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A Brooklyn judge on Friday vacated a conviction of a doctor accused of sexually abusing a patient, finding that his attorney was ineffective. The ruling in People v. Hanono, 014267/04, did not cite any egregious conduct, but faulted the lawyer for failing to put the doctor on the stand. Criminal Court Judge Margarita Lopez Torres said Dr. Rahmo Hanono should receive a new trial because he was not afforded a meaningful discussion about the importance of testifying — and the consequences of not doing so — in a case where the complainant was the only witness. Hanono was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse after a bench trial before Judge Lopez Torres, who maintains a lead in the contested election for Surrogate in Brooklyn. The doctor allegedly unclipped a patient’s bra, grabbed her breasts and then tried to kiss her. Hanono’s trial attorney, Robert K. Young, expressed surprise at the ineffectiveness ruling. He said he had practiced law for 38 years, mostly handling negligence matters but some criminal cases, and had never been accused of doing anything improper. “I’m frankly amazed, amazed, that she gave him a new hearing,” Young said in an interview. “This is something beyond my ability to comprehend.” He then wished Hanono good luck. At a hearing before Lopez Torres, Young testified that the decision to not call Hanono as a witness was strategic, and that it was discussed with the client. Young told the court that Hanono would not have made a good witness, as his version of the story changed every time they discussed the case. He also said Hanono tended to “ramble.” In his interview last week, Young said that Hanono had “consented and agreed” to the strategy, and “not on one occasion.” Lopez Torres, however, said she was not persuaded that Young obtained meaningful consent from Hanono not to call him as a witness. “The decision of whether to testify is personal to the defendant and may not be made by counsel,” Lopez Torres wrote. But she added: “In a one-witness case, failing to put a defendant who has no criminal record and who has not been the subject of any disciplinary complaints on the stand, can hardly be said to be the result of ‘strategic decisions of a reasonably competent attorney,’” citing People v. Benevento, 91 NY2d 708 (1998). Young disputed that reasoning, arguing that Hanono’s unblemished record as a physician was known to Lopez Torres and would not have been amplified by his testimony. “What could the doctor have said except to put his foot in his mouth?” Young said. “Had I suggested or advised him to take the stand, then I would be in the same predicament. It wouldn’t matter what I would have done; he would have been unhappy.” Lopez Torres also cited several smaller incidents, including: Young’s possible misunderstanding during trial of the purpose of a Wade hearing, which is used to challenge identification procedures; his statement that Hanono’s innocence would be “proven beyond a reasonable doubt”; and a summation that was neither “cogent nor consistent.” Young said he fully understood the purpose of a Wade hearing. But, he said, when he was asked to testify about his trial performance, he was nervous and perhaps was not clear in his answers. As for his remark during trial that he would prove his client’s innocence, he said he was using forceful language to express confidence in his case and saw no harm in it since no jury was present. Barry Kamins of Flamhaft Levy Kamins Hirsch & Rendeiro, who represented Hanono on his motion to set aside the verdict, commended the ruling. “I’m gratified that the court applied the appropriate standards relating to effective assistance of counsel and that Dr. Hanono, who is a respected physician, will receive a new trial,” Kamins said. A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said the decision was under review and declined further comment. Assistant District Attorney Taryen R. O’Brien prosecuted the case.

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