Lido Beach resident Tyler Flach, who was convicted last month of second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Khaseen Morris in an after-school brawl in Oceanside, has a new defense team just days before he faces sentencing in a Nassau court next week.
Flach, 21, is scheduled to appear for sentencing Wednesday in Nassau County Court before acting State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim. But a member of Flach’s new defense team said the defendant’s lawyers will ask Sturim for an adjournment so they can prepare and file a motion to set aside the verdict.
“Tyler was overcharged and overconvicted,” said Samantha Chorny of the Rosenberg Law Firm of Brooklyn, who will represent Flach along with managing partner Jonathan Rosenberg at sentencing and during the appeals process. “There was no evidence presented that he had intent of extreme harm.”
Prosecutors Ania Pulaski and Daryl Levy contend the fatal stabbing was intentional, and a Nassau County jury agreed on Nov. 1, convicting Flach of second-degree murder, first-degree gang assault, misdemeanor assault and weapons charges. He faces 25 years to life on the top charge.
The charges stemmed from the death of Morris, a senior at Oceanside HIgh School, who prosecutors said Flach fatally stabbed during a gang brawl in an Oceanside strip mall on Sept. 16, 2019.
The motion will ask Sturim to dismiss then to vacate the second-degree murder charge, Chorny said, or to reduce the murder charge to manslaughter if he rejects arguments to dismiss the top count.
“This was a manslaughter case at best,” said Chorny, a former Nassau County prosecutor. “Tyler never wanted it to happen in this way.”
During deliberations, jurors had also a choice to find Flach guilty of first-degree manslaughter, which has a top penalty of 5 to 25 years in prison, or second-degree manslaughter, which has a maximum of 5 to 15 years behind bars.
Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, declined to comment Friday afternoon.
“This is one of the rare cases in which the defendant’s position is strengthened after trial,” said attorney Edward Sapone, who represented Flach at trial. “Witness after witness corroborated the defendant’s theory of the case, and the verdict was not rendered until day six. We are confident the new appellate counsel will score points at sentencing."
Prosecutors argued at trial that Flach stabbed Morris three times, not once as Sapone said – a detail the defense told jurors mattered because it related to the question of intent.
If Sturim agrees to adjourn Wednesday’s sentencing, Flach will most likely return to court in early 2023, Chorny said.
It is rare for judges to dismiss jury verdicts prior to sentencing, and if Sturim rejects the motion to vacate, he could sentence Flach the same day he renders that decision.
Testimony in the trial showed that the brawl was sparked by friction with the jealous ex-boyfriend of a girl whom Morris walked home from a party. Flach joined that teenager and others from Long Beach, who squared off with Morris and his friends from Freeport.
Sapone told jurors his client threw a flurry of punches while holding the weapon in his hand before one punch "went awry" and the knife pierced Morris' heart during what he called "reckless" behavior on Flach's part.