NY Lawyer Charged by U.S. Attorney’s Office
Conspiring to Offer False Testimony in Murder Trial
It is the job of criminal defense attorneys to zealously represent clients to the best of their ability. However, there is a bright line they may not cross. Defense lawyers may not use illegal methods to help win cases. For example, defense lawyers can’t conspire with witnesses to present knowingly untrue testimony at a trial, nor can they bribe witnesses to testify as needed.
Cell Phone Usage Leads to Federal Charges
Normally, if defense lawyers are involved in knowingly offering false witness testimony in court, they can be charged with violating state laws in the state in which they practice law. However, under certain circumstances, this kind of unlawful behavior can rise to the level of a federal offense, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will get involved. Specifically, the use of cell phones in a criminal enterprise can invoke federal law jurisdiction. Federal criminal laws are published in volumes known as the United States Code. Title 18 of the United States Code, section 1952(A)(3)(a) provides that if the parties use cell phones to conspire to commit illegal activity, the resulting charge will be a federal, felony offense. Violations of federal felony laws typically result in longer prison sentences than violations of similar state laws.
NY Attorney Goes Too Far to Help Client
According to charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in early 2015, a criminal defense attorney out of Queens, New York named John Scarpa Jr., did exactly what Title 18, section 1952(A)(3)(a) prohibits. Scarpa is alleged to have conspired by cell phone with ex-con Charles Gallman and witness Luis Cherry to present false witness testimony in a murder trial against one of Scarpa’s clients, in an attempt to alter the outcome of the trial. Gallman, who operated out of Scarpa’s office, routinely contacted witnesses involved in cases against Scarpa’s criminal defense clients. Prosecutors allege that Gallman visited Luis Cherry in prison and convinced him to change his previously offered testimony so that he would now take sole blame for the murder that Scarpa’s client was on trial for, in an attempt to help Scarpa win the case. In exchange, Gallman agreed to various requests by Cherry. Cell phone recordings show that Scarpa was aware of, and involved in, this conspiracy as well.
ATTORNEY’S LAWYER CLAIMS PROSECUTORS ARE MISGUIDED
Attorney’s Lawyer Claims Prosecutors are Misguided
Since his arrest, Scarpa has employed federal criminal defense attorneys Anthony Colleluori and Thomas Kenniff of New York-based law firm Raiser and Kenniff. Colleluori has responded to the charges against Scarpa by claiming that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is misconstruing the content of the recorded cell phone calls between Scarpa and Gallman. Thomas Kenniff added that Scarpa has practiced law with integrity for over thirty years, and further asserted his belief that when all of the evidence comes out, Scarpa will be exonerated.
THE CASE CONTINUES
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has said in reference to this case that it will fully and vigorously prosecute witness tampering, as such acts undermine the integrity of the judicial process. If convicted, Scarpa faces many years in federal custody based on the felony charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As of September 2018, Scarpa has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, and the case is likely to proceed well into 2019 or beyond before reaching its conclusion.