State Supreme Court Judge Kevin Russo has ruled that the attorney for Grafton Thomas, the perpetrator of the Chanukah machete attack, should not be removed from representing his client in this case, Mid Hudson News reported on Sunday.
Thomas, of Greenwood Lake, entered Harav Chaim Rottenberg’s house in Monsey during Chanukah while wielding the knife and injured five people, and has been charged on the state and federal levels with attempted murder and other charges.
Michael Sussman has been retained as a lawyer by Thomas, and Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Walsh II filed court papers to have Sussman disqualified, maintaining that Sussman violated the advocate-witness rule.
Sussman learned that Thomas lived for a period of time in a Wurtsboro cottage, and went there with Thomas’ mother and a member of the clergy. While there, they gathered evidence, including medication Thomas had been taking as well as some of his writings.
DA Walsh has filed court papers requesting that Sussman be disqualified from representing Thomas, since Sussman violated the rule that “generally requires the lawyer to withdraw from employment when it appears that he or a member of his firm will be called to testify regarding a disputed issue of fact.” The DA maintained that Sussman will be required to testify about the recovered items and was disqualified to be Thomas’ lawyer.
Justice Russo that the prosecutor “failed to articulate the likelihood that the recovered items would be introduced at trial or that the circumstances of their discovery will be disputed.” In addition, he said that the DA “failed to consider the fact that several witnesses to the recovery exist, making Mr. Sussman’s testimony cumulative. Therefore, it cannot be said that Mr. Sussman’s testimony is likely or required on that issue.”
In his defense of his client, Sussman has stated that Thomas has mental health issues and is not fit to stand trial.