Research

New York State Office of Victim Services Counsel's Office Executive Law Section 632-a Case Files

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
These files relate to cases where the convicts might benefit from a reenactment of their crime including David Berkowitz, ("Son of Sam”); Mark David Chapman (John Lennon’s murderer); John Wojtowicz; Henry Hill; Jean Harris; Jack Henry Abbott and Sydney Biddle Barrows ("Mayflower Madam"). Files may include investigation reports, contracts, correspondence, clippings, video or audio cassettes, manuscripts, magazines, escrow account documents, statements, victims’ judgments, proposed and final determinations and orders, hearing transcripts, motions, briefs, affidavits, memoranda, and notices of petition.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
114 cubic feet (includes 5 videocassettes and 12 audio cassettes)
Inclusive Dates:
1977-2018
Series Number:
15694

Arrangement

Roughly by name of defendant in no particular order.

15694-12, 15694-14, 15694-14A, 15694-15, 15694-15A, 15694-16, 15694-16A, 15694-17, 15694-17A, 15694-18, 15694-18A: Alphabetical.

Administrative History

Executive Law Section 632-a, as enacted in 1977 (Chapter 823) and amended in 1978 (Chapter 417), prohibited anyone convicted or accused of a crime from receiving financial compensation resulting from any reenactment of the crime or from the expression of his "thoughts, feelings, opinions or emotions regarding such crime." Known commonly as the "Son of Sam Law," the act encompassed reenactments by means of movies, books, magazine articles, tape recordings, phonograph records, radio and television presentations, and live entertainment of any kind. Individuals or legal entities contracting with persons accused or convicted of crimes in New York State were required to surrender all proceeds that would otherwise be owing to such persons or their representatives. The Crime Victims Compensation Board (later Crime Victims Board, then Office of Victim Services) held these funds in escrow for the benefit of the victims of the crimes in question.

The board investigated potential cases and where the statute appeared applicable, acquired copies of contracts between publishers or producers and accused or convicted criminals. If warranted upon further examination, the board issued a "Proposed Determination and Order" directing the given publisher or producer to surrender applicable funds under the contract to the board for deposit in an escrow account. The accused or convicted criminal was allowed to protest this decision by requesting a hearing before the board. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the board produced a "Final Determination and Order," or final ruling on the case. All further appeals had to be addressed through the courts according to the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

Victims were required to initiate a civil action against criminals and recover a money judgement for damages within five years of the establishment of the escrow account in order to receive funds. If a convicted criminal demonstrated that five years had elapsed from the establishment of such an escrow account and no actions were pending, the board was directed to immediately release the funds to the convicted person or his legal representatives. Conviction of accused criminals was required before victims were eligible to receive funds from the escrow account. Upon dismissal of charges or acquittal, the board was directed to immediately release all funds in the escrow account to the accused or his legal representatives. New York was the first state to enact this type of legislation and the statute served as the model for similar statutes in other states.

In 1991, the United States Supreme Court ruled that provisions of the statute requiring that profits derived by criminals from works describing their crimes be deposited in Crime Victims Board escrow accounts violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The statute was subsequently repealed and replaced with a modified version (Laws of 1992, Chapter 618). This version required legal entities to give written notice to the Crime Victims Board of all payments to or obligations to pay accused or convicted felons "as soon as practicable after discovering that the payment or intended payment is a profit from a crime." The board was required to forward this information to all known victims of the crimes in question. Victims, in turn were given three years from the discovery of any profits to initiate a civil action to recover money damages from convicted felons or their legal representatives.

Scope and Content Note

Files in the series vary in volume and content from cases that did not go beyond the investigation phase to those that were ultimately appealed in federal court. Since the statute focuses on cases that possess actual or potential media appeal, the records pertain to some of the most notorious criminals of the time period. These include: David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as "Son of Sam," from whom the statute derives its common name; Mark David Chapman, John Lennon's murderer; John Wojtowicz, the inspiration for the film "Dog Day Afternoon"; Henry Hill, the inspiration for the book "Wiseguy" and film "GoodFellas"; Jean Harris, murderer of Scarsdale diet doctor Herman Tarnower; Jack Henry Abbott, author of "In the Belly of the Beast" and co-author of "My Return"; and Sydney Biddle Barrows, the "Mayflower Madam."

Depending on the nature of the given case, files may include some, but not necessarily all of the following: investigation reports, copies of contracts, correspondence, newsclippings, videocassettes, audio cassettes, manuscripts, magazines containing relevant articles, escrow account documents, statements of matters, victims judgments, proposed determinations and orders, notices of opposition to proposed determinations and orders, hearing transcripts, final determinations and orders, motions, briefs, affidavits, memoranda, verified answers, and notices of petition.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Portions of files contain information on claimants and claims, which is Restricted. Files will be reviewed to identify and remove non-disclosable information. Access to that information is governed by Executive Law, Sect. 633.

Related Information

Other finding aids

Folder lists for accretions not included in this finding aid are available at the repository.

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