Principal attorney Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma is a criminal defense trial lawyer in New York City. He has experience with a variety of criminal matters, ranging from high-profile federal trials to simple prosecutions in New York City Criminal Court. He has won significant criminal cases such as the 2014 release of Antonio Yarbough, who was imprisoned for nearly 22 years for a triple homicide he did not commit; the first-ever successful appeal of a N.Y. Sex Offender Registration Act (Megan's Law) redetermination hearing; and numerous acquittals, dismissals and reversals for clients accused of fraud, larceny, weapons possession, drug trafficking, child pornography, civil rights violations, terrorism and other crimes.
After graduating from the New York University School of Law, Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma went on to a judicial clerkship in the Southern District of New York. After that, he worked in the litigation department of the Manhattan office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a large corporate law firm. Starting in 2002, he practiced at the noted white-collar criminal defense boutique firm of Hafetz & Necheles, where he worked with trial attorneys Frederick P. Hafetz and Susan R. Necheles. Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma established his own practice in 2004.
For seven years after graduating with a B.A. in anthropology from Columbia College, Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma worked as a journalist in New York City, New Orleans, California, Mexico and Guatemala. He has written on both legal and non-legal topics in publications such as Wired Magazine, the New York Times, and the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics (see Articles and Decisions). He worked as a reporter for three daily newspapers in New York and Mexico, including the New York Daily News.
Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma has been a member of the Criminal Justice Act ("CJA") panels for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, providing indigent defense for people accused in multi-defendant federal criminal cases in New York City, since 2006. He regularly tries cases in the federal courts in New York. He represents doctors, lawyers, musicians, bankers, writers, artists, government officials, students and others accused of serious crimes.
Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma has defended people before juries in trials for drug trafficking, fraud, official misconduct, sex crimes and obstruction of justice. In 2007, Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma won a new trial for an attorney accused of insurance fraud, in a decision that established the principle that the government may not offer opinion testimony of a cooperating witness to prove the defendant's state of mind. In one high-profile case, he helped persuade the Queens District Attorney to drop a weapons charge against a Northwest Airlines pilot accused of carrying a handgun onto his plane. Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma has participated in representing individuals involved in the Martha Stewart trial, the Adelphia investigation, the Enron prosecution, and many other significant white-collar criminal cases. His trial victories include a gun possession case in Brooklyn (in which Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma's client was shot from behind by the police) and a subway sex abuse case in Manhattan. In 2021, in the first lengthy trial in the Eastern District of New York in the COVID-19 era, he defended a Russian national accused of wire fraud for creating bot traffic on the internet. Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma also has experience in civil rights litigation, criminal immigration issues, commercial litigation and criminal appeals. He handles carefully selected cases for victims of serious civil rights abuses, including excessive force by the police, false arrest and malicious prosecution. In 2003, Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma won an argument before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that the United States District Courts have habeas corpus jurisdiction to hear appeals from administrative findings under the Convention Against Torture. In 2007, he represented journalists Jerry Capeci and Tom Robbins in connection with the disclosure of tapes leading to the exoneration of FBI agent R. Lindley DeVecchio, who had been accused of murder. In 2009, he won a $1 million jury verdict for a former prisoner injured at Rikers Island. In 2012, after three years of unyielding litigation, he won an extraordinarily lenient sentence for a Malian man falsely accused of having ties to Al Qaeda. Prior outcomes do not guarantee similar results in the future.
Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma is fluent in Spanish and licensed as a notary public in the state of New York. He is a longtime active member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, where he organized an annual training seminar for other lawyers on federal sentencing from 2005 through 2008. He is the current chair of the City Bar's Sex Offense Working Group, where he works with both attorneys and psychological experts to reform laws governing people convicted of sexual offenses. He is a past member of the Criminal Advocacy Committee, the Professional Responsibility Committee and the Criminal Courts Committee. He is a Life Member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a member of the New York State Bar Association and New York State Defender's Association. Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma sits on the Joint Rules Committee of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, led by U.S. Magistrate Judges Sanket Bulsara and Ona Wang. He has been named to the Super Lawyers New York Metro list every year since 2013.
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Mr. Margulis-Ohnuma has more than 700 connections and numerous reviews and endorsements from colleagues and former clients on LinkedIn. Members of LinkedIn can review lengthy testimonials from clients detailing his work, which is distinguished by a strong sense of professionalism, attention to detail, relentless advocacy, courtesy to both clients and adversaries, and a deep understanding of the problems faced by those who are accused of crimes.