When deep-pocketed party goers plunked down their money to attend an exclusive music festival in the Bahamas, they didn’t know that the promoter would be arrested three months later nor that they would be embroiled in a lawsuit to get their money back.
But all those things came to pass.
Billy McFarland, the entrepreneur who set up the catastrophic Fyre Festival, has a $21,000 a month penthouse in Manhattan and tools around town in a $110,000 Maserati. When federal agents picked him up Friday, McFarland has $5,000 in cash in his pockets.
But when McFarland appeared before a magistrate on Saturday, a public defender represented him.
Judge Kevin N. Fox set McFarland’s bail at $300,000 to be secured by $50,000 in cash or property. The promoter’s attorney, Sabrina P. Shroff, told reporters McFarland had one week to satisfy the conditions of the bail.
During the hearing, Shroff said McFarland’s previous attorneys had not been paid and would not continue to represent him.
Public defenders are reserved for arrestees with limited assets. The government often challenges those who apply to make sure a narrow criterion is met.
Public defenders exist to defend persons who cannot afford a private defense lawyer.
Anyone who feels they cannot afford a private attorney and wants a public defender should:
During the arraignment, ask for a Public Defender. Proof of inability to pay for a private lawyer will be asked for during the arraignment, but if an arrestee is in custody, asking for a public defender will move a defendant to the next step.
Interview with the Public Defender’s Office
New York has its own dedicated public defender’s office employing full-time government attorneys. These lawyers work to represent indigent criminal defendants at no cost to the arrestee. During the interview, the arrestee will need to provide proof of their financial circumstance. Eligibility is determined by three measures:
- Available income
- Severity of the charges, and
- Availability of other support, such as family
Conflicts of Interest
Once a person has demonstrated they are eligible for no-cost legal representation, the public defender’s office will schedule an intake interview to assign a lawyer. As many public defenders manage hundreds of cases annually, they must determine — based on the interview — if representing the defendant might present a conflict of interest.
When the conflicts check is finished, the arrestee either is assigned to an attorney or a specifically designated ‘conflicts of counsel’ who also represents the accused at no cost.