An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Manhattan offered me the following suggestions about how to write to Judge Ingram about Nechemya Weberman’s sentencing.
- First and foremost, the letters should not be longer than 2-3 pages.
- These letters should talk about how Weberman’s behavior harmed the letter writers, their families, and more broadly, the community at large. For example, they can talk about how his conduct has damaged people’s ability to trust others.
- Additionally, writers should describe the rift Weberman has caused within the community as whole. If they have specific accounts of encounters with Weberman they should definitely include those.
- Anonymous letters have less of an impact than signed letters. However, those that write letters need to realize that all letters become part of the trial record and Weberman’s defense team will see them. If a writer chooses to leave out his/her name, they should explain their reasons for writing anonymously. It is quite likely that the judge will understand the community dynamics. An anonymous letter in these circumstances is worthwhile, even though it is not as effective as a signed letter.
- Anything is acceptable, including handwritten letters. But show respect for the judge by taking care to write carefully and legibly. If you are using computers take care to write carefully, to spell check, and to make it professional in appearance. Still, better an imperfect letter, than no letter.
- Also be careful to respect the autonomy of the court. Don’t “demand” and don’t tell the judge what “You have to do.” Instead speak of your hopes, concerns, thoughts, and feeling.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Devarim hayotzim min halev, nichnosim lihalev. Words that come from one person’s heart enter the heart of another. Write the letter that feels true for you. Weberman’s supporters will be running word processors overtime turning out nearly identical letters with perfect grammar and tidy printing. Then they will pressure people to sign them. Judges see this all the time. They know how to discount these letters. Just be true to yourself and trust that an experienced judge will know how to distinguish sincerity from propaganda.
- Trust Judge Ingram to know the law and apply it intelligently. Don’t say you know how long the sentence should be unless you are an expert in New York State sentencing law, sentencing practices, and the specifics of this case. However, you can speak about issues such as having the sentence be long enough to protect other children from Weberman if he should come out too early or having the sentence send a message to others in the community.
- Beware of chutzpah in any form. If you express it, even subtly, Judge Ingram will notice it. Nechemya tried chutzpah during the trial and we see where it got him. Judge Ingram was rightly angry about breaches of courtroom decorum by many of the victim’s supporters including noise and litter left on the floor and the benches. Let’s make it up this time and show how we can respect the court.
The mailing address for the judge is:Honorable John G. Ingram New York State Supreme Court 320 Jay Street, Room 24.83 Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Near the top of the letter, include the line: “Re: Sentencing of Nechemya Weberman.”
The salutation should be: Dear Judge Ingram,
There is no deadline for submitting a letter to the judge. However, try to get the letter into the judge before Monday, January 21. The judge is more likely to find time to give the letter careful attention if he gets it when he has a full working day to look at it.
Sentencing is now rescheduled for Tuesday, January 22nd
Monday, January 14, 9:30 a.m. See my post about why it is important to attend sentencing. That post also has details about attending.