People v. LaValley, 2021-21322

CourtNew York City Court
Writing for the CourtGary C. Hobbs, J.
PartiesPeople of the State of New York, v. Louis N. LaValley, Defendant
Docket Number2021-21322
Decision Date29 November 2021

People of the State of New York,

Louis N. LaValley, Defendant

No. 2021-21322

City Court Of Glens Falls, Warren County

November 29, 2021

Hon. Jason M. Carusone, Warren County District Attorney, Avi Goldstein, Esq., Assistant District Attorney

Stanclift Law PLLC, Tucker Stanclift, Esq., of counsel, for the defendant

Gary C. Hobbs, J.

The issue before this Court is whether the defendant can voluntarily waive his or her right to personally appear for a preliminary hearing and, instead, request and consent to appear electronically via an electronic or videoconferencing format.

Findings of Fact

On November 24, 2021, the defendant was arrested on felonies of Criminal Contempt in the First Degree [Penal Law § 215.51(c)] and Aggravated Family Offense [Penal Law § 240.75(1)]. On November 24, 2021, the defendant was arraigned in this Court with counsel from the Warren County Public Defender's Office. At his arraignment, the defendant reserved his right to request a preliminary hearing and waived the CPL § 180.80 time to conduct the hearing on the record. As the defendant was charged with felonies and had three prior felony convictions, the defendant was remanded to the Warren County Jail [CPL 530.20(2)]. The Court was notified of a conflict with the Public Defender's Office representation of the defendant, and appointed attorney Tucker Stanclift to represent the defendant.

On November 24, 2021, at 1:53 p.m., this Court received an email from defense counsel requesting a preliminary hearing. Defense counsel further represented, "I will also ask County Court for bail and, if granted before 180.80 expires, I will withdraw my request." The preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 30, 2021 at 1:30 p.m., per the defendant's request. The defendant had a bail hearing before Hon. Robert Smith, Warren County Court Judge, on at 9:30 a.m., and bail was set in the amounts of $25, 000 cash or $50, 000 insurance bond or $50, 000 partially secured surety bond with a 10% premium.

On, at approximately 4:00 p.m., this Court received a memorandum from Correction Sergeant Thomas Haskell, Warren County Jail, indicating that the defendant is housed in a unit where there has been a positive COVID-19 case. The defendant has not tested positive for COVID-19 but may have been recently exposed to the virus. The defendant and other inmates on this unit are under administrative lockdown to quarantine. The jail indicated that, for health reasons, the defendant could not be transported to court on November 30, 2021 and requested an adjournment of the defendant's appearance until December 20, 2021.

The attorneys were immediately provided with a copy of this Memorandum. Despite his prior representation of a withdrawal of the request for a preliminary hearing upon the County Court setting bail, defense counsel requested that the hearing proceed. By email dated, at 7:27 p.m., defense counsel requested that the defendant be produced and allowed to appear via Microsoft Teams format.

Conclusions of Law

The United States Constitution, the New York State Constitution and sections 260.20 and 340.50 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law give a defendant the right to be present at all essential proceedings of a criminal case, including all hearings. However, the purpose of statutes compelling the defendant's presence at trial is for the benefit of the defendant and not for the People. People v. Epps, 37 N.Y.2d 343, 350, 372 N.Y.S.2d 606, 334 N.E.2d 566 [1975], citing, Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464, 58 S.Ct. 1019, 82 L.Ed. 1461; Diaz v. United States, 223 U.S. 442, 455, 32 S.Ct. 250, 56 L.Ed. 500; People v. Rossborough, 27 N.Y.3d 485, 489, 34 N.Y.S.3d 399, 54 N.E.3d 71 [2016]; People v. Chambliss, 106 Misc.2d 342, 344-345, 431 N.Y.S.2d 771 (County Court, Westchester County, 1980). As a result, the defendant's right to be personally present in court is clearly waivable under both the Federal and State Constitutions. People v. Epps, supra at 349, 372 N.Y.S.2d 606, 334 N.E.2d 566 (1975). A "defendant may waive his right to be present by consent or misconduct." Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 106, 54 S.Ct. 330, 78 L.Ed. 674; People v. Epps, supra at 349, 372 N.Y.S.2d 606, 334 N.E.2d 566; People v. Parker, 57 N.Y.2d 136, 454 N.Y.S.2d 967, 440 N.E.2d 1313 (1982); Taylor v. US, 414 U.S. 17 (1973); People v. Sanchez, 65 N.Y.2d 436, 443 (1985).

For a waiver to be valid, it must be a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent decision, which may be express or implied, as compared to a forfeiture which occurs by operation of law, based on objective facts and circumstances, and without regard to defendant's state of mind. People v Hall, 49 Misc.3d 1204 (A)(Crim. Ct., Kings County, 2015), citing, People v. Corley, 67 N.Y.2d 105, 110 [1986]; People v. Parker, 57 N.Y.2d 136, 140, 454 N.Y.S.2d 967, 440 N.E.2d 1313 (1995).

In the present case, the defendant does have a right to waive his personal appearance at a felony hearing provided that the court determines that such waiver was being exercised "knowingly, voluntarily and...

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