Nikki Addimando’s appeal argued in front of NY State Supreme Court Appellate Division

Lucy Brewster/The Miscellany News.

Ever since Judge Edward T. McLaughlin sentenced Nicole “Nikki” Addimando to 19 years to life in prison on Feb. 11, 2020, Addimando’s friends, family and supporters have looked towards the case’s appeal hearing as the next opportunity to challenge Addimando’s conviction and sentencing. On April 22, Addimando’s appeal was argued in front of the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division by Gerrard Beeney, pro-bono legal counsel from Sullivan & Cromwell. First Assistant Putnam County District Attorney Larry Glasser gave his oral argument in response to Addimando’s appeal points. The Appellate panel included four judges: William Mastro, Renaldo Rivera, Colleen Duffy and Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix. 

A 12-person grand jury found Addimando guilty of second degree murder in April 2019 for shooting her boyfriend Christopher Grover in September of 2017. Addimando worked at Vassar’s nursery school, Wimpfheimer, from 2011 to 2012. She argued during the trial that she killed Grover in self defense after he threatened to kill her for leaving him. Her defense displayed evidence of years of horrific physical and emotional sexual abuse tied to Grover. 

After her conviction, Addimando requested to be sentenced under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law in May 2019. The act allows judges to give amended sentences for victims of domestic violence who are convicted of crimes. McLaughlin denied sentencing Addimando under the act, arguing that she had an opportunity to leave Grover.

Beeney presented five key legal errors during the hearing that he argued form the basis for an appeal. In response to McLaughlin’s sentence, Beeney argued that McLaughlin failed to follow the sentencing guidelines under the DVSJA despite the fact that Addimando met the criteria. He explained that Addimando qualifies to be sentenced under the act because she was a victim of substantial domestic abuse at the time the crime was committed. He further claimed that the abuse played a significant factor in the crimes for which she was convicted and a sentence of 19 years to life is unduly harsh.

Beeney asserted that McLaughlin made an error when considering the jury’s rejection of Addimando’s claims of self defense as evidence that she did not qualify under the DVSJA. “I don’t see how logically one can take the position that because justification was rejected by a jury, a person convicted of committing a crime is not entitled to a reduced sentence,” Beeney said to the panel of judges. “If the justification had been accepted by the jury, there would be no sentencing,” he argued. Judges questioned Beeney and Glasser about how the years of abuse should be factored into qualifying Addimando for sentencing under the DVSJA, even if the jury does not believe there was a self defense justification the night of the shooting. 

Because of how recently the DVSJA was passed, this will be the first appellate panel to consider the legal implications of the act. If the appellate court decides to resentence Addimando under the DVSJA, she could get a reduced sentence of five to 10 years. Addimando is requesting a sentence of five years under the DVSJA from the court. 

Beeney alleged during the hearing that the first consequential error of the case occurred when McLaughlin dismissed Addimando’s Dutchess county public defender, Kara Gerry, based on the prosecution’s claim that there was a conflict of interest. Gerry had been working on Addimando’s case for nine months when prosecuting Assistant Putnam County District Attorney Chana Krauss argued that because a key witness of the prosecution had been represented by the Dutchess County Public Defenders in an unrelated DUI case, that there was an unwaivable conflict of interest for Gerry to be representing Addimando. Gerry was not employed at the Dutchess County Public Defender’s Office at the time the witness was represented and had never had any contact with the witness. Beeney explained to the panel that Addimando understood the conflict and signed a waiver to keep her representation after consulting with independent legal counsel. 

Beeney further explained that McLaughlin allowed misleading testimony during the questioning of a key witness when prosecutors guided a police detective witness through hearsay testimony about the murder weapon. The witness suggested to the jury that the gun used to shoot Grover had been wiped down with baby wipes, yet prosecutors knew that the forensic evidence did not show any cleaning residue on the gun. 

Further, Beeney explained that McLaughlin and prosecutors wrongfully excluded evidence central to Addimando’s defense. A Pornhub profile named “Groverrespect” uploaded images of Addimando being sexually abused and physically assaulted in the house Addimando and Grover shared. While the photos were shown to the grand jury to illustrate the abuse, McLaughlin prohibited the Pornhub profile, which matches Grover’s name and demographic information, from being shown during the trial on the grounds that the profile could not be authenticated as Grover’s. Beeney argued that the jury should have been able to consider the evidence of the profile and surmise from the context whether the profile belonged to Grover or not. 

When Glasser defended McLaughlin’s decision to exclude the evidence of the Pornhub profile, Mastro pushed back, saying, “The [prosecutors] were suggesting throughout this entire trial that the injuries inflicted on the defendant could have been from other sources other than Grover. If that’s the position you’re taking, then the evidence we’re talking about with the identification on [the Pornhub profile] would have changed the dynamic of the [prosecutor’s] case.” Mastro then bluntly asked Glasser to explain what Addimando’s motive was for killing Grover according to prosecutors, indicating his skepticism of the prosecution’s strategy for characterizing Addimando during the trial. 
The judges could overturn her conviction, resentence her or affirm her conviction and sentencing. The Nikki Addimando Community Defense Committee released a statement after the trial thanking supporters of Addimando for their support. “The hearing was intense, and for many, difficult to watch … [W]e want to express our deep gratitude to the judges, who seemed to consider the gravitas of this situation and asked meaningful, truth-seeking questions,” the statement reads. It could take months for the Appellate Division to make a decision about Addimando’s case.

7 Comments

  1. How is it not outright murder when you press the gun against his temple an pull the trigger. She had a mother an sister to go to some people have no one. Grovers mom an dad are the real victims in this evil act.

    • You have obviously never been in an emotional and physical abuse situation. He beat her down and you have no idea how years of abuse can do to you and she was scared for her and her kids. Yes it would have been ideal to leave and thats the easiest thing to say but unless you have been in that situation you can’t say it is that easy

    • It’s ignorant thoughts like this from “Bo” that have kept abused women down for so many years. She clearly did what she HAD to do to feel safe from daily torment, and deserves her name completely cleared of all wrong doing.

  2. I was abused as a teen by a guy who would force me to hold a gum to him and dare me to pull the trigger. He would tell me that was my only way out but be sure to know if there was a bullet in the chamber. I had no idea. Then he would tell me if I shot him I would be free of him but I would spend the rest of my life in prison. He beat me with a shoe, someone called the cops. They told me for 30.00 I could go to the station that I had no money or transportation to get there get a restraining order but in three years that was the only time cops came.. They would arrest him but he would be out in days. He looked at me from the police car with an expression of death to me. He left the apt. and moved into the storage unit below the building and taunted me every day. My self-esteem broken, fear overcame any ideas of running. My siblings would have helped but they were far from me and I feared for their safety. I reached out to a friend and ran away after 3 years. No job, license or transportation. Staying with strangers. His promise came true and he found me. He manipulated me with fear, took me to a dirt road away from traffic or buildings. He choked me by pinching my windpipe. My arms became weak instantly so I could not fight. Then came blackness. I heard voices that sounded like I was being talked about in the past tense but could not really hear the words. My mind told me to fight and not loose the battle. I forced air into my lungs but I still felt unconcious. As I came too the forcing of air was difficult and it felt as if my lungs were peeling open like a vaccum sealed bag. I had urinated all over myself. All my bodily functions had shut down. He then raped me. I talked him into dropping me off for me to collect my belongings. I called my friend and the police. My face was riddled with broken veins, my chest with pain. He confessed to someone and brought him over. He stayed in the car and the stranger came to me and told me of his confession to this man sending me apologies. The man told me where to find him, call the police and have them contact him as a witness. The police came. They asked me what happened. Took me to the hospital for an exam that was poorly done. The doc told the cop he didn’t see any evidence. Remember I just regained conciousness before being raped and did not have time to clean up and dry off. I was interviewed again at the station. No pics were taken of the damage to my face. They drove me home and he was spotted and arrested. His time in jail was short. The grand jury took only a few minutes after I testified to hold him for trial. Then it all went silent. Months later I finally saw the DA and was told this was dropped because I was considered promiscuous and had lived with him. He taunted me by phone, he would pop up in public near me. I was moved from my high school to an alternative school because that influence and kind of thing was not a good example. I lived in fear and took me years to become confident and functional. I wonder sometimes what if I pulled the trigger. It was probably empty and he would have beaten me to death or shot me. Do not judge what you don’t know.

  3. I understand that leaving the abuser is hard for multiple reasons. I understand that many times the abuser comes after her and kills her (or finds other ways to hurt her). However that still doesn’t mean that killing the abuser is the solution. Are you guys going to start teaching domestic abuse victims to find a way to kill their abusers?

    • Wait – so you understand that many women are killed when they leave abusive men, but you don’t feel that justifies killing them? Would you apply this standard to yourself – if you were trapped in a relationship in which leaving realistically meant you faced a serious likelihood of being killed, would you not consider it to be self-defense if you killed your abuser in order to escape? As for “teaching” women that this is the”right path”, look to the system that prevents them from leaving and fails to protect them. Look at it through the eyes of the women who have to navigate medical, police, and judicial barriers and see if it’s not the system that is doing that kind of “teaching”. Because overwhelmingly what women want is safety. Give them a real path to safety and protection and there’s no need for anyone to be killed. But without that safety and protection, punishing women for acting to protect themselves and their children is horrific.

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