Richard Pompelio Credits: Joel B. Aronson
Nicholas Pompelio Credits: Photo Provided
Richard Pompelio interviewed during the sentencing hearing for the Tyler Clementi Case. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Richard Pompelio reading the victim impact statement on behalf of his client, "M.B." Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Richard Pompelio as a keynote speaker at a dinner honoring Morris/Sussex Vicinage Superior Court of New Jersey Volunteers. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Tony Pompelio, Richard Pompelio's son who was slain in 1989. Credits: Photo Provided
Richard Pompelio And The Crime Victim Civil Litigation Practice Group – Serving Clients With A ‘Holistic Approach’
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 • 7:17pm
SPARTA, NJ – At one time, victims of crime were victimized themselves by the court system.
Although progress is still being made in this area, now the tables have turned in many ways.
A caring team of attorneys with over 100 years of combined legal experience has emerged, and is providing legal representation to victims, including those of serious injury and wrongful death.
They are the Crime Victim Civil Litigation Team at the Law Office of DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum, P.C.
Richard Pompelio, a champion in victims’ rights, who began his career in victims’ rights after the murder of his 17-year-old son Tony in 1989, heads up the team. Joining Pompelio are fellow attorneys Paul Rizzo, Jeffrey Pompeo, Sarah Mahony, and Pompelio’s son, Nicholas Pompelio.
Although rights for crime victims have greatly increased over the years, it has been a long and arduous journey for Pompelio in blazing the trail to giving victims a greater voice in the court system.
On August 7, 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed “Alex DeCroce’s Law”, in memory of Assemblyman AlexDeCroce (R-26), who passed away on January 9, 2012.
“We will continue to honor Alex’s work by continuing to make sure that his work has meaning in our everyday lives,” Christie said at the signing. “That we continue to hold true to the idea that those folks who are unfortunate enough to be the victims of crime, both the ones who perish, and the survivors, will be treated with respect by the criminal justice system.”
DeCroce’s passion for protecting crime victims stemmed from his work with Pompelio. In 1991, Pompelio, founder of the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center (NJCVLC) (established in 1992), crafted a constitutional amendment to New Jersey’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights with DeCroce (original was created in 1985). The bill in its original form offered little support to crime victims.
In 2008, DeCroce, and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-14) were primary sponsors of enhancements to the amendment, which permitted, among things, family members of the victim to wear photo buttons of the victim to court, or show a video presentation during the sentencing.
Although an attorney himself and previously a municipal prosecutor, Pompelio experienced the rash of iniquities within the system while navigating through the courts after his son was slain. What he faced was a justice system that had little sympathy for victims, who were not only victimized by the crime they experienced, but were additionally left vulnerable and unprotected in court.
“He [Tony] was seventeen years old, and we had gone through the justice process, and I’m a lawyer, but I never knew what it was like for crime victims until we became victims,” Pompelio explained during a television interview the day of the bill signing. “We weren’t notified of events going on, and it all started when I just would not accept what I call the ‘bad plea bargain’. And they kind of just shut us out of the process. I said, ‘I had to do something’, then I got involved in victims’ rights over 20 years ago.”
“What we’re going to see is victims are not going to be so easily shut out of the process by the prosecution, by the courts, by the defense,” Pompelio continued. “They now have direct standing for someone like me to come into court and say, ‘their rights are violated, their civil rights are violated, and I want the court to give us an adjudication, or a ruling on it.”
Pompelio told The Alternative Press the latest amendment is the “most important piece of legislation since the 1991 amendment.”
In 2009, The Alternative Press interviewed DeCroce about Pompelio (click here for story). DeCroce was an honorary trustee of the law center, and he sponsored the Tony Pompelio Commemorative Scholarship Fund in 2000.
“I don’t know many people who have dedicated their lives to help people as Rich has,” DeCroce said during the interview. “In turn, I have gone out of my way to help him.”
Since becoming a champion for victims’ rights, Pompelio has helped more than 10,000 crime victims on a pro-bono basis, and he has Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”) status nationwide. His law center in Parsippany has become an integral resource center for law practitioners and legislators, regarding victims’ rights, and compensation for victims. He has also penned and published a book, “Crime Victims’ Rights: A Guide for Practitioners & Service Providers in the State of New Jersey”, of which he has given away thousands of free copies.
Pompelio and his son Nicholas divide their time between DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, P.C. in Warren, where they started in July 2011. At the firm, Pompelio’s practice areas are victims’ rights, injury litigation, and municipal court. While there, Pompelio has created a Crime Victim Civil Litigation Department, the first of its kind in a major New Jersey law firm.
Some of the other areas the department practices include: motor vehicle accidents, police brutality, medical and nursing home malpractice, spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, workplace liability, and product liability.
“I proposed the idea of crime victim civil litigation,” Pompelio told The Alternative Press.
The firm will take cases, and evaluate if they are worth pursuing. Pompelio said at least two lawyers work on every case.
Pompelio said he is entrenched in a law firm with a capability of doing litigation on the civil end of victims’ rights.
“It is a strong litigation firm,” said Pompelio.
Pompelio helps with cases all over the country, including Maryland, Virginia, and New York, as well as a case with the U.S. Supreme Court in California.
One of the most publicized cases Pompelio participated in this past year was the Tyler Clementi case, where he read the Victim Impact Statement for “M.B.”, the young man who Dharun Ravi videotaped kissing Clementi, then broadcast his findings about their encounter on Twitter (click here to see coverage of the sentencing by The Alternative Press). Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge a day following Ravi’s second Twitter posting.
“I just want him [Ravi] to acknowledge what he has done wrong, and take responsibility for his conduct,” Pompelio read off of M.B.’s statement, which was televised worldwide. “While I bear no anger towards Mr. Ravi, after much thought and many sleepless nights, I must say that Mr. Ravi should serve some type of confinement so that he can reflect on the serious harm he has caused.”
Ravi was sentenced to thirty days in the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center, 300 hours of community service (with a focus on cyberbullying and alternate lifestyles programs), and an order to pay a $10,000 assessment.
Many, including Pompelio, considered this a slap on the wrist.
“I don’t think he received any incarceration for the more serious charges, which renders it meaningless from a penalty standpoint,” Pompelio told The Alternative Press right after the sentencing hearing. “If you can do all of this, and the worst you’ll get is three years, there’s probably not a deterrent factor to it.”
However, Pompelio fought to ensure the victim, “M.B.”, was protected, and his identity was shielded from the public. And he was.
In terms of the services Pompelio and the firm is able to provide, he confidently said, “Whatever the issue is, we address it whether it’s in the criminal or civil system.”
It begins with a consultation, and, from there, clients are walked through the process.
Pompelio said some cases can be multi-faceted in their needs. For example, a man accused of murdering his wife while suffering dementia would need: criminal defense, victims’ rights support for his children, malpractice with regard to his medical care, and, how to handle estate issues.
The firm of DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer will be able to provide attorneys in all areas to help sort through and represent the various components of each case. There are approximately 35 attorneys on staff.
“We have experts in most issues of law,” said Pompelio. “And I know for a fact every case that comes to us, the victim will be treated as well or better than anywhere else. That’s the big difference.”
Of his son, Nicholas, who has worked with him since 2009, Pompelio said, “He’s an amazing lawyer.”
And what do colleagues and others say about Pompelio?
“It’s a great experience to work with my dad,” said son, Nicholas.
Nicholas Pompelio said he assists his father as needed, speaking with victims, performing research, and writing briefs.
“His phone rings, and he’s constantly working,” he said. “He really does like to help victims, he relates to them.”
Donald DiFrancesco, a member of the firm, was a long-time member of the Senate, and New Jersey’s 51st Governor. He knew Pompelio from his time as Senate President, long before Pompelio joined his firm.
“He’s renowned in his work in this area,” DiFrancesco told The Alternative Press. “He’s so dedicated, and, he’s made an impact. He’s got a tremendous legacy. He’s very well respected. He’s a great guy. I think he will continue to be really active in this area.”
“Ever since the first time I knew of Rich before meeting him, I was a fan of his,” said Assemblyman Gary Chiusano (R-24).
Chiusano, along with fellow Sussex County New Jersey District 24 colleagues Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-24), and Senator Steven Oroho (R-24), have been supporters of Pompelio’s work.
“He [Pompelio] is doing things for victims and victims’ families, who are being treated worse than the accused,” Chiusano said. “He is so sincere and pure, you can’t help but work with him. He is a great friend, and great human being.”
“I just feel that he [Pompelio] is a man of such passion, and it was fueled by a terrible tragedy in his life,” said Littell McHose. “No matter what Rich does, he’s passionate about everything he does. I think he’s such a great person, and has such a wonderful heart. I applaud him on his mission. Rich and Julia Quinlan both lost children in such a public manner, and were able to go on, and have strength and faith. I feel blessed to do whatever I can to help the cause.”
Jeff Fritz of the National Crime Victim Bar Association has known Pompelio for more than a decade.
“Every year we honor someone nationally, and he [Pompelio] was our first recipient,” said Fritz.
“I don’t think he [Pompelio] sleeps, we literally exchange emails and conversation in the early morning, or late evening,” Fritz added.
Fritz said the two bounce ideas off of one another, or strategize how to best help the victims they work with, and Fritz described Pompelio as an, “outside-of-the-box thinker”.
“He [Pompelio] never says ‘no’ to helping a victim, he is always right there, and is the Godfather of the holistic approach to crime victim representation, caring for the needs of victims on all fronts, from emotional, financial, criminal, and civil justice,” said Fritz.
“One of the main reasons I do what I do is I don’t want any other crime victims to be treated like I was treated,” Pompelio concluded.
Editor’s Note: Richard Pompelio and Nicholas Pompelio, on behalf of the Crime Victim Civil Litigation Practice Group at DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum, PC, are advertisers on TheAlternativePress.com. To learn more about becoming an advertiser, please call: (862) 354-1674, or email: email@example.com.
Richard Pompelio is also a member of the advisory board for The Alternative Press of Sussex County, and is a columnist for TheAlternativePress.com. Click here for his column, "Justice For All".