Brooklyn-based attorney Dmitriy Shakhnevich shares his thoughts on the possibilities for the former UFC champion regarding his recent arrest.
We’ve all seen it by now. Prior to UFC 223, Conor McGregor was involved in a wild altercation in which a vehicle was vandalized, causing injury to passengers inside and causing severe consternation among others. He was later arrested and made bail, but many questions remain as to his legal status as well as his standing within the UFC after the melee.
While we all have to wait for his next scheduled court appearance, we managed to talk to Dmitry Shakhnevich, criminal and civil lawyer with plenty of experience in Brooklyn. He’s also the host of the Fight Lawyer podcast, where he covers topics related to combat sports. Dmitriy was able to shed some light on the possibilities that come next.
Now, it should be noted that all of this is projection and healthy speculation based on his experiences and what direction these cases usually go in. Please be sure to keep that in mind as we wait for further developments in the case. Dmitriy had some very compelling things to share that could help us understand where this can go for McGregor, and what happens after a possible full trial.
Victor Rodriguez: In your experience, what kind of penalty would potentially be on the table for something like this, and for someone like him?
Dmitriy Shakhnevich: So he’s charged with felonies and misdemeanors. The felonies are serious crimes by definition. He’s charged with the low-level felonies, right? There are five levels of felonies in New York, he’s charged with the two lowest, D and E (note: New York classifies felonies on an A through E basis, in order of severity). So he’s not looking at, in Brooklyn, generally, you wouldn’t get jail time for this, especially if it’s your first offense, which I understand this is. So, what’ll likely happen is he’ll probably get it reduced to either a misdemeanor or maybe even a non-criminal disposition, though that’s unlikely. I don’t think he’ll serve any jail time at all. Again, that’s highly unlikely. I think he’ll probably be sentenced to some form of community service or something of that nature, and the case will go away.
The issue is immigration. If by way of a guilty plea he’s convicted of a misdemeanor, that can have immigration consequences. I don’t think it will – I think his lawyers will craft something creative to work around that. But that’s really what you have to look out for here.
VR: OK, what kind of creative workarounds could they employ in this situation?
DS: Well, again – the way that criminal convictions impact immigration status, there are no black and white rules. Generally speaking, if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor. right? Which is a low-level offense, the lowest level offense in in New York in terms of crime. Typically that one misdemeanor – again, typically – will fall under the petty offense exception which basically allows the person to travel in and out. So I don’t think unless it’s some specific type of misdemeanor, I don’t think that’ll have an impact on his immigration status. But again, it’s something his lawyers have to look out for. They should probably engage immigration counsel, because they’re criminal lawyers.
VR: Alright, well we’ve seen all these numbers being bandied about about the possibility of him serving four years, seven years, maybe a total of eleven, etc. You’ve pretty much stated that it’s entirely possible that he may not even serve any time whatsoever—
DS: I would even say… (laughs) here’s the way it works: In New York, on the E felony, which is the lowest level felony he’s charged with, you can get up to four years in prison. And when I say four years, I’m talking about his conviction at trial, right? If he goes to the end and a jury convicts him. On the D (felony), which is the higher-level one that he’s charged with, you’re looking at up to seven years, conviction at trial. You’re also looking at up to one year for each misdemeanor, and from what I see there’s ten misdemeanors. So that’s the breakdown numerically. However, if he goes to trial and loses — which again, I don’t think will happen — but if that happens, typically in Brooklyn the sentence concurrently, not consecutively. So all of those numbers would merge into the seven.
Now, that’s if he goes to trial, which is highly unlikely. A plea will be worked out almost certainly.
VR: Interesting. So basically this would be relegated to things as far as community service, a mea culpa of sorts?
DS: Yeah, he’d have to admit on the record what he did wrong, and I don’t know what the plea will be. Depending on what the plea will be, he’ll have to admit he did something wrong and the judge will send him to community service, maybe some monetary penalties. Something very non-intrusive but perhaps something that Conor being a popular person could do in the community that could have a positive impact. But it depend on what the district attorney offers. The prosecution has to make an offer and then the defense will have to explore whether or not to explore that offer.
VR: How hard do you think the prosecution will go considering the high profile of the person in question?
DS: Right, so it cuts both ways. The prosecution on one hand has a high-profile defendant with from what I can tell, and I don’t know much about the evidence, but there are 400 videos of this, right? (laughs) They have some good evidence, so they have a case that they could – I don’t want to say, you know, push – but it’s an attractive case. And who knows? You may get an ambitious prosecutor that wants to get a name on his resumé, and that’s entirely possible. In my experience, Brooklyn prosecutors are just. They look for the public interest, not for conviction. They’ll probably see that a guy like Conor could do a lot more good in the community than in jail. I don’t think they’re gonna nail him to the wall. And they shouldn’t
VR: As far as the injuries that were sustained by Ray Borg and Michael Chiesa, there’s fan speculation that they may pursue some civil case or something like that. None of that is concrete. Any chance that the injuries that they sustained may in fact influence this in any way? Even though they’re not life-threatening?
DS: Well, sure. And look – really, what could have happened is they could have charged Conor with felony assault, which I don’t believe they did but they could have, because he used a weapon (the dolly). They could have charged him with more serious felonies. In terms of the severity of their injuries, right now they’re complaining witnesses, they’re victims. The justice system calls those people complaining witnesses, meaning the witnesses that are gonna primarily testify. That’s their role right now. Depending on how this case concludes, they then may have the ability to bring civil lawsuits in. They could do so now, but they’ll probably wait until the case is over.
You can find Dmitriy on iTunes at the Fight Lawyer podcast, where he interviews interesting combat sports personalities on the regular. You can also check him out on Twitter.