Legal Aid Society


Client Stories: Lori Gjenashaj Deserves Compassion Not Incarceration

In 2018, while suffering from a mental health crisis after years of trauma and substance abuse, Lori Gjenashaj was shot by the police. Up until then, Lori had no prior contact with the criminal legal system and was a pillar of her community, working as a registered nurse at a local hospital.

Mrs. Gjenashaj now faces charges of burglary and menacing, and her trial is set to begin later this month. She faces up to fifteen years in jail if convicted.

Since her arrest, Lori has access to resources for the first time in her life and has begun to heal from her many traumas, but Staten Island DA Michael McMahon has refused to divert this case to mental health court, instead only offering a two year prison sentence. Given Mrs. Gjenashaj’s multiple medical and mental health ailments, a prison sentence could amount to a death sentence.

“I’ve been practicing law for 38 years and I’ve never had a case like this where the DA’s office is so dead set on prosecuting someone who has suffered so much throughout their life,” said Joseph Licitra, supervising attorney with The Legal Aid Society’s Staten Island Trial Office, which is representing Gjenashaj. “In no world will sending Lori to prison serve any benefit to public safety.”

Lori was recently profiled by THE CITY, read her full story here.