The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ciparick, J.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the New York Reports.
The issue presented for our determination is whether defendant's right to a public trial was violated when the trial judge sua sponte closed the court room, specifically ejecting defendant's father during voir dire without considering any alternative accommodations. We hold that such an action violated defendant's right to a public trial and warrants reversal.
Defendant was arrested on November 19, 2006. He was subsequently charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree (Penal Law § 220.16 ), criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree (Penal Law § 220.06 ), two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree (Penal Law § 220.03]), criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree (Penal Law § 265.01 ), criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree (Penal Law § 221.10) and two counts of unlawful possession of marijuana (Penal Law § 221.05).
On March 4, 2008, after a Sandoval hearing and just prior to the commencement of voir dire, the court engaged in the following colloquy:
"THE COURT: I turn to the defendant's father. Would you please rise for a moment. State your name.
MR. MARTIN SR.: Roy Martin senior.
THE COURT: Sir, we're going to be bringing in a panel of jurors in just a few minutes and we will need every seat in the courtroom. Do you understand that?
MR. MARTIN SR.: Yes, your honor.
THE COURT: I don't want you physically near any of these people. Consequently, I am going to ask you to step out and go to the far end of the hallway. I want no form of communication between you and any of these jurors. No verbal communication. I want no non-verbal communication. Do you understand? After that we will excuse a number of jurors as we proceed. Consequently, there will be room in the courtroom. The Sergeant will ask one of his officers to tell you when there is room here for you to step in. Do you understand that?
MR. MARTIN SR.: Yes, Your honor.
THE COURT: Sergeant, I want nobody sitting in the row in front of him or in the same row. Do you understand that?
MR. KLIMAN [defendant's counsel]: For the record, I object.
THE COURT: Sir, when you step out I want you to have no form of communication with these people.
MR. KLIMAN: I object to my client's father not being allowed to observe every aspect of the trial. This is a public trial. He has a right to have his father's support and ...