Justice is slow, steady, and fair
In what I suppose we can only refer to as good legal news (for a welcome change), Fab Melo's Criminal Mischief case has been disposed. The Post-Standard reports today that the attorneys reached a deal wherein Melo was granted an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. As a defense attorney, this is the most sought-after disposition, short of an outright dismissal of the charges.
Melo had been accused of Criminal Mischief 4th degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, in an incident allegedly involving damage to his girlfriend's turn signal. Due to the nature of the allegations, the case was transferred into the Domestic Violence Court within Syracuse City Court. I previously blogged about DV court, so take that for what it's worth. Melo faced up to a year in jail, $1000 fine, and a criminal record. With this ACD, he avoids all of that.
An Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal is, well, just that. Legally, the case is adjourned and remains pending during the period -- in this case one year -- with no guilty plea or adverse finding. If the defendant follows all of his conditions of ACD during the ACD period, once that period expires, the charge is automatically dismissed, his record is sealed, and as Melo's judge stated, "it's as if the charge never happened."
Some may see this as Melo getting off easy. But there's really good reason to dispose of a case in such a manner, especially given the circumstances here. First, looking at the facts itself, I'm assuming the incident wasn't as simple as "Melo mad, Melo smash, Melo reach in, Melo break turn signal!" (not sure why Melo turned into a caveman just there). While his apparent angry outburst shouldn't be condoned, I'm assuming he was in a situation where he was egged on or provoked, and his actions weren't totally unexpected. A "typical human reaction" you might say. But beyond the actual circumstances, let's look at a few other factors: Melo had no prior criminal record, he completed counseling with positive reports, and he paid restitution to fix the broken turn signal. The lack of a criminal record is important because the prosecutor must evaluate the case and ask "Is this the type of case we want to ruin someone's clean record with?" Clearly the circumstances must have dictated no. Completion of counseling was a plus, because it not only helped remedy the problem that led to this incident but hopefully will give Melo the tools necessary to properly handle similar situations again in the future. Also, the fact that he engaged in the counseling up front, and did so with flying colors, shows dedication on his part and gives the Court a sense that he really earned that ACD. And of course with Melo paying restitution, he has made the victim whole in the sense that she's back in the same position (property-wise) as she was before this happened.
So what we have now is a situation where everyone is in a better position than they were before this all happened. It gives Melo a second chance at living life as a clean, law-abiding citizen, and gives his girlfriend the satisfaction that he's gotten some training to make him a better person. This was Melo's "Ooops, I messed up," "get out of jail free" card. The legal system recognizes that we all make mistakes, and depending on the severity of that mistake, will deal out justice as it sees fit.
During the ACD period, Melo must obey all laws, and abide by a modified order of protection -- one that allows Melo and his (ex?)girlfriend to have contact as long as Melo refrains from such bad behavior as assault, stalking, harassment, menacing, etc. against her. His failure to follow these conditions of ACD, including committing a new crime, can result in the original Criminal Mischief charge being restored to the Court's calendar, and Melo being in no different position than he was before accepting this deal today -- presumed innocent and having the right to a trial by jury. Of course, if then found guilty, he could face that 1 year in jail, 3 years probation, fine, etc.
But let's hope Melo takes advantage of this second chance, keeps his nose clean, and just focuses on his studies and, of course, basketball.
Labels: Orange44 Lawdogs