Mr. Ralbovsky was initially approached by the prosecution to testify on their behalf, but after learning that none of the neighbors had heard any screaming the night of the incident, they dropped him as a witness. When he was requested by the defense to testify for them, his testimony was severely curbed. He had wanted to point out that the walls are so thin that neighbors can hear others snore and that they can hear the floors creak when other tenants are home. Also he was not allowed to testify that he had spoken to the tenants below, above and next to Oliver's, and that none of them had heard anything that night. The prosecution during trial tried to insinuate that the super was in Oliver's "employ".
I am the super for Oliver's building, and I testified for him at his trial.
I have known Oliver for the past 7 years and I have never had any complaints about him or conflicts with him with any of my tenants or myself. I have known him as a nice person, and a gentleman.
At the trial I was very disappointed by Judge Wetzel who would not allow me to answer questions about crucial evidence. I feel that I have not been able to testify fully and completely on Oliver's behalf due to the fact that Judge Wetzel stifled my testimony. I do not understand how evidence as crucial to the defense as mine was not allowed in, especially when the accuser said that she screamed her head off. I have had tenants complain about other tenants being too loud with sex, yet this girl screamed her head off, and nobody heard anything? One would think that with accusations such as the ones brought against Oliver, the judge would allow witnesses for him to testify without obstruction.
In some trials I have noticed that a judge will allow evidence in that has nothing to do with the case, but in Oliver's trial crucial exculpatory evidence was not allowed in. I was not allowed to testify on his behalf. I am convinced that had the jury heard all the facts and all the testimony, the verdict would have been different. There would have been no conviction.
I think it is a disgrace that a man who has such monstrous accusations against him, and is now looking at life in prison, was not allowed the proper defense in a fair trial and was not allowed to defend himself on the stand. Moreover, I think it is a disgrace that this case came to trial at all.
It has been my privilege to know Svetozar and Sabina Jovanovic - and their two sons, Oliver and Adrian - for more that 12 years. Oliver, the older of the two, is the Columbia University doctoral candidate accused of sexually abusing a Barnard woman whom he met on the Internet.
Aided by background information provided by "law enforcement sources," the press has begun the ritualistic feeding frenzy that often accompanies a "big case," especially when it involves allegations of sex or violence. Before a single bit of evidence has been introduced against him in court, Oliver has already been branded as the "cyber-sex stalker" and the "Mr. Goodbar" of the Internet. Before a single juror has been sworn, the media have effectively accepted as truth the word of an unnamed complainant and, indeed, have openly asked "how many more victims" there may be.
In short, at this earliest stage of the case, Oliver's categorical denial of all the charges against him has been outshadowed and outshouted, and Oliver is at serious risk of being summarily convicted in the court of public opinion. Following such a "conviction," his trial in a court of law could well prove to be a mere formality, the outcome all but pre-ordained.
And that would be unfair. It would be unfair to Oliver Jovanovic, whose constitutional right to a fair trial - including the right to be tried by a jury unpolluted by assorted leaks and advance smears - is gravely imperiled. It would be unfair to Oliver's parents: hardworking, cultured people of modest means who epitomize the American work ethic at its best. (Oliver's father is one of the nation's premiere scholastic chess teachers; his mother is a first violinist with the New York City Ballet.)
It would be unfair, finally, to the rest of us. For any parent whose son faces charges of comparable gravity, surely it is universal to hope that the prosecution and the police will "play by the rules" and present their alleged evidence solely in court - and not beforehand. And for each of us, there is a disconcerting sense of loss when judgment is rushed and opinions are molded before any of the evidence is heard.
I am wholly sympathetic to the victims of crime. Ten years ago, in an earlier "big case," working alongside of the District Attorney's Office, I fought successfully against the efforts of Robert Chambers's defense counsel to read and introduce into evidence the diary of 18-year old Jennifer Levin, whom Chambers had killed. I believe strongly that such victims are entitled to justice.
But so is Oliver and so are we all. Let the prosecution try its case not in the press but in the courtroom, where the rules of evidence prevail and judicial guidance reigns. Let prospective jurors - and we are all prospective jurors these days - keep open minds about the facts of a case that has yet to be tried. Because next time, it could be our son asking for evenhanded justice. Because next time could be our time.
Jeffrey Newman Jeffrey Newman is an attorney for the Jovanovic family, and can be contacted at
Dolgenos, Newman & Cronin LLP
Jeffrey Newman is an attorney for the Jovanovic family, and can be contacted at (212) 925-2800.
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