A Brooklyn lawyer explains the severity of Conor McGregor's charges (and what happens next)
'It’s highly unlikely, very highly unlikely, that he’ll see any jail time at all'
Conor McGregor has been arrested and charged with a string of offences after he attacked a buss-full of fighters at a UFC media event.
Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg were forced to withdraw from their respective bouts due to injuries they sustained during the incident. Artem Lobov was also pulled from the card for his role in the ruckus.
The most serious charges on his rap sheet are two felony counts for criminal mischief.
Dmitriy Shakhnevich is a Brooklyn criminal defence attorney and also host of The Fight Lawyer Podcast. Brooklyn (and its courts) where Conor is being charged is a place he's intimately involved with on a daily basis. "Most of my clients are in that courthouse," he says.
He explained to JOE the severity of Conor's charges - and what we can expect to happen next.
Who are you?
My name is Dmitriy Shakhnevich. I'm a criminal defence attorney in New York City, practicing in criminal defence for several years now. I've defended tons of assault cases and cases such as that of Conor McGregor in Brooklyn, which is where Conor's case is based.
Please could you explain the severity of the charges Conor faces?
Conor's charges are severe. Things are more clear now and it seems that he's charged with both the D and E felonies as it relates to Criminal Mischief. The E felony is third degree Criminal Mischief, and that's up to four years in New York State prison. The D felony is second degree Criminal Mischief, and that subjects him to up to seven years in New York State prison.
He could also serve up to a year on each misdemeanour charge. But courts typically sentence concurrently for these types of cases, not consecutively. That means he’d serve all the sentences at once. That being said, it’s highly unlikely (very highly unlikely) that he’ll see any jail time at all. He’ll likely take a plea and avoid jail time.
The bigger issue is his immigration status. Depending on how the case concludes, he may be restricted from coming back to the US. That can really hurt him.
What are the next steps for him as he passes through the New York justice system? How does the process work?
Conor is charged with several felonies. That means that the prosecution must impanel a Grand Jury and obtain an indictment against him. Otherwise, the felony charges cannot proceed. However, the standard to obtain an indictment is so low, that an indictment is virtually a given in this case.
Then, once that happens and as the case progresses, the prosecution will have to turn over evidence to the defence attorneys in the case. At that point (and really throughout the duration of the case generally), plea negotiations will likely take place. If no plea is entered, then the case will be put down for hearings and trial. However, as with all cases in Brooklyn, that is highly unlikely.
How likely is a conviction?
A conviction can mean two different things. One can be convicted by way of a plea bargain or a jury verdict. So unless Conor gets all of the charges dismissed, which is unlikely, there will be a conviction unless he goes to trial and wins. But again, at least statistically speaking, a conviction based upon a guilty plea is much more likely than one based upon a jury verdict.
If he were your client, how would you advise he plea?
I'd have to take a look at all of the evidence. If the case can be defended in some form, then trial should be on the table. As all defence lawyers know however, video evidence is very hard to refute, so that's one hurdle that sticks out already. But again, the case just started. No evidence has been disclosed yet by the prosecution. Once it is, then the lawyers will really have to make that decision.
If he pleads guilty, what will happen? What kind of sentence can be expected?
If he pleads guilty, in my view, he will likely avoid jail time. He has no criminal history it seems and the charges are not terribly severe, for felonies. More importantly however, if he pleads to something that leaves him with a criminal record, that can affect his ability to re-enter the US. Obviously, that's hugely important because Conor makes his fortune fighting for an American company, with most of its shows in the US. But in terms of jail time, it's very highly unlikely that Conor will ever see any jail time in this case.
If he pleads not guilty, what will happen?
If Conor continues to plead "not guilty," and refuses to engage in ANY plea negotiations, then the case will go to trial. If he's convicted at trial, it's entirely possible that he'll be sentenced to jail time, particularly due to the felony charges. Something tells me a plea will be worked out in this case to avoid any such risks.
Is there a legal precedent for how this case will be dealt with?
This case is still entirely too fresh. His attorneys must obtain the evidence against him, witness lists, any forensic evidence, video-tape evidence and the like. The decision as to whether to proceed to trial or take a plea (or explore the details of any plea offers) often takes months and sometimes years. My gut tells me that Conor will be fine. He'll take a plea to a reduced charge, avoid jail time and his life will not be impacted in any substantive way.