Latest from ZMO Law Blog

Criminal cases in federal court are driven by mandatory minimum sentences. Drugs, guns, child pornography and sex trafficking (among others) all carry mandatory minimum sentences which used to mean that, if the government has the evidence and won’t let you plead to a lesser crime, you do the time. That just might have changed today with the advent of United States v. Zullo, an important decision handed down today by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Zullo concerns “compassionate release,” an old doctrine that has been brought back to life by, ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic that has been surging through…
A year or so working as a reporter at 220 E. 42nd Street around 1993 completely changed my life. It was part of nearly four years I spent on the staff at the Daily News, once one of the largest-circulation publications in the world but already in the midst of a long, slow decline. I was honored to have met most of the “oddballs and brilliant people” that my sometime client, mentor, and extraordinary professor of journalism Tom Robbins describes in his wistful remembrance in the New Yorker. I was humbled every day to be part of a paper…
The Law of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma and Law Offices of Daniel McGuinness filed an Amended Complaint in federal court today detailing harrowing allegations of severe, pervasive, routine, and tolerated sexual abuse by prison guards against six women. According to the allegations in the complaint, women have been raped by guards all over the state — from Lakeview Shock Incarceration Center near Lake Erie, to Taconic Correctional Facility just north of New York City. Prison rape by male officers is so common, so poorly investigated, and so tolerated, that a culture of sexual abuse exists in the state prisons. The new complaint…
We are pleased to announce that the governor of New York has granted a sentence commutation to our client, Teara Fatico, reducing her sentence in connection with a 2011 burglary by two years. She will be eligible for release on parole in January 2021. Ms. Fatico had cooperated with the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute her then-boyfriend, who was the mastermind of the crime. Even though she testified in the case, her sentence was still originally set at 13 years following a guilty plea for attempted burglary in the first degree. The victim of the robbery died during…
Amid calls to abolish the police — which would likely make most of us safer in most situations — the New York State legislature has enacted a welcome reform: on Friday, the measure to repeal Civil Rights Law 50-a was signed into law. That means cowardly cops can no longer hide behind this phony privacy law to keep people from finding out about discipline against them. This officer appears to be advising his fellow officers to turn off their body-worn cameras in the aftermath of shooting Miguel Richards. Miguel was still alive at the time. The repeal of Civil Rights…
For Immediate Release New York, NY June 3, 2020 – Miguel Richards was shot and killed by New York City police wearing body cameras on September 6, 2017. But the NYPD edited the video footage to mislead the public about what really happened, according to lawyers for the Richards family. Now Richards’s parents are calling on the state legislature to repeal the law that let the police deceive the public for almost two years after their son was senselessly shot down during a “wellness check.” Measures to reform the law are pending. Gov. Cuomo said on Saturday that he would…
Every decent human being in America who saw the expression on Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s face as he caused the death of George Floyd recoiled in horror. The Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office-at least so far-has not concluded that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, just that he acted with a “depraved mind” and without regard to human life. He faces up to twenty-five years in prison. Read the criminal complaint here. The fate of the other officers who stood by for nearly nine minutes, keeping a concerned crowd at bay, is still uncertain. Continue Reading
We are delighted to announce that Benjamin Notterman has joined the Law Office of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma as an associate attorney. Mr. Notterman comes to us from the New York University Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, where he was a research fellow investigating executive clemency under the direction of Prof. Rachel Barkow. As an associate at our firm, he will focus on wrongful convictions, civil rights, victims’ rights, and sex crimes. Mr.  Notterman is an experienced civil litigator. He graduated from NYU School of Law in 2014 and went to work at Jones Day, a large international law firm.…
New York City is home to it’s own archipelago of three federal jails, three borough jails, eight functioning jails on Rikers Island, two locked prison wards, and lockup facilities in each of seven state and federal criminal courthouses in the five boroughs. The best estimate is that there are upwards of 10,000 men and women incarcerated in the City of New York on any given day. Other than the court facilities, these jails are on lockdown: no visits, limited movement within the facilities. Inmates are cut off from their families, their lawyers, social workers, work and educational programs, and everything…
I often say that our clients come to us on the worst day of their lives, the day they are arrested, or learned that a loved one was arrested and may be separated from them for a very long time. As the world faces a health crisis whose proportions remain unknown, the distress of being a criminal defendant is harder than it ever was. Jails and prisons are even more dangerous than usual and even a short period of confinement could be deadly. In the face of this, we are here to help. But it is not business as usual.…
Not that anyone would want to ride the subways right now, but the New York City Bar Association has come out in strong opposition to a proposal that would permit the MTA to ban people from trains and buses in New York based on little more than accusations relating to sex offenses. The ban is complicated and unwieldy — it would probably require some form of highly intrusive facial recognition technology to enforce; its provisions are discussed in detail in this new report from the City Bar. Principal attorney Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma chaired the Working Group that put together the report.…
Have a look at David Leonhardt’s recent NY Times newsletter, which posits that executive clemency is a critical component of our current criminal justice system. The newsletter came in the wake of scathing criticism of Pres. Trump’s use of clemency to help his political friends. Approximately two million Americans are  behind bars, giving the United States one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. High rates of imprisonment are due to extraordinarily long sentences, even for nonviolent crimes; arbitrary systems of parole; and wrongful convictions. Clemency can help. Leonhardt cites as a prime example of the positive power…
The Law Office of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma  is pleased to announce that  Teresa McNamara has joined our office as the new Director of Marketing. Teresa, an accomplished actor, will work with us while still pursuing her acting career. Her experience in social media and writing, combined with a creative mindset, will help increase our presence while ensuring all clients receive the attention they deserve.  With a background in customer service, Teresa is also positioned to assist us in ensuring that the office runs smoothly to meet client needs. Teresa holds a B.A in Production Studies from Clemson University, and an M.F.A…
Thirteen years ago Nina Morrison, a staff attorney at the Innocence Project – the organization, founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, that spawned the movement to use DNA to free the innocent in the United States – came across the case of Felipe Rodriguez. Felipe was a Brooklyn construction worker and a new father in 1988, when police started investigating him for a murder in Queens the year before. He was arrested the following year and convicted after a trial in 1990. But the case against Felipe had more holes than Swiss cheese. Continue Reading
“Motion Granted.” With those words, the Hon. Joseph Zayas of Queens Supreme Court vacated the murder conviction and dismissed the indictment against Felipe Rodriguez. It was a triumphant end to a fight that has consumed our office since 2015 and the Innocence Project since 2007. In all those years, Mr. Rodriguez was granted executive clemency by Gov. Andrew Cuomo based on his stellar prison record, got married, worked steadily at a hotel, helped raise two beautiful children, and was reunited with his adult son, who was just three when Felipe was wrongly convicted in 1990. Continue Reading