Noteworthy Cases

The following represents a selection of cases that Ms. DeBlasio has handled over the past many years.  The cases included are intended to convey the breadth of her practice and are not meant to guarantee similar outcomes in future cases.

RECENT FEDERAL CRIMINAL SENTENCES OBTAINED FOR NON-COOPERATING CLIENTS (selected):

U.S. v. Castillo, No. 09-cr-057 (EDNY): 30 months (Guidelines range was 135-168)
See Client Reviews.

U.S. v. Torres, No. 15-cr-264 (SDNY): 48 months (Guidelines range was 140-175)
See Client Reviews.

U.S. v. Grenier, No. 12-cr-425 (SDNY): 60 months (Guidelines range was 108-131)
See Client Reviews.

U.S. v. Liriano, No. 11-cr-669 (EDNY): 72 months (Guidelines range was 188-235)
See Client Reviews.

 

NOTEWORTHY CRIMINAL AND CIVIL CASES AND APPEALS:

U.S. v. Hernandez: pre-trial dismissal of all federal criminal charges
See summary below.

Dentes v. Mauser: reversal of medical malpractice jury verdict, dismissal of complaint
See summary below.

U.S. v. Moussaoui: dismissal of interlocutory appeals in prosecution of “20th hijacker” for terrorism attacks on 9/11
See summary below.

U.S. v. Gomez-Zuluaga: reversal of immigration court order, establishment of new basis for asylum
See summary below.

U.S. v. Cephas: reversal of suppression of evidence, establishment of two-part exigent circumstances test
See summary below.

U.S. v. [John Doe]: issuance of coram nobis writ reducing criminal sentence to 11 months and avoiding deportation
See summary below.

Pinckert v. Trucklease Corp.: federal wrongful death trial
See summary below.

U.S. v. Lebanese Canadian Bank: release of assets restrained in international terrorism-related civil forfeiture action
See summary below.

U.S. v. McDonald: reconsideration and reversal of previous appellate decision ordering removal of immigrant
See summary below.

 

UNITED STATES v. HERNANDEZ
Nos. 14-cr-543 and 14-cv-1664
U.S. District Court
Southern District of New York 

Client, a recent low-level hire at Academic Advantage, a California corporation with an office in New York that provided tutoring services in Bronx public schools pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, was named as one of several defendants in a combined federal criminal case and civil forfeiture action. Federal prosecutors charged the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government by submitting falsified attendance records and invoices for tutoring students whom Academic Advantage did not tutor.

While other defendants pled guilty, Ms. Hernandez – who was originally represented by an attorney other than Ms. DeBlasio – attempted to enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement that would result in the dismissal of the criminal charges against her if she were to remain arrest-free and maintain employment over a period of one year. The government denied her request.

Ms. Hernandez then retained Ms. DeBlasio, who went back to the same prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and convinced them to permit her client to enter into the Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Among other things, Ms. DeBlasio argued that not only was a felony conviction undeserved in Ms. Hernandez’s case, but that even an anticipated sentence of probation would run counter to the public’s interest in supporting individuals such as Ms. Hernandez, a young single mother who was the first in her family to graduate from college, and would unfairly stigmatize her young son.

Ms. Hernandez successfully satisfied the terms of her Deferred Prosecution Agreement and, in May 2016, the U.S. District Court dismissed all criminal charges against her.

RESULT: DISMISSAL OF FEDERAL INDICTMENT FOLLOWING SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF A DEFERRED PROSECUTION AGREEMENT
See Client Reviews.

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DENTES v. MAUSER
Index No. 0643/08
NY Supreme Court, Appellate Division
91 A.D.3d 1143 (3rd Dep't 2012), lv. den., 19 N.Y.3d 811

Client, cardiologist Jonathan Mauser, was sued for medical malpractice and wrongful death in a case where a former District Attorney collapsed on the Albany courthouse steps and died instantaneously of a massive heart attack. At trial, the District Attorney's widow convinced a jury that Dr. Mauser, who had conducted a stress test of her husband 18 months prior to his death, had caused the death because he did not order a cardiac catheterization to determine the extent of coronary artery disease.

Ms. DeBlasio obtained a significant reversal on behalf of Doctor Mauser, who turned to her after being represented by another attorney at trial. Dr. Mauser sought to overturn the jury verdict against him awarding the plaintiff nearly $1.5 million in damages. Ms. DeBlasio filed briefs on his behalf and argued before a five-judge appellate panel that his case should not be remanded for a new trial on the weight of the evidence, but dismissed outright for the plaintiff's failure to establish a prima facie case of negligence. The court agreed, concluding that the evidence adduced at trial was legally insufficient to support the verdict and against the weight of the evidence. The court reversed the judgment and dismissed the complaint.

Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion for leave to appeal to New York's highest court, its Court of Appeals; the court denied the motion.

RESULT: JURY VERDICT VACATED, JUDGMENT REVERSED, COMPLAINT DISMISSED
See Client Reviews.
See News Report.

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UNITED STATES v. MOUSSAOUI
United States Court of Appeals
Fourth Circuit
43 F. App'x 612 (4th Cir. 2002); 41 F. App'x 686 (4th Cir. 2002)

The U.S. government charged Zacarias Moussaoui in a multi-count conspiracy indictment as the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks.

Ms. DeBlasio was part of the initial prosecution team, representing the government as lead appellate counsel on pre-trial matters before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. She opposed Moussaoui's petition for emergency issuance of extraordinary writs of mandamus, prohibition and injunction, and defended against his interlocutory appeals of numerous pre-trial orders entered by the district court. Ms. DeBlasio was successful in all instances, the trial ensued, and the jury resoundingly convicted Moussaoui.

Zacarias Moussaoui was the sole individual to be convicted in a civilian court for the atrocities of September 11, 2001.

RESULT: PETITION FOR WRITS DENIED, APPEALS DISMISSED, JURY VERDICT OF GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS, SENTENCED TO A LIFE TERM WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE

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UNITED STATES v. GOMEZ‐ZULUAGA
United States Court of Appeals
Third Circuit
527 F.3d 330 (3d Cir. 2008)

Client, an asylum-seeker, was detained at Newark International Airport upon arrival from Colombia. An immigration judge denied her request for asylum and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision. 
Ms. DeBlasio obtained a reversal on behalf of Ms. Gomez-Zuluaga from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ms. DeBlasio filed briefs on her client's behalf and argued before a federal appellate panel that it should overturn the decision and remand the case on a novel theory of immigration law. She argued that Ms. Gomez-Zuluaga qualified for asylum as a member of a new "particular social group," one comprising women who have escaped involuntary servitude after being abducted and confined by a terrorist organization. Ms. DeBlasio then argued that as a member of this social group Ms. Gomez-Zuluaga had demonstrated a well-founded fear of future persecution by this terrorist organization if the U.S. government were to remove her to Colombia. The appellate court agreed and, in a precedential opinion, it reversed the decision of the immigration courts and granted the asylum petition with respect to petitioner's well-founded fear of future persecution, remanding the matter for proceedings in accordance with its ruling.

RESULT: REVERSAL OF IMMIGRATION COURT, NEW "PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP" IDENTIFIED, PETITION GRANTED AS TO FUTURE PERSECUTION AND MATTER REMANDED TO IMMIGRATION COURT

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UNITED STATES v. CEPHAS
United States Court of Appeals 
Fourth Circuit 
254 F.3d 488 (4th Cir. 2001)

The U.S. government charged defendant Cephas with possession of crack cocaine and marijuana, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized during a search of his apartment. The district court granted his motion.

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney handling affirmative appeals, Ms. DeBlasio appealed the district court's order suppressing the evidence. Ms. DeBlasio argued before the appellate court that the police officer's appearance at defendant's apartment and knocking at defendant's door did not violate defendant's Fourth Amendment protections; that defendant voluntarily opened his apartment door to the officer; that the Fourth Amendment afforded the defendant no protection when the officer smelled marijuana and saw a young girl once defendant had opened the door; that the officer had probable cause to believe that evidence of illegal activity was present in defendant's apartment; and that the officer's warrantless entry into the apartment was justified by exigent circumstances.

The court of appeals agreed with Ms. DeBlasio's arguments and vacated the suppression order. The case led to establishment of the two-part Cephas test to evaluate the presence of exigent circumstances.

RESULT: SUPPRESSION ORDER VACATED; CASE RETURNED TO DISTRICT COURT AND JUDGMENT OF GUILT ENTERED

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UNITED STATES v. [JOHN DOE]
Nos. 09‐cr‐270 and 11-cv-6007
U.S. District Court
Eastern District of New York

Client, a former officer with the Colombian National Police, was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering in the Eastern District of New York. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. Ms. DeBlasio initially negotiated a guilty plea to bribery by a public official and witness retaliation. Then, faced with a Guidelines range of 121 to 151 months, Ms. DeBlasio requested issuance of a writ of coram nobis and a sentence of less than one year. The Court imposed a term of 11 months. 

Upon her client’s release from federal prison, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") agents detained him for purposes of removal proceedings as an aggravated felon. Ms. DeBlasio filed an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

At the hearing on the habeas petition, Ms. DeBlasio argued that having received a sentence of less than one year, her client was not an aggravated felon such that ICE's continued detention of him for purposes of mandatory removal from the United States was unlawful. The U.S. District Court granted the petition, issued the writ, and ordered his immediate release from ICE custody. Two days later, Ms. DeBlasio’s client headed home with his wife, to celebrate Christmas with his children in the United States. 

RESULT: PLEA AGREEMENT – SENTENCE OF 11 MONTHS – GRANT OF WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS – IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM IMMIGRATION CUSTODY
See Client Reviews.

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PINCKERT v. TRUCKLEASE CORPORATION et al.
05‐cv‐5222 
U.S. District Court
Southern District of New York

Client, the widow of a retired college professor, sued a trucking company and its driver for the wrongful death of her husband, who while cycling on a county highway was sucked under the defendants’ 18-wheel tractor-trailer and then crushed beneath its rear tires.

Ms. DeBlasio represented Ms. Pinckert and her children through all stages of the federal litigation. At the pre-trial stage, she beat back a motion for summary judgment thus permitting her to present evidence of several seconds of conscious pain and suffering while the professor was sucked along under the trailer still gripping onto his bike before going under the wheels. (See decision at 2006 WL 903176 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 6, 2006)). Ms. DeBlasio also repeatedly pursued a motion to compel the results of the driver's post-accident positive drug test, which she ultimately obtained on the eve of trial, permitting her to seek punitive damages on a theory of willful and wanton behavior. The court ruled, however, that the defendants could present a last-minute drug expert at trial to rebut the positive drug test.

At trial, Ms. DeBlasio successfully moved to exclude defendants' expert pathologist from testifying. She then turned defendants' drug expert against them on cross examination. When the expert stated that the defendant driver’s marijuana use only could have played a significant role if ingested within 15 minutes of the accident, and then added that in this case the effects would have dissipated during the seven-hour drive leading up to the accident, Ms. DeBlasio pointed out that according to the trip log, the truck driver had taken a short rest break just 10 minutes before the accident. Asked if marijuana smoked during that time could have contributed to the accident, the expert had to concede that it would have. Ms. DeBlasio also turned defendants' accident-reconstruction expert against them. While the judge denied Ms. DeBlasio's request during her direct case to offer evidence through an eyewitness truck driver of a wind-tunnel effect that the defendant truck driver caused when he drove too close to the cyclist as both were passing a retaining wall, Ms. DeBlasio was able to elicit the testimony from defendants' accident-reconstruction expert on cross examination. When she asked the expert to testify as to any impact the retaining wall might have had, he described a wind tunnel and its vacuum-like effect. Subsequently, the court permitted Ms. DeBlasio to re-call the eyewitness truck driver for his additional testimony.

On the eve of closing arguments, with the threat of punitive damages and damages for conscious pain and suffering looming, defendants' counsel settled the case for more than six times their original offer.

RESULT: SETTLEMENT OVER $1 MILLION FOR WIFE OF RETIRED PROFESSOR
See Client Reviews

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UNITED STATES v. LEBANESE CANADIAN BANK SAL, et al.
No. 11-cv-9186 
U.S. District Court
Southern District of New York 

Client Cedar Exports Auto Sales, a Tennessee used car dealership, was named as one of 30 defendants-in-rem in a major money laundering civil forfeiture action involving Middle Eastern banks and money exchange houses and the terrorist-designated Lebanese-based organization Hezbollah. The U.S. government alleged that Hezbollah sympathizers used certain Middle Eastern banks and exchange houses to commingle cash proceeds from the sale in West Africa of used cars exported from the United States, with cash proceeds from the sale in West Africa and Europe of narcotics exported from South America. The banks and exchange houses then allegedly siphoned off a portion of the commingled cash proceeds to fund Hezbollah activities. In an attempt to sever the intricate intercontinental money laundering scheme, the U.S. government restrained all of the assets of 30 defendant-in-rem U.S. car dealerships that exported used cars to West Africa, including Ms. DeBlasio’s client’s assets worth approximately $300,000.

Ms. DeBlasio filed a claim of interest and a motion for the provisional release of assets before ultimately arranging to settle the federal action as to her client. While most of the 30 defendant-in-rem used car dealerships forfeited all of their restrained assets as part of their individual settlement agreements with the U.S. government, Ms. DeBlasio negotiated that Cedar Exports would forfeit only 30% of its restrained assets with a statement that Cedar Exports and its owner did not know or have reason to know of the money laundering scheme involving the U.S. used car market.

RESULT: SETTLEMENT RELEASING 70% OF CLIENT’S RESTRAINED ASSETS WITH STATEMENT ABSOLVING CLIENT OF ANY WRONGDOING
See News Report.

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UNITED STATES v. McDONALD
Board of Immigration Appeals
Buffalo, NY (July 30, 2008)

Client, a lawful permanent resident of the United States born in Jamaica, who moved to Queens, NY, with his family when he was thirteen years old, who lived in New York State for 30 years, married and had five American-born children, was ordered to be removed from the United States in 2005 on account of a 1982 non-criminal trespass, a 1991 misdemeanor weapon possession conviction and a 1999 felony conviction for the sale of marijuana, subsequently vacated, which resulted in a misdemeanor possession conviction upon re-trial in 2005. Client appealed three times to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA").

Ms. DeBlasio handled the third and final appeal to the BIA. She filed a brief on her client’s behalf arguing that the immigration judge repeatedly departed from legal precedent and from BIA policy, by improperly concluding that her client was an aggravated felon despite vacation of his felony marijuana conviction, and by overstating her client's misdemeanor criminal history including a non-criminal trespass and a stale warrant for the unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. The BIA affirmed the immigration judge and Ms. DeBlasio filed a motion for reconsideration. 

Upon reconsideration, the BIA reversed its decision, concluding that Ms. DeBlasio "correctly points out that we mistakenly indicated in our prior decision that [John Doe] had been convicted of second degree burglary as opposed to misdemeanor non-criminal trespass. As a result, given that [John Doe] had not been convicted of an aggravated felony, he was not required to show ‘unusual or outstanding equities’ in light of his criminal history in order to warrant cancellation of removal." The BIA then found that he had "very strong equities" in his favor and vacated the decision of the immigration court, remanding the case for proceedings to update the record and for the "proper exercise of discretion." The client appeared at the remand hearing in Buffalo with long-time local trial counsel, following which the immigration judge issued an order cancelling removal. The client remains together with his wife and children in New York State.

RESULT: REVERSAL OF IMMIGRATION COURT, REMANDED TO IMMIGRATION COURT, REMOVAL CANCELLED

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