Breaking Bad — A disgruntled litigant faces six months in jail for rocking the judge’s world, literally.
Dennis Sabol, 47, appeared in Bayonne Municipal Court on March 17, 2011, charged with assault during a fight at Brady’s Dock. He filed complaints against others involved in the fracas.
After Presiding Judge Frank Carpenter III acquitted everyone, Sabol — who already had been disruptive — yelled "fuck you" and stormed out, according to Carpenter and Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Angela Gingerelli.
Carpenter fined him $100 for contempt and ordered him to spend five days in jail, though he suspended the latter.
That April 13, Carpenter was alerted that two rocks had been thrown through the front window of his law office, Bayonne’s Carpenter & Carpenter. Messages on the rocks read "die soon please," "better in hell than in the courtroom" and "wrong side of the law."
The messages also called Carpenter "evel," which proved to be Sabol’s undoing. Clued in by Carpenter’s bailiff, police questioned Sabol, matched a writing sample to the messages— he twice used the same "evel" misspelling — and found a marker in his vehicle, Gingerellii says.
Sabol was originally indicted for making terroristic threats, among other counts, but those charges were dropped, leaving only nonindictable counts of criminal mischief and harassment. On Tuesday, Essex County Superior Court Judge Peter Ryan convicted Sabol of one of each. Sentencing is scheduled for April 8.
Carpenter says he’s been threatened at least twice before but still loves the job. Sabol’s lawyer, Fairview solo Scott Finckenauer, did not return a call.
Bets Are Off — A federal judge ruled Thursday that New Jersey was out of line in enacting a law last year allowing sports betting at casinos and horse-racing tracks.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp ruled on summary judgment that the law conflicts with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which bars such wagers in all but four states. He also rejected the state’s claims that the federal law violates the commerce clause, the Tenth Amendment and the due process clause.
Donald Remy, chief legal officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which brought the suit along with professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey leagues, says the "spread of legalized sports wagering is a threat to the integrity of athletic competition and student-athlete well-being."
Gov. Chris Christie‘s spokesman Michael Drewniak says, "the federal ban is inequitable, violates New Jersey’s rights as a state and is unconstitutional." He says the administration will take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The state’s outside counsel was former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington.
The National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball were represented by William O’Shaughnessy of McCarter & English in Newark and Anthony Dreyer and Jeffrey Mishkin of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York.
Clarkson Fisher, Jr.
Confrontation Flaws — You can’t get rid of a lawyer that easily, a state appeals court ruled Friday in a win for a Toms River firm booted from the Ocean County Business Association due to a member’s complaint.
The problem was that the firm, Levin Cyphers, never got a chance to confront the unnamed grievant, who filed a Special Civil Part claim against the firm alleging nonpayment for services that managing partner Harry Levin says were never rendered. He got an OCBA letter saying a grievance had been filed, but was not given a copy, and on March 9, 2011, got a notice of expulsion.
Levin sued, relying on an OCBA constitution section giving members an opportunity to submit an answer and appear before the organization’s board. Ocean County Superior Court Judge Frank Buczynski Jr. sent the case back for a "fair" process so Levin could review the charges, respond and review recommendations. Levin was given a copy of the grievance and responded, but he and his firm were again kicked out.
They went back to court, but Buczynski found the OCBA had complied with his order. On Friday, Appellate Division Judges Clarkson Fisher Jr., Carmen Alvarez and Alexander Waugh Jr., remanded, saying due process had been denied.
Neither Levin nor the OCBA’s attorney, Cynthia Satter, of the law office of Stephen Gertler in Wall, returned calls.
Pay It Forward — An exonerated man who spent six years in prison on a drug conviction, allegedly due to a public defender’s malpractice, will get $162,500 from the state.
John Rogers’ suit against the Office of the Public Defender led to a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that exoneration occurs for time-bar purposes not on a criminal-conviction reversal but when the door is shut on further prosecution. For Rogers, that was in 2008, when Cape May prosecutors dismissed the indictment with prejudice, nine months after his conviction was overturned.
The settlement came to light after a Feb. 19 opinion in a postremand appeal that dismissed the case as settled. Open-government advocate John Paff obtained the release through a records request and posted it online. The January agreement also resolves a suit under a law providing at least $20,000 for each year wrongfully imprisoned.
An appeals court threw out Rogers’ conviction because his lawyer, Erica Smith, planned to have him switch places with his brother in court. The ruse was aborted when a court officer saw them exchanging clothes in a conference room and Rogers was questioned about it. The panel held the ploy damaged his credibility with the jury and denied him a fair trial.
Neither Smith or Assistant Public Defender Dale Jones would comment on the case. The Attorney General’s Office did not return a call. Rogers’ lawyer, Joseph Grassi of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gibson in Wildwood, could not be reached.
— By David Gialanella, Charles Toutant, Michael Booth and Mary Pat Gallagher