Judge Goes Easy on Prosecutor Who Strangles Woman at Bar
A Manhattan judge Thursday gave a former Manhattan prosecutor a break, sentencing him to 10 days of community service for assaulting and strangling a female stranger at a Kips Bay bar — even though he never apologized to his victim.
Eli Cherkasky, 35, read a brief statement in Manhattan Criminal Court expressing remorse for his behavior and how it had destroyed his career but failed to mention victim Kirsten Schuck, who watched tearfully from the gallery.
“For the last nine years of my life since graduating law school, I have stood before judges in this building to speak as an advocate for what I believe is justice,” he said in a strained voice. “Today, I speak on behalf of myself as a defendant convicted of criminal conduct.”
Victim Kirsten Schuck leaves court in September.
He continued, “My conduct on November 1, 2014, a little more than a year ago now, was unacceptable in every way. I drank too much and exercised poor judgment … I lost my job, I have lost my reputation.”
Cherkasky’s demeanor lightened when he told Judge Ann Scherzer that he’s now a changed man.
“This experience has inspired me to be a better person,” he said, flashing a smile at his fiancée, Ariel Pizzitola, also a former prosecutor at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
“I am now engaged to be married to a woman I love whom I’m looking to spend the rest of my life with — I don’t spend time in bars, and I’ve stopped drinking alcohol altogether.”
Although Bronx prosecutor Nicole Donatich blasted Cherkasky’s lack of remorse and asked for 60 days in jail, Scherzer gave him community service.
“I do believe the incident that led to this conviction was an aberration in an otherwise law-abiding and productive life,” said the judge, who could have given him as much as a year in jail.
The disgraced prosecutor resigned hours after his Sept. 25 conviction at the non-jury trial for misdemeanor assault, obstruction of breathing and harassment.
The embarrassing Halloween brawl erupted after Schuck, 32, yelled at Cherkasky for touching her belongings as he drunkenly searched for his coat.
Schuck, who seemed to enjoy her moment in the spotlight, repeatedly broke into heaving sobs on the stand as she told the judge she thought he was trying to kill her.
“He screamed at me, ‘You c- -t!’ and started rushing toward me,” she said. “I splashed beer in his face. I thought it would slow him down or stop him.”
Schuck said Cherkasky slammed her into a railing, then dragged her to the floor and repeatedly choked and slapped her. It took four men to pull him off her.
But defense lawyer Paul Shechtman insisted at trial that Schuck was the real aggressor and had slugged Cherkasky, then tossed beer in his face before clumsily falling against the railing and injuring herself.
“Miss Schuck’s testimony was false,” the lawyer said. “It was dramatically false. It was drama. She needed two breaks during direct examination. She began crying at the outset, she began crying again and needed a break, she even cried once on cross-examination.”
After testifying, Schuck returned to court to watch the remainder of the trial, often weeping and clutching her friends’ hands.
Cherkasky plans to appeal the verdict.