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Trees are money. Trees are so much money that you can cut down 221 of them and end up facing criminal charges. Just ask Jay Patel of Mahwah, New Jersey.
Patel has been charged with 2nd degree theft and criminal mischief for cutting down $1 million worth of trees on his neighbor's property. The trees, located just down the hill from his multi-million dollar home, were blocking his view.
He's facing up to 10 years of jail. For a view.
Patel's attorney claims his client thought the trees were his, explains CBS New York. The property is on a hill, which makes it difficult to visually locate the boundary. Police Chief James Patelli disagrees with this assessment, and told the station that Patel went several hundred feet beyond the property line.
A few feet, he could understand. Several hundred? Not so much.
Much of the criminal case will hinge on the jury's view of this logic. Criminal mischief, or vandalism, only requires an individual to have "recklessly tamper[ed] with tangible property of another so as to endanger person or property." If Jay Patel failed to survey the property or look at relevant maps, he may be found to have acted recklessly.
His failure to follow the zoning code may also play into this analysis. Patel received two code violations after zoning officials learned he had cut down 221 trees without permission, reports the New Jersey Record. Local code restricts the number of trees a property owner can remove each year.
That number is 5.
In addition to the criminal and civil citations, Jay Patel may face a civil lawsuit. His neighbors will probably want to recover the value of their trees.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.