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FIRM NEWS


Wednesday, December 8, 2021: Today, the Hon. Debra Young of Rennselaer County Court granted the motion of Chief ADA Matt Hauf to dismiss all charges against our client whose attempted murder conviction and related convictions were reversed last year by the Appellate Division, Third Department. In moving to dismiss, ADA Hauf told the court it was the job of a prosecutor to “seek justice, not convictions in criminal courtrooms.” See the Times Union article here.

October 30, 2021: Today, we executed settlement papers in a Court of Claims action we brought on behalf of our exonerated client, who had been wrongly convicted for having sex with a person incapable of consent by reason of mental incapacity. Our client, who had similar incapacities as the alleged victim, was railroaded by his Legal Aid lawyer to enter an involuntary plea to four years' imprisonment, and served his entire sentence. His excellent appellate counsel at Appellate Advocates recognized the injustice and filed a 440 motion for a new trial. The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office's Conviction Review Unit also reviewed the case and joined the 440 motion, which was granted, and our client was exonerated. Our client was incarcerated for 1242 days, 914 days of which were post-plea. Our research suggests the settlement was the second largest per diem settlement agreed to in an action brought on behalf of an exoneree in the NY Court of Claims. We are currently pursuing additional remedies on our client's behalf.

October 30, 2021: Today, in U.S. v. Rengifo, Hon. Jed Rakoff, SDNY, granted our compassionate release motion filed on behalf of Alejandro Rengifo. Mr. Rengifo was a child abductee of the FARC, and in his early twenties was required to guard an American citizen who had been abducted and held for ransom. Rengifo eventually fled the organization and was in a reintegration facility when he was arrested and extradited to the U.S. He was convicted at a bench trial and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. In prison, Mr. Rengifo learned English, helped numerous inmates, found expression for his religious beliefs and earned the respect of inmates and staff alike. Judge Rakoff cited all these factors, and others, including that his FARC commander avoided imprisonment, by waiting to turn himself in until after the FARC and Colombia signed a peace treaty which -- with the blessing of the U.S. government -- forbade extradition of former FARC members to the U.S. You can read Judge Rakoff's comprehensive and engaging decision here. Levitt & Kaizer associate Zach Segal was substantially responsible for Mr. Rengifo's representation. Our application for compassionate release on Mr. Rengifo's behalf can be reviewed here.

October 1, 2021: Today, in the face of our objections on behalf of our U.S. corporate client, the IRS withdrew summonses to three banks with which our client supposedly did business. Our client was not the target of the inquiry; rather the Russian government had sought cooperation from the IRS, pursuant to Art. 25 of the U.S. - Russia Income Tax Convention, to gather information allegedly relevant to a tax investigation of a Russian company. We moved to intervene and quash the bank subpoenas arguing, inter alia, that the Russian government is notorious for seizing or otherwise undermining private companies on the pretense of conducting tax or other investigations, and that our government should decline to be a tool of any such malicious efforts. We are gratified that the IRS -- for whatever reason -- has withdrawn the summonses.

August 18, 2021: Today the Second Circuit issued one of its rare Certificates of Appealability to our client Joshua Stegemann, agreeing to address several significant Fourth and Sixth Amendment issues. Our application for a COA in U.S. v. Stegemann can be found here, and the Court's grant can be found here. The COA was filed by Levitt & Kaizer partner Richard Levitt and associate Zach Segal.

August 2021: Richard's review of Federal Defender Douglas Morris's superb book Legal Sabotage: Ernst Frankel in Hitler's Germany, was published in this month's Champion, the magazine of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. You can read Richard's review here.

August 2021: Levitt & Kaizer associate Zach Segal and Richard Levitt are privileged to be working with the Aleph Institute, one of the country's premiere criminal justice reform organizations, to identify and champion the nominations of judicial and non-judicial appointees to the Sentencing Guidelines Commission, which has lacked a quorum for several years. It is our hope that a re-constituted Commission will successfully address the many inequities in the current sentencing regime not only through Guidelines amendments but also through the Commission's educational and research functions. Feel free to contact us with any insights or questions you may have.

May 13, 2021:  Nicholas Kaizer, along with tax counsel Scott Ahroini, presented via Zoom, a lecture to the Suffolk County Bar Association: Taxation Law Committee, regarding how to effectively represent clients during a civil audit so that it does not devolve into a criminal prosecution. Mr. Kaizer, along with counsel Scott Ahroni, gave a similar lecture in March, 2021 to 250 New York-area accountants. He offered advice on how best to represent clients undergoing a traditional civil audit so that the auditors do not make a referral to prosecutors, where badges of fraud are present such as unreported income, unsubstantiated deductions and unexplained wealth.  

July 20, 2020: Nicholas Kaizer delivered via Zoom a presentation to approximately 200 defense attorneys, hosted by the New York Criminal Bar Association and Marino Continuing Legal Services, discussing federal pretrial disposition: cooperation. Mr. Kaizer addressed the nuts and bolts of providing cooperation in a federal criminal case, including the procedure, the benefits, the costs and the pitfalls of providing cooperation. Mr. Kaizer offered insights into maximizing the benefit to be obtained by the client who is often facing cataclysmic exposure in sentencing. 

June 22, 2021: Today, Hon. Dora L. Irizarry, EDNY, granted our motion to reduce the sentence of our client Ramel Fisher pursuant to the First Step Act, making retroactive the amendments to the minimum mandatory sentences enacted under the Fair Sentencing Act. As a result, Mr. Fisher's 240-month sentence was reduced to 120 months, foreshadowing his imminent release. Judge Irizarry's decision can be read here.


May 13, 2021: Today, Richard delivered via Zoom his annual Second Circuit lecture to approximately 175 participants. You can access Richard's 2021 case supplement here and pdfs of his presentation here.

February 18, 2021: Today, the Appellate Division, Third Department, vacated the attempted murder conviction of our client, Shateek Lanier, who has been incarcerated nearly nine years. The court found that Mr. Lanier had been denied effective assistance of his appointed trial counsel. The Third Department's decision can be read here.

January 19, 2021: Today, the Hon. Allyne Ross, EDNY, granted our motion to reconsider a previous order that our client relinquish, as restitution, more than $16,500 he had been provided by friends and family while he was incarcerated, but which he had used to repay a loan, instead requiring him to pay restitution equal to 10% of his monthly income.

August 19, 2020: Today, the Hon. Sterling Johnson granted compassionate release to our client, James Dowtin, over the Government's objection, releasing him from his 15-year sentence for a narcotics racketeering conspiracy and discharging a firearm during the courts thereof. The court recognized that Mr. Dowtin suffered from various COVID-19 risk factors and that he had substantially turned his life around while incarcerated, explaining: "At sentencing, this Court encouraged Dowtin to make the most of his time in prison for himself and for his family. By all accounts it appears he has done so. Levitt & Kaizer associate Zach Segal assisted in the preparation of Mr. Dowtin's motion papers.has done so.

December 2019-January 2020: Richard just returned from the People's Republic of China, which he visited as part of a workshop sponsored by the New York University Law School U.S.-Asia Law Institute (Ira Belkin, Executive Director), exchanging views and experiences with criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges regarding plea bargaining in our respective countries. A wonderful trip and provided an opportunity to become re-acquainted with many Chinese colleagues from our last trip and to meet many new ones.