When it’s Dangerous to Defend

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Area defense attorneys told NewsChannel 13 it’s becoming far too common to be threatened – simply for representing clients who are accused of heinous crimes.

Kurt Mausert is representing one of the area’s most notorious alleged criminals – Kevin Monahan, the man accused of shooting and killing Kaylin Gillis, as she rode in an SUV that had turned around in Monahan’s driveway.

The anger toward Monahan is often directed at Mausert.

Ever since it became known that Mausert is representing Monahan, threatening calls, emails, social media messages and website comments have been pouring in.

Some have been so threatening – referring to attacks on Mausert and his family – that police have gotten involved.

“It’s really easy to reach out with anonymity and say the most foul, frightening, disgusting thing that you can possibly think of,” said Mausert. “You can’t afford not to take something seriously, because then it’s a guessing game. I mean, you’ve got to find a balance where you take reasonable precautions.”

You can’t blame Mausert – a firearms and martial arts expert – for being cautious. He was just 21 when he lost his big brother to a murderer.

He’s been the target of an attack himself. He was in the middle of a particularly contentious trial when someone drained the brake fluid from his car.

“That changed the way the world looked to me,” said Mausert.

Serving seven months in Fallujah changed the way the world looked to Lee Kindlon – the lawyer representing Nauman Hussain in the Schoharie limo death case.

“I’ve had people try and blow me up and shoot at me, and you know, all those things,” Kindlon said.
Kindlon and his staff get regular death threats about representing Hussain.

“They’re immune to this idea that yes, there’s this group of people out there who want me dead despite the fact that they don’t know that I’m really a nice guy.”

Mausert calls defense attorneys the footsoldiers of the constitution –defending the law every bit as much as a client.

“I’m here to make sure that the United States government, or the state of New York cannot take someone’s liberty or life away from them unless they’re able to prove to a certain standard of proof – beyond a reasonable doubt  –that this person is guilty,” said Kindlon. “That’s the standard I want for me, for my son, for my spouse, for my brother, for my friends if we are wrongfully accused.”

However, it’s not just defense attorneys who increasingly feel the wrath of an angry public.

“I don’t know a DA in New York who hasn’t been threatened,” Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said.

Jordan is president of the DA’s Association of the State of New York.

“That has no place in a society of rules and laws and the fact that people feel that they can just disregard that or that he’s somehow the problem because he’s standing there willing to represent someone who is accused of a heinous crime,” Jordan said.

There are more threats and anger being spewed now than ever before, Jordan said.

In this age of instant reaction and immediate posting, it’s important to wait and let the criminal justice system work, he said.

As for Mausert, he’s able to find the silver lining in the dark cloud of threats.

“It shows that people care. It shows that people have a heart. It shows that people have empathy, and have a sense of moral and legal outrage,” said Mausert. “So I understand it, when someone’s accused of something that’s just absolutely terrible for people to be upset. In one sense, it shows they’re good people, but they need to take that emotional reaction, and they need to have it hold hands with their intellect and with understanding that part of the price we pay for being in a free society is, we have to wait for the evidence to come in, and we have to wait for the system to do its job.”

Even with the threats, Mausert doesn’t back down. He said he defends clients as if they’re his own family, because that’s what the law demands.