Judge Fights Criminal Charges Despite Video of Punching Drunk Lawyer

By George Khoury, Esq. on September 20, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If there is one thing criminal lawyers know about judges, it's that they like to see contrition from defendants. Even if it's just a speeding ticket, a defendant that knows they've done wrong, feels bad, and is ready to face the consequences, is likely to get a more lenient sentence than a defendant that lacks these qualities.

For the now punch-drunk famous New York City Parole Board ALJ, Robert Beltrani, his time as a jurist may have resulted in him forgetting this admirable quality of defendants. If you forgot about Beltrani, he's the judge who has been fighting off assault charges over punching an attorney outside a Manhattan party, after a few too many cocktails.

The judge's criminal case is proceeding, and surprisingly he has rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in no criminal record whatsoever after six months of good behavior (likely some form of pretrial diversion). However, like his actions, his decision to reject the plea belies lawyerly wisdom, particularly given the facts, which are immortalized in video (...and the entire internet cheered).

An Offer You Can Refuse

Beltrani insists that he's innocent, did nothing wrong, and was provoked into throwing the punch that knocked out attorney Sam Roberts, a NYC public defender. Roberts was caught on video laying, what appears to be, a rather gentle hand on the jurist, followed by a light one-handed Elaine Benes style push.

According to reports, the two were having a heated, semi-drunk-to-full-on-drunk exchange. Beltrani is alleged to have said (or yelled) something along the lines of: "Yeah, I'm the judge, I do justice and I f-ing kill people." Though he denies this statement, the video really makes you wonder whether the punch was even in the least bit warranted.

It sounds more likely than not that Beltrani lost his cool after being mercilessly taunted for his low stature on the totem pole of judges. He alleges that after he commented on how he likes to help people Roberts said to him: "You want to help people? Help yourself, you're a parole judge." Although Robert's story did not exactly pan out the way he remembered (he initially stated that he was walking away when he was punched), the video that was released does not look good for Beltrani.

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