Thursday, August 31, 2006

Federal Appeals Court Exposes Pirro’s Misconduct

“In twelve years on this Court I have never seen such a Brady violation.”

Last Tuesday, August 22nd, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed up a decision in the Anthony DiSimone case. The appeal was by Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore’s Office, as Cross-Appellee, in opposition to an earlier decision by Federal District Court Judge Charles Brieant, granting a writ of habeas corpus, on a challenge to sufficiency of evidence, which produced a conviction for Depraved Indifference Murder. The decision, which reversed the lower Court’s ruling, for “procedural insufficiency,” more importantly exposed the prosecutorial misconduct, and outright unlawful activities engaged in by former DA Jeanine Pirro, and now justified, and defended, by Janet DiFiore, her successor.

Specifically, although the main thrust of the original petition filed by DiSimone, with the Federal District Court, dealt with the sufficiency of evidence presented in connection with his conviction for Depraved Indifference Murder in the death of Louis Balancio, the real significance of the decision is its detailed exposure of the calculated, and unlawful activities engaged in by a malicious prosecutor bent on convicting an innocent Defendant, for her own purposes, at any cost. The case arises from a street brawl in front of the former Strike Zone Bar, on Central Avenue in Yonkers, in 1994, between some thirty local toughs that resulted in the death of the 21-year-old college student who suffered a total of thirteen stab wounds.

Defendant DiSimone, who continued to live in plain sight in the City of Yonkers, with his wife and infant son, became the target of one of DA Pirro’s more imaginative propaganda efforts. She would falsely claim that he had run off to Sicily, and that he was being pro tected by the Cosa Nostra. She would twice try to indict him, failing each time, while succeeding in indicting Darin Mazzarella, a known criminal charged in other homicides and present at the Strike Zone incident. Finally, only after empanelling a so-called “special grand jury” and offering immunity from prosecution, and placement into a witness protection program to Mazzarella, and his equally violent, and criminal brother Nick, in return for testimony against DiSimone,, was Mrs. Pirro able to secure an indictment against him.

The 29-page decision, authored by Justice Calabresi, the presiding judge of the three judge panel, who listened to the oral arguments offered by John R Bartels, Jr., attorney for Anthony Di-Simone, and Valerie A. Livingston, for DA Janet DiFiore, on June 21, disposes of the Defendant’s principle contention within the first half of the text concluding, “Because we find that DiSimone’s insufficiency claim was procedurally defaulted, we need not, and do not consider its merits:”

DiSimone, who was acquitted at trial of intentional murder, by a jury of his peers, was arguing that his conviction for Depraved Indifference Murder was not supported by the evidence produced at that trial, in accordance with a line of recent New York State Court of Appeals decisions in Gonzalez, Payne, and Policano, and several other cases over the past 2 ½ years. However, Sufficiency of the Evidence, although the basis of Judge Brieant’s habeas corpus grant, was not the only claim brought by DiSimone. There was the Brady violation claim, dealing with the obligation of the Prosecution to present to Defendants any, and all, information turned up by the Prosecution, which may be exculpatory to the Defendant, as well as the Confrontational Clause, the right of an Accused to confront his accusers as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Of these, the Federal Appeals tribunal was most interested in, and offended by, the particulars of DiSimone’s Brady claim. The Court, in its decision, summarized DiSimone’s Brady claim, stating, “DiSimone argues that the state violated its Brady obligation by failing to disclose, until near the close of the government’s case, information that a person other than DiSimone had asserted that he had stabbed the victim twice just before DiSimone allegedly stabbed the victim.”

This reporter was present on June 21st of this year for the oral arguments at the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, when Presiding Judge Calabresi made his impassioned declaration, “In twelve years on this Court I have never seen such a Brady violation.” That declaration not only set the direction the Court would be pursuing that day but, in a broader sense, it represented a harbinger of things to come, as federal and state appellate tribunals become increasingly aware of the egregious and morally bankrupt practices engaged in by the Westchester District Attorney’s Office for twelve years under the Pirro regime.

In fact, on February 10, 1994, just six days following the Balancio murder, Yonkers Police Detective Robert Molinaro had interviewed a 21-year-old Yonkers resident, Luvic Gjonaj, who provided a signed statement indicating that on February 6, 1994, his cousin, Nickoun Djonovic, had told him that he had been at the Strike Zone bar on the Thursday night of the incident, and had gotten involved in the fight, and had stabbed two people, one of whom was Louis Balancio, who he admitted stabbing twice, once in the chest. Furthermore detectives had obtained a search warrant for Djonovic’s apartment, found, and seized a bloody jacket, corroborating his confession.

However, Mrs. Pirro was not interested in this evidence because it did not fit the scheme and the profile she needed to project. Pirro saw the tragic events at the Strike Zone as an opportunity to help her shed her well-earned reputation as a prosecutor who didn’t prosecute Organized Crime. Her husband Al’s connection to it helped reinforce that reputation. She was determined to make this brawl between young street fighters into a Mafia thing. And, so naturally a murderer, even a confessed murderer, named Nickoun Djonmovic, somehow just wouldn’t fill the bill, the way someone with an Italian sounding name would.

The Court observed, “DiSimone made three separate requests for Brady material.” First in pre-trial motions in January 2000, then one week before the start of the trial, in a letter dated September 25, 2000, and finally, on October 2, 2000, just before jury selection. At no point did Mrs. Pirro’s Office turn over the Gjonaj statement, instead, moving to suppress its admission, stating, “It is the People’s position there is no link in the chain of evidence that connects Nick Djonovic to the commission of this homicide.”

Mrs. Pirro, anxious to convict someone she had maliciously and dishonestly portrayed as a member of Organized Crime, would now engage in the worst kind of prosecutorial misconduct, including subornation of perjury, to achieve her ends. And, she was not alone in her evil conspiracy. Judge James Cowhey, who, not so coincidently, dated her mother, Ester Ferris, was involved in the conspiracy to convict an innocent defendant, right up to his eyeballs, as Judge Calabresi indicates, “The trial court did not turn the statement over to the Defense until eleven days after it had received it from the Prosecution, shortly before the close of thestate’s case.”

Cowhey then refused to grant a motion by DiSimone’s attorney seeking a continuance, and time to put together a strategy, based on the new information which had been withheld. He then proceeded to reject three motions for mistrial that were based on the glaring Brady violations.

The Appeals Court decision leaves little doubt that the materials unlawfully withheld from DiSimone, “tended to support a potential Defense theory that, whatever DiSimone’as involvement in the fight, he was not the cause of Balancio’s death.” Justice Calabresi states, “Whatever else it may be, it is not murder to shoot a dead body. Man dies but once.”

He then gets tough with Janet DiFiore, who now appears to relish defending and justifying Jeanine Pirro’s outrageously unlawful prosecutorial misconduct, declaring, “ The government’s contentions to the contrary are wholly without merit.” He goes on, “In the first place, if there were questions about the reliability of the exculpatory information, it was the prerogative of the Defendant and his counsel, and not of the Prosecution, to exercise judgment in determining whether the Defendant should make use of it.”

The Court concludes that the information was favorable to the Defendant, and material, and that its late disclosure significantly influenced the outcome of the trial. The Court further notes the existence of one very small spot of blood supposedly connecting the Defendant, on a sweater that, interestingly was never proven to have belonged to DiSimone. The Court reminds that, “No witness testified to seeing the stabbing, and the murder weapon was not recovered.”

What the Court may not have known was that the Prosecution’s so-called Blood Splatter Expert was hired two days before the trial, and was paid more than $30,000 to make his assessments from photographs. Neither could the Court be aware of Mrs. Pirro’s antics. Appearing several times in the trial courtroom with the victim’s mother, and on television and in the press with her as well, all calculated to improperly persuade the jury.
Judge Calabresi declares, “We hold that there is a reasonable probability that had this material (the statement implicating Djonovic) been available the result in the case would have been quite different.”

Those who have observed the patterns and practices over twelve years in the Westchester District Attorney’s Office under Jeanine Pirro are only too well aware of the repeated outrageous prosecutorial misconduct, and outright criminal activity engaged in to achieve her despicable self-promotional agenda, The Anthony DiSimone case is but one of a long list of serious injustices perpetrated by Jeanine Pirro and a small number of misguided and selfishly motivated prosecutors whose criminal and reprehensible actions are just now slowly coming to light.
There are numerous innocent individuals, who, like Mr. DiSimone have been incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. They and their families have paid, and continue to pay, for the mistake the People of Westchester made three times when they entrusted Jeanine Pirro to be their chief law enforcement officer. Over Time, as the courts recognize the magnitude and the frequency of Mrs. Pirro’s evil, criminal deeds, underthe color of law, the taxpayers of Westchester will be burdened with the cost of compensating her victims.

The Depraved Indifference Murder Statute has been a “boondoggle,” abused and manipulated by prosecutors throughout New York State for 39 years, with the full knowledge and complicity of the state’s highest court. Not until March 2004, with the Gonzalez Decision, out of Rochester, did the Court of Appeals begin to seriously, if not wholeheartedly, come to grips with the injustices worked by ruthless prosecutors throughits nebulous and confusing language.

Some prosecutors more than others, those whose agendas were most self-promotional, such as Jeanine Pirro, and Charles Hynes, abused the statute to the level of criminality, frequently offering juries, and unwary judges, a smorgasbord selection of murder theories, Intentional, or Depraved Mind, counting on the notion that “juries love to compromise.”

Those of us who attended the oral arguments in the DiSimone case, emerged from the courthouse not quite sure of what we had witnessed, given that the principle claim involved Depraved Indifference Murder, and yet, the three justices had continued to dwell on, and ask questions, almost exclusively, about Brady violations. Later that day we got a glimpse of what was on their minds, when the Court posted information on the Policano case, and took the most unusual step, calling upon the New York State Court of Appeals for “certification” regarding the Depraved Indifference Murder Statute, and whether the rules of interpretation under which that court has been recently operating constitute “old, or new, law.”

In reality, the Federal Court was saying to the state’s highest court, “You’ve permitted this situation that unjustly, and unfairly advantages prosecutors to go on for nearly forty years. And, now, suddenly two years ago, you began dealing with it. Well, some of the residue is landing on our steps, so please give us some guidance to help us clean up your mess.”
The Candidates Respond...

Editor’s note: The following statements from Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Nicholas Spano, candidates for
State Senate in the 35th State Senatorial District, are in response to our editorial in the August 17, 2006
edition of The Westchester Guardian.

Statement by Democratic State Senate Candidate Andrea Stewart-Cousins

I would welcome the United States Department of Justice providing monitors for the upcoming State
Senate election. In Yonkers in 2004, just as in Florida in 2000, the Republican Party worked very hard to make sure that thousands of votes from registered Democrats were not counted, yet somehow, 23 voting machines in Yonkers were all misread in favor of Republican Nick Spano. Justice Department oversight is a much-needed step in ensuring fair elections, but it will take far more to clean up the mess in Albany left by Republicans Pataki and Spano.

Statement by Republican Incumbent State Senator Nicholas Spano

I welcome the monitoring of this year’s election. If this had occurred in the last election we would have
prevented many irregularities and fraud, that was conducted on Election Day by my opponent’s campaign.\
There were 8,000 paper ballots, 5,000 of which were thrown out.

In Our Opinion...

Two weeks ago we called upon the United States Department of Justice to “provide monitors and U.S. Marshals for the upcoming election for State Senate in the 35th Senatorial District, to ensure a fair and totally honest outcome.” We had contacted Mr. Herbert Hadad spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office
for the Southern District of New York, expressing our concerns that the upcoming rematch between Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Nick Spano might produce the kind of monumental dispute that was witnessed two years ago following their first contest.

Believing that each of the candidates would not wish to go through that kind of ordeal again, and that whomever would win would certainly not want to be viewed as having achieved anything less than an honest victory, we approached Mr. Spano and Ms. Stewart-Cousins seeking their individual endorsements of our proposal. Their responses appear opposite.

Having received the endorsement of each candidate, we intensified our enlistment activities with the Justice Department, this time going directly to the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division in Washington D.C., where we were informed that there certainly was a strong interest in maintaining the integrity of the election process, and that they would definitely respond to voters’ concerns.

This is not a partisan issue. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Conservatives alike must all recognize the importance of a secure, uncorrupted election process, not merely in the 35th District, but everywhere throughout the Westchester community.

We are calling, once again, for monitors and enforcement personnel to closely observe and regulate the activities near, and at, polling places, as pertains to the casting of ballots, recording and reporting of results, on both the first, and second canvass, as well as the handling of voters, and issues that may arise.

The Justice Department, having assured us that they will be “sensitive, and responsive” to citizens’ concerns, we now call upon our readers to take the time to communicate your feelings on this issue to:

The United States Department of Justice
John Tanner, Chief of the Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20530

Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

Your article on New Rochelle expounds on Mayor Noam Bramson’s views of the city’s high rise buildings. His characterization of New Rochelle’s dramatic “transformation” does not address the many quality of life issues which have been detailed in the recent Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) and sharply contrasts to other views expressed which criticize these high rise buildings as out of place and architecturally undistinguished. (“Just How High Should Progress Go” by Joseph Berger, New York Times, August 6, 2006, and “Is Westchester Missing an Opportunity?” by Cheryl Winter Lewy, The Sound Report, August 18, 2006).

In the DEIS for the LeCount Square proposal, taxpayers are told that more police officers, firefighters and officers and another part time ambulance is needed. The DEIS for the proposed Church/Division garage also cites the need for more city service workers, but adds to this mix that the Department of Public Works would require an additional two workers, a motor equipment operator, and a vehicle. The Fire Commissioner stated a taller ladder is needed for “vertical response.” Noise levels in the areas of both projects are already at unacceptable levels according to HUD guidelines and city ordinances. Our sewage processing plant is
operating above its permit level and backups have occurred in cellars, especially during heavy rain storms.

To add to all this mix, in the August 20, 2006 Journal News (“Changes May Come to North Avenue” by Ken Valenti) it is stated that New Rochelle is seeking a consultant who will be given directions to “consider allowing taller buildings” to six stories for the North Avenue corridor (mentioning from the train station and Iona College). Why is the city seeking a consultant? Intersections with unsatisfactory traffic conditions have been described
in these recent DEIS’s and North Avenue has always been consid-ered a bottleneck. So how can a consultant honestly recommend more density on this avenue, and why is a consultant even asked this question?

Instead, don’t the taxpayers of New Rochelle deserve some historic preservation of the city and a return to “Common Sense?”

Peggy Godfrey
New Rochelle

Dear Editor:

You recommendations for a twin to the Tappan Zee Bridge is mistaken. More traffic lanes will encourage more cars, which will increase pollution and greenhouse gasses. More traffic lanes (including access roads for the bridges) will mean paving over more land, and too much of our natural and architectural heritage has already been lost to pavement. In addition, taking property for traffic lanes will decrease property tax revenues and add to housing problems. Furthermore, building a new bridge will be at least as expensive as the alternate you scorn.

Instead, we should seek to increase river-crossing capacity without bringing in new vehicles. A good solution would be a light rail on the existing bridge. Two light rail tracks (one for each direction) can fit into the space of a single traffic lane. The light rail could run from Rockland County to Port Chester, eventually, but at least it should cross the bridge. The light rail can be built during rehabilitation of the existing bridge.

And if rehabilitating the existing bridge means temporarily reducing its capacity less than the end product will have, there can be ferries across the river with shuttle buses instead of massive parking lots to bring people to them. Some of the ferries can keep operating even after the bridge’s lanes are put back in service.

Jeanette Wolfberg
Mount Kisco

Janet Difiore.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Yonkers Police Brutality

There is simply no justification for the excessive use of force by the Yonkers Police Department, or any other law enforcement agency in the County. Police brutality is a very corrosive, destructive activity that undermines public confidence, not only in public safety but in the entire judicial system. And, it only takes a few bad actors to give
an entire department an ugly reputation.

Police brutality sets in motion a cycle of events that unfortunately becomes self-perpetuating. Having grown up in the 41st Precinct of the South Bronx, during the years that the neighborhood earned the handle “Fort Apache,” I can state categorically that kids do not automatically hate the police. Even when so-called juvenile delinquency
had become epidemic, and the City of New York imposed an 8:00PM curfew, relations with the local police were not particularly strained.

That was then, and this is now. Today, with so many guns on the street in the wrong hands, and gang membership and violence in the County at an all-time high, police brutality is nothing short of a catalyst for violence. Residents of Yonkers, as well as towns and cities across Westchester, are entitled to assurances from police commissioners and precinct commanders that they will show zero tolerance for incidents of excessive physical force. More importantly, our District Attorney, Janet DiFiore, must publicly declare her intention to
prosecute any, and all, police officers who may engage in the use of brutality, to the fullest extent of the law.

Last week Jim Bostic, Executive Director of the Nepperhan Community Center, and Chairman of the Yonkers Violence and Gang Prevention Coalition, met with Yonkers Police Commissioner Robert Taggert, Deputy Commissioner Gardener, Captains Intervalo, and DiMaggio, as well as Lieutenants Reardon and Doyle, together with Karen Edmonson, President of the Yonkers NAACP, for preliminary discussion of the community’s concerns over several recent allegations of police brutality. Mr. Bostic described their conversation as productive.

However, it will take a concerted effort by top police officials, concerned citizens, and the DA’s Office, if the Yonkers Police Department, and other departments in the County, are to avoid a possible Federal Civil Rights Investigation into the matter. DA Janet DiFiore, more than any other individual, has the resources and the manpower, not to mention the mandate, to prevent the police brutality issue from coming to that point. Therefore, it is important that Ms. DiFiore step up to the plate and make a statement that will both reassure the residents of Yonkers and all of Westchester, and put those who would disgrace their uniforms on notice that they do so at great risk.

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

When Is An Alibi Not An Alibi?
State Supreme Court, White Plains

Judge Lester Adler Presiding

Monday, August 21st Defendant Jesse O’Brien, charged with First and Second Degree Robbery, and Second Degree Assault, as well as lesser felonies, in a seven-count indictment arising from an incident in Yonkers, appeared for a pre-trial hearing before Judge Lester Adler. O’Brien was accompanied by his Attorney, Richard Candee, who announced at the start of the hearing that he possessed T-Mobil cell phone records and Sony Corporation computer usage records that would place his client, at the time of the incident with which he is charged, in a situation that would tend to make it “doubtful that he engaged in the criminal activity he is charged with.”

Responding to Mr. Candee, Assistant District Attorney Calvin Scholar, addressing the Court, declared that any such materials constitute an alibi, and, as such, needed to be turned over to his office. Attorney Candee responded, “Sony records of the use of his computer at, or about, the time of the alleged crime does not constitute an alibi, and thus we are not bound to turn over such records to the DA’s Office.”

Judge Adler, who had met with the attorneys, in chambers, prior to entering the courtroom, now offered, “By denying that you committed the act in this case, under New York State law constitutes an alibi.” Mr. Scholar followed with, “If Mr. Candee presents a witness by way of establishing an alibi, it is our position that we are entitled to that information.” Judge Adler then asked, “Is the person who was on the phone able to state that the Defendant was at some other location at the time of the crime? The Court would submit that the records would serve only one purpose at the trial, to convince the jury that the Defendant was someplace else. The spirit of the legislation is such as to prevent surprise of the Prosecution. It looks like, and should be treated like alibi material.”

Mr. Candee, visibly upset with Adler’s position, now said, “I do have a strategy, and that strategy does not involve turning over my entire case before it is necessary to.” Mr. Scholar now informed the Court and the Defense that he had two witnesses waiting to be examined, Yonkers Detective Chiarello and Police Officer Rodriguez. He suggested that Mr. Candee might have wished to interview them privately before their appearances.

Candee, reluctant at first, then complied with a request by Adler that he, in fact, speak with the officers.
Following a brief adjournment, during which Mr. Candee availed himself of the opportunity to interview each officer, Judge Adler opened the hearing with, “By prior decision of this Court the Court has granted a hearing on the Defense motion to suppress identifications offered by the Prosecution.”

Mr. Candee immediately followed with a statement raising his concerns over a possible Brady material issue as might be involved with what he referred to as “conflicts” posed by the question of whether the perpetrator was described as White or Hispanic. There followed the presentation of Prosecution witnesses Yonkers Detective Sgt. Kevin Scully, and Detective Anthony Chiarello, as well as Police Officer Rodriguez. The purpose of the hearing was essentially to establish the reliability of the identification of the Defendant by police sources.


The issue here was whether Defense materials that are not being offered specifically to establish that an accused was somewhere other than at the crime scene, at the time of the alleged crime, but that might tend to suggest that he was not, must be treated as alibi evidence subject to release upon request by the Prosecution, under the rules of state legislation governing alibi evidence.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

When Will New Castle Come Clean?

The Town of New Castle needs to take a clue from New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine on how to handle a delicate situation when an employee’s behavior raises serious ethical questions that could damage public confidence in law enforcement. Just such a recent case involved the former chief law enforcement officer of New Jersey, Attorney General Zulima Farber, regarding an event which took place on May 26, 2006.

As a result of prompt independent investigation, and a 43-page report issued by a former State Appeals Court judge, Ms. Farber resigned Tuesday, August 15th, the date the report was released to the public.

But east of the Hudson, nearly everybody has stayed on the job without any disciplinary actions in a matter that has churned in Chappaqua since 1999, involving another top law enforcement officer. In this case it is a New Castle police lieutenant who kept fraudulent payroll records in order to help a fellow officer obtain a 20-year pension when the officer had actually only worked 19 years. New Castle is not New York City. Many are questioning how a year’s absence by a 19-year member of such a small police force could possibly go unnoticed by everyone else at work, in a police department which happens to be located in the community’s petite town hall? The officer in question was, in fact, busy relocating to a town in North Carolina where he owns a bar.

Where does the buck stop in the New Castle government’s chain of command? The police lieutenant accused in this matter reportedly has not been fired yet, nor disciplined. The top law enforcement officer in the community, Chief Robert Breen, is still on the job. Breen governs a department that has 40 full-time members and eight other staff in a community noted for its very low crime rate.

Town Administrator Gennaro Faiella, after learning of the matter, reportedly told Breen to “never let it happen again.” Faiella oversees personnel policies in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, in addition to supervising the town’s collective bargaining negotiations. Town police officers have been without a contract for 19 the town’s refusal to negotiate in good faith.

Town Attorney, and former Town Supervisor, Clinton Smith still holds his position. The chief elected official, Supervisor Jan Wells and the four Town Board members, all lawyers, have not issued any report on this matter even though the Westchester District Attorney’s office had informed Faiella of its investigation of this matter as early as 2003. No public demand for any resignation has been made by the town board to date.

The State Comptroller’s Office, which manages public employee pension funds, has also been very involved in this case. The office of State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed a civil lawsuit in late July against the two New Castle police officers, seeking to recover damages of $100,000 and more than $180,000 in pension funds paid out by the state of New York since 2000. Faiella has stated, “The town (of New Castle) was not named in the suit and we’re not in a position to comment about the allegations.”

Contrast that response with the case of the recent resignation of the New Jersey Attorney General. New Jersey requires each agency to establish “a code of ethics to govern and guide the conduct of the State officers and employees...” Among the purposes of the Code is, “the preservation of public confidence in the administration of justice and enforcement of laws.”

The judge investigating that matter said that the Attorney General’s conduct constituted a violation “of the Code of Ethics of the Department of Law and Public.

Section II C provides: Officers of employees shall not perform their official duties in any manner from which it might be reasonably inferred that the influence… of a personal relationship… caused them to act in a biased or partial manner. The Attorney General is that state’s chief law enforcement officer. She is charged with responsibility for ensuring that the laws are faithfully and fairly enforced.”

Ordinary citizens rely upon their local governments to administer laws in a fair and evenhanded process. This duty is a continuing one and especially timely as school will be starting in Chappaqua right after Labor Day. For parents of high school students, it can be a time of much angst as they send their teenagers on their way, often in the family automobile. They hope their children are listening as they receive explicit instructions regarding driving laws and regulations, and the possible consequences of any violations.

Taking no public action nor issuing a public report when police officers are accused of pension fraud does not instill confidence in taxpaying parents whose children may be arrested or ticketed by the same police department. Teenagers are often the first members of the community to learn that teachers or police officers have given anyone favorable treatment, news that spreads like a fire across a drought stricken praire. These kids know that they will be grounded, driving privileges withdrawn, and even suspended from school if they violate parental and school district rules.

The lessons taught in such circumstances can have far-reaching implications. The first one is the importance of having a code of ethics to help guide behavior. Children look to adults the same way citizens look to their governments for leadership, especially under difficult circumstances.

The town of New Castle could look to other organizations for ethics code models. For example, most large corporations have compliance groups that govern behavior in the conduct of business. Staff under scrutiny are often placed on leave, paid or unpaid, when circumstances warrant such removal, while independent third party investigations are conducted.

The Town Board hasn’t publicly disciplined anyone yet but instead hired a consultant in the last year to conduct a feasibility study that has yet to be made available to the public regarding expansion of the Police Departments space needs at town hall or to relocate the 48 member department and the town’s justice court to another location. To some members of the public, this constitutes a reward for bad behavior.
Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

Ms. Camacho should be applauded for attempting, albeit poorly, to make the argument for bilingual education.
As our public schools flounder with accommodation and forced tolerance for varying heritages, sensitivities, beliefs, religions and most importantly languages, we witness the corresponding failures of same in our schools and its students. Conversely, our private and parochial school students continue to thrive, excel and produce more college-bound students and subsequent graduates than ever before! In fact, other-language families that insist on the best for their children are enrolling their children in these same schools, whether financially difficult or not. Their heritage, language duality and beliefs are practiced at home, as it should be.

Supporting multi-culturalism does exempt those same people from becoming part of our society’s thread through assimilation. Forcing us to accept what they want will only further resistance and ultimately exclusion from the
very fabric Ms. Comacho argues for.

Stop thinking as a Hispanic, and more like the American they believed they could be by coming here (hopefully legally). This includes learning the English language, for free at night school, as other immigrants have. They will then find more acceptance, success and a bigger slice of the American pie they can dig into. If not, they will always be those “other people” with their hand out looking for something-for-nothing.

White Plains

Dear Editor:

Thank you so much for this paper! I couldn’t help thinking how it will change a lot of people in some very positive ways. Thank you for your excellent piece on Pirro! She and her husband are so vile, I never understood how she could be re-elected. The paper is well thought out and prints out real news from real people. I was particularly pleased to see the Living Latino in Westchester column. I was an ESL instructor for many years, so the article was just right on the mark. Perhaps a follow-up article could be done on the award-winning Washington Irving Elementary Bilingual Program in Tarrytown. Perhaps even an occasional piece in Spanish and the other languages that are used here would be of interest.

The huge linguistic diversity that the county now has would make for an even broader readership. Spanish, though, is essential. On another point, given the fall of Joe Lieberman, I also would like to suggest a story on the candidates that are challenging their rivals in the Sept. 12 primary elections. As you may know Johnathan Tasini is challenging Mrs. Clinton, Jessica Flagg is up against Eliot Engel, and there are others throughout the
county running for state offices.

For many years I have felt disenfranchised from local goings-on. I went to high school in Dobbs Ferry and then basically left the country as there were no jobs after my finishing my undergrad degree at CCNY, which it seems lost far too many people though it was tuition-free. This was in the mid-1970s when the reactionary Herald Statesman was still the only paper widely read.


In Our Opinion...

What is George Pataki, a ‘lame duck’ governor who, at last polling, garnered a 9% approval rating, doing in Iowa? Last week found Pataki back in Iowa where, we are told, he was “campaigning and raising money for legislative candidates, and testing the waters for a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.” Really?

Many in Iowa, and in other parts of the country, well removed from New York, believe that his greatest vulnerability lies in the general perception that he is a Northeastern Moderate. Of course, we, here, in what was once the Empire State, know that fact may ultimately be the least of his problems. Simply stated, George Pataki has been a huge let down to voters across New York, Democrats and Republicans, moderates and conservatives, alike.

Pataki, who ran on a platform that promised fiscal conservatism and a trimming of state government in order to bring taxes under control, quickly showed his colors upon taking office in 1994. Within weeks of moving into the governor’s mansion Pataki went about pulling money from programs for the elderly and the disabled, cynically
balancing his budget on the backs of those who were virtually defenseless and who could least afford it. At the same time, he filled the ranks of state government and the many hundreds of state authorities with his cronies and pals, many of whom proved to be common criminals.

For example, there was Robert Boyle, appointed by Pataki as Chairman of the Port of New York Authority, and the Javits Center. Boyle, who ripped off the Hudson Valley Hospital Center, in conspiracy with Al Pirro, for more than $600,000 was frequently described, together with Pirro, by Pataki, as his “best friends and fundraisers.” Incidentally, Pataki was a member of the hospital’s board of directors when Boyle, it’s chairman, and Pirro, pulled off their fraudulent scheme.

Then there was Jack Gaffney, former Supervisor of Cortlandt, and fatherin-law of Pataki’s, and Jeanine Pirro’s, campaign director, Kieran Mahoney. Pataki appointed him Chairman of the Bridge Authority. However, a six-
figure salary wasn’t enough for Greedy Gaffney, who double billed, and converted more than $188,000 according to charges brought against him by the DA of Ulster County. He ultimately copped a plea to a reduced charge when Eliot Spitzer, at the behest of Jeanine Pirro, stepped into the case.

Closer to home, there’s George’s wife, Libby, who, from the start, made it clear that she was going to make being the governor’s wife a windfall no-show job, with two major corporations at a time, to the tune of more
than $350,000 year. One of those Corporations, for which she was a “consultant,” was Este Lauder, particularly amusing to her old friends and her former cosmetics consultant, who knew her before she became the First
Lady of the State, and knew she couldn’t put her eyeliner on straight.

In short, while George, Libby, and their cronies were busy stuffing their pockets for the past twelve years, New York State has been in deep decline, particularly upstate. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. At the same time, extraordinarily high property taxes, and inadequate public schools have driven many families from the state. Such is the Pataki Legacy. And, now he wants to do the same for the whole country.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

It’s High Time Eliot Spitzer Disavows Jeanine Pirro

Few reasonable people doubt that Eliot Spitzer will be the next governor of New York State. One might say that he is a “shoo-in.” However, that fact does not give him license to play coy, or ‘footsy’ with Jeanine Pirro, candidate of the opposition party, for State Attorney General, the position Spitzer will be vacating. And, it’s not as though she hasn’t, for her own devious reasons, been reciprocating, for example, refusing to endorse her Republican running mate, John Faso, for Governor, and repeatedly praising and comparing herself to Spitzer.

While this scenario has been playing out over the past two months, increasing numbers of Democrats, and Republicans, alike have expressed their discomfort and disdain, though none, to date have dared to challenge
Mr. Spitzer’s motives or loyalty. That situation ends here and now.

There is good reason to suspect Eliot Spitzer’s complicity with Jeanine Pirro. In May, 2001, Eliot Spitzer, in his First term as State Attorney General, went after Robert Boyle who, together with Al Pirro, had ripped-off the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Peekskill for more than $600,000 in a corporate fraud scheme between 1991
and 1993. Spitzer pursued Boyle seeking to recover his $300,000 share of the money unlawfully swindled from the hospital, accepting a mere $50,000 when Boyle ‘cried poverty.’ But, Spitzer made no effort to recover any money from Al Pirro, husband of Jeanine Pirro.

In 2003, several months before leaving office, then-Mayor of Yonkers, John Spencer, who now seeks the Republican nomination to oppose Hillary Rodham Clinton for United States Senate, forwarded a 14-page formal letter of accusation, entitled INVESTIGATION NEEDED IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY, against then-District Attorney, and fellow Republican, Jeanine Pirro, to Eliot Spitzer. That letter, drafted by City of Yonkers Corporate Counsel, and published, in part, by local newspapers, was never responded to by Spitzer. That letter, drafted by City of Yonkers Corporate Counsel, and published, in part, by local newspapers, was never responded to by Spitzer. The complaint primarily accused Pirro of interference and fixing of the County-wide
Election of 2001, amongst other unlawful acts. When two months had passed without response to Spencer from Spitzer, this writer persuaded law professor Bennett Gershman to send a follow-up letter urging Eliot to investigate and respond. This time Eliot failed to respond to the law professor. However, in prevailing upon Gershman, a friend and former law professor of mine, I did promise that if Spitzer failed to respond to him, within 30 days, I would also write to him. I was fairly confident that Eliot might respond to me because I had published THE JEANINE MACHINE, which had drawn comment from him, and which would lead him to believe I was not easily discouraged, Sure enough, my letter, urging the Attorney General to take Mayor Spencer’s allegations seriously, and investigate the charges, was answered within days, by Spitzer’s Director of Public Information,
Peter Drago, in a letter dated October 23, 2003. Despite his assurances that the Spencer complaint would be looked into, nothing ever materialized from Spitzer’s office. And, in fact, over time inquiries made by other journalists regarding Spencer’s letter were eventually met with claims that it had gone missing.

Moving right along, in 2004, Eliot Spitzer who had been spotted in Jeanine Pirro’s company, several weeks earlier, in New York City, on an FBI surveillance tape, suddenly, and inexplicably, stepped into the prosecution of Jack Gaffney, Pataki’s head of the State Bridge Authority, by the DA of Ulster County. Gaffney had been indicted for the unlawful taking of more than $188,000 in taxpayer funds, by means of bogus travel expenses and fraudulent claims. Eliot Spitzer permitted Gaffney to plead to a misdemeanor, involving a mere $16,000 overcharge, and the possibility of no jail time.

Jeanine Pirro had reached Eliot Spitzer, persuading him to intercede on behalf of Jack Gaffney, father-in-law of Kieran Mahoney, her campaign director. Jeanine would go on to make an appeal to the sentencing judge, on behalf of Gaffney, that was widely publicized in the Daily News. But that was only window dressing.

The fix was already in with Eliot. In light of all of the above, and possibly more that may never come to light, it’s time that Eliot Spitzer disavows Jeanine Pirro.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Judge Neary Does Calendar
State Supreme Court, White Plains
Judge Robert Neary Presiding

Defendant With Prior Conviction Pleads Guilty to DWI

Manual Perez, who had been convicted on February 6th of this year, in Peekskill City Court of Misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated, appeared before Judge Robert Neary, Wednesday August 16th to plead guilty to a second DWI incident, this time, as a felony, as well as to offering false information to the arresting officer, a misdemeanor.

A plea agreement had been arranged between Assistant District Attorney Morales and Defense Attorney Mr. C. Divin. Perez must undergo a pre-sentence investigation by the Westchester County Probation Department prior to sentencing in October.

Defendant Charged With Felony DWI Rejects Plea Offer

Defense Attorney Rocco D’Agostino appeared to surprise the Court, as well as ADA Morales, when he announced that his client, Defendant Michael Busick, charged with DWI as a felony, had decided to reject the District Attorney’s plea offer, opting instead to go to trial. Judge Neary, responded to Defense Counsel’s announcement asking, apparently for clarification, “Mr. Busick, you’re rejecting the plea offer?”

Neary then took the time to explain to the Defendant the possible sentence he risked if convicted of the E felony he is charged with, Section 1192.3-03 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, while, at the same time informing him that the plea offer he was rejecting might very well not be available should he change his mind.

Defendant Accused In String Of Robberies Pleads Guilty

A Mount Vernon man, Jamee Middleton, charged with First Degree Robbery, Second Degree Robbery, and Attempted Second Degree Robbery in connection with two incidents, involving the robbery of a deliveryman from a Mount Vernon Chinese restaurant, and the robbery of a gas station attendant in that city, in early October of last year, appeared before Judge Robert Neary to plead guilty to Second Degree Robbery and Attempted Second Degree Robbery, in full satisfaction.

Represented by Attorney Peter Davis, Middleton appeared to Judge Neary, to be not fully understanding of his situation. The Judge inquired as to how far the Defendant had gone in school. When Middleton responded that he had finished eleventh grade, Neary, still not totally convinced that the Defendant fully comprehended his circumstances, proceeded to explain in detail the charges against him and the potential consequences should he opt to go to trial, as well as the rights he would be waiving if he decided to accept a plea offer.

Neary then suggested, “If you’re so inclined, now is your opportunity to enter a plea to each of the Superior Court Informations.” He went on, “Do you want to change your plea from not guilty to guilty?”

Middleton responded, “No.”

Attorney Davis then turned to his client in an attempt to clarify his situation and advise him as to how he needed to proceed. Neary then asked, “Is anyone forcing you to plead guilty?” The Defendant then said, “No.”

Neary, apparently satisfied that Middleton was fully aware of his circumstances, and was making a voluntary decision to plead guilty, proceeded to outline the terms of the plea agreement, as the Court understood, and approved it, informing Middleton that he would be sentenced to two concurrent terms of two years in state prison, followed by three years of post-release supervision.

Assistant DA Morales then moved forward with the usual pleading protocols, followed by the Court’s acknowledgment and acceptance. Sentencing, pending an interview and report from the Probation Department, was set for October 11th.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Shelley Mayer Call For Passage Of Civil Confinement Law

Last Thursday, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, candidate for State Senate in the 35th District, and Shelley Mayer running for State Assembly in the 93rd District, held a joint press conference in front of the Westchester County Courthouse to renew their call for immediate passage of a strong Civil Confinement Statute to deal with dangerous sexual offenders. Former United States Attorney Denise O’Donnell accompanied the candidates, making an introductory statement that the passage of a civil confinement statute, “is not a law enforcement
issue.” Declaring, “It’s the fault of the Legislature that we do not have the legislation we need,” O’Donnell endorsed Mayer for Assembly and Stewart-Cousins for State Senate, as “the people we need to breakup the gridlock and get the bill passed.”

Repeatedly stressing that the Senate and Assembly versions of the bill are very similar, candidate Mayer, a former Assistant Attorney General, asked, “When we have two bills that are very close, why can’t we get the bill
passed?” Mayer concluded, “We simply need the Assembly and the Senate to get together.”

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, stepping up to the podium, remarked, “Amongst the many bills Governor Pataki will be signing today, there is one bill that is not on the Governor’s desk, the Civil Confinement Law.” She continued, “Failure to enact that legislation is unacceptable because we must make some Due Process occur for people who pose a danger to our families. They must be processed and assessed.”

Railing against “the dysfunctional Legislature,” and “Albany Gridlock,” Stewart-Cousins opined, “Despite two bills that are very similar we still do not have a bill that can be passed.”

She responded to a reporter who asked “If you’re elected as a Democrat, will you face gridlock given the dominance of Republicans in the State Senate?” Stewart-Cousins observed, “Change happens when you change the people. When I arrive in Albany, the message will be loud and clear. The People will have spoken, and I will be working closely with a new Democratic Governor, and together we will help bring about change.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Court Orders Judge To Reunite Jing Kelly And Son Kidnapping Arranged By DA Jeanine Pirro.

Jing Kelly, the Chinese-American mother who fled to China with her six-month-old son Tristram, more than five years ago, will finally be re-united with that child, now six, under a Mandamus issued August 3rd by the Appellate Division, First Department, of New York State Supreme Court. The Mandamus, a rare judicial action, essentially commands New York County Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter to immediately comply with an order previously issued by the same court on November 17th of last year calling for the immediate commencement of visitation between mother and child.

Jing, who was married to Craig Kelly, a disgraced former assistant district attorney in New York County, was the victim of severe domestic violence at his hands. Testimony at her criminal trial in Westchester County Court, three years ago, revealed in sworn testimony that he had been physically abusive, demanding genital and oral sex from Jing, at gunpoint, the night after she came home from the hospital with their newborn son. It was further revealed that Craig had a serious alcohol addiction, and was frequenting prostitutes.

Craig’s reckless conduct produced a serious vaginal infection that threatened Jing’s health for months, at a time when she needed most to nurture and care for their infant son. However, her fears for her own safety were not nearly as compelling as her concerns for Tristram, who she quickly discovered could not be safely left, even for brief periods, in his father’s care. One incident, brought out at trial, detailed her horror, upon returning from a brief trip to the store, to find Craig passed out from intoxication, and their son, less than two months old, laying unattended, and smelling from beer.

The relationship quickly deteriorated with numerous incidents of physical and psychological injury to Jing, resulting in frequent police visits which were most often distorted and turned around by Craig’s badge and overreaching influence. After several such incidents, over a period of many weeks, Jing and Craig, who had been seen in Family Court, were separated, with Craig moving out of the apartment. However, despite that arrangement, an overzealous, inexperienced ACS worker ripped Tristram from his mother’s arms in the presence of his maternal grandmother despite their tearful pleas.

Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter then arranged for temporary custody of the infant by Craig’s sister, Tristram’s paternal aunt, Larchmont Attorney Gail Hiler. Under the court order each parent was entitled to supervised visitation, neither permitted to reside with him. However, Gail Hiler and Craig soon violated those terms when Craig moved into Hiler’s home, thus living full-time with the child.

Jing continued to abide by the terms of the court order, traveling to Larchmont from Manhattan by train. As weeks rolled by, according to court testimony, Jing would find her infant son constantly sick, and with progressively more physical injury. Additionally, Gail Hiler repeatedly complained to her that caring for Tristram was working a serious hardship on her marriage and her relationship with her husband Jim, also a lawyer.
Finally, no longer able to tolerate her son’s deteriorating condition, and fearful of his exposure to alcohol and tobacco from constant contact with his father, Jing used the occasion of her last visit to abscond with her son to China.

Enter Jeanine Pirro. Mrs. Pirro, then District Attorney of Westchester County, under a questionable theory of jurisdiction, given the fact that the only criminal act occurred in Queens County, when Jing boarded a plane at John F. Kennedy Airport, proceeded to arrange for the insertion of Jing Kelly into New York State’s Twelve Most Wanted, amongst murderers, rapists, and thieves. The woman who would have us believe that she is a “victim’s advocate,” then circulated the poster on the Internet and in neighborhoods in Manhattan where Jing and her elderly parents were known to frequent,

Jing and Tristram remained in China for eighteen months, during which time Craig Kelly passed away from a gastrointestinal illness. Mrs. Pirro then proceeded to make contact, through the Mamaroneck Police Department, the United States Embassy in China, and Chinese authorities, promising Jing that she would not be arrested if she returned to New York with her son.

Jing who had only fled to China because of her fears for Tristram’s wellbeing, involving his father, realizing that the harm she feared might come to her son was no longer possible, and accepting Mrs. Pirro’s promise at face value, now boarded a plane, with Tristram, bound for New York, by way of Vancouver Canada. However, Mrs. Pirro, who claims to be a victim’s advocate, was busy arranging with authorities everywhere, including Vancouver, to have Jing arrested on sight, detained, and separated from her two-year-old son. That was more than 4 years ago, and Jing and Tristram have been allowed absolutely no contact since, despite the fact that it has never been alleged that Jing had done anything harmful to him.

On the day following her arrest, and forced separation from her son, Jing Kelly’s baby, under arrangements made by DA Jeanine Pirro with Canadian authorities, was taken, literally kidnapped, by Gail Hiler, a person with no legal authority, no parole custody certificate, nothing other than a vindictive desire to keep a Chinese-American woman, who her brother had married, apart from her infant son.

Mrs. Pirro, to insure that Jing would remain out of the picture, knowingly over-charged her with Felony Custodial Interference, and demanded that she be held without bail, on the trumped-up claim that she was a “flight risk.” Mrs. Pirro knew perfectly well that with Tristram held in custody, Jing was not going anywhere. After 14 months in the Westchester County Jail, Jing was tried by a jury of her peers before Judge Barbara Zambelli, and found guilty only of Misdemeanor Custodial Interference.

Immediately released by Zambelli, having served many more months than she could possibly have been sentenced to for a mere misdemeanor, Jing Kelly has been struggling for nearly three years to regain contact with, and ultimately, custody of, her now six-year-old son. The most recent action by the Appellate Division, several days ago, would appear, finally, to signal a major reversal of the injustice and conspiracy that have maliciously kept Jing and Tristram Kelly apart. Hopefully this development will bring to an end the grief and outrageous mistreatment of a loving mother and child by the malicious prosecutorial misconduct and civil rights violations worked against them by DA Jeanine Pirro.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

It’s Time To Wind Down Our Involvement In Iraq

Any political pundit who might have doubted the extent to which the Iraq War, and specifically, our continuing involvement in it, might play a role in the outcome of this fall’s elections certainly received a big wake-up call from Connecticut last week. Joe Lieberman, an eighteenyear veteran of the United States Senate, and a candidate for Vice President in 2000, lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, a previously unknown challenger, whose sole campaign issue was the War.

Lieberman, now virtually set adrift by the Democratic National Party, Hilllary, included, is in the unenviable position of becoming an Independent spoiler, raising the possibility of a new Republican Senate seat. If anybody really needed to take Connecticut voters’ collective temperature on the Iraq War, good old Joe just volunteered to be the thermometer.

There probably hasn’t been a popular war in this country since World War II, if one can say any war was popular. And, the Bush-Cheney Administration having had legitimate, and well-defined objectives in Afghanistan, on the heels of 9/11, certainly took stretching the truth to new lengths with their Weapons of Mass Destruction
cock and bull story.

Most compellingly, after four years of bloody engagement, we appear to be no better off in terms of securing the country, as insurgent forces roam freely throughout Iraq, including the capital, suicidebombing civilians and military personnel, by the many hundred each week. Perhaps, had the Administration listened to the advice of experienced, battle-hardened military commanders instead of rushing in under the theories of people such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, we might have gone into the conflict with sufficient manpower and the right equipment to have gotten the job done two years ago, with far fewer casualties.

Despite George Bush’s declarations to the contrary, and notwithstanding two free elections, the Iraqi government does not appear ready to govern it’s own people, nor secure its border any time soon. Most Republicans, and many Democrats continue to be reluctant to set a date-certain for withdrawal, fearing it would encourage the warring factions to simply wait us out. By that logic we might never leave that quagmire, fulfilling the predictions of some, early on, that we were headed into another Vietnam.

Predictably, Lieberman’s loss triggered a remark from Dick Cheney, intended to put a ‘guilt trip’ on the two out of three Americans who are now against our continuing role in Iraq. Some day, hopefully, in the not too distant future, a Congressional committee will thoroughly investigate just how much the Halliburton Corporation, Cheney’s nest egg, profiteered on the Iraq misadventure. Who is Dick Cheney to talk about terrorists trying to “break the will of the American People?” Where does this man, who five times evaded the draft during the
Vietnam War, come off trying to speak for the will of Americans?” Most of us who were adults in the Vietnam era have come to recognize that war, for the most part, is all about Big Business, and this war has been
no exception. One of the problems with the prosecution of war by the United States since Vietnam has been it’s effective de-personalization by Congress following the suspension of the military draft in the seventies.

Our so-called volunteer Army has insulated members of Congress, particularly the House, from the personal knowledge of war, as well as the possibility of its impact on anybody especially close to them. Oh sure, every Senator and Representative will spew forth with rhetoric on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, but just look at the continual cutbacks in Veteran’s Benefits, and services over the past six years, as we continue to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into a country that is on the brink of civil war over religious issues that have separated the various factions for hundreds of years. Yet, given the choice, each combatant camp clearly agrees that we are the enemy occupier.

We must not make the same mistakes we made in Vietnam. The power to make war resides with Congress. Similarly, Congress can “un-make war.” The American People must make their will known to their Congressional representatives. Never mind the bunk that suggests that wanting to pull our sons and daughters out of harm’s way, out of a war that is going nowhere fast, is somehow unpatriotic. This Administration has no monopoly on patriotism.

Surely, a president, who went AWOL on his Reserve Unit because he was not ‘clean enough’ to pass a blood and urine test, is not the most appropriate Commander In Chief. Those are not his children coming home in body-bags, or being fitted for prosthetic arms or legs. When one of his twin daughters enlists in the armed services and goes into active combat George W. Bush may have something to say worth listening to.

In the meantime We the People have an obligation to the men and women serving our country, not only in combat zones, but, all over the world. That obligation can only be discharged when we once again think of them in a more personal and compassionate light. There is no escaping the fact that many fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a significant number held for second and third tours of duty, are beginning to show serious signs of battle-fatigue and mental exhaustion.

Recent reports of rape and murder of Iraqi civilians by American servicemen, are a clear signal we must not ignore. They are far too reminiscent of Mei Li and Lieutenant Cali. The time is at hand to set a date certain for our departure, thus placing the elected Iraqi regime under sufficient pressure to shape up their forces and take control.

We are not the policemen of the world. God only knows we have enough urgent issues here at home which our resources, human and financial, would be far better used attending to. Support our troops. E-mail, or write to your congressional representatives and tell them to own up to their responsibilities by insisting on a firm commitment, and date certain for our departure from Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

After reading Richard Blassberg’s “Pirro’s Internet Sex ‘Stink’” in the August 10th issue of The Westchester Guardian, all I can say is congratulations to the Appellate Division, Second Department, of the State Supreme Court for their decision. They gave Jeanine Pirro a much-needed slap across the face or, as Mr. Blassberg put it in his article, they “effectively pulled the rug” from under her, “literally tossing her self-promotional career, together with her quest for the State’s Attorney General’s Office, into the wastebasket.” We certainly don’t
need her in that job!

Maybe when we next see Jeanine Pirro she will be on trial for the abuses she allegedly committed while Westchester District Attorney. It’s too bad, though, she can’t be tried for tax fraud, as her husband was,
since the statue of limitations has run out. But then, if the IRS was smart, they’d audit their returns for the past few years. Maybe there’ll be some more surprises!

It’s interesting to note that Jeanine Pirro was my criminal law instructor when I attended the Paralegal Studies Program at Mercy College in the early ‘80s. Even though she was only my instructor for a few weeks, her professionalism and expertise gained my respect. I guess it’s true what they say - first impressions can be very misleading.

Name Withheld

In Our Opinion...

We are calling upon the United States Department of Justice to provide monitors and U.S. Marshals for the upcoming election for State Senate in the 35th Senatorial District, to insure a fair and totally honest outcome. After all, if citizens cannot be absolutely certain that the electoral process, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is alive and well, and uncorrupted, there can be no certainty that any of their Constitutional Rights are guaranteed. The 35th District is comprised of most of the City of Yonkers, and the towns of Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant.

At this time, we are not saying that either Nick Spano or Andrea Stewart-Cousins, or any persons associated with their campaigns, engaged in any unlawful practices before, during, or following their contest in 2004, an election that produced the longest disputed result in New York State history. Nevertheless, there can be no ignoring of the fact that on the first canvass of results, on Election Night, 23 voting machines, all in Yonkers, were all misread in favor of one candidate, Nick Spano, to the tune of 1,672 votes that he never received.

The mathematical odds of such an occurrence resulting from mere random chance are 8,388,608 to 1.

Clearly, both Spano, and Stewart-Cousins should welcome such monitoring by the Justice Department if, for no other reason, to avoid the cloud of suspicion that hung over their last ‘go at it.’ Surely, the victor will want to be perceived as having been elected fairly, and squarely. And, given their last marathon debacle, only a sufficient number of monitors and marshals can restore the public’s confidence in the process, especially in light of recent accusations against the Bush administration’s perceived interference with, and influence over, the Justice Department’s handling of alleged serious election fraud issues in Florida, Ohio, Alabama, and elsewhere following the elections of 2000 and 2004.

Specifically, monitors and enforcement personnel will be required to closely observe, and regulate, the activities near, and at, polling places, as regards the conduct of ballot casting, recording, and reporting, of results on both the first, and second, canvass. Additionally, they will be needed to scrutinize the proper handling of voters, and the numerous issues that invariably arise at polling places, particularly in hotly contested races.

Some individuals might question whether the federal government, specifically the Justice Department, can afford to get involved in ensuring the integrity of a local race, that might produce little more than 100,000 votes. We would remind those persons of the axiom “all politics is local,” and suggest that the Justice Department cannot afford to not get involved.

Finally, Joseph Stalin, infamous, iron-handed, ruler of the former Soviet Union once remarked, “Those who vote determine nothing; those who count the vote determine everything.”
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Judge Charles Brieant: A Profile In Dedication

Last month, July, marked the 35th anniversary of the appointment of Westchester’s own Federal District Court Judge, Charles Brieant. Appointed by President Richard Nixon, for many years Brieant was the only Federal Judge in the County. Judge Brieant agreed to give the GUARDIAN an interview at 8:00AM, in chambers.

Amongst several portraits of past prominent Jurists and political leaders adorning the walls of Brieant’s chambers, most impressive to this reporter was a large group photo of all of the young law school graduates who had interned over the past thirty-five years with the Judge, nearly three dozen in all. Brieant pointed out several indicating, with a paternal pride, the prominent public and private positions they had attained.

I asked, for openers, “How would you characterize the single most noticeable difference in the types of actions coming before you today, as opposed to when you were first appointed?” Brieant quickly responded, “There’s a tremendous difference in the types of cases. It has become the Court of Working People.” He went on to explain, “Back then we had many maritime and stock fraud cases. Now we see a lot of employment cases, discrimination.”

He went on, “We still get patent cases, employment disputes, civil rights, and criminal cases. Where we were once the Court of High Finance and the High Seas, we’ve become the Court of the People.” To further emphasize his point, Brieant revealed that some thirty percent of filers are pro se, availing themselves of electronic research and filing.

Brieant then turned to another aspect of change, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, evoking the statement, “Congress attempted to cure a problem they didn’t understand. They tried to make a national sentencing scheme.” He went on to explain that the net result of the guidelines has been more guilty pleas and far fewer trials.

Realizing that he had been in college during World War II, I asked if his schooling had been interrupted. Brieant related that he had entered the Army Air Corps, serving in Guam with the 351st servicing B-29 bombers. Returning from the war he quickly finished up his undergraduate work and made up for lost time completing law school in a remarkable twenty-four months.

Brieant, and both of his parents were born and raised in Ossining. His dad was a physician. Charles, however, was more interested in politics, and the law. At age sixteen he was working in the campaigns of local politicians. And, by twentyeight he ran successfully for Town Justice, defining his career path very early on.

Asked how, if at all, being a federal judge has influenced his private life, the Judge quickly responded, “I had to give up my private practice, and had to work much harder.”

Judge Brieant then recalled the near-fatal consequences to his wife when a disgruntled individual, unhappy with his ruling, sent poisoned chocolates to her. Attempting to turn to more pleasant memories I asked, “Looking back over the years what would you describe as the most gratifying aspect of your life’s work?”

Brieant responded, without hesitation, “helping people resolve their problems.” He went on to say that his work was made easier and more pleasant, “working with young law clerks who brought a modern outlook, and dealing with something different every day.”

With the clock well past 9:00AM, and mindful that the Judge would need to be taking the bench shortly, I dropped one last question on him, asking, “Years from now, when judicial historians reflect upon your many years of service to the citizens of the Southern District of New York, how would you prefer to be remembered?”

Brieant’s first response was, “My work was up to date,” quickly followed by, “due mainly to my loyal conscientious staff.” Then, pausing for a moment to re-flect, he offered, “Remembered that I cared and wanted to help people.”

As one who has sat in his courtroom, and read several of his decisions, I believe the good Judge will get his wish.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Our Readers Respond...

To the Editor:

For more than four years since the death of my nephew, Robert Viscome, those who loved and miss him dearly have endured much pain made the more unbearable by the existence of too many unanswered questions. In breaking my public silence I want to make it clear that I speak for myself only, moved to do so by the words of a campaign spokesperson for Jeanine Pirro.

Replying to a reporter’s question regarding her acceptance of thousands of dollars from beer and alcohol companies, he said, and I quote, “THE LAST TIME I CHECKED, PROHIBITION ENDED.” That was such a cold and callous statement from the camp of the woman who was so quick to try and use teen drinking as another venue to sell herself and her misguided, self-serving crusade against underage drinking.

Robert was left to die like a dog on the side of the road, two doors away from Pirro’s own home while more than 20 young adults made a conscious decision not to call for emergency medical assistance, because of their concern about the alcohol and drug evidence they chose to instead clean up. I want to point out the incredible insensitivity of Mrs. Pirro from that day to this, with regard to our loss.

It was disgraceful enough that she never prosecuted those young adults, not even seeking community service. Most people have come to believe that her daughter played a role in that decision. So now I am asking Mrs. Pirro a simple question seeking a simple yes or no answer. “Was your daughter at the Porzio residence at any time that dreadful afternoon?”

Four years ago, Mrs. Pirro was the CRUSADER against teenage alcohol abuse. Now she accepts their campaign contributions. What kind of message does that send? For an individual who states that she is passionate for crime victims, and that she knows the ethical way to handle a crime, Mrs. Pirro certainly does not appear to understand the difference between two simple words, RIGHT and WRONG.

Shortly after Robert’s passing, Mrs. Pirro began a campaign to rescue her image, not by going after those who played a direct role in his death, but by creating a smokescreen of concern about under-aged drinking with a series of well-circulated, premeditated public relation blitzes. It was not about getting to and exposing the facts.

Everyone involved in Robert’s death, from the young adults to those who were elected to serve the public, Police Chief Dave Hall to Judge John Voetsch, and everyone in between, all walk around haunted by their actions and lack of accountability. There’s no getting even. This was never about getting even. This is about two very simple words that Mrs. Pirro does not seem to understand, RIGHT and WRONG.

Ray Viscome
West Harrison

To the Editor:

Is the recent rotation in the matrimonial part historic or novel? Does anybody know what was contained in the reports of Inspector General Spatz?

Name Withheld

In Our Opinion....

In our opinion, there’s been entirely too much conjecture over the last few years, regarding the ultimate solution, to the crumbling and congested Tappan Zee Bridge. While experts and politicians have weighed in, may of them, numerous times, projected costs have continued to rise and conditions have continued to deteriorate.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that there is, in fact, a workable solution, one for which there is a model. The site of the Newburgh Beacon Bridges, just 30 miles up river, once posed a similar problem,
throughout the 1970’s. The original span, consisted of one lane of traf-fic in each direction, totally adequate, until the completion of Interstate 84, in 1971, when it quickly became an unbelievable bottleneck.

After years of suffering, it was ultimately determined that a second bridge would have to be constructed adjacent to the original. Upon completion of the new span, a three lane artery from West to East, it became possible to convert the old span to a three lane artery, once the center median was eliminated, with traffic flowing in the opposite direction. The net result was three-fold increase in roadway capacity.

While many of the proposals, to date, including a tunnel, or a new supersized bridge with, a railroad, may appear to offer a solution, they come with totally unacceptable price tags, and with equally unacceptable ecological consequences. Therefore, we believe the time for mulling over the situation has passed. It is equally urgent that we both promptly construct an additional right of way, a new bridge, and perform major rehablitiation on the existing one. That’s our opinion, what’s yours?

as for perennial Sue Kelly

Representative Sue Kelly, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on oversight and investigations, up to four weeks ago, had strongly supported the Bush Administration’s aggressive interdiction
of terrorist financial resources. Declaring that her record would strongly suggest support for a “sophisticated and aggressive program” such as the Administration has been pursuing, she, nevertheless, made an abrupt turn-about when she opened a hearing with, “Many in Congress who should have been briefed by this Administration
were not.”

The Congresswoman would appear to be responding to her changing constituency, and to the very real possibility of a Democratic landslide in New York this fall. She is obviously attempting to re-align herself with Democrats, and some liberal Republicans who have been speaking out against perceived Due Process and Separation of Powers violations under this president. Just how successful this late tactic will prove to be will be discovered come November 7th.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Investigative Journalism: A Newspaper’s Finest Hour

In a democracy government has the obligation to conduct its business in accordance with the prevailing rules of lawful conduct. In the United States that set of rules is our Federal Constitution, the contract to which the governed, and those who would govern, have agreed to adhere. In essence, those who would enforce the law, must live by it.

It was no coincidence that the Founding Fathers placed a very high priority on the guaranty of a free and unfettered Press, and, in fact, made that right one of the subjects of the first of ten amendments to the constitution, comprising the Bill of Rights. Under the First Amendment, that established freedom of speech and association, the right to a free and independent press was specifically guaranteed, thus ensuring a perpetual “watchdog” over the activities of government.

It’s the primary responsibility, indeed, the mandate, of a free press, as protected under the First Amendment, to vigilantly observe and report the conduct of government, without favor or exception. Not since Daniel Ellsberg
and the “Pentagon Papers,” in the 1970’s have we seen such controversy over the Times, or any newspaper’s exposure of the federal government’s unconstitutional and illegal activity.

Unfortunately, whether for reasons of rivalry and competition, or simply their failure to perceive the underlying threat to our free society posed by a culpable, muted press, major New York newspapers, The Post, and The
Daily News, have attacked the Old Gray Lady as treasonous and disloyal, for exposing the Administration’s unlawful, covert activities in their attempt to track the finances of persons suspected of supporting terrorism.

Thomas Sowell, a Post columnist who can usually be counted upon for a reasonable approach in such matters, went so far as to refer to “The Times’ Anti-Patriots,” insisting, “Americans may be dying” because of what terrorists have learned from them.

Sowell attacks “the public’s right to know” as a mere hollow excuse, and naively dismisses any notion that terrorist operatives might well have suspected that their money transfers were under American government
surveillance. He cites the revelation during World War II, by the Chicago Tribune that the United States had figured out the Japanese Code, as a comparable betrayal of an important government secret. He then, incredibly
remarks, “Fortunately, for this country, the Japanese didn’t read the Tribune, or didn’t believe it.”

What Thomas Sowell, and others who espouse his position, should know from history, is that in a free society those who represent themselves as observers and reporters of critical newsworthy events, cannot presume
to manage the news, to pick and choose that which they believe their readers have a right, or a need to know. Government at every level, not merely the administration in Washington; police departments, for example can
always be counted upon to attempt to justify their unlawful activities and abuse of power in the name of public safety and security.

Today it’s the War On Terrorism. Thirty years ago, at the time of the Pentagon Papers, it was the Vietnam War. And, thirty years before that, it was the unlawful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War
II. The simple fact is that no enemy of the United States, Japanese, North Vietnamese, or Muslim Terrorist, should ever be vested with the power to deny American citizens their Constitutionally guaranteed right to know, by a free press that would culpably conspire to conceal the unlawful activities of their own government in the name of loyalty or patriotism.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Menendez Sentenced in Rape, Murder From Tragedy Comes All-Too-Familiar Message
Westchester County Court, White Plains
Judge Barbara Zambelli Presiding

White Plains, July 25- Ariel Menendez, 28, having been found guilty, on May 29th, of the brutal rape and murder of 17-year-old Elizabeth Butler, a year earlier, appeared for sentencing by County Court Judge Barbara Zambelli
before a packed courtroom. More than thirty relatives and friends of the young North Salem High School senior had come seeking closure, and some relief from their grief. However, Menendez, convicted of two counts of Murder, Rape, and Criminal Sexual Act, had come with his own agenda.

When asked by Judge Zambelli if he wished to make a statement, Defendant Menendez, standing beside his Legal Aid Attorney Harvey Loeb, spoke out angrily, “Of course I do.” Wasting no time, he acknowledged
how much he hated his victim’s family, and then proceeded to prove it by torturing them with his version of the circumstances involved in his taking of Elizabeth’s life. Still insisting that they had engaged in consensual sex, declaring, “We both agreed to it,” he went on to describe, in agonizing detail, how they then began arguing, and he proceeded to strangle and stab her to death.

Many in the courtroom, devastated by the stark, matter-of-fact, account began weeping. As Menendez went on, suggesting that he had been mistreated, his victim’s father, no longer able to contain himself, shouted, “Shut up.” At that point the Defendant turned to face the Butler Family cursing repeatedly until court officers succeeded in ushering him from the courtroom. The proceedings were then adjourned for about fifteen minutes.

Prior to Menendez, Patricia Butler, the victim’s mother had delivered a statement in which she shared with the Court the impact that her daughter’s killing had had upon her family. Perhaps more objectively and calmly
than most mothers in her situation might have been able to, Mrs. Butler acknowledged Menendez’ misguided feelings about his own victimization, telling him firmly, “You are a sociopath without a conscience.” And,
following with, “If you can’t have something you destroy it.”

Having used the brief adjournment time to deal with another matter involving the release of a Legal Aid attorney from the case of another defendant, and the assumption of the case by a privately retained counsel, Zambelli called for Menendez to be returned to the courtroom for the resumption of his sentencing. ADAs Perrone and Branca-Santos, who had successfully prosecuted the case, now returned to the Prosecution table as the Defendant rejoined Defense Attorney Loeb.

Declaring, “Mr. Menendez, you raped strangled, and stabbed Elizabeth Butler to death, and have shown no remorse,” Zambelli then proceeded, straight away, to sentence Menendez. “For Count One, First Degree Rape,
I sentence you to a determinate twenty-five years, plus five years of post release supervision, and registration as a sex offender. For Count Two, Second Degree Murder, I sentence you to Life Without Possibility of Parole. For
Count Three, Criminal Sex Act, I sentence you to Twenty-Five Years. And, for the Fourth Count, First Degree Murder, I sentence you to Life Without Possibility of Parole.” The pronouncement of sentence completed, Elizabeth Butler’s family and friends broke into a spontaneous round of applause.

June 5th of last year Ariel Menendez, then 27, who had been dating Elizabeth Butler, a seventeen-year-old North Salem High School senior, enraged that she had attempted to break off her relationship with him, gained entry to the Butler’s SUV and attacked her. The incident occurred in the parking lot near the Hygrade Market, across from the Croton Falls Rail Road station, where Elizabeth worked part-time and where she had met Menendez a year earlier.

Tragically, her lifeless, savaged, body was discovered by her parents. The heinous crime had sent shockwaves
through the normally peaceful Northern Westchester community, the circumstances, perhaps giving brief pause for thought to parents regarding the company kept by their teen-aged children.


If Elizabeth’s life, and her family’s bitter loss, are not to be in vain, we must all give more than brief pause to
consideration of their all-too-common plight. There are those who might ask how it was that someone the likes
of Ariel Menendez could manage to work his way into a seven-month relationship with Elizabeth? And, Mrs. Butler openly admitted that she wished she could have done more to protect her. However, those who have raised a daughter through the teenaged years, and into adulthood, know only too well how vulnerable adolescent girls may truly be.

At sixteen and seventeen girls are physically, hormonally, and emotionally thrust into a very different circumstance than they have ever experienced. For some there is a strong need to receive attention, to love and be loved.
Often those needs make such young women, particularly vulnerable to older, possibly predatory, males. Just beginning to find their confidence socially, adolescent girls may find the attention of older males, flattering, encouraging, and fun. They are too busy exploring relationships, sex, and sometimes drugs, and/or alcohol to question, or even be aware of, the possible motives of older companions.

As parents we must never lose sight of the fact that our most important role in life is parenting. One cannot be too careful of who it is that our kids are hanging with when they’re not at home. Still, try as we might to be involved,
and yet not too overbearing, it’s a very narrow line that must be walked. Sometimes it’s difficult to make seventeen-year-old girls, in love, see what we see in their boyfriends, and pushing too hard may only make the forbidden fruit appear the more sweet. Given that Elizabeth had already decided that she was no longer interested in Ariel Menendez, to that extent her parents had done all that they might. Unfortunately, nobody could foresee the depth of this predator’s dark side.

Pirro’s Internet Sex “Stink”

Two weeks ago the Appellate Division, Second Department, of State Supreme Court, effectively pulled the rug from beneath Jeanine Pirro, literally tossing her self-promotional career, together with her quest for the State Attorney General’s Office, into the waste basket. In throwing out the indictment and conviction of Jeffrey Kozlow, Indictment # 01042 of 2004, Justices Crane, Krausman, Rivera, and Dillon were not merely reversing the conviction of one out of more than one hundred men prosecuted through Pirro’s, highly publicized, Internet sting operation, between July of 1999 and December of 2005.

Rather, they were declaring the core theory under which theWestchester District Attorney’s Office had prosecuted the majority of those ensnared in its sting to have been fatally flawed, and Constitutionally deficient.
In stating, “Ordered that the judgment is reversed, on the law, the indictment is dismissed,” and remitting the matter back to the Westchester County Court, the Appellate Division, Second Department, which had been historically very easy on Mrs. Pirro, as well as her convicted felon spouse, were now, finally drawing a line in the sand. And, while it might appear at first blush that the overwhelming majority of the cases that were brought to indictment through the sting could be favorably impacted, only a very few actually will be.

In making it’s decision the Court’s finding was that the evidence, upon which County Court Judge Joseph Alessandro, sitting as the trier of fact, had found Mr. Kozlowguilty of five counts of Attempted Disseminating of Indecent Material To Minors in the First Degree, was “legally insufficient.” The Court found that the DA “failed to establish that the Defendant’s Internet communications with an undercover police officer, whom he believed to be a minor, depicted sexual conduct within the meaning of Penal Law Section 235.22(1) since they contained no visual sexual images.”

In truth, very few of the more than one hundred prosecutions generated over 53 months by Pirro’s high-profile sting operation involved the transmission of visual images. However, of those that did not, only a mere handful, were not disposed of by plea bargains. Two such cases that went to trial were Kozlow, case number 100,subject of thepresent decision, and Paul Wicht, case number 96, a highly regarded Bronxville High School science teacher who had taught at Byram Hills High for eight years,

Wicht, from the very beginning has maintained that he was induced and entrapped, and that he is innocent of the charges for which he was tried. He was found guilty, after jury trial, before Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler several months ago, a conviction that is the subject of an appeal application currently before that judge. Wicht’s motion to vacate his conviction is primarily based upon a glaring Brady violation, the intentional withholding of exculpatory information by the Prosecution, in his case, not only from the jury and the Defense, but also from the Court, despite Adler’s specific request for it from the Prosecutor.

Specifically, Wicht’s motion charges that Pirro’s Office lied to the Court when asked if all of the e-mails allegedly sent by the Defendant to the “victim,” had, in fact, been presented in evidence. From amongst scores of e-mails, the first 23 of which were actually exchanged between the socalled victim, and her former teacher, none of which contained any criminally culpable content, followed by many more, actually instigated, and criminalized first, by detectives from the North Castle Police Department, and then, by Pirro’s undercover sting operators, number 23 was intentionally kept from the jury as well as the Court.

During pre-trial hearings before County Court Judge Robert DiBella, Wicht had succeeded in compelling the Prosecution to release a “mirror image” of the hard drive from his seized computer, knowing full-well that his original e-mail correspon-dences with his former student, instigated by the student, had contained nothing inappropriate, and were, in fact, beneficial. Wicht was confident that once the jury was exposed to the last of his e-mails to her, number 23, in which he had specifically suggested that it would be best to end the correspondence, and then proceeded to do precisely that, that the enticement and entrapment by the police and Mrs. Pirro’s operatives would become obvious, and evident.

In short, it was no coincidence that Pirro’s Office omitted the one e-mail correspondence, out of scores of them, that would most likely have established Wicht’s innocence and convinced the jury that he had been induced and entrapped. It is because he and his family had the courage and fortitude to stand up for the truth, and were willing, and able, to pursue justice by rejecting any, and all, plea offers, instead going to trial, that Paul Wicht now stands eligible to benefit from the present Appellate Division Decision.

Unfortunately, there are numerous other men, who under similar circumstances, were unlawfully induced, and entrapped by Pirro’s “slime brigade,” and fell prey to the pressure and intimidation of her extreme prosecutorial misconduct, her Internet Sex Stink. This tactic was designed to distract and deflect attention from her and her husband’s unlawful conduct. For those who knuckled under, and accepted the usual, “no jailtime” plea offer, Kozlow offers no legal remedy.

Nevertheless, for those who stood up for their own innocence, and, in a broader sense, for the community at large, the People of Westchester, indeed, the People of New York State, the Kozlow Decision, represents still further evidence that Jeanine Pirro’s reign of terror is in it’s final fleeting moments. For the issue to involve the “Crown Jewel” of her unending self-promotional propaganda, the Internet Sex Sting, is clearly devastating to her current political effort.

However, of equal importance is the recognition by State and Federal Tribunals of the magnitude and frequency of prosecutorial misconduct perpetrated by the Pirro Regime, not only in her Internet operation, but throughout her practices over twelve years as DA. For the many innocent police officers and civilians, maliciously, and intentionally prosecuted and imprisoned over that time Koslow is the promise of Justice tomorrow.

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