson, and the formation of Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit. After getting Hynes to confess misconduct and Jabbar’s innocence during a videotaped deposition, Joel recovered $13 million for Jabbar in state and federal lawsuits. 

After his exoneration, Jabbar worked at our firm as a paralegal before going on to found his own consulting agency. In that role he has helped several other wrongfully convicted men gain their freedom and win damages for their ordeals. The Daily News article quotes Joel calling Jabbar’s selection to the commission a “brilliant appointment.” Read it here.

April 27, 2023

ProPublica reports on firm’s trial victory and how it exemplifies the City’s costly approach to litigating civil rights cases

Using firm client Jawaun Fraser’s recent trial victory as a case study, ProPublica published an article today exposing how the New York City Law Department’s aggressive approach to litigating civil rights cases prevents police reform, costs New York taxpayers millions of dollars, and delays justice for victims of police misconduct. Mr. Fraser recovered $1.5 million in compensatory damages for his 1 ½ years in state prison and $425,000 in punitive damages. A federal jury in Manhattan found, after a seven-day trial before Senior District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, that undercover NYPD narcotics detectives had fabricated the case and also withheld evidence from the defense that was favorable to Mr. Fraser: their own history of being sued for misconduct.  The jury further found that their misconduct resulted from the unlawful policies and training practices of the NYPD, exposing NYC to liability in other cases. You can view the article here

April 24, 2023

Law360 covers firm’s trial win in Fraser v. City, et al. and verdict’s wider consequences

Law360 reported in depth on the firm’s win at trial against the City of New York and three NYPD detectives who caused the wrongful conviction of firm client Jawaun Fraser.  The article describes the violations of Mr. Fraser’s constitutional rights found by the jury, including evidence fabrication, Brady violations, and the City’s unlawful disclosure policy and failure to train officers.  It also examines the ramifications of the jury’s verdict against the City and individual officers for the hundreds of criminal cases involving the undercover cop found to have framed Mr. Fraser and for NYPD and prosecutor offices’ disclosure practices.  The article can be found here.

March 21, 2023

Firm wins $2 million jury verdict against NYPD detectives and the City of New York for violating client’s fair trial rights

A federal jury today awarded a total of nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that three long-time New York City detectives sent firm client Jawaun Fraser, then 18, to prison on a fabricated robbery case and that the NYPD had unlawful policies for the disclosure of evidence favorable to the defense, known as “Brady material.” The verdict, finding the defendants liable on every claim, and awarding punitive damages against the officers, was a remarkable rebuke of the NYPD for unconstitutional conduct at the highest levels and of the detectives who framed Mr. Fraser, as well as a complete vindication for Mr. Fraser, who spent two years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Jawaun Fraser, now 27 years old, was convicted in 2015 in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan for robbery and spent two years in prison.  In 2019, his conviction was overturned because the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had failed to disclose at least 11 police misconduct lawsuits that had been brought against the arresting officer, Matthew Regina, and could have been used to discredit him.

On behalf of Mr. Fraser, the firm then sued Regina, an undercover narcotics officer known as “UC 84,” and a third detective, Jason Del Toro, for fabricating the robbery case against Mr. Fraser. You can read the complaint here. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, further alleged that UC 84 and Del Toro had failed to disclose numerous lawsuits in which they had been accused of misconduct and that the NYPD was also responsible for having a policy that unlawfully discouraged police officers from disclosing information relevant to their credibility, known as impeachment information, including their lawsuit histories.

During a seven-day trial, Joel Rudin, with co-counsel Michael Bloch and Ben White of Bloch & White, introduced extraordinary evidence showing that the NYPD had a comprehensive database of lawsuits against every officer at the NYPD but consciously decided not to use it to make sure that lawsuit information was disclosed as required by law.  Mr. Fraser’s lawyers also introduced training materials showing that the NYPD had adopted a written policy that exempted the lawsuit information from being disclosed even though a decision of the highest court in New York State had explicitly required it.  The firm and co-counsel also proved that New York City was liable under a Supreme Court decision known as “Monell” because it was “deliberately indifferent” to providing adequate training even though it was aware that NYPD officers had a history of succumbing to a “temptation to commit perjury,” as NYPD training materials put it.  Mr. Rudin’s summation, which summarizes the evidence, may be read here.

The jury verdict will have significant ramifications for the NYPD. The judgment of an unlawful policy will open up New York City to similar lawsuits by others who have been harmed by the same disclosure violations.  And the finding that a still-active undercover officer, who has been responsible for thousands of arrests, fabricated evidence may jeopardize many convictions and dozens of pending cases.

Firm lawyer David Rudin and Cristina Alvarez of Bloch & White assisted in litigating the case through trial. Former firm lawyers Matt Wasserman (now at Bronx Defenders) and Haran Tae uncovered key evidence over the course of discovery and defeated dispositive motions to get the case to trial.