The Endangering the Welfare of a Child case discussed in today’s New York Post article, demonstrates how experienced criminal defense lawyers need to handle complex criminal cases. The case brought against a school bus matron back in 2006 alleges that the bus matron failed to step in and protect a then 8 year old autistic child that was banging his head against the school bus window and that the bus matron taunted the child. The law firm of Tilem & Campbell, representing the bus matron was able to get the case dismissed soon after the charges were filed in 2006 because the lawyers were able to show to a criminal court judge that the evidence in the case was obtained by illegal eavesdropping. The Appellate Term of the New York Supreme Court eventually overturned the criminal court judge and had the charges were reinstated.
After the case was sent back to the criminal court, Tilem & Campbell, undeterred, again began to vigorously fight the charges. This time in 2009 a new motion was made to dismiss based upon violation of the bus matron’s statutory speedy trial rights. After litigation on that issue a different criminal court judge than had dismissed it the first time, dismissed the case a second time. The Kings County District Attorney’s Office made a motion to reargue the dismissal in the criminal court and after that motion was denied the District Attorney filed its second appeal in the case. Last week, the Appellate Term of the Supreme Court again reversed the dismissal and reinstated the charges.
The case, now more than five years old, will continue to wind its way through the Kings County Criminal Court and no doubt additional motions will be made. The case may even be dismissed a third time. In addition, the lawyers at Tilem & Campbell are planning an appeal to New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals in an attempt to get dismissal reinstated by a higher court.
The case demonstrates that a good defense lawyer must be diligent, thorough and tireless in their defense of criminal cases. In order to be successful, a good criminal defense attorney must look at all of the facts, all of the legal issues and fight the case on multiple fronts. If the attorney cannot win on one issue perhaps he/she can win on another issue. It takes time to fight cases this way. In the case of this bus matron the case has gone on for over 5 years and is not over yet. Its frustrating. Senior Partner Peter Tilem was quoted in several papers today as saying that “We can’t believe it.” Due to the shear frustration of fighting a case for so long as it slowly winds through the criminal justice system.
Attorneys need to remember that the client’s are entitled to the type of defense where every issue or defense is examined. Clients need to understand that this type of defense takes time and can be expensive.
There is no way of knowing how this case will ultimately be resolved but at the end of the day its important to feel like you fought the good fight.