Monday, March 23, 2020

How D.A. Helped Haitian Who Beat And Strangled Fiancé Stay In USA

 Caleb Arnold Photo Credit: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Starson Audate, 23, of Haiti, was in the country on a student visa in 2017 when he beat and strangled his fiancé.

According to police reports, Audate kicked the victim, a 24-year-old Philadelphia woman, in the shin and bit her on the knee. Then he choked her by sticking his forearm under her chin so she couldn't breathe. Finally, he knocked her down on the floor, and stepped on her.

During the attack, police said, the victim wound up passing out and urinating on herself. When she came to, according to the police report, she pleaded with Audate to take her to the hospital because she was in pain. But according to the police report, he refused, saying, "I don't care, I'm not going to take you to the hospital."

Enter the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, under Progressive Larry Krasner. The D.A. wasn't there to help the victim. Instead, Caleb Arnold, Krasner's immigration counsel, came to the aid of the assailant. The D.A.'s office acted to ensure that Audate, charged with assault and strangulation, beat the rap, so he wouldn't get deported or inconvenienced by any legal challenges to his immigration status.

To pull it off, the D.A.'s office had to ignore the stated wishes of the victim, who told the police and the D.A. that this was the second time that Audate had assaulted her, and yes indeed, that she wanted to press charges. The D.A.'s office also violated state law by not notifying the victim that it was in the process of plea bargaining the case from simple assault, a second-degree misdemeanor, and strangulation, a second-degree felony, down to two third-degree counts of harassment, a misdemeanor, and one count of disorderly conduct, another misdemeanor.

Justice in Philadelphia, Krasner style. The D.A. was there to aid the criminal, not the crime victim. As for the victim, she subsequently went to court to try and renew a protection order against Audate. That's when she was shocked to discover that the D.A. had plea-bargained the case down to three misdemeanors, and didn't even bother to tell her about it.

The Crime

The assault took place on May 8, 2017, at an apartment on Lancaster Avenue where Audate's fiancé lived. When police interviewed the victim, she stated that she and Audate had met as students at Harrisburg Area Community College. They'd been dating for three years and were supposed to be engaged.

The victim told police that the day she was assaulted, she was upset by Augate's flirtatious behavior toward other women. They got into an argument, and Audate grabbed her cellphone and started scrolling through it. He accused her of cheating, which she said wasn't true. When she grabbed her cell phone back, according to the police report, Audate "became angry and began punching" the victim before strangling her.

She wound up calling 911, and was taken by ambulance to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where, according to police reports, she was treated for "sustained injuries to her right knee, red marks to her right foot and a bruise to her right shin."

"This is the second time Starson hit me," the victim, who could not be reached for comment, told the police. "In November, during Thanksgiving break, Starson pinned me down on the bed and started punching me."

Police also interviewed the victim's roommate, who was in the next room during the assault. The roommate overheard the victim screaming and saying, "You're hurting me."

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Audate, whose address at the time was listed in Harrisburg.

The Immigration Counsel

On Jan. 25, 2018, D.A. Krasner called a press conference to announce the hiring of Caleb Arnold, an immigration attorney and former public defender, to advise prosecutors on cases where the defendant was an immigrant.

The goal, according to Krasner, was to make sure that immigrants were treated fairly by the criminal justice system, whether they're accused of a crime, a crime victim, or a witness to a crime. When he announced the appointment, Krasner said he was seeking to protect immigrants in a sanctuary city accused of nonviolent crimes from being deported.

One wonders how Starson Audate fit into the category of an immigrant accused of a nonviolent crime. But Arnold, as well as Krasner, and Jane Roh, a spokesperson for D.A. Krasner, did not respond to requests for comment.

This is nothing new. It's how the D.A.'s office responds to any critical reporting. They've been stonewalling questions from me for the past seven months.

On March 27, 2019, Arnold told WHYY  that during her first year on the job, she had consulted on some 300 cases and recommended plea bargains in 120 cases.

"Our goal is whenever possible to find an equally serious charge, and equally serious consequence," she told WHYY.

But that's not how it worked out for Starson Audate.

A Former Client of Krasner's

Who Is Caleb Arnold? The immigration counsel who doesn't like to be identified by gender specific pronouns [she prefers they and them] used to be Calyn Arnold. And 20 years ago, Calyn Arnold was a client of Larry Krasner's back when he was a defense lawyer supporting left-wing causes.

In the wake of the 2000 Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia, Kasner was one of the lawyers hired by R2K Legal, a collective organized by the National Lawyers Guild, to defend people arrested for protesting.

The National Lawyers Guild has historically represented labor unions and "oppressed minorities,"  including alleged political prisoners and activists. Since 1998, the guild has listed convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal as a member of their governing board, referring to him as a  "jailhouse lawyer and VP Emeritus."

The protests during the convention included "A day of resistance to the Death Penalty and the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal." During the Republican Convention, some 400 people were arrested for allegedly assaulting police, obstructing roadways and committing numerous acts of vandalism.

Kris Hermes, a former vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, wrote a book in 2015 about the protests at the Convention entitled "Crashing the Party." In the acknowledgements section of the book, Hermes thanked "movement attorneys" by name including Krasner. Hermes also wrote that a core member of the R2K group, Caleb Arnold, was represented by Krasner, along with another codefendant Danielle Redden, as they protested the "prison industrial complex."

Arnold was one of six demonstrators charged with possession of instruments of crime, obstruction, disorderly conduct, obstructing the highway and conspiracy. Police alleged that the defendants attempted to impede delegates from attending the convention.

In public statements to the media about his relationship with Arnold, Krasner has stated that Arnold won her case. When he announced Arnold's hiring at a press conference on Jan. 25, 2018, the D.A. joked that Arnold had had "experience in the criminal justice system," adding, "fortunately that was an acquittal."

"I got to know Caleb both in their capacity as a defendant who won their case, but also in Caleb's capacity who was getting other people together," Krasner told NBC10 on March 19, 2018.

But court records tell a different story.

Why are the D.A. and Caleb Arnold, Lying About Her Past Criminal Record?

On Feb. 2, 2001, Arnold and her co-defendants were found guilty at a trial without a jury before Municipal Court Judge Seamus P. McCaffery. They were convicted of possession of instruments of crime, conspiracy to obstruct justice, conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct, and conspiracy to obstruct the highway.

Arnold was sentenced to time served and had to pay court costs. A motion to quash the convictions was granted by an appeals judge, but the Commonwealth appealed that decision. On Sept. 18, 2003, the state Superior Court reversed the motion to quash, and reinstated the convictions.

Arnold finally paid the court costs of $75 on Jan. 2, 2018, 23 days before the formal announcement of her hiring by the D.A.

On June 12, 2002, in Common Pleas Court, Arnold was tried for a separate incident and arrest at the Republican National Convention. She was found guilty of criminal mischief and was put on probation for 90 days.

Arnold was also supposed to pay $112.50 in court costs. On May 24, 2017, she was sent a delinquency notice that she was 3,889 days overdue in paying her fine. Finally, on Jan. 2, 2018, 23 days before the formal announcement of her hiring, Arnold paid the $112 in court costs plus a collection fee of $12.62, for a total cost of $125.12.

Arnold's version of the story is that she and other protesters had planned a street theater performance protesting the death penalty that would have blocked the entrance to the convention center. But state police had infiltrated the group, she told Al Dia News on March 29, 2018, and she and other protesters got arrested before they could start demonstrating.

According to Al Dia, "The group fought the case against them and were eventually acquitted." Wonder where they got that idea?

In the circles that Krasner and Arnold travel in, you'd think that getting arrested and convicted for protesting during the Republican National Convention would be a badge of honor. So why are Krasner and Arnold still lying about what really happened?

It makes you wonder what else they're lying about.

The D.A.'s Office In Action

On March 2, 2018, Robin Forrest, a member of the public defender's Immigration & Appeals Unit, wrote an email to Caleb Arnold, seeking help on behalf of her new client, Starson Audate.

"He's from Haiti and has been here since 2015 on an F-1 visa," Forrest wrote. "He's getting a bachelor's degree from Berea College in Kentucky."

Forrest attached a college transcript showing that Audate had a 3.6 GPA. She also sent along a letter from a professor who stated that "Starson is one of the most gifted students I've encountered [who] has the potential to become a brilliant and ethical business leader or economist."

Forrest then reviewed the charges against the gifted student.

"We were hoping to avoid a conviction, or to plead him to a summary offense such as disorderly conduct, but the current offer is simple assault [reckless] and REAP for 3 years probation and 150 [!] hours of community service," Forrest wrote Arnold. REAP stands for recklessly endangering another person. Forrest added that the offer on the strangulation charge was four years probation.

"I'm hoping your office can agree to a disposition that avoids conviction altogether, or that results in a summary conviction," Forrest wrote. "While the current offer will likely not immediately affect his ability to remain in the U.S. on his F-1 visa, I fear convictions for the offered offenses could jeopardize any future application of immigration benefits, such as a work visa and citizenship [which he ultimately intends to seek]."

"Moreover," Forrest wrote Arnold, "Starson has already suffered significant consequences as a result of this arrest." Such as "His F-1 visa is now automatically invalid," she wrote. And "if he leaves the U.S., he will not be permitted to reenter on that visa."

And after the assault, Audate spent eight days in jail. He also had to forgo an internship in New York last summer, Forrest wrote. "The N.Y. firm tried to change the dates to accommodate him, but it didn't work out."

The Victim's Testimony 

The D.A.'s office promptly dispatched Assistant District Attorney Taylor Lake to talk to the victim, to see if she would change her mind about pressing charges. Or go along with a proposal to place her assailant in a diversion program for domestic violence that would have avoided jail time.

But the victim said no way.

On March 5, 2018, Lake wrote Arnold an email, saying that the victim "is still not comfortable" with the diversion program, and instead, she "would like to move forward with the case."

"I have attached the notes of testimony from the preliminary hearing" in the case, Lake wrote Arnold. During the hearing, the victim told the judge about "the severity of the strangulation, her inability to breathe during the assault, and her fear that she was going to die. She also testified that she was hit, kicked, and bitten during the assault," Lake wrote.

Lake noted that the victim had detailed a prior incident where Audate assaulted her "by pinning her down on the bed and punching her." And, Lake wrote Arnold, in her opinion, Audate was probably ineligible for diversion program anyway "because of the strangulation behavior."

Lake, who has since left the district attorney's office for private practice, did not respond to a request for comment.

But to the D.A.'s office, what the victim wanted didn't really matter. The D.A.'s mission was to help the assailant.

Justice, Krasner Style

On March 9, 2018, in Common Pleas Court, Audate pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment, and one count of disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors.

According to the state crime code, the two counts of harassment that Audate pleaded guilty to say that he acted "with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another," by striking, shoving or kicking her.

The actual facts of the case certainly describe a far more serious assault and strangulation, where the victim couldn't breathe and feared for her life before she lost consciousness.

According to the state crime code, the disorderly conduct charge that Audate pleaded guilty to involves a person who acts with alleged "intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm" by either:

-- "engaging in fighting or threatening or in violent or tumultuous behavior;"

-- making "unreasonable noise," or using "obscene language or making an obscene gesture;"

--  or creating a "hazardous or physically offensive condition . . . which serves no legitimate purpose."

A seasoned prosecutor who reviewed the downgraded charges said that the D.A.'s "created facts" to get Audate off the hook.

"He's not being lewd or lascivious," the prosecutor said, "He's strangling her."

Audate also assaulted the victim in the privacy of her home. The disorderly conduct charge that he pleaded guilty to involves allegedly causing "a public inconvenience," which typically means a disturbance that occurs in a public place, such as a street or restaurant.

The judge put Audate on a year's parole for every charge he pleaded guilty to, for a total of three consecutive years of probation.

And Audate got one last favor from the criminal justice system -- the judge also agreed to transfer supervision of Audate's court-ordered probation from Philadelphia to Kentucky, where he is currently a college student.

What happened in the case of Starson Audate, a downgrading of charges, isn't unusual. The D.A.'s office under Krasner routinely downgrades charges.

In his first year in office, records show, the D.A. downgraded the charges in nearly 100 cases each month, or for a total in 2018 of 1,159 downgraded cases.

7 comments:

  1. We've got a few more stories coming on this hot topic. As I've mentioned previously, we're just getting started exposing Progressive Larry Krasner.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good work again, Ralph. Watch your back. Krasner and his kind don't care about the citizens of Philadelphia. You do.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Is that a banana in her pocket, or is she/he just happy to work for Larry???

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for reporting the truth. Where is the outrage over Krasner and his staff? How can the Inquirer get away with not reporting the truth? Would it help if we citizens contacted the Inquirer to ask why the truth is not reported about Krasner? I am disgusted that he lets criminals walk free.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gabe Escobar, Inquirer editor and vice president: gescobar@inquirer.com

    Stan Wischnowski, Inquirer executive editor, senior vice president: swischnowski@inquirer.com

    Inquirer city desk: 215-854-2771.

    It's like turning around a battleship. The Progressives over there only see it one way, Progressive D.A. bravely trying to reform corrupt criminal justice system.

    Maybe they'll figure it out when they take him out in handcuffs.

    ReplyDelete

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