Lauren Pazienza NYC events planner remanded in court leading up to manslaughter trial of Barbara Gustern 87 year old vocal coach pushed to her death as defense lawyers deny their client pushing victim.
A NYC event planner accused of shoving an 87-year-old Broadway vocal coach to her death along a Chelsea, Manhattan street was on a ‘wine-fueled rampage’ after touring art galleries with her fiancé just prior to the alleged attack.
Lauren Pazienza, 26, appearing in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday was ordered to be held without bail pending trial because she was considered a flight risk.
Pazienza turned herself in nearly two weeks after the March attack but was released on a $500,000 bail days later. The woman appeared in court on Tuesday for the first time since her release, where she pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault before the judge revoked her bail and remanded her.
Pazienza was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and booked at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island the nypost reported.
The Long Island native was indicted in March on manslaughter and assault charges in the death of 87 year old woman, Barbara Gustern after allegedly pushing the vocal coach while calling her a ‘b***h’ in the Chelsea area on March 10.
‘The defendant became angry, started shouting and cursing’
The elderly victim was rushed to the hospital where she died five days later.
Just prior to the attack on that Thursday night, Pazienza had been drinking wine at various art galleries with her fiancé as they celebrated exactly 100 days until their June 18 wedding, Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney said.
Thursday nights are considered to be ‘opening nights’ for many galleries in the trendy art district neighborhood as revellers head out for free booze in the Chelsea area.
‘They went to several art galleries in Chelsea, where the defendant had several glasses of wine. Afterward, they went to a food cart, where they each got a meal. They went to Chelsea Park, one block away from the assault, where the defendant began to eat her meal,’ McNabney said in court, as reported by the New York Daily News.
While Pazienza was eating her meal in Chelsea Park, a park employee came up to her and told her that she would have to leave, because the park was closing soon, McNabney said.
‘The defendant became angry, started shouting and cursing at the park employee, threw her food onto her fiancé, and stormed out of the park.’
The fiancé told prosecutors he started walking toward the subway after the couple arguing, planning to go to the Astoria apartment the couple shared.
NYC events planner watched as ambulance drove victim away
Meanwhile, Pazienza was heading in the direction of West 28th Street near Eighth Avenue where she came across Gustern, a vocal coach who had just finished rehearsals in the area, and allegedly yelled at her and angrily shoved her to the sidewalk.
Prosecutors say Pazienza then watched as an ambulance crew took the woman to the hospital where she died five days later.
Pazienza had called her fiancé, Naveen Pereira, just after the incident, prosecutors said in court, but ‘said nothing about the fact that she had just shoved an older woman to the cement.’
‘Instead, she started to argue with her fiancé, accusing him of ruining her night,‘ the prosecutor told the court. ‘Right before they went to bed that night, the defendant finally, for the first time, turned to her fiancé and told him that she had pushed someone. She said that she thought the person had fallen, and she walked away.’
When Pazienza’s fiancé asked why she had pushed Gustern, she said the woman ‘might have said something’ to her but she wasn’t sure.
Pazienza fled the scene that day and was on the run for 11 days before turning herself in following Gustern’s death after distinct photos of her getting on the subway some 20 minutes after the attack placed her near the scene.
‘Why would she run if she’s not guilty?
She was charged with manslaughter and assault.
Pazienza faces up to 25 years in jail if convicted.
Lawyers for Pazienza, John Esposito and John Leventhal argued that Pazienza had demonstrated that she would not flee by appearing in court, and said that the $500,000 bail set by a different judge this year – which was paid by her friends and family – was more than enough to ensure her return to court, the NYT’s reported.
But Judge Felicia Mennin was not convinced.
‘I’m concerned that Ms. Pazienza is a flight risk — and is a serious flight risk,’ Judge Mennin said at the arraignment Tuesday.
‘It appears that [the shove] was for a random reason. The victim in this case was apparently left lying on the sidewalk. The defendant walked away. She faces significant prison time if convicted. Although that may not seem a reality at this time, as the case proceeds, I have serious concerns it may affect her desire to return to court.’
Attorney and law professor Dmitriy Shakhnevich said evidence that Pazienza deleted her social media profiles, quit her job and fled to her parents’ Long Island home after the incident would make defending her a difficult job for her lawyers.
‘Flight is perfect evidence of guilt,’ he told the dailymail. ‘That will be presented to a jury. You’re gonna have the prosecutor say, ‘Why would she run if she’s not guilty? Why would she not stick around?’
Pazienza’s attorney rebutted, telling the dailymail that no proof existed that she pushed Gustern.
Proof that defendant pushed victim to her death?
‘What they have is a photo of someone who looks like my client getting on the subway. This attack did not happen on the subway,’ said lawyer Arthur Aidala, a high-powered defense attorney who has previously represented Rudolph Giuliani, Harvey Weinstein, and Roger Ailes.
According to the criminal complaint, Pazienza ‘made every effort to avoid detection.’
When police were tipped off that she was hiding out in her parents’ Long Island home, ‘Her father [Daniel] answered the door, but refused to allow detectives to enter the premises, and claimed that his daughter was not at home.
‘It was only at that point, despite all of the media attention that this incident has received, despite the fact that the defendant knew what she had done when she fled the city, despite the pleas from the victim’s loved ones begging for the perpetrator to come forward, that the defendant’s counsel contacted the police and arranged for her to surrender.’
It is not unprecedented for parents to face consequences for allegedly trying to hide their fugitive children.
Though Pazienza she appears to have lived a life of privilege, and later glamour in New York City’s high society, neighbors told the nypost hat she was sharp-tempered and confrontational, and an elementary classmate has claimed she bullied fellow students.
Pazienza grew up in Setauket, Long Island, where she attended Ward Melville High School with her future fiancé, Microsoft customer support specialist Naveen Pereira.
A former classmate of Pazienza’s told Fox News that when he moved in down the street from her in second grade, she began bullying him.
The classmate said that Pazienza always had a ‘crazy look in her eyes’ and would kick him and call him and other kids names.
Life of prosperity but with bad attitude
Her father Daniel owns a prosperous third-generation cesspool draining company, and claims on the company website that it was voted No. 1 in both price and service in Suffolk County for several years running.
In addition to pumping services, the company provides cesspool installations, grease trap installations, septic tank installations, storm drains and catch basin installations.
‘At Dan Pazienza Cesspool Service we pride ourselves on being Suffolk County’s most advanced cesspool service. We have been serving Suffolk County for over 3 generations,’ the website boasts.
Paziensa’s parents Daniel and Caroline, who have been married for 28 years, enjoyed a life of prosperity, taking vacations to Aruba, France, and the Florida Keys over the years, photos on Facebook show according to the dailymail.
The family later moved to Port Jefferson, where Paziena allegedly fled to hide in her parents’ home after Gustern’s death.
After graduating high school in 2013, Paziena earned a bachelors degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Photos show her enjoying glamorous parties in Manhattan in recent years, including the 40th-anniversary party for New York society magazine Avenue in 2015.
Pazienza had recently been living in an Astoria condo with her fiancé, who purchased the unit in 2019 with his father.
Neighbors told the nypost that they were not entirely surprised to learn of the charges against Pazienza, saying that she was known to have a short fuse and was frequently confrontational.
‘There’s always some type of issue, some type of complaint. You’ll always know it’s her. It’s ridiculous,’ one said.
In New York, a person is guilty of first degree manslaughter when, ‘with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person.’
Before she lost consciousness, Gustern told police and a friend that an unfamiliar woman crossed the street, approached her directly, called her a ‘b***h’ and shoved her ‘as hard as she had ever been hit in her life.’
‘This is not a good case for the defense. She has no sympathy,’
Prosecutors say Pazienza stayed in the area for about 20 minutes after the attack, arguing with her fiancé on a nearby sidewalk before returning to the scene of the crime to watch as an ambulance arrived, according to surveillance footage from the area.
‘The prosecutors gonna say, ‘With the facts I have, she pushed an old lady to the ground, she stayed to see what kind of trouble she was in, when she saw the cops were looking for her, she knew she had to get out of there, she left the city and erased her social media and website and tried to disappear, and she only turned herself in when it became national news,’ top attorney, Michael Discioarro told the dailymail.
‘This is not a good case for the defense. She has no sympathy,’
‘I can’t imagine going to trial in this case,’ he added. ‘Unless the prosecution makes a ridiculous offer, I just don’t think this is a sympathetic client, and the media coverage is not sympathetic to her. What’s your argument, that you’re allowed to push old ladies in the street?’
Shakhnevich says the manslaughter charge is likely to remain just that.
‘That is as strong as they seem to be able to allege right now. Unless they can allege that she intended to kill, which is a stretch it seems, then manslaughter is as good as you’re gonna get,’ he said.