Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Criminal convictions for violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd drew automatic disbarment by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department
On June 2, 2022, respondent entered a guilty plea to a superseding federal information which charged him and codefendant Urooj Rahman with conspiracy to commit arson and to make and possess an unregistered destructive device in violation of 18 USC §§ 371 and 844(i) and 26 USC §§ 5861(d) and 5861(f). His conviction was based on an incident in which he and Rahman made and possessed an improvised incendiary device, i.e., a Molotov cocktail, which was used to damage an unoccupied New York City police vehicle during a 2020 protest over the death of George Floyd.
By notice of motion dated August 12, 2022, the Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC) seeks an order striking respondent's name from the roll of attorneys pursuant to Judicial Law § 90(4)(a) and (b) and the Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) § 1240.12, on the ground that respondent was convicted of a felony as defined by Judiciary Law § 90(4)(e) and has therefore been automatically disbarred. It should be noted that for purposes of automatic disbarment, a conviction occurs at the time of plea or verdict (see Matter of Conroy, 167 AD3d 44, 46 [1st Dept 2018]), not at sentencing.
Respondent was convicted on federal charges "essentially similar" to one or more felony offenses as defined under New York Law so as to result in his automatic disbarment (Judiciary Law § 90[a]). Respondent's federal conviction for conspiracy to maliciously damage or destroy, or attempt to damage or destroy by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce in violation of 18 USC §§ 371 and 844(i) is "essentially similar," in language and elements, to conspiracy in the fourth degree, a class E felony in violation of Penal Law § 105.10(1), to commit arson in the third degree, a class C felony in violation of Penal law § 150.10(1). Indeed, in his plea agreement, he stipulated and agreed that his federal conviction was "essentially similar" to one or more felony offenses defined under New York law, including conspiracy to commit arson in the third degree, and that "even though the likely consequence of [his] guilty plea will be automatic disbarment from the practice of law in the State of New York," he nevertheless wished to plead guilty.
Accordingly, the AGC's motion to disbar should be granted and respondent's name stricken from the roll of attorneys in the State of New York, effective nunc pro tunc to June 2, 2022.
The Rahman order is linked here. (Mike Frisch)