Second Pro Bono Client Receives Resentencing Under Landmark Domestic Violence Survivors Law

July 15, 2021

In the first appellate court ruling interpreting New York's Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), S&C client Nicole Addimando's sentence has been materially reduced.  Ms. Addimando is the second of the firm's pro bono clients to be resentenced under the DVSJA. The 2019 law allows domestic violence survivors to apply for reduced sentences that will take into consideration the context of their abuse. Earlier this year, pro bono client Tanisha Davis became one of the first women released from prison under the law. This week, the New York Supreme Court Second Department Appellate Division reduced Ms. Addimando's  sentence under the law as well.
Ms. Addimando is a 32-year-old mother of two who had no prior criminal history.  She was convicted in 2019 of second degree murder in the shooting of  her boyfriend and sentenced to a term of 19 years-to-life in prison. Although Ms. Addimando never denied committing the shooting, she maintained that the event was the culmination of several years of severe physical and emotional abuse, including on the night of the shooting. S&C took the case on appeal and S&C persuaded the appeals court to apply the DVSJA to reduce Nicole's sentence from 19 years to life to the new sentence of 7.5 years in prison (reduced by time already served) , with five years of post-release supervision. In a ruling that will no doubt impact how trial courts apply the DVSJA going forward, the appellate court 's decision stated:  “Upon our extensive review of the evidence, we reject the County Court's methodology, approach, application, and analysis of the three factors, as set forth under [DVSJA].”  The Appellate Division admonished the trial court for basing its findings on an “arcane belief/suggestion that the defendant could have avoided the murder by withdrawing from her apartment, which are antiquated impressions of how domestic violence survivors should behave.”
S&C began representing Nicole in June 2019 and has devoted more than 4000 hours to her representation. The S&C team representing Nicole was led by Garrard Beeney and also included Amanda Davidoff, Kamil Shields, James Browne, Timothy Weinstein, Alexander Self, Samantha Briggs and former associate Jennifer Lee.