STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Chafed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions still in place after more than two months, several Staten Island criminal defense lawyers say they will represent, free of charge, those who receive social-distancing and related summonses.
Attorney Mark J. Fonte said Thursday he’s been contacted by eight to 10 people who were recently ticketed for allegedly failing to comply with social-distance requirements.
Many of them were standing outside food establishments this past weekend waiting to pick up take-out orders, he said.
In addition, a worker at beauty salon who was packing items, including hand sanitizer, inside the store for curbside pickup was issued a summons for allegedly violating the emergency orders, he said.
Beauty salons are considered nonessential businesses and aren’t allowed to be open in the city.
“These emergency orders are a clear violation of our Constitutional rights,” said Fonte. “Ordering Americans into home confinement, shuttering our places of worship, limiting our travel and depriving us our ability to earn a living is tyranny. Free men do not ask permission to go to church! I stand with the people of Staten Island on the front lines.”
The summonses instruct alleged violators to appear in court at a future date.
Officials implemented the restrictions in mid-to-late March in a bid to limit the spread of the pandemic, believed to have claimed the lives of more than 21,000 city residents thus far, including 946 Staten Islanders.
According to the Police Department’s daily updates, cops have issued 21 social-distancing summonses in the city between May 11 and May 19. One other summons was issued for obstructing governmental administration.
A breakdown for Staten Island wasn’t immediately available.
Over the past weekend, the city Sheriff’s Office issued two desk-appearance tickets for non-essential businesses operating in violation of the emergency orders, said a spokeswoman for the city Finance Department.
One establishment was a beauty supply/wig store, while the other was a men’s hair salon, said the spokeswoman. Two summonses were issued at each location.
The Sheriff’s Office is a division of the Finance Department.
“We are living through unprecedented times, where all New Yorkers are being asked to do their part to keep others healthy by maintaining six feet of distance from others and wearing face coverings when social distancing is not possible,” said Marcy Miranda, the spokeswoman. “Deputies will continue enforcing social distancing guidelines set by the mayor and governor until the emergency orders are lifted.”
Defense lawyer Mario F. Gallucci said several people who were issued summons have contacted him, including the owner of a Richmond Terrace bar.
The tavern owner told Gallucci he was sitting with four friends, drinking at a table outside the bar on Tuesday when he received a summons for failing to social distance. The owner was the only one who got a summons, said Gallucci, adding the bar was closed.
Gallucci said he, too, will represent, pro bono, individuals who receive such summonses.
“I was inspired by Mark Fonte to work in solidarity to help those who are given what I consider unconstitutional distancing summonses,” said Gallucci. “Shootings and murders are skyrocketing throughout the city and this administration is more concerned about using the NYPD for social distancing.”