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January 11, 2021

Fresh Kitchen – Fresh Lawyer | Cup of Joe

Fresh Kitchen – Fresh Lawyer

Recently, during a break in a recorded video-conference, a world-famous lawyer, wrongly believing that he was no longer on-the-air and in private, began touching himself.  The other people in the conference saw it. The video went viral. The lawyer was fired from his job and was publicly humiliated. He had a bad day. 

This week’s case is about another lawyer who had a different kind of bad day. A day that begins in a deli in Manhattan called "Fresh Kitchen".


Proceedings at the Attorney Grievance Committee

Aaron’s Testimony:

Q: When were you admitted to practice law in New York?

A: I was admitted to the practice on July 23, 2003.

Q: Let’s talk about the incident that took place on May 15, 2018.

A: I went to an establishment in Manhattan known as "Fresh Kitchen" to order a sandwich. 

Q: What happened when you arrived at Fresh Kitchen?

A: I was waiting in line and I heard a counter worker conversing in Spanish with another patron. 

Q: And that disturbed you?

A: I just reacted. It’s like it wasn’t me…

Q: Well, you loudly confronted them for not speaking in English, right?

A: Yes.

Q: You said to the patron, "get the F*%&K out of my country" ?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: And then you asked the patron why he didn’t speak English?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And then you also asked the patron, and I’ll quote: "Why don't you speak English?" "What do you have against my country?" "What's wrong with you?" and "Why don't you like English?" 

A: Yes.

Q: And then you finished with the patron, and I’ll quote again: "Get a F#%&KING dictionary and assimilate", right?

A: I believe I did say that. Yes.

Q: And you then turned your attention to the counterperson and said, "You shouldn't be talking Spanish. That's improper. I'll tell your boss and I'll call ICE [Immigration] and have each one of you F#%&KING deported." Is that accurate?

A: Yes, I said those terrible things.

Q: And you then addressed worker as "ICE" when demanding to know the whereabouts of the sandwich you ordered, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: And at that point, another customer intervened?

A: Yes. She told me that I shouldn't be talking to a human being that way.

Q: And what did you say to that customer in responde?

A: I told Serrano to assimilate.  She then replied by stating "assimilate what?" 

Q: And then you said to her, "You don't know what it means? Get a dictionary." 

A: Yes. She then told me that I was very ignorant.

Q: And then you told the customer that you were brighter, better looking, and slimmer than she was. And suggested more than once that she should refrain from eating so she could "lose some F#%&KING weight"?

A: I admit that.

Q: And you told her that her husband should also speak English?

A: Yes.

Q: Then you turned your attention back to the worker and stated, "My complaint is that the staff here should not be speaking Spanish to customers." 

A: I did say that.

Q: And then you spoke the the store’s manager?

A: Yes. I said that my problem was that their clients and staff are speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English.

Q: And then you said to the manager that Fresh Kitchen's workers were not documented and your next call would be to ICE to have them kicked out of “my country." Is that accurate?

A: Yes.

Q: And then you shouted the following: "They have tire balls to come here and live off of my money. I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they could do is speak English . And if you intend on running a place in Midtown Manhattan your staff should be speaking English not Spanish." Did you say those things?

A: I’m not….

Q: We can play the audio…

A: No, that is what I said.

Q: At one point in the video, one of the customers began speaking and you interrupted and stated, "Honey, I'm calling ICE." 

A: Yes. I said that.

Q: And then you again suggested to the customer that she "take a break from the food." 

A: Yes. And in response, the customer suggested that I get hit by a car and used an expletive to refer to me. 

Q: And when she stated that she was going to call the police, you replied, "Go ahead, sweetheart." And then stated, "You're gonna let her call the cops on me for voicing my opinion; I'm not subsidizing your establishment."

A: Yes. I said those things. And I posted an apology online, which I would like to make part of the record:

To the people I insulted, I apologize. Seeing myself online opened my eyes — the manner in which I expressed myself is unacceptable and is not the person I am. I see my words and actions hurt people, and for that I am deeply sorry. While people should be able to express themselves freely, they should do so calmly and respectfully. What the video did not convey is the real me. I am not a racist. One of the reasons I moved to New York is precisely because of the remarkable diversity offered in this wonderful city. I love this country and this city, in part because of immigrants and the diversity of cultures immigrants bring to this country. Again, my sincerest apologies to anyone and everyone I hurt. Thank you.

Q: Okay, and you posted that about a week after the incident?

A: Yes.

Statement by Aaron’s Attorney:

Aaron admits that he engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer in violation of New York Rules of Professional Conduct. We are asking for a penalty of Public Censure.

I want to point out that the video recording of the incident was posted to the internet and widespread dissemination ensued, including coverage by television and print media. Aaron’s identity and profession became known and resulted in adverse consequences for him that included expulsion by his commercial landlord, the resignation of his associate, public denunciation by some of his clients, AND A CROWD-FUNDED MARIACHI BAND PLAYING OUTSIDE HIS APARTMENT HOUSE!

Aaron fully cooperated with the investigation, which included providing his own smart phone recording of the incident at issue which was more complete and more damning than another recording in the Committee’s possession. Aaron’s misconduct did not involve dishonesty; and he expressed remorse in his public apology and in representations to the Committee that the prejudice and intemperance he evidenced during the incident at Fresh Kitchen have never been reflected in his practice of law.

We request that Public Censure be Aaron’s punishment and we request that Aaron’s video that he provided to you, be sealed.


Ruling of the Court

A public censure would speak loudly and clearly that Aaron's conduct was utterly unacceptable. 

As to sealing the videos: the publicity accruing to the subject incident has already resulted in threats to Aaron’s safety. In view of the threats against Aaron that are documented on the record, we find it appropriate to grant application to seal the recording of the subject incident


Conclusion

Aaron’s bad day had severe consequences. In the end, Aaron is left with a salvageable career. It could have been much worse.


Click HERE to read the full case.  

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