Model Citizens Magazine

Managing Risk and Surviving Crisis Featuring Model Citizen Chris Cassar

John: I’m here with Christopher Cassar, an attorney who deals with crisis day in and day out. You’ve been nominated for the September issue of Model Citizens Magazine. 

Chris: Thank you very much. I want to thank Model Citizens Magazine for this nomination. It is truly an honor.

John: Chris, you’ve been nominated because this is the crisis issue andif anyone that I have ever met or known knows firsthand how to help people in crisis, or deal with crisis situations it’s you. You deal with crises on a daily basis. 

Chris: Yes, it comes in all different kinds of settings. I deal with people that are at their worst crises. They may be getting arrested, getting divorced or need an order of protection from a spouse or loved one. Maybe they have been in a car accident, are injured and as a result they don’t have their income or medical coverage. Sometimes it’s not in a legal context, or in the courtroom, but sometimes it’s in terms of bad publicity in the public area.  We try to bring all of our resources to help that individual get through a particular crisis. 

John: I assume with COVID there are many more people in crisis mode to begin with. 

Chris: Yes, they are in crisis mode. We found that divorces are increasing, a demand for orders of protections are increasing; people need those orders because of crisis, maybe they are being abused mentally or physically. With COVID, it has made things much more difficult to address. 

John: How are people getting their cases through the court system? Are the Courts open or closed? 

Chris: The courts are open virtually. If you’re arrested, you’re being seen virtually on a video being arraigned. Sometimes I have to go to court, but court is open on a limited basis and when an attorney is required to appear in court, then I will go, but most of the court action is being conducted by Skype or Zoom. 

John: What is your general opinion of the courts on Long Island? A lot of people believe they’re corrupt and it’s not fair, that there are questionable activities going on.

Chris: The courts in Suffolk County, the majority of the courts, really are filled with excellent and really hard working people. You always get one or two bad apples, and as a result people focus on that, but you have very strong and dedicated Judges on the bench that do their job, especially through this crisis. They are putting in longer hours, trying to address this crisis and they come from a different perspective. They try to address it from the bench. Also, you have cross-endorsement here in Suffolk County. When a judge is cross endorsed, the political leaders have chosen that individual and they’re going to be the judge. 

John: Do the judges feel some kind of obligation to back the people that put them in office?

Chris: Certainly, they wouldn’t admit that, but it appears that that has happened. 

John: Tell us about your specialties and some of the cases you work on? Didn’t you handle the Recently, I know I’ve seen you on television a bunch of times, but most recently with Tutto Pazzo restaurant and the brothers. What happened with that and how did you help them?  

Chris: I helped Joey Patrone, the brother that did not make the comments. He distanced himself from his brother and his brother’s attitude. We felt that he needed to get out in front of this crises so Joey did give a video statement, which was aired on Facebook and he explained his position, that he rejects all types of hatred and racism. Joey now is in the process of buying his brother out of the business, and he’s going to reopen that establishment. It’s going to be a big beautiful place once he’s done. 

John: I’ve also seen you many times in situations helping the underdog. Whether it is police brutality, or really situations you wouldn’t think even exist, how do I put this, you don’t fear anybody or anything.

Chris: No. One of the things I often tell people that are going through a crisis; you can’t make decisions out of fear. I tell them that all the time because when you start letting fear get into your decision making, you’ve lost a battle. You have to put to fear aside, be strong, never, never give up and continue to fight. Sometimes you are going to get knocked down, that happens sometimes. You get knocked out, but you have to be able to get up and keep going.

John: You have a reputation to win.

Chris: I try. I try to put the long hours in preparation. I try to work very hard to win for my clients. Sometimes winning, it’s not always getting an acquittal. Maybe it’s getting a conviction on a lesser charge. There is always a defense in a criminal context. I do try to win. I believe I’m in working very hard for my clients; I like to treat them as part of my family. 

I consider myself a trial attorney and when I get in the courtroom, I try cases. I’m not afraid to try cases. Many people in my profession don’t try cases because they don’t know how or want to put in the many hours in preparing for a trial.  In order to represent your client zealously, you must be able to try a case. Whether it’s a civil context, divorce, or criminal, it’s very, very important. I have seen so many times, when you have attorneys that don’t try cases, they will persuade their client to take a resolution that is probably not in the clients best interest, but they don’t want to try the case. So, they persuade the client to take a bad deal, whether in a divorce settlement or plea agreement or something like that.

John: What areas do you specialize in? Give our readers an idea.

Chris: My background is criminal law. When I came out of law school, I went to Brooklyn and worked for a big criminal defense firm. I learned how to practice law in Brooklyn. 

John: Probably the toughest area in the world.

Chris: Yes, because there were so many cases involved. I was able to get a tremendous amount of experience trying cases. I was able to get a second seating to senior attorneys on criminal trials and really developed and honed my trial skills. Then, I came out here and I brought that same Brooklyn attitude to Suffolk County to start my practice. I wasn’t afraid to take on various types of cases. I work very hard. 

My first case that I tried in Suffolk County was where a police officer shot my client in the leg. The officer claimed that my client bit him, on the finger. We went to trial and my client was charged with assault, a felony. He was found not guilty of that felony and guilty of a misdemeanor, a lesser offense. It was the first time I tried a case in Suffolk County and the judge and I battled. When it was time for my client to be sentenced I received got a call from the judge, my client was in jail at the time, and the judge said I want you to come in 2 days before Christmas because I’m going to sentence your client. 

I thought, “oh no he’s going to hurt my client, punishing him because we battled”, but the judge said he didn’t want my client to be in jail for the holiday, so he was going to release him. From that point on that judge was always a special person in my life. He showed his true character. I was very impressed with him.

John: Once again, I want to congratulate you on being nominated to be a Model Citizen for all you do to help people in crisis. 

Chris: Thank you very much. It is an honor.

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