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Arthur Aidala gives an upbeat ‘state of the courts’ radio address

March 26, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn Attorney Arthur Aidala had a special guest appearance on 77WABC Radio on Tuesday afternoon where he gave a very upbeat “state of the courts” update for the listeners.

“New York City looks like what Manhattan looks like at 10 in the morning on New Year’s Day,” Aidala said from the studios at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. “It’s empty. There is no one around.”

Aidala started the one-hour special by talking about some of the negative aspects of current life and recapped his experiences travelling around New York City, but then quickly shifted to a very upbeat tone and said that he doesn’t think that the term should be “social distancing.” He said that “physical distancing” may be more relevant.

“I think the word social is misused,” he said. “It should be physical distancing. We should not be social distancing because making a phone call or a Facetime call is very social. Uploading to social media and getting responses back is social. I’ve been more social in the last couple of days than I would normally be.”

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Aidala said that he took a moment to check in on a friend, 79-year-old Connie, and brought her bread and some flowers because he knew that she would have trouble getting out herself. The small gesture was very much appreciated, he said.

“As Americans, as New Yorkers and those of us who are lucky enough to call ourselves Brooklynites, times like this really bring out the best in us,” said the former Brooklyn Bar Association president. “Times like this, 9/11, and Hurricane Sandy really bring out the best in us. Sure there are some who will take advantage of, but 99 percent of us are stepping up and doing the right thing. It makes me so proud. I gush with pride.”

When he discussed the state of the court system, the biggest thing that stood out to him was that not a lot is going on. Aidala said that he went to night court last week, and on an evening where there are typically 100 arrangements there were only about 30 that night.

“I’d like to think it’s because everyone is behaving,” Aidala said. “But let’s not kid ourselves, I think the police are being a lot more lenient and using their discretion and common sense on who to put through the system and who not to because the reports coming out of Rikers Island … is that the coronavirus is spreading very rapidly there.”

Aidala then described some of the video arraignments that he witnessed — where the defendant appeared via videoconferencing while the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys were all in the courtroom. He said that since that time, the court has moved to a system where the judge, defense attorneys, and prosecutors are all video conferencing from home.

“I went to court last [Wednesday] night for night arrangements, and it was a scene out of the Twilight Zone,” he said. “Everyone was wearing masks and gloves. At that point that was the first night and the defendants were not in the courtroom.”

Aidala also has many ties to Italy, including an office in Rome. He said that after speaking with friends over there, he is left with the impression that the U.S. and New York will be fine, but that they should be listening to the mayor and governor and staying inside.

“In Italy, there is plenty of food,” he said. “They haven’t run out of anything. They are keeping all the supply lines open. [There was a report] of places running out of frozen food, but if they are running out of it give it a day or two and it will be back. The only reason they are running out is because people are hoarding it. It will be back.”

He also acknowledged that while he has encouraged people to check in on each other, that they should exercise caution and try to limit interactions to phone calls or social media.

“My brother-in-law Carl, his mom is a single lady who lives alone and she wants him to come over there, but the problem is that she could have (coronavirus). She gives it to Carl, Carl goes home, my nephew Nicholas, who is 16 years old and has been a Type 1 diabetic since he is 4 years old even though he is a young person, he is one of those people with a pre-existing condition that is at risk.”

At the end of the show, Aidala finally answered the question that was on everyone’s mind — has he potentially contracted coronavirus from his client, Harvey Weinstein? Weinstein is in jail on Rikers Island after being convicted and sentenced to 23-years in prison for rape and has reportedly contracted the virus.

Aidala said that while he has not been tested, he is feeling fine and so far does not believe that he has the virus.

“He is in custody, and when he was in custody, I was in close proximity to him on more than one occasion,” Aidala said. “But I am fine. Hi everybody, here I am. It’s Arthur Aidala. Yes, I was with Harvey Weinstein and the newspapers are reporting that he has tested positive for coronavirus. My understanding is that he’s fine, and that he is not ill to the degree other people his age are ill, and I am totally fine.”

Aidala wrapped up the program by staying upbeat about the long-term outcome and talked about some of the things he was going to do to pass the time as New York State remains on PAUSE.

“I caught up on ‘Breaking Bad,’ I’m looking forward to watching `Mad Men,’ and I have a whole box of old photos that I can’t wait to go through,” he said. “I have a whole box of VCR tapes from when I was in the school play, I was in ‘Guys and Dolls,’ I was in ‘Oklahoma,’ I was the music man in ‘The Music Man.’”

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