Westchester DA recommends reduced sentence for domestic violence survivor

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WHITE PLAINS – The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office has, for the first time, consented to resentencing a domestic violence survivor under the state’s 2019 Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.

That law gives the court discretion to resentencing defendants who suffered sexual, psychological or physical abuse that significantly contributed to their criminal conduct.

District Attorney Miriam Rocah recommended a five-year resentence, the maximum under the law, for Jonitha Alston, who has been serving a 12-year sentence for her manslaughter conviction for the 2016 stabbing death of her boyfriend, Dennis Graham.

On Friday, October 7, Judge Robert Neary vacated the original sentence, of which Alston served nearly five years, and granted the DA’s recommendation of a five-year resentence, with five years of post-release supervision.

“After a careful review of the motion filed by Ms. Alston under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, and a recent examination by an expert psychologist, we concluded that Ms. Alston was subject to physical and psychological abuse at the time of her offense, and the history of this abuse, combined with the perceived threat to her daughter at the time of the offense, significantly contributed to her commission of the crime,” said Rocah.

According to Alston, on December 29, 2016, Graham became physical with Alston’s then five-year-old daughter., When Alston tried to stop Graham, he rushed at her with a knife, resulting in both falling to the floor. A struggle ensued and Graham dropped the knife, which Alston picked up and used to stab Graham, killing him.