On Tuesday morning as Lauren Pazienza walked through the press cameras on her way into Manhattan Supreme Court, most of the mysteries surrounding her case remained unanswered.
Two months had passed since the shocking attack of which she was accused before she was finally arraigned on manslaughter and assault charges; in the immediate aftermath, the claimed crime, which seemed random and unprovoked, had become a tabloid and local TV news favourite.
A Fatal Head Injury Took Gustern’s Life
Prosecutors say that 87-year-old vocal coach Barbara Maier Gustern was out and about in the Manhattan neighbourhood near her apartment about 8:30 p.m. on March 10. An anonymous lady allegedly crossed the street, yelled at Gustern, “bitch,” and then shoved her to the ground. A fatal head injury took Gustern’s life five days later.
Some of Gustern’s fans and students included Debbie Harry of Blondie as well as Broadway and cabaret artists, and stories about her care, kindness, and insight have been shared widely online and in the media. In an interview with The New York Times last month, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill said, “Without her, I would have been done.”
Posting Bond of $500,000, She Appeared in Court and was Eventually Released
Prosecutors claim that Pazienza, then 26, handed herself in to police nearly two weeks later after an anonymous tip led them to her parents’ home on Long Island. She had previously worked as a marketing and events coordinator for a furniture company. After posting bond of $500,000, she appeared in court and was eventually released.
Pazienza made her first court appearance after her release on Tuesday to enter a not guilty plea. The judge has ordered her to remain in custody without bail at this time. Officers shackled Pazienza and led her out of the courthouse at the conclusion of the session.
The Case has Received So Much Attention Due of its Unique Details.
Prosecutors said in March that after Pazienza shoved Gustern, she waited around for nearly half an hour before leaving, during which time she argued with her fiance and saw paramedics come.
She allegedly left her apartment in Queens to go stay with her parents, erased her social media accounts and wedding register, and left her phone with her aunt in the days that followed. ADA Justin McNabney said on Tuesday that Pazienza’s fiance, Naveen Pereira, claimed that the day of the shove, the couple had been drinking wine at Chelsea art galleries and that Pazienza had thrown food on Pereira after a park staffer told her she couldn’t dine there.
Pereira continued by saying that later that night, Pazienza had told him that after she stormed out, she had shoved someone who “may have said something to her, but [she] wasn’t sure.”
City’s Crime Rates
However, New York City’s crime and policing debates have recently gone beyond political talking points and into a cultural abyss. The city’s crime rates, while still depressed compared to the often-invoked bad old days of the ’80s and ’90s, have been a fixture in national debate since the COVID-19 crisis faded and the city returned to something approximating its pre-pandemic life.
I Details surrounding Gustern’s purported murder have given tabloids fresh material to exploit. White and raised in a “middle-class New York suburban environment,” as her lawyer later told reporters, the accused attacker was described as “a victim of a hate crime.” On Tuesday, Pereira’s recollection provided the closest anyone had come to a motivation.
Some viewers seemed to choose a more primitive interpretation about a failing social order because there were no ready-made narratives about race and class that usually accompany such arguments over criminal justice. In a moment of frustration, Pazienza lost his temper.
The tabloids dug through Pazienza’s personal history and Tumblr for information. Tenants in her Astoria, New York, building have reportedly begun to shun her and her “simmering fury,” according to a report in the New York Post.
A former acquaintance from her time at the Fashion Institute of Technology described her as a “poster child for white privilege” whose parents “got her out of everything,” according to The Daily Mail, which also unearthed a video tape in which she appeared to ridicule the deaf.
She reportedly left her position at the French furniture manufacturer Roche Bobois in December, according to the business. The most perplexing aspect of this whole affair is the March connection made by the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars.
That “this shove became a heinous crime” is highlighted is not meant to imply that this is an isolated incident, they added. “Living in a city is terrifying because of the prevalence of random acts of violence.”