Yas Sadri – NY State Bar #3040094
Who: Law professors filed a grievance regarding Yas Sadri’s serious misconduct while prosecuting Alshawn Holiday on behalf of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office (KCDAO). Despite this misconduct, at the time of the complaint, Sadri had no record of public discipline in the New York Attorney Detail Report. Indeed, at the time of the grievance, Sadri was listed as working at the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
What they did: In People v. Holiday, the Appellate Division found that prosecutor Sadri improperly elicited testimony that was “calculated” to appeal to the passion and sympathy of the jury. Sadri “compounded” her errors when she repeatedly identified barely visible figures on a surveillance video as the victim and the defendant–despite the court’s repeated instruction to the contrary.
The Appellate Division found that Mr. Holiday’s defense attorney failed to preserve these issues of misconduct for review on appeal, but the court “nonetheless reach[ed] them in the exercise of [its] interest of justice jurisdiction . . . there is a significant probability that their combined effect contributed to the defendant’s conviction.” The Appellate Division reversed the murder conviction due to Sadri’s misconduct.
Why it’s wrong: As far back as 1899, the New York Court of Appeals cautioned prosecutors against appealing to “prejudice” or seeking conviction “through the aid of passion, sympathy or resentment.” The Court of Appeals has explained that a prosecutor must not vouch for the strength of her own case because of the “possible danger that the jury, impressed by the prestige of the office of the District Attorney, will accord great weight to the beliefs and opinions of the prosecutor.”
Prosecutors wield immense power, the power to seek punishment on behalf of the state, and should be held to the highest ethical standards. The grievance identifies the following ethical rules that Sadri’s conduct likely violated:
- Rule 8.4(d) and Rule 8.4(h) require that a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or engage in conduct adversely reflecting on their fitness as a lawyer.
What can be done about it: The grievance calls for the committee to investigate and issue public discipline, including the suspension of Sadri’s law license. It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether KCDAO supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of Professional Conduct.
Note: This is a summary based on the grievance, see the grievance for more detail and context. The grievance authors do not have personal knowledge of any of the facts or circumstances of the attorney or the cases mentioned; the grievance is based entirely on court opinions, briefs and/or other documents cited therein.