When Jay Vazquez-Paulino was arrested in January on charges he assaulted and threatened a former girlfriend, an incident caught on tape at their mutual workplace in Harriman, police and prosecutors fretted that his case would turn into a bail reform horror story.
But so far, Vazquez-Paulino is an example of bail reform gone right.
The video was startling: It showed the defendant punching and kicking the woman. It showed him outside pulling a knife out of a backpack, then going back into the building. It appeared to show him slipping the knife out of his sleeve to threaten her. It ultimately showed him tossing something (police say it was the knife) onto the roof of the business.
Facing misdemeanors at the time, Vazquez-Paulino was released with an appearance ticket, in keeping with New York's bail reforms. Police were concerned about the prospects for the Bronx man to return to court, and about the potential for him to go after the woman.
So far, so good for Vazquez-Paulino.
Since his release, he made his required appearances in Harriman Village Court.
News 12 Hudson Valley caught him outside a village court date last month; in their segment, he was apologetic for his actions.
On Tuesday, having been indicted on a felony evidence tampering count, along with misdemeanor counts of second-degree menacing, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and attempted third-degree assault, plus a violation count of second-degree harassment, Vazquez-Paulino appeared promptly, as scheduled, for arraignment in Orange County Court.
His lawyer, Gary Abramson of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, entered the not-guilty plea for Vazquez-Paulino before Judge Robert Prisco. The judge set a March 12 conference date, and a schedule for court filings.
The judge also signed a new order of protection barring Vazquez-Paulino from contact with the woman.
As Prisco explained the protection order, Vazquez-Paulino conferred with Abramson.
“He tells me the beneficiary of the order of protection is texting him. I instructed him not to answer them,” Abramson told the judge. “He indicated he has not been.”
Prisco asked prosecutors to contact the woman to advise her that she should not be contacting the defendant. He released Vazquez-Paulino, again with no conditions, so long as he continues to appear as directed and stay out of trouble.
I want to take a moment here to address a bad trend that, like so many others, social media has amplified: the idea that it's somehow defensible to make threats against lawyers who represent clients charged with infamous crimes.
The American system of justice doesn't function unless every defendant has competent legal counsel. Our system is imperfect. Police and prosecutors are human like the rest of us, fallible like the rest of us.
The right to counsel, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, is a foundational right and one that we ought not to denigrate or devalue.
Imagine that you or a loved one is charged with some terrible crime. Imagine you face imprisonment. Do you not want a full, fair and vigorous defense?
On Twitter @HeatherYakin845