The popular catchphrase, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” is supposed to be an appropriate concept to approach career-building; we don’t typically expect it to intersect with the criminal justice system.
Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, but when the most connected individuals are placed in front of her, suddenly her vision is given post-Lasik surgery clarity. She can suddenly recognize the linkage between the most powerful people within the system, while the victims remain outside of her optic range.
In a courtroom in Niagara County, NY, this chain of privilege was exemplified when former lawyer and political operative, Nicholas D’Angelo, had his plea deal accepted by State Supreme Court Judge Debra Givens sentencing him to 6 months in county jail for what she described as “multiple heinous sex crimes against three young women.”
On April 25, D’Angelo, 30, pleaded guilty to eight felony sex crimes involving three victims, one of whom was a 16-year-old girl, and was also sentenced to ten years of strict sex offender probation.
Prior to his sentencing, D’Angelo addressed the court by thanking the judge for “the opportunity to change, improve and grow throughout the next several years."
D’Angelo is no stranger to sex crimes against young women, as he was also convicted of sexual misconduct stemming from a 2009 occurrence involving a 16-year-old D’Angelo and a 14-year-old girl inside a Niagara Falls Halls school stairwell.
His shockingly minimal punishment has left his victims disappointed in the judicial system’s complicity in allowing this outcome. One of his alleged victims, Noelle DelZoppo, stated that she was “disgusted because this is his second time and he's only getting six months when he could have been facing 35 years."
Only an irrational person would expect perfection from a judicial system that is run by flawed human beings, but there are cases that are absurdly obvious in how they should be conducted to meet an acceptable form of justice.
However, providing six months of imprisonment for one of the most heinous criminal violations a person could commit against another tells me that this was intentionally botched to give favorability to a well-connected sexual predator.
It’s cases like this that puts an asterisk next to the motto “If you do the crime, be prepared to do the time."
The objective of the district attorney is to prosecute criminals on behalf of the people with the hopes of bringing adequate resolution for the people who were harmed, but they chose to obfuscate their judicial responsibilities to cover for one of their own.
The weakness in the district attorney's ability to seek justice was only validated by a judge who could have rejected the plea deal but chose to give lukewarm criticisms to a man who used his career in law to prey on innocent people to save face for not having the courage to do what’s right.
Judge Givens applauded the victims’ strength for coming forward and providing testimony but didn’t have the strength herself to move forward and conduct an adequate trial.
There was more encouragement by the court to have D’Angelo “reform” outside of prison under probation than for him to suffer the loss of freedom and rot alongside criminal men of his ilk.
When our judicial system fails, people get hurt, and who will suffer the consequences if D’Angelo does what appears to be in his nature by violating another woman? Well, of course not the people who created this failed conclusion. When the powerful fail, we pay: that’s how it always goes.
When the prosecution chose the easy route by giving a wink and nod to D’Angelo in exchange for another win in their prosecutorial career, they discarded the need for judicial advocacy from his many victims.
Does it seem fair that a man who could have faced a maximum of 44 years in prison gets to turn 40 years old a free man, absent of probation and sex offender restriction?
The answer is obvious to everyone except for the people who matter the most in the courtroom.
They took the blindfold off of Lady Justice and yet the innocent are still nowhere in their view.