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The activities prohibited by New York’s Forcible Touching statute do not include mere touching, however unwanted, a Manhattan judge has ruled. “The plain language of Penal Law �130.52 makes clear that something more than mere touching is required under the statute,” Criminal Court Judge Richard M. Weinberg held in People v. Nuruzzaman, 010052/04. Under the law, the judge said, “‘forcible touching’ includes ‘squeezing, grabbing or pinching.’” In this case, the defendant, Mohammed Nuruzzaman, an employee at a fabric store in Midtown, approached a customer and allegedly twice “placed his hand on and patted her buttocks,” according to Weinbert’s decision. The prosecution charged that Nuruzzaman did so “intentionally and for no legitimate purpose,” and that the “complainant was harassed, annoyed and alarmed” by the acts, the decision said. The district attorney’s office charged Nuruzzaman with forcible touching, third-degree sexual abuse and second-degree harassment. Nuruzzaman contended that placing a hand on and patting a person’s buttocks did not amount to “forcible touching.” Weinberg agreed. The judge compared the meaning of “to pat” — the act the defendant allegedly committed — with the examples of types of touching prohibited by the statute. To “pat” is to “touch quickly and gently with the flat of the hand,” the judge wrote, citing The New Oxford Dictionary. To “squeeze,” on the other hand, is to “firmly press from opposite or all sides.” To “grab” is to “grasp or seize suddenly or roughly.” And to “pinch” is to “grip tightly and sharply between finger and thumb.” While the law is “not limited to squeezing, grabbing or pinching, their illustrative use, together with the Legislature’s employment of the modifier ‘forcible,’ inexorably, if unfortunately, leads to the conclusion that a pat on the buttocks, regardless of how offensive it might be to the recipient, does not qualify as ‘forcible’ touching under the ordinary and accepted meaning of these words,” Weinberg held. He also noted that the state Legislature enacted the forcible touching statute in response to the widespread assaults that took place in Central Park on the day of the 2000 Puerto Rican Day parade. “Recognizing these atrocities, the Sexual Reform Act of 2000 created the new crime of forcible touching, which, in pertinent part, criminalized the non-consensual squeezing, grabbing or pinching of the intimate parts of another,” the judge wrote, citing McKinney’s Session Laws. This history, the judge concluded, suggested that legislators intended to prohibit “something more than a pat on the buttocks” when they passed the act. The judge therefore dismissed the forcible touching count. He also dismissed the sexual abuse charge, even though the defense had not challenged it. The “actions are alleged to have been taken for the purpose of degrading and abusing the complainant — a purpose not found in the Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree statute,” Weinberg wrote. Assistant District Attorney Ivana Nizich represents the Manhattan district attorney’s office. A hearing on the second-degree harassment charge is scheduled for June 15.

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