Daily News (July 16, 1997)
Pal Park club wants alcohol conviction reversed
By Peter J. Sampson
PALISADES PARK – A day after a federal judge ruled that the borough can’t prosecute karaoke studios when patrons bring their own alcoholic drinks, lawyers for one club said Tuesday they will seek to set aside such a conviction.
Ray Kim, owner of New Jersey Music Studio on Broad Avenue, was recently convicted of allowing a patron to drink beer. It was the first of eight cases stemming from a crackdown on illicit drinking and after-hours operations at the borough’s karaoke clubs.
Kim’s attorneys, Christine Bae and Michael S. Kimm, last week filed papers asking Municipal Judge Joseph R. DeMiglio to grant a new trial and to disqualify himself because of possible bias.
But in light of the preliminary holding by U.S. District Judge Alfred M. Wolin that a section of the ordinance that applies to the music studios was unconstitutionally vague and over-broad, Kimm said Tuesday he will also ask DeMiglio to vacate the verdict.
Wolin issued a preliminary injuction Monday barring enforcement of the 1995 law, which made it illegal to permit alcoholic beverages to be consumed in establishments not licensed to sell liquor. Enacted as part of a campaign to curb disorderly conduct, the law subjects violators to fines of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
Wolin’s ruling came in a federal lawsuit in which three karaoke clubs are challenging the liquor law and two other ordinances they contend discriminate against Koreans. The other measures bar businesses from staying open around the clock and require that foreign-language signs include similar wording in English. The borough has decided to repeal the sign ordinance.
Kim, for two years the operator of the studio where customers rent rooms and sing along to music videos, was found guilty July 2 of allowing a patron to drink at his club.
In their motion for a new trial, Kim’s attorneys claim that comments by the judge betrayed “an actual economic conflict,” or at least the appearance of bias in favor of the municipality, which relies on revenues from fines to help fund its budget.
After the judge imposed a $750 fine and 90 days of community service, Bae asked for a stay of the sentence pending an appeal. The judge agreed to delay the community service but not the fines, declaring “we need the money.”
In her legal brief, Bae also argued that because of this economic pressure, the court appeared to be more favorably disposed to the prosecution in making a key evidentiary ruling.
During the trial, Kim’s attorneys charged, the prosecutor “engaged in a willful act of deception” in an attempt to trick their client into acknowledging that an underage drinker arrested on a drunken driving charge had admitted he was drinking beer at Kim’s studio.
When Bae tried to show that the young man had actually given a statement that he didn’t purchase, nor was he served liquor at the club, the judge labeled it hearsay.
Municipal Prosecutor Kevin Corriston said Tuesday it is part of the prosecution’s job to trap defendants if it leads to the truth, but he denied making misrepresentations. He also defended the judge against the bias charge, dismissing his comments that the fines were needed to pay court salaries as a good-humored, if inappropriate, remark.
Meanwhile, Borough Attorney Joseph R. Mariniello Sr. said that while enforcement of the liquor ordinance has been blocked pending a full trial on its legality, the borough can still prosecute illicit drinking under state liquor laws and local nuisance laws.