New York Appellate Court Denies Appeal Based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Child Sexual Abuse Case

A recent New York appellate opinion discussed a case in which a defendant asserted that his rights were compromised because he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant was charged with sexual conduct involving a child in the second and first degrees. The victim, a relative of the defendant’s extended family, informed a school counselor that she had been molested by the defendant between the ages of five and 10 years old on several occasions. The defendant acknowledged that the defense asserted at trial was that this disclosure was a recent fabrication. He also argued, however, that the defense was not assumed until final summations and that the defense was inexplicable in light of statements that the victim provided regarding the abuse to three of her friends roughly four years before the criminal proceeding.

According to the trial court record, however, this defense was asserted very early in the trial proceedings, including at the voir dire or jury selection phase, and it proceeded throughout the trial. The record also showed that defense counsel provided a foundation for this defense in his opening statement, indicating that the victim waited seven years to alert the authorities and that the victim’s decision to wait to disclose the event to authorities four years after she informed her friends indicated that she was not credible.

The jury ultimately convicted the defendant of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, and the Appellate Division upheld the conviction. The defendant was then granted leave to appeal.

On review, the appellate court recited the rule for proving that a conviction should be overturned based on ineffective assistance of counsel. First, the defendant must show that his or her counsel committed errors that were so egregious that he or she did not serve as counsel within the contemplation of the federal Constitution. Second, the defendant must show that the counsel’s deficiencies resulted in actual prejudice to the client. New York law also states that ineffective assistance of counsel occurs when the law, the evidence, and the circumstances in a specific case, viewed in totality and in the context of the type of representation, reveal that the attorney failed to provide meaningful representation.

Based on this standard, and reviewing the lower court record and the defense counsel’s use of the theme that the victim recently fabricated the allegations and that she was a troubled individual throughout the proceedings, the appellate court rejected the defendant’s appeal and affirmed the Appellate Division’s order.

If you are involved in a criminal investigation or criminal proceeding, it is imperative that you take every step possible to protect your rights and to ensure that you receive the diligent and personalized legal representation that you deserve. At Tilem & Associates, our experienced team of legal professionals is ready to assist you with a wide variety of criminal matters, including gun crimes, assault and battery, sexual assault, or drug crimes. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 877-377-8666 or contact us online to get started.

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