Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, LLP, today announced that Donna Aldea, the head of the firm’s Appellate and Post-Conviction Litigation Group, has won a significant decision in a high-profile case decided last week.
In March 2018, Jacob Palant was convicted of Assault in the First and Second Degree and related charges, and sentenced to five years in prison for throwing bricks into traffic from an overpass on the Meadowbrook State Parkway and injuring a motorist in 2015. He appealed the conviction.
On October 10, 2019, the Appellate Division ruled that Jacob Palant’s convictions of Assault in the First and Second Degree were “against the weight of the evidence.”
Specifically, the court agreed with Donna Aldea, a partner and head of the Appellate and Post-Conviction Practice Group at Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, LLP, that the prosecution had failed to prove the element of “serious physical injury” required to sustain these felony charges, and thus reduced them to misdemeanors, which require only proof of “physical injury.”
Based on this decision, Palant’s five-year prison sentence was vacated, and he will have to be resentenced to a maximum term of one year on these charges.
“This is a fair result under the circumstances of this case,” Aldea said. “While the charged crimes here are horrendous because of their capacity to have caused tremendous injury, or even death, fortunately, this did not occur. The DA’s office vastly overcharged this crime and obtained an improper conviction as a result.”
In invoking its weight-of-the-evidence review to vacate the felony assault convictions — a remedy that is very rarely granted — the Appellate Division essentially sat as a “thirteenth juror” and decided that Palant should have been acquitted of these felony charges based on the evidence. Its decision thus bars a retrial on double jeopardy principles and is also unappealable by the prosecution.
“It’s as if Jacob had been acquitted of these charges at trial,” Aldea explained, “and that was exactly what should have happened here and what justice and the law demanded.”
Read the full decision here