New York Criminal Defense firm, Tilem & Campbell scored a complete dismissal on all charges in a hard fought Endangering the Welfare of a Child case in Brooklyn, earlier today. The case involved a former school bus matron who was charged with standing by and taunting a young autistic boy as he banged his head on a school bus window. The case received national attention and spurned two changes in New York State law. The case was dismissed because the Kings County District Attorney's Office violated the bus matron's New York State speedy trial rights.
The case against the bus matron was brought in Brooklyn Criminal Court in April 2006 and was based upon an incident on a school bus that was alleged to have occurred in September 2005. The case was struck a fatal blow in July of 2006 when Kings County Criminal Court Judge Ruth Smith ruled that an audiotape that was secretly placed in the boys backpack and which recorded the events on the bus amounted to an illegal wiretap under New York law and suppressed the use of the recording. After the Kings County District Attorney's Office said they could not prove the case without the recording the District Attorney's Office appealed Judge Smith's ruling.
A panel of the Appellate Term of Supreme Court overturned Judge Smith's ruling in January 2008 and Tilem & Campbell appealed to the New York Court of Appeals, New York State's highest court. After the Court of Appeals refused to hear the case, the case was returned to Brooklyn Criminal Court and after some additional motion practice was set down for trial.
The District Attorney's Office filed a Statement of Readiness for trial in May of 2008 but then inexplicably served the defendant's copy of the Statement of Readiness on a former address that Tilem & Campbell had moved from more than a year before. According to a statement filed by the District Attorney's Office, once the Statement of Readiness for trial came back undeliverable, the District Attorney's took no further action to serve it on Tilem & Campbell. Notably, the District Attorney's Office admitted in its court filings that it had been notified of the change of address and had sent at least one letter to the new address.
In addition, the Court scheduled trial dates in November 2008, February 2009, April 2009 and May 2008. On each date, the Kings County District Attorney's Office told the Court they were not ready for trial and requested another date.
Kings County Criminal Court Judge Gilbert Hong ruled earlier today that the Statement of Readiness for Trial was ineffective since it was never served on the defense attorneys, Peter Tilem and John Campbell. The net effect of that ruling, combined with the fact that the District Attorney was not ready for trial on four dates spanning a seven month period was that the District Attorney's office was ready for trial for the first time in July 2009, approximately 3 and 1/2 years after the bus matron's initial appearance and arraignment of these charges.
New York Law, as well as the New York State and United States Constitution require that individuals accused of a crime be given a speedy trial and a public trial. The New York State Law requires that when a person is accused of the class "A" misdemeanor of Endangering the Welfare of a Child the District Attorney's Office must be ready for trial within 90 days. New York State Law excludes many periods of time from those 90 days including motion practice and appeals.
Judge Hong ruled that the District Attorney's Office used more than 200 days before they were ready for trial in this case and dismissed all charges against the bus matron.