Student Spotlight

Catania ’17 Gains Criminal Law Courtroom Experience, Helps to Label a Level 3 Sex Offender

Jonathan Catania ’17

By By Sydney Sericolo
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This summer, Jonathan Catania gained experience and confidence in and out of a criminal law courtroom through his internship at the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office.

“The internship I’m doing is known by Albany Law students and it was recommended that I apply. They utilize interns at the D.A. by giving hands-on work and experience with real cases,” Catania said.

“It’s a great feeling being up there, getting to argue what I believe. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.”

The first time Catania spoke in front of a judge he was helping to determine the severity of a sex offender’s crimes, a process that a sex offender must undergo before reentering any community at the end of their prison term.

Even though it was only Catania’s first appearance in front of a judge, he paid close attention to his tone and use of language.

“I definitely have my own style,” he said. “I was confrontational and used colorful language while reading my points. It’s a great feeling being up there, getting to argue what I believe. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.”

Catania gathered information on the offender’s history of violence, records of past arrests, witness depositions, and other offenses. After the Department of Corrections calculated a score using the numerical grid system, Catania argued that the outcome it determined was necessary. He was able to successfully argue that a Level 3 sex offender classification, which is the highest offense, was properly scored.

“Knowing the level of offense is crucial because it determines the liberties they will have in the future. This man’s Level 3 classification means he will have to update his photograph and address, report to local police agencies, and follow other strict guidelines,” Catania said. “This is why a classification is so important before reentering the community.”

Even as an intern, Catania was given the opportunity to construct his own argument and present it at the hearing before the judge. He researched the 11 points that the Department of Corrections scored the defendant under and explained that each category was properly scored based on the circumstances and severity of the offense, likelihood of reoffending, and prior criminal history. This research was then presented to the judge.

Catania has always taken advantage of opportunities to be a part of trials. He was able to stand in front of a professor acting as a mock judge in his first year at Albany Law. That was his first experience orally advocating for a position, which confirmed for him that he loved this line of work. In his 2L year, he participated in the Donna Jo Morse Client Counseling Competition, and Donna Jo Morse Negotiations Competition. He is also looking forward to competing in the Karen C. McGovern Senior Prize Trials Competition with the same partner that he had for the Client Counseling and Negotiations Competitions.

In his 3L year, Catania will continue to work at the Schenectady D.A.'s office. He is eager to explore new opportunities in his final year of law school as well as continue to be a part of programs that he is already passionate about.

Jonathan Catania