Friday, 8. November 2013
Below is a piece by Avery Appelman, founder of Appelman Law Firm. Each Friday, we will be posting a blog crafted by one of our attorneys so they can share their stories, tips, and insights into the legal world. Today, Avery talks about his methods for fighting an assault charge, citing two dismissals he recently obtained. For more information about Avery, check out his biography page or give him at call at (952) 224-2277.
I have represented people charged with various levels of assaults for my entire 20-year career. Assaults are a crime of violence, a personal crime. Assaults are enhanced based upon the nature of the injury inflicted on the victim. For instance, a broken bone is more serious than a bruise. I have had a recent run of successful assault cases that have ended with the state dismissing the charges against my clients. I want to discuss the approach to those cases.
The Cases in Question
The first case involved two young 20-somethings. My client was a student and a server at a local restaurant. The alleged victim was a new mother, who traveled to Minnesota from another state and showed up on my client’s doorstep at midnight one night. Unbeknownst to my client, the alleged victim brought her 12-day-old infant daughter with her. My client shared a boarding house with 5 or 6 other students; there was no extra room for a new mother, so the alleged victim and her newborn slept on the sofa in a common room for two nights. After her second night, my client told the alleged victim that she had to leave, because his roommates no longer wanted her and her infant to stay in the house. The alleged victim agreed to leave. My client left his home and did not return until late that night. In the meantime, the alleged victim appears at Hennepin County Medical Center with an injured infant and claims that my client assaulted her and the baby.
The police took the alleged victim at her word and immediately sought out and arrested my client for assault.
The second case involves an older distinguished business owner and the 20-something mother of his 2-year-old daughter. Needless to say, the dynamics are such that my client is a successful entrepreneur who runs a very brisk business. He and the alleged victim are not married. My client makes a variety of support payments to the alleged victim: he bought her a car, he pays for her rent, he gives her money for clothes, food, medical bills, cell phone, the list goes on and on.
On the Saturday morning that my client was scheduled to have his daughter, the transfer did not go as planned. The alleged victim was upset and demanded that my client leave without his daughter. She obstructed his path and refused to get out of his personal space. My client used force to push her out of his way as he moved down the apartment building hallway to exit the building. The alleged victim escalated her behavior, screaming and ranting at my client to “give me my daughter” while my client purposefully walked to his truck and secured his daughter into her car seat. My client reached the driver’s side door, got into the driver’s seat, and as he attempted to close the door, the alleged victim jammed her hand inside the truck, where it got caught as my client tried to close his door. The victim cried for help and one of the building managers, who witnessed the scene in the parking lot, called the police. The police ultimately arrested my client for assault.
There is a process to handling an assault case, and these cases illustrate how the process, when followed, leads to favorable outcomes, even when there is significant evidence of an assault.
The Next Step
In both cases I met with the clients, talked to them, and listened for every detail. I asked questions about their relationship and obtained a thorough background on when they met and how the relationship currently stands. In the first case, my client and the alleged victim had met seven months prior. The alleged victim moved to another state and the pair had only sporadically maintained contact. Then, almost out of the blue, she showed up in Minnesota and asked if she could stay at his place.
In the second case, my client met the alleged victim through his work and they began a romance that ultimately led to a daughter being born. They never married, and the relationship soured. The alleged victim is perpetually jealous of any woman my client might date. What’s more, I learned that the alleged victim routinely uses their daughter as a vehicle to try to control my client; denying him access to his daughter from time to time.
I like to speak with the alleged victims, so they know that my client takes this matter exceptionally serious. I place calls to the victim’s known phone numbers. If the alleged victim answers, I always identify my client and myself and I ask if they will speak with me about the case. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. The mere fact that the call has been made applies subtle pressure on the alleged victims. They become aware that a professional is assisting their significant other while they are left adrift, isolated, and alone. They may call the prosecutor, who is notorious for not returning calls, and if they do, he or she tells them they are not their attorney. Added pressure leads to a willingness to resolve cases.
Developing a Plan
I take the information I learn in the initial meeting and I sit down with our in-house investigator to outline a strategy, which includes drafting a list of witnesses that we need to contact. In the first case, the victim had made a claim as to date and time the assault occurred. My client told me he was not there at the date and time of the alleged assault, and we sought to prove that by talking with witnesses who would testify to that. What’s more, we arranged for the witnesses to sign statements attesting to our client’s whereabouts at the time the alleged victim claimed the assault occurred.
In the second case, we were fortunate to have two independent witnesses who observed the escalating scene in the parking lot. Needless to say, we never rely on the police reports for detailed information; it takes a thorough investigation to obtain the details that will help. We spoke with these witnesses, and while their factual rendition of events did not alter, their perception of the alleged victim’s behavior was described as “out of control” “crazy” and “insane.”
I review the statements we obtain with my investigator, and have him follow up with the witnesses if I need additional details. Armed with signed statements, I make contact with the prosecutors at the pre-trial conferences. These hearings are designed to provide back and forth communication in hopes of resolving cases prior to trial.
In each case, I showed the prosecutors some but not all of the statements. I carefully selected the statements I wanted to use. First, it demonstrates to the prosecution that we take these matters seriously, and it shows we know more about this case then they do. In Minnesota, we have victim’s rights laws associated with assault cases that require victim input prior to resolving cases. At the pre-trial conferences, both prosecutors said they would review the provided information with the victim.
After The Pre-Trial Conference
In case one, I began to email the prosecutor with my theory of the case, that the alleged victim had lied, that she has no credibility, and that she fabricated the assault claim to conceal her involvement in the injury of her infant child (recall she appeared at HCMC with an injured infant, knowing that serious questions will be asked of her). I applied pressure as to why, when confronted with a reasonable alibi, the prosecutor refused to look at this case objectively. Ultimately after three emails, the prosecutor dismissed the case.
In case two, after the pre-trial conference I spoke with the prosecutor and we agreed to a resolution that is called a “continuance for dismissal.” This is an agreement with the prosecution wherein if my client satisfies certain conditions – in this case, pay a few hundred dollars in prosecution costs – the case would be dismissed.
The most important step in any case is listening to your clients. When I hear their side of the story, I can begin to formulate ideas on what evidence exists that will help prove their innocence. These are just a few of the successful cases. All of our clients receive the same compassionate and professional care. We have helped thousands of clients; allow our experience to help you through your case.