The Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting that Fab Melo appeared in Syracuse City Court today to be arraigned on a charge of 4th Degree Criminal Mischief. He was released after appearing in court, having an order of protection issued against him in favor of the complaining witness, and his case was adjourned to Domestic Violence Court.
CNYCentral reports it was an incident involving his unidentified girlfriend and damage to her car. 9WSYR reports it was an SU student, and the damage occurred when Melo reached into her car, grabbed her windshield wiper handle, and broke it.
I'm on my lunch break so this will be real quick. In short, 4th degree Criminal Mischief is the damaging of another's property without permission to do so. If such damage was done intentionally, there need not be a value of damage to sustain the charge; if it was recklessly caused, then the amount of damage must exceed $250. In either scenario, the maximum penalty is up to a year in jail, 3 years probation, and a fine up to $1000. I'm unsure at this point which subdivision Melo is being charged under, and I would assume the facts would bear that out. I'm leaning towards the intentional damage, since they are treating this as a domestic violence case.
DV Courts in New York have been springing up more rapidly the past few years, as a strong push state-wide has been made to hold abusers to account. Unlike other problem-solving courts in the state (Drug Court, for example), DV Court is not a rehabilitative court; it is an accountability court. One might even say the deck is stacked against the defendants in DV court. Cases are screened by a clerk, and if a case meets the eligibility standard, it is automatically transferred to DV court. The same rules of evidence and procedure apply, but I have found that penalties tend to be a bit harsher, and the DA claims to not have as much bargaining power as in a regular case.
Certainly if this is a girlfriend, and if she is an SU student, this situation will be quite complicated for Melo. He'll have to deal with the criminal side of things as well as the SU Judicial Board. With the order of protection in place, he is to have no contact with the complaining witness, or else he can face immediate arrest and prosecution for Criminal Contempt.
Without too much speculating here, this very well could have been an argument in the girlfriend's car that resulted in the wiper handle breaking accidentally. Not sure what the value is. I guess I'll have to wait until more details come out. At any rate, I will reserve my usual prediction of the ultimate disposition until I hear more. The case being in DV court makes it harder for me to speculate, especially if Syracuse's DV court runs the same as Elmira's.
The one good sign thus far is that Melo appeared in Court with Bernie Fine. So at this point, he seems to have support of his coaches, at least to some extent.
Stay tuned here and to twitter for updates on this case as they become available, as well as our Orange::44 law-dog analysis.