Bronx ADA Megan Teesdale: Integrity Lost

The Daily News reports that Bronx Criminal Court Judge John Wilson dismissed a rape charge.  The defendant was cut loose.

The defendant, Segundo Marquez, had been held at Rikers Island for more than eight months awaiting trial on reduced misdemeanor rape charges stemming from a 2010 incident.

And then, it was gone.  The reason, however, is not so easily dismissed.  It wasn’t until summation at Marquez’s trial that all hell broke loose.

The two week-long trial had reached closing arguments when one of Teesdale’s supervisors informed the judge about a note on the case file referring to the contradictory testimony.

The prosecutor trying the case, Megan Teesdale, got caught.

Teesdale, who has worked for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson since 2012, failed to inform the court that Marquez’s accuser, who testified at trial that she had been raped, initially told an NYPD sergeant that the sex was consensual.

The Daily News includes a portion of the transcript of Judge Wilson dismissing the case, and there is language in there directed at how this came to happen.  It’s described by the News as a “faux pas.”  It was no faux pas.  As the judge says, Teesdale lied.

“The excuse you offer, passing the file back and forth, no one looking and no one knowing what anything is, saddens me on one level and makes me sick on another,” Wilson said as he chastised Teesdale before the court. “You’re going to leave this room, and you’re never going to come back.”

No doubt the court’s condemnation will strike different people differently, and the part that struck home with me was this:

I recall the Defense asking before the trial started for any notes that the People had in their possession, and you blithely said, “No, we don’t have any notes.” It turned out, unfortunately, to be a lie.

“Blithely” is such a good description, as this question is asked before every trial, just as the demand for Brady material is included in every omnibus motion.  And is blithely dismissed. And is blithely accepted by judge after judge, court after court.  Blithely is a very good word indeed.

At the same time, Judge Wilson loosens his stranglehold just enough for his own comfort.

For my own peace of mind, I absolutely refuse to believe that you did this on purpose. However, it is gross negligence on your part to have no found this information, and turned it over to the defense….

teesdale

Megan Teesdale, Happy

It may relieve the court of the discomfort of reality, but then, that’s why baby prosecutors like Teesdale can respond so blithely.  You see, new prosecutors want desperately to win at trial, and pore over every detail, every word, in preparation. They want to make their bones. They want to show their fellow prosecutors that they have the right stuff.  They do not want to lose, and they don’t neglect to read the police reports. Every single one of them. I call bullshit.

On the bright side, Judge Wilson not only outed the offending prosecutor, and barred her from ever appearing in his courtroom again, but her supervisor disclosed the Brady material before verdict.  It’s not much, but compared to deep-sixing the Brady, it’s huge.

In imposing the sanction of exile, Judge Wilson seeks to make a point that has been made here and elsewhere with some regularity.

Here are you sanctions: You’re going to leave this room, and you’re never going to come back. You can’t appear before me anymore. I’ll tell you why, because I cannot trust anything you say or do. I can’t believe you. I can’t believe your credibility anymore.  The only thing a lawyer ever has to offer is their integrity and their credibility, and when you’ve lost that, there is no purpose in your appearing before this Court.

Step out.

But there is a lingering question.  Was Megan Teesdale an outlier, a rogue prosecutor who saw the words that would destroy her case and made the decision, on her own, to deny its existence?  Was she a flaming incompetent prosecutor, the only baby prosecutor not to read the police reports in preparation for trial?  Or is this a reflection of the culture that Marvin Schechter wrote about when the Brady War broke out in New York.

While I have no sympathy for Teesdale, who most assuredly deserves the ruination of her legal career, the words of her blithe response still ring in my ears, because they are the same words uttered by every prosecutor ever.

And let’s not forget that Segundo Marquez spent eight months on the rock because some judge set bail he was incapable of making, because a prosecutor at the outset of this case, when there was nothing to go on except police reports, including the same one that gave rise to Teesdale’s banishment, that stated the “victim” said sex was consensual.  No, this is not just about Teesdale. Not by a long shot.

H/T E. Everett Bartlett

 

 

42 comments on “Bronx ADA Megan Teesdale: Integrity Lost

  1. Pingback: Potential juror thinks defendant is guilty before trial; gets to sit on jury and find him guilty | a public defender

  2. AP

    Was her initial statement that it was consensual sex written down on a sticky note? Teesdale was trying to pull a fast one and almost got away with it. Can she/will she be reported to the NY State Bar for this?

  3. John Jenkins

    Can the state bar in NY take some kind of notice of what the judge did here and commence proceedings on its own against the ADA, or must it wait until someone initiates a formal complaint?

    1. SHG Post author

      First, in New York, there is no “state bar” as exists elsewhere. Admission and discipline is handled by the four judicial departments around the state. And the 1st Department (covering Manhattan and The Bronx) Disciplinary Committee can make whatever they want of this.

  4. CWH

    I am curious about the manner of disclosure. A supervisor sits in at trial, listens to argument, then goes directly to judge with an issue? So many questions. Why was he there? Did he expect this? If so, why not counsel the prosecutor or lay down the law to her before hand? Or did he do that, but expected her to ignore him? I am not trying to go all black helicopters here, but it just seems really strange to me that a supervisor would have intimate knowledge of the file, but sit back and wait for the frontline lawyer to screw the pooch. I guess there could be lots of reasons for that (past instances of bad stuff, personal grudge etc.) Just wondering, not in the least trying to exonerate her.

    1. SHG Post author

      Supervisors commonly sit in on trials with new prosecutors to help and assess their performance. Since there is no indication of how it came to the supervisors attention (and thus, all your questions are unanswerable), my guess would be that in prepping her for closing, the supervisor reviewed the file, came on the Brady, and disclosed it.

    1. SHG Post author

      I could say it’s a poor reflection on manhood, but I would never go there. I assume it refers to Penal Law 130.20, Sexual Misconduct:

      S 130.20 Sexual misconduct.
      A person is guilty of sexual misconduct when:
      1. He or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person without
      such person`s consent; or
      2. He or she engages in oral sexual conduct or anal sexual conduct
      with another person without such person’s consent; or
      3. He or she engages in sexual conduct with an animal or a dead human
      body.
      Sexual misconduct is a class A misdemeanor.

      Please, ignore subdivision 3. I’m begging you.

      1. Wheeze The People™

        And the boy replies, “That’s my Daa-aa-aad.” . . .

        I couldn’t resist. It’s a pathology of mine . . .

      2. John Barleycorn

        Thank you. That would clear things up a little bit regarding why Megan didn’t decide to go with rape of the felonious variety then I guess?

        No, that’s not pencilling out for me either.

        But just so I am clear, Megan’s inaction and actions are a definitely a faux pas. Not necessary a misdemeanor or a felony but definitely worth a lecture from at least this judge.

        1. SHG Post author

          A faux pas is a socially awkward or tactless act. This was a violation of law and ethics. Had she farted in the courtroom, it would be a faux pas. This was not a faux pas.

  5. A Random Defender

    As a defense attorney, these are the stories that scare the bejesus out of me. How much Brady material have I not had access to due to prosecutorial “ineptitude.”

  6. pvine

    The prosecutor violated the defendant’s due process right to a fair trial by knowingly presenting false testimony. But the judge should not have dismissed the case.

    The Supreme Court had made crystal clear that this type of constitutional violation is subect to Chapman harmless error analysis. And since the defendant learned of the withheld impeachment evidence before the case was submitted to the jury, the defendant fair trial right was not lost by the prosecutor’s unconstitutional, unethical conduct, because he could have confronted the victim with her inconsistent statement.

    Bottom line: The case should not have been dismissed without the consent of the DA.

    But the offending prosecutor should face sanctions for violating ethics rules and for violating the defendant’s constitutional rights, including a 1983 lawsuit.

    1. SHG Post author

      The occasional beauty of state courts is that they are entitled to act in accordance with their own constitutional mandates, and not the tepid federal remedies. As for a 1983 suit, it’s either Monell or immunity, with neither going anywhere.

      As for the disclosure coming before closing, it’s unclear how the double jeopardy problem isn’t implicated. If not as sanction, then the case would still have to be dismissed for that reason.

      So sanction the prosecutor? Fair enough, but what does that do for the innocent defendant who would be subject to the joys of a second trial for having been victimized by a Brady violation? But then, why should the defendant deserve any remedy? After all, if he didn’t do it, Megan wouldn’t be prosecuting him, right?

      1. pvine

        Well, from my reading of the partial transcript attached to the Daily News article, it appears as though the DA moved to have the case dismissed. The judge didn’t dismiss the case over the DA’s objection. If that is correct, my comments about the judge’s lack of authority to dismiss the case without the DA’s consent are withdrawn, although IMO still accurate under federal and New York law.

        As an aside (here is my Crim Law 100 comment, don’t be pissed off), your double-jeopardy argument doesn’t make any sense. If the defense was aware of the impeachment evidence before the jury began deliberations, they could have moved to reopen their cross-examination of the alleged victim. It would have been judicial error not to grant that request. The defense would have then impeached the victim with her inconsistent pre-trial statement. Closing arguments and instruction would be given to the jury. The defense would argue that the sex was consensual and, therefore, the charged crime wasn’t committed. If the jury acquitted him, great for the defense. If the jury still believed that the crime was committed, notwithstanding the victim’s pre-trial statement about consent, and convicted the defendant, that wouldn’t raise a double-jeopardy issue.

        Perhaps you are thinking of the double-jeopardy claim that arises when a prosecutor intentionally engages in misconduct in order to cause a mistrial. In that situation, after the defense request for a mistrial is granted, the defense will seek to preclude a retrial on the grounds that the prosecutor intentionally caused the first mistrial. Yes, in that scenario, double-jeopardy will bar the second trial. But that is not what happened in the Bronx County case.

        Also, your reference to the “innocent” defendant is misplaced. Due Process violations by a prosecutor (whether they be of the Brady, Napue or Giglio type) don’t equate with factual innocence of the accused, regardless of how poorly they reflect on the ethics and honesty of the offending prosecutor. If this case had gone to the jury it is possible that the jury would have still convicted the defendant, notwithstanding the victim’s contradictory statements. The jury could have concluded that the victim’s testimony at trial under oath was true, and her unsworn, contradictory pre-trial statement was false. That is a very common phenomenon in domestic violence cases involving recanting victims, although in reverse. There may be many reasons why the victim told the cops the sex was consensual. One reason is because it, in fact, was. But there might be many other reasons why she made that pre-trial statement that have nothing to do with the truth of her trial testimony. That is why we have juries.

        1. SHG Post author

          Whether the prosecutor moved for dismissal isn’t clear to me from the transcript, but regardless, the idea that reopening testimony (which I agree the judge would be required to do) would suffice is utterly insane. It might seem like a satisfactory solution from a textbook, but it isn’t even close. So, we’re left with a mistrial caused by a intentional (or, if we pretend real hard, grossly negligent) prosecutorial constitutional violation.

          As for “innocent,” here’s a shocker. He’s innocent. Until he’s convicted, he’s innocent. That the Brady backs it up is nice, but he’s innocent. Contrary to your implied supposition, he’s not “yet to be proven guilty,” but innocent. And yes, we have juries to decide whether that presumption is lost. And we have a Constitution, Brady and the mechanism of a trial to reach the jury. So you’re okay denying the defendant due process, exculpatory evidence and the right to have it sufficiently in advance of trial to construct his defense around it but still want him kinda un-innocent until he can squeeze in a quick, un-tactical fix to the constitutional deprivation so the jury can timely convict him?

          As for the facile meme that this could be “a very common phenomenon,” it could also be that this was another very common phenomenon, a lying accuser. Unless you have a basis to know which it was in this case, you’re blowing smoke out of your ass. You lose cred when you fabricate excuses like that.

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  8. Darrow123

    I strongly suspect there is more to this story. I went to law school with her. Nicest girl in the world. Left-leaning. Worked with kids. I loathe rogue prosecutors as much as the next defense attorney, but this girl isn’t one of them.

    1. SHG Post author

      Maybe, but you “strongly suspect” is meaningless. If you have a “more to this story,” then tell. Otherwise, friends of anon commenters on the internet don’t get a pass on violating other people’s constitutional rights, no matter how nice you thought she was in law school.

      1. pvine

        I am not defending her, but (yeah there is always a “but,” the same but, a/k/a presumption of innocence, that people accused much more serious stuff are entitled to) let’s see what all of the facts are.

        Was this simply an unethical prosecutor bent on convicting a defendant at all cost, including the presentation of false evidence? Or was this a neophyte prosecutor handling a s!@# load of cases, with a good reputation (prior to this case) among judges, her colleagues, and the defense bar, who simply didn’t spend the time to scour the file for Brady material?

        Let’s wait until both sides have had a chance to present all of the evidence to a neutral factfinder before this prosecutor’s reputation/career is destroyed forever.

        She is entitled to the same presumption of innocence as your clients, right SHG? Or, in your mind, does her “prosecutor” title eliminate her right to due process?

        1. Charlesmorrison

          No, state actors are not constitutionally entitled to a presumption of innocence, whereas as criminal defendants are.

          No one has accused her of a crime, as far as I can tell. Perhaps some other, creative prosecutor will charge her with some offense that offends the dignity of the state. But, as of now, given the posture of the situation, she’s entitled to nothing.

        2. SHG Post author

          I agree we should stick to the facts. What makes you think she was “handling a s!@# load of cases”? What makes you think she had “a good reputation )prior to this case)”? There are no facts to support this. But these have nothing to do with her duty to disclose Brady, which included the exercise of due diligence to find it, as well as the duty not to lie to the defense and court that “there are no notes” when there were. Even if all your excuses were true, they do not explain this outright lie.

          Wait for a neutral factfinder? That would be Judge Wilson. Oh wait, he’s not quite neutral perhaps. He was a former Bronx prosecutor, so he knows exactly what the pressures and responsibilities on this neophyte would be, so he might be less than neutral and more than a bit sympathetic to her excuses. And yet found this sufficiently reprehensible to banish her from his courtroom.

          And finally, she isn’t being prosecuted. People accused of crimes are entitled to the presumption of innocence, even if they were prosecutors at the time. But she isn’t being prosecuted. She won’t have to suffer one trial, no less two. She won’t have to fear going to jail for a crime. She went home every night for eight months while this defendant sat in a cell on the rock. So no, she doesn’t get the presumption of innocence here.

          And those are the facts.

          1. Tman

            Curious how you can claim that we need to “stick to the facts”, and suggest that a new Bronx ADA is NOT handling a ridiculous caseload (which is standard practice for pretty much every large DA’s office), but you insist in the original article that EVERY baby prosecutor scours their case files for every word so there’s no way she could have missed this one note.

            1. SHG Post author

              You’re conflating my response to pvine’s comment with my commentary in the post. Separate things. Really not very hard to figure out for most people. You, not so much apparently. If you want to have any cred (“which is standard practice for pretty much every large DA’s office”), first thing you need to do is establish a basis for your blind assertion, and then I will be happy to explain why your assumption may not be correct or relevant.

            2. Jo

              You sound like an ostrich with his head in the sand calling the fact that ADAs have a huge caseload a “blind assertion.” It is well known that ADAs and public defenders have ridiculous, and often times unmanageable, caseloads. “If you want to have any cred,” differentiate between feeling that the fact is irrelevant to this ADA’s culpability and its actual accuracy. Also, my “support”
              [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

              Was real difficult to find on Google, followed by all the news articles about district attorneys’ huge case loads. According to Google, .58 seconds difficult.

            3. SHG Post author

              This isn’t a generic question of prosecutorial caseloads. To have marginal relevance to the point pvine was making (that perhaps she failed to disclose Brady because of an excessive caseload), he would have to know what the caseload of a Bronx prosecutor was at the relevant time. To make it a serious consideration, it would have to be the caseload of a rookie prosecutor. And to make it viable, it would have to be this specific prosecutor’s caseload.

              And even if he was able to provide that information, it still wouldn’t serve as an excuse as this is a constitutionally mandated duty, not something you only have to do if you have the time and nothing better to do. And more particularly, when a new prosecutor goes on trial, her caseload is put aside and her focus will be on her trial, so regardless of her caseload, there is no excuse whatsoever for her to not have been aware of the Brady material or to lie about it to the court.

              And that’s why googling prosecutorial caseloads and coming up with a generic law review article was just mind-numbingly stupid and totally irrelevant.

      2. hddn

        There was a statement from the Bronx DA that was given to the paper prior to the story broke, but they chose not to run it. I honestly don’t know all the details because I’m hearing only the gossip but there was apparently a lot more to what happened. The paper also fails to note that the guy was held in on $1 bail, and it was his own attorneys that kept him there for 8 months while they filed motions.

        What I’ve heard from the gossip train is:
        The “note” was from a prior ADA and wasn’t clear what i t meant: along the lines of “sex was consensual no it wasn’t”.
        Defense was told there might have been a recantation eight months ago.
        The officer that took the recantation was retired.
        It was only after they found his cell number and contacted him did they discover there was an actual recantation, at which point they moved to dismiss.

        But again, I have no first hand knowledge, and it would have been nice if the paper actually printed the other half of the story.

        1. SHG Post author

          No, no, no. You either know what you’re talking about or your spreading worthless rumors, none of which makes any sense by the way. So no, you don’t get to spread rumors any more than someone could say “I heard a rumor that Teesdale hates Hispanics.” If you have something, then use your real name, own up to it and provide your basis. If not, don’t spread worthless rumors.

  9. Roger Cohen

    It’s such a gross Brady violation that one tends to think this has to be aberrant conduct, but still it raises the questions: How systemic does it go; how common a practice is this? Its frequency must vary from office to office and district to district, but it makes me want to know how each prosecutor manages his or her own staff and if they put safeguards in place: clear, definitive policies, training, case audits to ensure matters are being handled properly, and accountability for grievous errors and prosecutorial misconduct. The most difficult part may be just to get prosecutors generally to hold themselves accountable to a wider public. Prosecutors have such wide discretion and so little scrutiny, that abuses like this may be rampant in many more jurisdictions than anyone might suspect. It will really take leadership from the top of DOJ and from the respective state attorneys general to begin to get at this in a comprehensive way. Just sayin.

    1. SHG Post author

      While we, as outsiders, may never know how pervasive Brady violations are, I think you’re right that they are a reflection of the culture of the prosecutor’s office. If the culture is to respect a defendant’s constitutional rights, then Brady will be respected. If it’s convict at all costs, then it won’t.

      As my buddy Marvin said, prosecutors aren’t born with a genetic predisposition to conceal Brady. They have to learn it somewhere.

      1. william doriss

        Sorry I’m late to the party. This posting has been troubling me for a couple of days now. It is hard for anyone who is not a CDL or has been on the receiving end of a malicious prosecution to misunderestimate how serious and seriously damaging these types of prosecutions can be.
        It may be the ultimate Constitutional violation.
        I believe the loosey-goosey legal concept of “qualified immunity” may have run its course. Who came up with that utterly devious piece of legal chicanery anyhow? Time to banish it to the scrapheap of failed headstrong, compartmentalized, statist thinking. If more than a few rogue prosecutors were to serve prison time, I believe that would indeed “send a very strong message” that this type of behavior by our “public servants” will not be tolerated in the judicial branch, be they prosecutors, judges or bailiffs in attendance.
        Incidentally, I finally figured out what “TL;dr1 and 2″ mean. Was too embarrassed to ask. Hope I got it right. Ha. Not too many words, not too few; just the right amount. That is the keystone to success on the blogs and the interwebz.

        1. SHG Post author

          And now, our daily dose of “get rid of qualified immunity.” The only thing left is kitteh pics. I can’t wait.

          1. william doriss

            The Easter Kitty,… I thought she was cute. You may re-post in a timely fashion, if you choose. Permission granted. No copyright violation lawsuits anticipated or invited. She may be looking for an attorney,… I gave her your name.

  10. Elaine Kiefer

    I will never understand how anyone would knowingly put an innocent person in jail. What’s really disgusting is these prosecutors who will NEVER admit that they were wrong even when the proof is indisputable of a persons innocence. How do the sleep at night???

    1. SHG Post author

      Not to disagree, but I don’t believe that most prosecutors would “knowingly” put an innocent person in jail. Blind faith in the righteousness of what they do is a terrible thing. They may believe the evidence problematic, but they still believe the defendant guilty. That’s what justifies concealment.

  11. AlphaCentauri

    IANAL, and I have no knowledge of how prosecutors handle evidence. Is it really all loose scraps of paper in a manila folder in 2014? In the course of the 8 months they were awaiting trial, shouldn’t it have been scanned into a single pdf by some clerical employee other than the overworked prosecutor to make sure that there is documentation of what pages (ie, all of them) are shared with the defense?

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