In a recent New York sexual abuse case, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that he had the right to a jury trial under the U.S. Constitution. After being charged with and several sex crimes, the defendant asked for a jury trial so that he could get a fair hearing before potentially being found guilty, and thus being found deportable back to his country of origin. Because the court of appeals disagreed with the defendant’s main argument, it ultimately denied the appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, an undercover police officer was standing on a train platform in June 2015 when he observed the defendant standing nearby. The defendant seemed to be masturbating, although the officer was not entirely certain what was happening at the time. A few minutes later, the defendant pushed himself onto a nearby woman, then ran away to board a train. Immediately, the defendant pushed himself onto a second woman.
The defendant was charged with two counts of forcible touching, two counts of sexual abuse, and one count of public lewdness. Because the defendant was not a U.S. citizen, he faced the threat of potential deportation if convicted of the crimes. The crimes were Class B misdemeanors, which means that the defendant did not have the right to a jury trial under state law – he could only secure a jury trial if the misdemeanors had been Class A.
The defendant asked for a jury trial, since the crimes could lead to his deportation and he wanted the right to be heard by a jury. The defendant’s request for a jury trial was denied, and he promptly appealed.
On appeal, the defendant argued that he would be deportable if convicted on any charged Class B misdemeanors. The law that the defendant cited in his appeal states that if a person is convicted of “two or more crimes involving moral turpitude,” that person could be deported back to their country of origin. According to federal immigration law, a crime of moral turpitude is one that is committed with evil intentions and that is contrary to the general rules of morality in society. The defendant’s argument in his appeal was that because the crimes for which he was charged met this definition, he should have been awarded a jury trial, which is supposedly available to defendants when deportation is at issue.
The court of appeals disagreed, stating that it was not entirely clear whether or not the defendant’s crimes fell within this definition and qualified as deportable crimes. It was the defendant’s responsibility, said the court, to conclusively establish that his crimes were crimes of moral turpitude. Because he failed to do this, and because it was unclear whether or not the crimes would cause the defendant to be deportable, the court ruled that the defendant actually had no right to a jury trial.
Given this disagreement, the defendant’s appeal was denied, and his guilty convictions remained.
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