Lauren Pazienza, a former Port Jefferson resident, will employ a...

Lauren Pazienza, a former Port Jefferson resident, will employ a psychological defense when she stands trial for manslaughter in connection with the death of an 87-year-old woman in Manhattan, her attorney said. Credit: NYPD

Lawyers for a former Port Jefferson woman accused of shoving a beloved voice teacher to her death earlier this year in Manhattan said Tuesday they want to use a psychological defense.

Lauren Pazienza's psychological state on March 10, when she allegedly pushed and toppled 87-year-old Barbara Gustern as the victim stood outside her apartment on the West Side of Manhattan, is going to be an issue in the case, said defense attorney Arthur Aidala, in a brief appearance before Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Felicia Mennin. 

Aidala said he submitted a report to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office on the state of Pazienza's mental health.  She faces first-degree manslaughter, injuring a person over 65 and assault.

The defense has previously indicated in court filings that Pazienza has mental health issues for which she is receiving one-on-one counseling while being held on Rikers Island.

Gustern, a popular voice coach in the entertainment field, suffered severe head injuries in the fall and died five days later.

Video surveillance recordings showed that Pazienza, then-26 and living with her fiance in Astoria, Queens, kept on walking and didn’t stop to help Gustern. Police said she called Gustern an expletive when allegedly shoving her.

Pazienza ultimately surrendered to police 12 days later after hiring Aidala.

Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney asked for and was granted the right by Mennin to have a prosecution expert examine Pazienza. The case was technically scheduled to go to trial Tuesday but the motion related to the psychological defense has pushed any possible trial date until at least the end of the year or early 2023. Pazienza is scheduled to return to court Dec. 8.

Outside court Tuesday, Aidala indicated that the defense submission was made to help plea negotiations and get a disposition without trial.

“Basically, we submitted expert’s reports to the [prosecutor] to let them know there are some issues with our client that are long standing to take into consideration in deciding what to do with this case,” said Aidala, who wouldn’t disclose the nature of the issues facing Pazienza.

“In every case you are hopeful that both sides can reach a proper agreement, an appropriate agreement," he said.

In court papers filed earlier in the case, the defense claimed  grand jury testimony showed Pazienza was intoxicated at the time of the incident, thus undercutting any intent by her to cause physical injury to Gustern. Intent is a necessary element of the manslaughter charge, the most serious count in the indictment.

Pazienza was initially released in March on $500,000 bail posted by her parents and grandmother.  After her indictment, Mennin canceled the bail on the grounds Pazienza was a flight risk.

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