John M. Cromwell
When you hire me, you will be getting an experienced New York City criminal defense trial lawyer, who cares about you, and who will always treat you with dignity and respect. I am dedicated to serving clients in the Bronx and the surrounding areas and always strive to give my clients the best legal representation I can offer.
I was born and raised in the Bronx and have dedicated my entire professional career of 24 years to defending people accused of crimes.
In that time, I have handled thousands of criminal cases from murder charges to traffic tickets. If it means sticking up for your rights by aggressively confronting a prosecutor, a cop, a witness, or even a judge in a courtroom, I have done that. If it takes quiet negotiation to resolve your case favorably, I have done that, too. Whatever the unique facts your situation calls for, you and I are partners with the same goal: to help you through this difficult time as quickly and as painlessly as possible so you can get back to your life with your family, your job, and your community.
I will always have time to promptly respond to your phone calls, to sit down with you in the privacy of my office or in a private conference room at court, to listen to you, and to answer your questions in terms you can understand. I love to discuss problems, to teach, and to explain; to connect, to communicate, and to advocate. That's one reason I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer. But I also take great pride in being a good listener. It's a lot harder to listen than to talk.
Many lawyers are good talkers, and talking is certainly important. But I've learned over the years that a really good lawyer also knows how to listen: to witnesses testifying in trials, to prosecutors and judges, and most importantly, to clients.
Listening takes time. Listening takes patience. Listening takes practice. I will always take the time to really listen to you, to be there for you when you need me, to promptly return your calls, answer your questions, and carefully explain your options in terms you can understand.
After graduating from college with a BA in political science, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, but was not sure what area of law I wanted to concentrate in. After a year living in Spain where I taught English and became fluent in Spanish, I returned to the United States and worked for a Washington, D.C. environmental defense organization. Working on legal policy at the national level was interesting, but I knew I wanted to be the kind of lawyer who worked directly with people on a one-on-one basis.
In the Fall of 1985, I entered one of the top law schools in the nation, the University of Wisconsin. In my last year of law school, I was accepted into what was then a new program, where law students under the supervision of an attorney, were allowed to represent in criminal court indigent clients accused of misdemeanors. I knew from that moment that this was the kind of legal work I wanted to do.
To this day, I remember the first time I saw human beings locked in a jail cell, pacing back and forth like caged tigers at the zoo. The revulsion I felt at the barbarity of a society that would confine a human being to a cage has never left me. The knowledge that through my efforts, I might bring about the release of a fellow human being from behind bars to freedom is one of the driving forces that motivates me to work tirelessly for my clients.
I tried my first jury trial, a misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated case, while I was still in my third year of law school. Having had my first taste of the hustle and bustle of the courtroom, the daily interactions with court personnel, judges, prosecutors, and fellow defense lawyers, the planning, strategizing and investigating, required to prepare for a trial, the mental concentration required to cross examine a witness, the humbling experience of pleading a cause before a jury of ordinary citizens of the community, all aspects of the practice of criminal defense trial work, I knew right away that I only wanted to be a criminal defense trial attorney. I have dedicated my career to defending persons accused of crimes in New York ever since.
Graduating from law school in the Spring of 1988, I was hired a couple of months later as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County. Starting in the Fall of 1988, I worked there for seven years, trying many cases in Nassau County, starting with misdemeanors like shoplifting, drug possession, assault and DWI, then being promoted to the felony bureau, where I tried more serious cases, such as gun possession, higher degrees of assault, sex offenses, burglary and robbery.
One of my proudest memories came as a young lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, after a lengthy and difficult trial where my client, a homeless, mentally ill drug addict, was acquitted of multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. Several days after the verdict, I received a letter from one of the inmates who worked at the jail law library and who had taken an interest in my client's case, notifying me that the law library staff had voted me "jail house lawyer of the month." With all its grammatical mistakes and oddly worded phrases, the letter produced a lot of chuckles from the other attorneys in the office. Sure, it was funny at one level, but on a deeper level, it was also heartrending. The letter spoke to me, in the profoundest of ways, capturing the essence of what I aspired to be as a criminal defense lawyer. I quote for you here the last paragraph of the letter:
"… we here (law library workers) would like to express our deepest thanks and acknowledgement to you for bringing light out of the dark for [JR] and for being serious about your moral professional and ethical obligations."
"Bringing light out of dark." "Being serious about moral, professional, and ethical obligations." Is there a higher calling than that? I framed it and hung it in my office, where it remains to this day.
In 1995, I left the Legal Aid Society to open my own practice. I loved the camaraderie of Legal Aid, and the satisfaction of advocating for clients who often, due to drug addiction, homelessness, or mental illness, had no one else to speak for them. However, I wanted to limit the number of clients I had at any one time, so that I could really devote to my clients all the time and attention I felt they deserved.
Some of my recent special memories include:
Walking out of the courthouse building with my client, a mandatory persistent violent felony offender facing a maximum period of incarceration of 25 years to life, after a jury found him not guilty on all counts. My client had been incarcerated for over one year awaiting trial, accused of 2 separate armed robberies of convenience stores one block apart from each other. He would have gladly accepted a plea bargain of 10 years jail, had it been offered.
Standing with my client, his wife and two year old son, seeing the stunned reaction on the faces of the judge and prosecutor, after a jury refused to convict my client of possession of a loaded gun despite the introduction into evidence of a video taped confession where my client admitted being a gang member and possessing the gun, but said he had it for protection from rivals who were trying to kill him.
Seeing the incredulous wide-eyed grin of a mentally ill homeless panhandler, accused of robbing a local bodega worker at knifepoint, and locked up for over a year awaiting trial, as he heard the jury foreperson say "not guilty" on all counts. Two previous lawyers had asked to get off the case, unable to see eye to eye with the client. When we first met, the client was openly hostile to me, refusing to talk to me at all until about mid-way through the trial, as, over time, I gradually gained the client's trust.
Of course, only a fraction of criminal cases go to trial. I have had numerous satisfying moments relishing accomplishments where, through diligent investigatory work and client preparation, I have been able to get charges dismissed at the Grand Jury stage, or have been able to bring to light evidence that resulted in a prosecutor dismissing charges against a client, or where I have been able to bring to light mitigating circumstances which resulted in convincing a prosecutor or a judge to give my client a sentence of probation or attendance at a rehabilitation job training, drug and alcohol, or mental health program, thereby avoiding a lengthy jail sentence.
Handling cases in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and all five boroughs of New York City.
Born and raised in the Bronx, I have significant experience handling criminal cases in the Bronx. Since 2003, my office has been located in Westchester, convenient to White Plains and New Rochelle City Courts, as well as Eastchester, Scarsdale, Tuckahoe and other village courts. I also have office space in the Bronx, located right next to the Bronx court buildings. I have handled numerous matters throughout the metropolitan area, including all five boroughs of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Westchester County Court and local city, town, and village courts throughout Westchester County. I also practice extensively in the Bronx, and have represented clients as well in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and throughout the metropolitan New York area.
I am an active member of the following organizations:
- Bronx County Bar Association, Criminal Courts Committee
- New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- New York State Defenders Association
- Assigned Counsel Panel, First Department
View the firm's profile at FindaCriminalDefenseAttorney.com.