On January 3, Governor Cuomo commuted the sentence of our client Monica Szlekovics. Monica had been serving 23 years of a 50-year-to-life sentence for second-degree murder and other crimes. A victim of severe domestic abuse, Monica had been forced by her then-husband to participate in the crimes.

Without this grant of clemency, Monica would not have even been eligible for parole for another 22 years. Her clemency grant was one of only two sentence commutations given to incarcerated individuals in New York State at this time.

Monica was a victim of severe domestic violence, whose then-husband kidnapped her at gunpoint and, through continued physical abuse and armed threats, kept her hostage and forced her to accompany him as he committed several assaults and kidnappings, resulting in one death. Monica used her 23 years at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women to transform herself through education and positive relationships into a strong survivor – a true testament to her deep remorse for her participation in the crimes. She has served as a supporter of other women and is an extraordinary example of the power of positive change and the resilience of the human spirit.

The Davis Polk team, led by Pro Bono Attorney Dara Sheinfeld, prepared an extensive and compelling clemency application and galvanized support from leaders of prominent domestic violence, survivors and women’s justice organizations throughout New York State. Monica was referred to Davis Polk through the Initiative for Incarcerated Survivors of Gender Based Violence, a group founded by Sanctuary for Families that meets regularly at Davis Polk’s New York office. The Davis Polk team also included Special Counsel for Pro Bono Sharon Katz, associates Peter Bozzo and Jennifer Kalmanides and former associates Jaryn Fields and Brooklynn Moore. Partner Tatiana Martins provided support. Sara Bennett served as co-counsel. Sanctuary for Families added support.