Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Pro Se Defendant Charged With Harassment and Stalking Wins Acquittal
Westchester County Court, White Plains
Judge John P. Colangelo Presiding

Last Tuesday, February 13th, Peter Petrov, a naturalized American citizen from Bulgaria was acquitted by a jury of five men and a woman, having chosen to conduct his own defense in a trial that extended over four days before Judge John P. Colangelo in Westchester County Court. Mr. Petrov who had previously been divorced from his wife of more than six years, Maria Besheva Petrov, by Judge Robert Neary, a year earlier, had originally been hauled into White Plains City Court on charges of violation of a Temporary Order of Protection, allegedly having harassed and stalked his former wife at the Galleria, and the City Center Mall in late November, and early December 2005.

Instructed to attend classes for domestically violent individuals, without having been convicted of any of his former wife’s allegations,
Mr. Petrov refused, on general Constitutional grounds. Apprehended and brought into County Court for arraignment, he stood his grounds,
demanding a trial to determine his guilt or innocence.

The District Attorney’s Office over a period of a year repeatedly lessened the charges, ultimately offering Petrov an ACD. However, he
refused to compromise, insisting on his innocence and demanding his day in court. A man of modest income and means, Petrov was compelled to dismiss his attorney. Opting to conduct his own defense, but mindful that a conviction could bring up to a year in jail, he accepted legal advice, but not representation, from Attorney Richard Ferrante, assigned by the Court.

Tuesday brought summations, the Prosecution and Defense having rested. Prior to the commencement of their closing statements, Judge Colangelo, really for the benefit of Mr. Petrov, cautioned both sides to confine their remarks to those subjects that had been allowed into evidence. Mr. Petrov opened with, “I think the Prosecution has not met their burden of proof.” Referring to his former wife, the complainant, he declared, “Ms. Basheva thought that the Order of Protection barred me from White Plains. She stated that she felt safer on a deserted street than in a mall full of people.”

Holding the jury’s attention, despite some problems with his pronounciation, Petrov went on, “She went to the police ten days after she saw me, and three days after she saw me a second time.” Appealing to the jurors’ common sense he declared, “You spent four days trying to determine the truth. Do you believe an Order of Protection barred me from the City of White Plains? I believe that it is time the DA investigates the perjury.”

ADA Bloom took a two-pronged approach. She told the jurors that a “lawful Order of Protection had been issued,” and yet Mr. Petrov had appeared approximately ten days apart both at the Galleria and the City Center Mall when his former wife was present. Claiming, “he beat her so bad,” she explained that Mr. Petrov had told her, “I will sponsor your mother to come to the United States, if you will have another child.”

Bloom, indicating that Mrs. Petrov did not want another child, declared, “She was defying him.” She then showed the jury a photo of the Defendant’s former wife, claiming that a dark spot on her face was blood from an injury.

Bloom repeatedly told the jurors the Defendant had a car and access to a hundred shopping areas where he could have purchased the television and cable he claimed he had been shopping for. Without offering any evidence that Petrov had any prior knowledge that his former wife would be present either in the Galleria or the City Center Mall on any particular day at a particular time, she attempted to persuade them that he was actually in those malls at a time when she was for the express purpose of stalking and harassing her.

The jury was not buying the DA’s logic. Within three hours of the Judge’s charge they returned a verdict of not guilty on each of five counts.

• • •

Big Change Coming At The Top

Confidential sources tell The Guardian that Administrative Judge Francis Nicolai will be retiring in April, and that Judge Anthony Scarpino, formerly of the Surrogate Court, will be assuming his position.

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