Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

Thank you for publishing my letter to the editor in your second issue. It was a first for me, and it made me
feel like I had a participatory voice. I would also like to thank you for your coverage of the elections and especially your coverage further exposing the odious Mrs. Pirro.

Recently a major protest, that has been growing over the years, took place at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Associated Press ran the story on Nov. 19, 2006 with this opening statement:

“Thousands of protesters paraded, chanted and raised white crosses Sunday outside Fort Benning, the
home of the Army’s Airborne, Ranger and Infantry training, as they continued a 17-year effort to close a
military school they blame for human rights abuses in Latin America.”

Given the general political mood in Latin America and the large Latino community in Westchester, I believe
this to be an ongoing issue with a wide following. The infamous School of the Americas (SOA) renamed
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is just as valid an issue as the related undocumented immigration debacle.

There is also another area that I would like to read more about; the Third World health-care services provided
to the uninsured as well as those with Medicaid. Where there are populations of marginalized poor people,
i.e. Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Tarrytown, New Rochelle, etc., health-care services are poor, to miserable.

Poor people in these communities are faced with outpatient clinics generally related to hospitals, frequently
causing excessive waiting times and the jamming of emergency rooms. There are obvious problems with
transportation and generalized corruption in the entire health-care sector.

Hoping you and your excellent staff all the best, I look forward to reading more about our county, country
and planet.

Owen Fisher
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

If Not Eliot, Then Who?

Of all the issues that Governor Eliot Spitzer will face on January 1, 2007, the funding of public education is by far and away the most critical and significant challenge to the prosperity, indeed the survival of the People New York State. Clearly, the present formula, a patchwork of federal, state, and local funding sources, is not working, and
has not been working, for several years. What we have been laboring under for far too long has been a system of “pass the buck,” where both federal and state government have imposed unfunded mandate after unfunded mandate upon local school districts to where many have reached the breaking point.

Few educators, and fewer legislators, will argue that there is any equity from school district to school district. The Equalization Process has failed miserably under its own weight. However, the problem is not insoluble, but merely one that will require courage, leadership, and clear thought. If a governor who was elected by a record seventy percent of voters, one who stood up to Big Business, and special interests fails to get it done, then the prospects for our state will be bleak, indeed.

The truth no New York State governor has had the honesty, or the guts, to face, is the fact that the theory under which we finance public education is fundamentally flawed. There is absolutely no reasonable justification for predicating responsibility for the funding of public education upon ownership of real property within a given municipality. We are not, after all, financing sewers, roads, lighting districts, public water supply, or something that is specifically created and maintained for the benefit and enhancement of real property enjoyment or value.

Education is the responsibility of every citizen, both in a national, and a statewide sense. However, because education is one of those areas that states have traditionally held under the mantle of States Rights, citizens must think in terms of the resources of their state when calculating what may be gathered to underwrite public school
education. And, while the federal government continues to make demands, and proffer programs, the federal contribution to individual school districts is generally too miniscule to factor in.

In 1985, when I served on the Brewster School Board, our annual budget was somewhere around $17 million, and the federal contribution was $15 thousand, less than one tenth of one percent. People who live in rented quarters, corporations that have received property tax abatement, all share an equal responsibility for the education of the community’s youth. Under the present system many members of the community escape that responsibility, thereby thrusting a disproportionate burden on the shoulders of residential property owners. As it stands now, in most communities, school taxes generally comprise at least 2/3 of most homeowner’s property tax bill.

Here in Westchester taxpayer revolts are common, and school budgets frequently require more than one vote for passage. People living on fixed, or retirement, income often have to sell their homes and move, as they can no longer keep up with ever-growing school taxes. And, conversely many young couples, upon getting married,
discover that even with two incomes they cannot afford to live in the community in which they grew up.

Additionally, the failure of both the governor, and the legislature, over several decades, to deal with the growing inequities has caused the State Court of Appeals to step in, mandating solutions requiring billions of dollars to remedy the problem.

The solution is not rocket science. Quite simply, the bulk of the money needed to provide public education must come from the general funds of the state. Those funds must be raised through increased individual, and corporate income taxes. The state must determine exactly what it will cost to give children, at every level, K-12, a quality
education, and then provide those funds to each and every school district. Then, and only then, will there be equity and uniformly high standards across the state.

Naturally, more affluent districts would always be free to add enhancements to their curricula and programs by any number of funding initiatives. However, under an income tax funded system every individual and every corporation would be required to pay their fair share toward an obligation that is truly everyone’s, the education of our youth. Hopefully, Eliot Spitzer will have the courage and the vision to finally face up to this growing problem, and finally turn it around.

County Homeless Shelter Drug & Money Scandal.

We believe the County of Westchester ought to get its act together with regard to its homeless population, and specifically the County Homeless Shelter in Valhalla. Currently, shelter residents receive, and for many years, when the shelter was at the airport location, received food stamp benefits. Those funds, at present $155-per-month for single homeless individuals without any outside income, are provided under case management from the Westchester County Department of Social Services. The money is specifically intended, under federal and state regulations, to be used for the purchase of unprepared food; no cooked meals or sandwiches, and definitely no cigarettes or any other items that might be found at supermarkets, delis, grocery stores, or bodegas throughout Westchester.

Shelter residents access these funds at participating, authorized food venders, by use of their Debit I.D. cards provided by the Westchester Department of Social Services. However, under the rules, those living in the County Homeless Shelter are fed three meals a day, and have neither the place nor the opportunity to store and prepare the raw, uncooked, unprepared food they are supposed to be purchasing with their food stamp funds for their own consumption. Therein lies the problem.

The County of Westchester is putting $155 per month, (in addition to personal spending money of approximately $25 every two weeks) into the hands of homeless individuals who are, for the most part, unemployed, with lots of time and little accountability. Confidential sources inform The Westchester Guardian that many residents of the County Shelter at Valhalla routinely convert their food stamp money into cash at any number of unscrupulous and illegal food markets, and bodegas throughout Westchester, accepting as little as $90, or whatever they manage to negotiate, and often using those funds to purchase cigarettes and illegal drugs.
We were further informed that the use of illegal drugs was routine amongst so many residents at the Valhalla Shelter that it was causing serious problems daily, keeping it under wraps. We are aware that about two weeks ago, the day after We visited the shelter site on a photo-taking mission, identifying ourselves to a uniformed guard, several residents, reportedly involved in drug sales and abuse, were evicted from the building.

In fairness, dealing with homeless individuals is a complex, and often very trying, task. Frequently they are victims of circumstances, at least, partially beyond their control. Many others have brought about their plight through alcohol, and/or drug abuse. To the County’s credit the Department of Community Mental Health, under Dr. Jennifer Schaffer, does, in fact, perform evaluations of all persons admitted to the County Homeless Shelter, specifically “to assess their mental health and their potential employability.” Having made those assessments the DCMH findingsare passed along to the Westchester County Department of Social Services that is solely responsible for the provision of shelter and services to the homeless.

While it is true that individuals who are found to be, or are suspected of being, involved in substance abuse, upon screening by DCMH, are referred to drug prevention and rehabilitation programs while under Department of Social Services case management and supervision, it is clearly counterproductive to be putting nearly $2,000 a year, each, into the hands of many hundreds of individuals who clearly have no entitlement to those funds under federal and state rules and regulations. Worse yet, it is scandalous to continue to knowingly squander taxpayer dollars, hundreds of thousands per year, incredibly, to enrich unscrupulous merchants, and local drug dealers.

The Westchester Department of Social Services has been well aware of this monthly contribution of public resources to the criminal element in our community for many years, but persists in its practice of funding factually, and legally, ineligible recipients despite the destructive consequences. In light of that fact We now callupon Commissioner Kevin Mahon to open a comprehensive investigation into these allegations for the purpose of halting the unnecessary, and unlawful, transfer of public funds into the coffers of unscrupulous vendors, and drug dealers..
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

A Seemingly Unending American Tragedy

Last week The Westchester Guardian, in a Court Report entitled Appellate Division, State Supreme Court Finds Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter, “Erred in Permitting Intervention by the Child’s Paternal Relatives”, took the position that the court “did not go nearly far enough.” For those readers who have been following the sad and outrageous judicial torture which has kept a loving mother and her six-year-old son apart for the last four years, our position was no doubt self-explanatory. However, for those who only recently have become acquainted with the ongoing injustice, the following comments by Attorney Robert F. Wayburn presented, in part, represent a very comprehensive and organized accounting of events.

In presenting Attorney Wayburn’s comments, and having a long acquaintance with the case, The Westchester Guardian welcomes, better yet, invites, any factual countervaling information from Gail Hiler, Douglas Kelly, Jeanine Pirro or any other party to this American tragedy.

Robert F. Wayburn’s comments:

The saga of Jing Kelly, following her arrest at the Vancouver airport on January 3, 2003, bears retelling. For it manifests a pattern of injustice so complete and protracted and involving not just this judge (New York County Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter) but the Westchester County District Attorney and law enforcement officials and the misguided and vindictive paternal aunt, Gail Hiler, resident of Westchester County, but the crime of “Matricide” itself, a crime that continues to this very day.

The Prior Appeal Ruling:

On November 17, 2005, the Appellate Division unanimously reversed the unlawful and improper permanent custody award this rogue family court judge (Hon. Sara P. Schechter, JFC) previously made in favor of the paternal aunt, Gail Hiler, a Larchmont resident. Judge Schechter made that ruling on March 20, 2003, at a time when Jing Kelly was still incarcerated while awaiting trial in Westchester County for alleged custodial interference.

Jing was not produced in family court that day, a clear denial of her Constitutional rights, and she erroneously denied Jing visitation with her son, Tristram despite the fact that the Valhalla jail facility had special arrangements where such visitation could occur under the supervision of a staff social worker.

Judge Schechter gave as her reason for denying visitation between this mother and child, at that time, that she was concerned for security. This shallow reasoning was rejected by the appellate court which not only restated the governing law concerning visitation (to wit it must be ordered unless there is a clear showing that it would be
detrimental to the child) but also noted that any security concerns held by the family court trial judge could be adequately dealt with by having the visitation supervised.

At the time the appeal was argued in the fall of 2005, it was not known where Tristram was then living. Gail Hiler disclosed only that Tristram was no longer with her but refused to provide any other details. It turns out, as revealed in her recent family court testimony, that she sent Tristram out of her home, permanently, just four months after she was erroneously awarded full custody of this child. She testified that Tristram has been living in California with her brother, Douglas Kelly, since late July of 2003.

The appellate court was concerned to rectify this unjust situation for both mother and child. In its November 2005 ruling it directed the family court trial judge to hold an “immediate” inquiry as to resumption of visitation and to also hold a new dispostional hearing “on an expedited basis.” Had the appellate court been told of Tristram’s whereabouts, that he was not living with Gail Hiler since July of 2003, the judges would, no doubt, have taken stronger action to bring this matter to proper resolution.

The Current Situation in New York County Family Court

What transpired in family court after the remand of the case following the above appeal ruling was nothing short of a further debauchery of justice. The first thing Judge Schechter did on the remand (December 29, 2005) was to erroneously allow the paternal uncle in California with whom Tristram had been living the past three years without lawful authority for his being there was to intervene in Jing Kelly’s new dispositional hearing over her objection.

As a result, the visitation inquiry was delayed and the dispositional hearing was delayed, while the paternal uncle was permitted to put in his direct case first and call his witnesses first and put in his evidence first. The paternal uncle requested that Tristram be evaluated by a psychologist in California and the family court judge agreed. But Judge Schechter said this was not to be an evaluation for visitation purposes but, rather, it was to be a full forensic evaluation which could be used for assessing permanent custody, an odd concern since no custody petition was then pending before the family court at that time and Article Ten dispositional orders of placement, if such order were to be made, generally run only for one year before lapsing or being further reviewed. The appointment of this forensic psychologist to evaluate Tristram in California was not made until
late June of 2006, some seven months later.

To be fair, part of the delay in this appointment seems to have been caused by the fact that Jing changed lawyers in May 2006. However, even so, the family court judge should have been more attentive to expediting the visitation inquiry. The appellate division agreed and issued a Mandamus against Judge Schechter on August 3, 2006, redirecting Her Honor’s attention to the visitation ruling in the first appeal ruling of November 17, 2005.

Judge Schechter nonetheless has denied visitation, to date, both as to mother and child, and as between maternal grandparents and child, until the entire hearing is completed. Judge Schechter has denied applications that Tristram be brought here for visitation with his paternal aunt, Gail Hiler, so he can first meet his mother and maternal grandparents here in New York City where they live.

Jing was fully evaluated by the family court’s mental health unit and a written report was submitted on February 27, 2006 in that regard. Dr. Dawn Hughes, who evaluated Jing Kelly in December 2003 and testified at her criminal trial in January 2004, reevaluated her and issued a written report in March 2006. That report is now
in evidence and Dr. Hughes has testified on the last two court dates in this regard.

It is indisputable, based on the recent mental health evaluations, that Jing Kelly does not suffer from any mental condition or impediment that would interfere with or limit her capacity to care for her son, Tristram. The concern is more focused on Tristram as he has only recently been told that his current caretakers are not his real parents and that his mother lives in New York City and wants to have contact with him.

The psychologist appointed by Judge Schechter in California has now seen Tristram and based on incomplete information has provided a report to the family court. The report is tainted by the fact that the information provided to the examiner was based on her contacts being limited to Douglas and Corrine Kelly and their lawyer in New York.

Jing has made a motion to have a child therapist appointed for Tristram in California so that visitation can finally ensue. It is a good question as to how long visitation will continue to be delayed here by the family court judge. Right now, Jing can have no contact whatsoever. She cannot make a telephone call. She cannot send a card or letter or gift. She cannot hear her son’s voice. This is absurd.

I would ask everyone to say a little prayer that the process of re-establishing contact between this mother and her son will soon begin in earnest. Further hearings are scheduled in family court in late November and early December of this year. Maybe, just maybe, this mother will have some contact with her son for Christmas.

Was Gail Hiler Truly Concerned For Tristram’s Best Interest?

Consider Tristram’s condition at the moment this family court judge wrongly awarded custody to the paternal aunt and wrongly denied this child visitation with his mother on March 20, 2003. Tristram was then nearly three years of age but had been in his mother’s sole care for the eighteen-month period of June 20, 2001 to January 3, 2003. During this eighteen-month period he had been living in China with his mother and hearing primarily Mandarin being spoken. Obviously, Tristram’s mother, Jing Kelly, was the central figure in his life at this juncture.

The day after Jing was apprehended in Vancouver Airport in British Columbia, Canada, on Friday, January 3, 2003, Gail Hiler flew there (on Saturday) and was armed with a packet of papers she claims were given her by the Town of Mamaroneck Police and staff attorneys at the Westchester County District Attorney’s office. Gail Hiler testified recently in family court that she was told by the police and an assistant district attorney that she should be careful not to clear customs, not to enter the airport, but to go straight to the police and hand them the packet.

Gail Hiler testified that she was met by the police and escorted to a room under their control. Tristram was brought there and handed over to her there. Gail Hiler testified that the social worker who brought Tristram there was reluctant to turn over Tristram to her and complained that the papers she was being shown were not originals and did not have court certifications and that there was no current order of Canada or New York directing that she turn over the child in this manner. Gail Hiler recently testified that the police said to the social worker: “You are not turning over the child to her, we are.” Gail did not have a passport. She entered and departed Canada without clearing customs. This was a sweetheart deal. One can legitimately wonder if the packet she carried that Saturday contained money. The situation is so unusual and unorthodox to an extreme as to defy any other rational explanation.

This was a police to police, law enforcement to law enforcement reciprocal arrangement that, conveniently
for Gail Hiler, bypassed normal court routes and allowed her to travel internationally with a child, not her own, in complete derogation of applicable law. The Town of Mamaroneck Police and Westchester District Attorney Pirro had no business getting involved in this non-criminal aspect. The transfer of Tristram was none of their concern but would have been more properly left to the courts of both countries. But for their wrongful action in assisting Gail Hiler retrieve Tristram in this manner, the saga of Jing Kelly’s protracted separation from her
son, Tristram, would never have begun.

Gail Hiler testified she waited for several hours at the airport with Tristram in her harms, exhausted and
sleeping. Her plane was delayed and she did not arrive in New York until 2:00 A.M. on Sunday morning. That
very day and the next day and the following several days, numerous neighbors and television and newspaper
reporters were gathered at her home. Gail Hiler said there were at least twenty people there at all times. Gail
Hiler said that Tristram was quiet, subdued, clinging to the coat he had been wearing when with his mother, sitting
under the table and not speaking a word.

Was this the reason Gail Hiler initially resisted the request from social workers at the Westchester County Department of Social Services that they have access to Tristram to see how he is doing? Gail Hiler testified that Tristram had “night tremors” and could not sleep in his upstairs room. Is this why she got rid of this child and shipped him out to California to live with her brother? Gail Hiler testified she took Tristram to see a child psychiatrist because of his problems in her home. She testified that she took him for a speech evaluation too.

Supposedly this reflects badly on Jing Kelly, in the eyes of Gail Hiler, even though Ms. Hiler’s own son needed speech therapy for many years. Why did Gail Hiler rush up there that Saturday to claim this child in this precipitous manner? Was it because she knew, as did the then-Westchester District Attorney, Jeanine Pirro, and the Town of Mamaroneck Police, that Jing Kelly, mother of Tristram and sole surviving parent of the child, was scheduled to appear before the Canadian court that following Monday, and that Judge Schechter would be returning from vacation also that following Monday?

Obviously, Gail Hiler did not desire to await the outcome of the judicial review to which both child and
mother were Constitutionally and statutorily entitled. Gail Hiler did not want the law guardian duly appointed
for the child to be aware of or involved in this rapid transfer plan. Gail Hiler did not want Administration
For Children’s Services (ACS), the petitioning child protective agency in New York City, to contact their
Canadian counterparts and be involved in the decision-making as to what was best to do with the child.
Gail Hiler did not want Judge Schechter to be involved either. She filed for custody of Tristram in
Westchester County in mid-January of 2003 and was thereupon awarded temporary custody of Tristram by
a court that had no prior involvement with the case. Ms. Hiler was forum shopping and in this effort, too, she was aided and abetted by the local police and District
Attorney Pirro.

Consider poor little Tristram, who still recognized his mother’s picture in the newspapers at the time of her criminal trial as confirmed by family court testimony of Douglas Kelly. Here he is abruptly ripped from his mother’s care and then, after living with Gail Hiler for several months, is shipped out of her home to California to live with his paternal uncle. And this, too, is done secretly by Gail Hiler without any information being provided to the family court or the law guardian, or the mother herself.

Another disruption for Tristram, another adjustment, accomplished by guess who, Gail Hiler, his misguided
and overly involved paternal aunt. Ms. Hiler did not see fit to disclose the fact that Tristram was no longer living in her home when Jing Kelly was released from incarceration and filed for custody of her son in New York
County Supreme Court. This nondisclosure is both astonishing and inexcusable on her part and on the part of her husband, James F. X. Hiler, Esq., who represented her in that proceeding. Both of them are lawyers and both of them knew they were duty-bound to provide this pertinent information at the time. Had they done so, the New York County Supreme Court would have held an immediate hearing and determined back then in early 2004 what should be done with Tristram.

Douglas Kelly testified recently in family court that he decided not to tell Tristram about his real father and mother, and that no pictures of Jing were kept visible in their home. Douglas Kelly testified that neither he,
nor his wife, Corrine, nor his sister, Gail Hiler, consulted any psychologist or counselor as to how best to
deal with the fact that Tristram was now moving into their home and would not be told of his true parentage.

They collectively exercised improper supervision and guardianship of Tristram by this unilateral and misguided
determination to keep him in the dark about his mother and maternal grandparents. What hubris is this? None of them are Tristram’s parents. None of them have custody over Tristram.

None of them have standing to make such profound determinations. The fact that they did this is ample
reason for removing Tristram from their care immediately. And this would probably have been done
already were Jing Kelly’s case being heard and determined anywhere but in New York County Family
Court before the very judge who long ago decided this child would never be returned to his Chinese
mother nor to her parents.


Everyone is now so concerned that Tristram be with a therapist to reunite with his mother and that this be dragged out forever more, but no one ever was concerned in this regard when Gail Hiler whisked herself
to Canada to snatch Tristram before any court could review the matter and no one was concerned for this when
Gail Hiler shipped him off to California. And no one was concerned when Douglas Kelly decided to conceal
Tristram’s true parentage from him for the following three years. So, in my heart of hearts, isn’t it simpler to
return Tristram to New York now and give him all the therapy he needs to adjust to his mother here?

Where are you Gail Hiler now? Why don’t you pick up the phone and have Tristram returned to your home in Larchmont so he is available to the family court who initially entrusted you with his care and so he is available to see his mother and grandparents and eventually live with them as he should have been doing all along. After being personally responsible for so much trauma and disruption to this child, can’t you have the heart to do the right thing for once? That would make for a great Christmas.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Correction Officers Hold Massive Demonstration

White Plains, Monday, Nov. 13th Shouting “Rocco must go,” and carrying signs declaring their complaints, some 250 County Correction Officers, men and women, picketed outside the Westchester County Office Building, many carrying the November 9th issue of The Westchester Guardian. Officers, including Sergeants, were protesting the recent suspension, without pay, of three fellow officers, growing out of an incident October 1st at the County Jail.

The incident, involved a visitor from Yonkers, who allegedly attempted to smuggle drugs to an inmate, in the visitors’ lounge, and then managed to escape, causing a lockdown, and a dog, and helicopter search of the area surrounding the Jail. Those picketing expressed their feelings that the suspended officers have been unfairly targeted and punished for an event that was beyond their control.

Picketing from 4 to 6pm, officers, accompanied by Robert Delbene, President of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, carried signs that read: “Fire Pozzi Now,” “Stop The Double Standard,” “Enough IsEnough,” and “ Threats Will Not Stop Us.” One officer carried a mock coffin with a sign reading, “It’s Only A Matter Of Time.” Union President Delbene, told The Westchester Gu a r d i a n , which has been calling for the removal of Pozzi, and “the appointment of a full-time Commissioner of Corrections,” for some time, that he hoped that the County Executive got the message that “ the correction officers are outraged, and angry over Pozzi’s actions.”

Delbene went on to explain that the 720 correction officers on the job at the County Jail, and the Penitentiary “ are struggling with a hostile work environment, where the Commissioner rules by retaliation.” He further pointed out that there are serious health and safety violations at the Jail that have not been addressed for years, and indicated that there is no satisfactory evacuation plan in existence in the event of an emergency at Indian Point.

The Westchester Guardian has maintained the position one individual cannot possibly serve both as the Commissioner Of Probation and the Commissioner of Corrections at the same time, and do justice to each position. Each assignment is a full-time position, demanding full-time attention and presence. And, while the Department of Probation would not seem to be suffering under the present arrangement, clearly, the Correction Department is laboring with many serious, unresolved issues that can only be adequately dealt with by a full-time commissioner.

Susan Tolchin’s attempt to trivialize the significance, and the legitimacy, of last Monday’s massive demonstration can only serve to further inflame an already very serious, and antagonistic situation. The County Executive’s Office would be well advised to deal with this matter promptly and effectively, by appointing a new Commissioner of Corrections before matters get out of hand with possible disastrous consequences.
Our Readers Respond...

Editor’s Note: The following reader’s response is from a Westchester County Correction Officer who apparently took part in last Monday’s demonstration. Out of all the disciplinary charges from interactions between supervisors and officers, 87% of the officers disciplined were Black.

Dear Editor:

The Police asked us to put down the sign that had 87% on it because the stick was too big. After viewing the report in the media I understand why. They manipulated the media and us to focus on what they wanted our issue to be and only that issue.

Commissioner of Corrections Rocco Pozzi was fully aware of a large disproportionate number of arrestees coming out of Yonkers that were beaten and marred with cuts and bruises. As a legal head, Commissioner of two departments, Probation and Corrections, didn’t he have a legal responsibility to report or even question the outlandish number of people that arrived beaten, some so severely that we refused to take them until the police took them to the Medical Center.

Every one of the arrestees allegedly, “resisted arrest”, the new catch-all phrase. There is a standing joke at the jail that when an officer sees a beaten-up inmate we say to him, “you’re from Yonkers, right?” The inmate is totally surprised wondering how so many officers that he never met know where he’s from.

This behavior from the Commissioner supports the RACIAL DISCRIMINATION that goes on at the Jail. A White sergeant there wrote up several other White sergeants that attempted to recruit him into a plot to get officers, especially the “niggers.” What happened to that sergeant, and what happened to the others; one was promoted to Captain, the ring leader, and the others were elevated to lateral positions that gave them more authority over the membership.

Look closely at Joseph Spano who doesn’t have the quali-fications, but they are sending him to school to tailor him to the position after firing the Black Deputy Commissioner. By the way, did I say Joseph has a GED and the commmish that was fired has a Master’s, coming from Bedford Hills? Senator Spano was behind this. He passed a Bill in Albany that allowed his family member, Joseph, to remain in the same retirement system. That’s outlandish!

Prior to Joe it was a separate system. NO OTHER PERSON WILL BENEFIT FROM THE BILL AS MUCH AS JOSEPH SPANO. It took Joseph Miranda 33 years to climb to where he sits, and Spano DID IT IN A DAY. PLEASE DON’T USE MY NAME, I’LL LOSE MY JOB.

Name withheld

In Our Opinion...

Together with integrity of the electoral process, the certainty that no one has tampered with the outcome of elections, transparency in government is absolutely fundamental to our representative form of government. Democracy can only exist when the governed are fully informed of the activities of those who govern. The
Founding Fathers were only too well aware of that axiom, and took great pain to preserve and protect the flow of information to future citizens in the First Amendment to the Constitution, involving free speech, under Freedom of the Press.

Unfortunately, there are individuals in government, elected, and otherwise, who appear to take equal pain to avoid the possible consequences of that Constitutional guarantee. Here in Westchester, one such individual is Larry Schwartz, the appointed Deputy County Executive. And, make no mistake, Mr. Schwartz has every good self-preserving reason to want to keep his activities, and the activities of many others in Westchester Government, from public awareness. For example, he would rather not have to explain why County taxpayers are paying an extra $17 million ($87 million for what we could have continued for $70 million) for solid waste removal, for the “privilege” of dealing with a hauler that the City of New York would not do business with because of their alleged Mob connections.

In fact, one might fairly say that Larry is virtually obsessed with secrecy, and rightly so. He was one of the individuals, together with State Senator Nick Spano, and David Hebert, former DA Jeanine Pirro’s mouthpiece
and campaign director, identified by former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, as the ‘three men in a room’ who fixed the countywide election of 2001. The simple truth is that Larry has been up to his eyeballs in election fraud and manipulation, here in Westchester, for many years.

However, Larry is not content merely to determine those who will hold elective and appointed positions, including County and Supreme Court Judges. He insists upon controlling their conduct in office, specifically anything, and everything issued by them and their employees to the press and media. Together with Susan Tolchin, public mouthpiece for the County Executive’s Office, Larry Schwartz’ public information suppression operation is collectively known to County employees, and press, alike as “The Ninth Floor.”

Even the most mundane inquiry must first be cleared with him. And, it doesn’t matter that one wishes to publicize and praise the workings of a particular unit, for example, in the Department of Probation, or perhaps the Department of Community Mental Health, all responses must be cleared with The Ninth Floor. To suggest that he is a paranoid control freak is probably fair comment, except that he also has much to conceal.

The Westchester Guardian will not be intimidated nor bought off by Larry Schwartz, or anyone else. Westchester County is the residence of nearly one million people, all of whom have the right to be fully informed of the activities of local government, County Government included. In fact, it would appear that some municipalities such as White Plains, and Yonkers have been borrowing a page from Larry’s book. In a recent issue of the White Plains Times, a weekly newspaper not generally known for hardhitting investigative journalism, a front-page item complained of Mayor Joseph Delfino’s failure to be forthcoming and cooperative with them.

As with any jurisdiction the size and population of Westchester, there is much good to be encouraged, and much not so good which needs exposure. We intend to be true to our Mission Statement, and in fact, have, from our inception, continued to investigate and reveal what the public needs to know.

Police brutality in Yonkers, election fraud, problems at the County Jail, the County Homeless Shelter, there are no ‘sacred cows’ as far as We are concerned.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Jing Kelly Update
Appellate Division, State Supreme Court Finds Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter, “Erred in
Permitting Intervention by the Child’s Paternal Relatives.”
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department
Justices Joseph P. Sullivan, Milton L. Williams,
Luis A Gonzalez, James M. McGuire Presiding

November 2nd, the Appellate Division, First Department of State Supreme Court, sitting in Manhattan, once again, for the third time in just under a year, found in favor of a motion brought by Jing Kelly to reverse an order of New York County Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter, this time setting aside the Judge’s order of December 29, 2005 which had granted intervenor status to Tristram Kelly’s paternal uncle Douglas Kelly, and his wife, Corinne. That same appellate tribunal had one year earlier, November 17, 2005, ordered “immediate visitation” to commence between Jing and her then five-year-old son Tristram, who was then, and is now, still being held in virtual False Imprisonment 3,000 miles away in California.

The Appellate Court’s most recent finding was based upon the plain language of the controlling legislation, Section 1035(f) of the Family Court Act that “precludes a child’s relatives from intervening in Article 10 Child Protective Proceedings where the only living parent has appeared in the proceeding and refuses to consent to intervention.”


In granting Jing Kelly’s motion to vacate Judge Schechter’s unlawful discretionary grant of intervenor status to Douglas and Corinne Kelly, the high court did not go nearly far enough. For one thing, it refused Jing’s application “for remittitur to another Family Court Judge,” (a motion to remove the case from Judge Sara P. Schechter’s Court) a move clearly called for given her demonstrated extreme bias against Jing, her utter disregard for the well-being, and very whereabouts of Jing’s son Tristram, not to mention her total disregard for the orders and mandamus, of this very same tribunal, for more than three years running.

All things considered, the Appellate Division’s failure to act more decisively to protect the interests of this mother and child clearly suggests the kind of thinking that keeps bad judges on the bench, because those empowered to do something about them would rather perpetuate their tenure despite all of the injustice and grief they may continue to generate from their courts. This outrageous case is a stunning example of everything that is wrong with the Court System of New York State. Whatever happened to Equal Protection, Due Process, and Fundamental Justice? All of these doctrines have been abandoned in this case.

One can but wonder if Tristram would be separated from his mother, as he has been for four years, if he were the grandson of another Appellate Judge, or, if his mother was of Anglo-Saxon ethnic origin and the relatives determined to keep them apart were Chinese-Americans. We don’t think so! In this case, Justice delayed, severely delayed, has been Justice denied.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York
Announces Unsealing of Indictments Against 20 Crack Dealers
United States District Courthouse, White Plains
Office of the United States Attorney,
Southern District of New York

Thursday, November 16th, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael J. Garcia, announced the unsealing of seventeen federal indictments charging twenty individuals, operating in the southwest section of the city of Yonkers, with narcotics offenses. Garcia indicated that the indictments grew out of a major joint task force investigation into narcotics trafficking in Westchester, for more than a year. Garcia indicated that all but one of the accused had been apprehended, and in custody.

The investigation involved the FBI, the Yonkers Police Department, the Westchester County Department of Public Safety as well as the White Plains Police Department, the New York State Department of Parole, and the Westchester County Department of Probation, the last three of which were not in attendance. Garcia displayed a chart listing the names of all of those indicted, all in their twenties, as well as the minimum and maximum sentences that may be imposed, under federal sentencing guidelines, upon conviction.

The Westchester Guardian inquired of Supervising Senior Resident FBI Agent David Velazquez, who headed the investigation, if those arrested were, “in fact, essentially ‘street level dealers’ and, if it was anticipated that “they would lead investigators to higher ups.” Velazquez acknowledged that those arrested were relatively minor players, a fact easily discernable from the total cache of crack cocaine seized over a year-long investigation, a total of two pounds. Attorney Garcia was quick to point out that the investigation was, indeed, ongoing, and would likely produce more important dealers.


This press conference was not what it appeared to be. Those who were indicted and arrested could have been apprehended under State criminal statutes and prosecuted in State Court, as is usually the case, without the involvement of federal resources or personnel. The Guardian believes that the federal involvement, and the press conference, were calculated to demonstrate that the Justice Department, and specifically, the United States Attorney and the FBI are interested, and involved in all aspects of criminal activity in Westchester, not merely crimes of Corruption and failed Public Integrity, which everyone knows is the subject of principle concern to Mr. Garcia, and the powers in Washington. Public integrity was, in fact, the concern that prompted him to offer a toll-free telephone number to Westchester residents and business persons to report public corruption.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Andrea v. Nick...Here We Go Again?

Last week’s election was probably one of the more important elections in many years. Many Americans were feeling that stuck in a war that they never asked for. Many were speaking out against the present

Administration’s civil rights violations, including illegal wiretapping. Few would argue that the middle class is rapidly becoming extinct, and fewer still would dispute the probability that recent elections were stolen, and our nation’s finances have very seriously deteriorated under a President who has shown little respect for our Constitution. The American people would appear to have shown President Bush that they’re fed up with ‘business as usual’ by their behavior at the polls. As a result, Democrats gained control of both the House and Senate.

The election resulted in a virtual reversal of fortune for the Bush White House. As a result, voters are now anticipating greater accountability, expecting newly-elected members of both the House and Senate to stand up to Bush and Cheney. John Hall was elected for just that purpose.

Election night I covered Hall’s campaign at the Colonial Terrace Ballroom in Cortlandt Manor for the Westchester Guardian. Hundreds of people were gathered to watch the election returns while enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. There were people from all over the entire 19th Congressional District, and several from other districts as well. Many were people who had worked and campaigned hard for Hall.

Mingling with Hall’s supporters, I had the opportunity to speak with several about their support for him, and their expectations come January. From a group of 20 Local 1199 SEIU members, I spoke with a Ms. Lisa Brown who said she was there to support Hall, “because of his stance on Healthcare.” Dennis Rivera, Union President of Local 1199, had endorsed Hall for Congress. Arnie Paglia, a Cortland Manor resident and owner of the Division Street Grill in Peekskill, declared, “Sue Kelly didn’t have peripheral strength to stand up for the right thing.” He was happy to see the unseating of a complicit incumbent.

In his victory speech Hall spoke about “taking our country back” and said, “we as US citizens have a right to air our grievances with our government.” Taking a moment to thank his supporters, staff, family, and music industry colleagues, Hall said, it was “People-power which overcame $2 million in special interest money,” and, “Truth overcoming lies which sent him to Washington.” He told the crowd, “ We’re on the move to take back the country and returning power to the people from Corporate America.”

Being a founding member of the music group Orleans, Hall also felt that the power of music gave his campaign a spiritual recharge which lifted his drive to succeed in the election. Appropriately, he ended his speech singing, “I Am A Patriot” as the crowd joined in with jubilation.

The 19th Congressional District which encompasses Orange, Rockland, Dutchess, Westchester and Putnam counties, was grossly under-represented by Republican Congresswoman Sue Kelly for the past 12 years. Sensing her impending loss, as a last-ditch effort Kelly’s campaign, aided by the Republican National Committee, literally bombarded voters with constant negative phone calls about John Hall, to the point where some complained that they were being called at least 10 times a day. It would appear that plan backfired.

Of course Jay Townsend, Kelly’s campaign spokesman, claims that she lost because of anger over Iraq, which he referred to as “a Democratic tsunami.” Townsend went on to further speculate, “it’s a six-year itch, when one party is in control of the White House for six years, it is normal to lose seats.”

It would appear, however, that there were more reasons. Kelly had voted to go to war in Iraq but in June voted with most Republicans to reject a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. She refused a series of face-to-face debates, having voted along with the GOP for tax cuts to the wealthy and having expressed her belief that Indian Point did not need to be shut down. Furthermore Kelly, having held her seat for 12 years was seldome seen by the people in her district except on television at election time or when showing up for photo-ops with Republican office-holders at ribbon. As of last Thursday, Kelly had not conceded and was challenging the outcome of the election

Sentiment amongst most voters in the Hudson Valley was that John Hall had won. Hall expressed his belief that when all of the votes are tallied, he will be victorious. He had promised more visibility and accountability upon going to Washington.

Janet Difiore.

Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

Monday at 4:00 Westchester County Correction Officer Benevolent Association’s President Robert DelBene will demonstrate at the County Office Building asking for the removal of Commissioner Rocco Pozzi.Being a correction officer myself, I can’t begin to tell you what’s going on but if you ask the right questions you will get the right answers.

The Journal News refuses to print anything that confronts the issues surrounding the Jail, starting with the firing of Commissioner Bridget Gladwin to make room for GED graduate Joseph Spano to be the next Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

Follow the Bill which was passed that allowed Joseph Spano to remain in the same retirement. Looking at the bill’s sponsor. Talk to attorney Michael Sussman. Talk to Jim Bostic at the Nepperhan Community Center, and follow the trail.

Talk to the County Police about the visitor who sparked a manhunt at the jail with all surrounding municipalities responding with helicopters and dogs. Then talk to Mr Delbene with all the right questions so that you can print all the right answers.

Name Withheld

Dear Editor,

Once again, Judge Schechter’s decisions have been overturned by the Appellate Division. Judge Schechter’s continued obstruction of justice against Jing Kelly and her child is simply unacceptable.

Judge Schechter must be immediately removed from this case and disciplinary action must be brought against her.”

On August 4, 2006, the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court issued a mandamus order against the Judge Schechter after she refused to follow a previous ruling by the higher court allowing Jing Kelly to regain custody of her son. On November 17, 2005, the Appellate Division had unanimously overturned all the Family Court decisions which separated Jing Kelly from her child. I had submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Jing Kelly.

This has been another year wasted where Jing has not been able to see her son, Tristram, who is now six-years-old and has forgotten anything about his mother.”

Robert F. Wayburn, Esq., an attorney who has assisted Jing Kelly in her case, has said, “Once again, Judge Schechter is unanimously reversed on the law. Tristram and his mother and his maternal grandparent should not be denied justice any longer. They have a right to be reunited as a family and it is time to move forward in this direction before Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season expires.”

John Liu,
New York City Council Member,
Flushing, NY

Dear Editor:

Today I was at a bagel shop in Eastchester and I picked up your paper. This was the first time I had seen it. As I started to read it the first thought that came into my mind was that your paper should have a subtitle under your masthead titled “Tool of the Democratic Party”. No wonder why in Westchester we cannot get any news that is fair and balanced. We have The Journal News, The New York Times and now your paper that only reports not what the news is but what you would like the news to be according to your publisher and Editorial Staff.

A recent report concluded that most people don’t look to newspapers to get their news any longer but to various other media such as TV i.e. Fox News Channel, and the internet, Blogs etc. It’s the only place where you can get diversity. Years ago in a brief conversation with Mary Alice Williams at Fordham University I gave her my opinion that without diversity they CNN would not be long in the market place of ideas. They no longer hold a prominent place as they once did, I am not a soothsayer, they did it to themselves. I just wanted to give you my opinion as a new potential reader who was turned off by the first reading.

Joseph Arlotta
White Plains, NY

Editor’s Note: We are so happy that Mr. Arlotta has found our newspaper. And he is certainly entitled to his opinion. However, as Jack Nicholson once suggested to Tom Cruise in a classic film, some people “just can’t handle the truth.”

In Our Opinion....

Several weeks ago, in the September 28th issue of this newspaper, The Advocate column, An Open Letter To District Attorney Janet DiFiore, called upon her, in light of the Jeffrey Deskovic miscarriage of justice, to “please take under serious consideration” the possibility of “organizing a special investigative unit within your office, perhaps three or four experienced investigators, whose sole responsibility will be to investigate serious claims
of innocence.” DA Richard Brown, of Queens County, has employed such a unit for many years, a fact DA DiFiore was, no doubt, well aware of, but which the letter reminded her of.

Approximately ten days after publication, having received no response from Ms. DiFiore, The Westchester Guardian forwarded a copy of the column to her, by certified mail, and received a return receipt for its delivery dated October 11, 2006. A month having passed since our District Attorney formally received that suggestion, without any response from her Office, We now view her announcement last week, that she had appointed an “independent panel” to study “what went wrong, and what lessons could be learned,” with her self-described “righteously investigated and prosecuted” case, as most interesting.

To her credit, DA DiFiore had acknowledged, upon the release of Mr. Deskovic several weeks earlier, “the fallibility of the criminal justice system.” And, given her admitted very limited personal experience, as an assistant DA, in the actual preparation and presentation of felony cases over the years, it is understandable that she might not be prepared to accept the notion that some police agencies in Westchester, the Peekskill Police Department amongst them, are quite capable of extracting false confessions from those who they may charge with homicide and/or other major crimes.

Nevertheless, We believe that if DA DiFiore was sincere and truthful when she declared, “The work we do here is to make sure we get justice,” she must realize that the mere appointment of a “blue ribbon panel” to study the circumstances of one particular miscarriage of justice is a woefully inadequate response to a problem that she ought to know has been pervasive in Westchester County for many years. If, in fact, as Mr Deskovick has stated, the Peekskill Police Department forced a false confession from him, which resulted in his conviction
for Rape and Murder, despite his actual innocence, that police department is not alone in that heinous, and malicious practice. And, the District Attorney’s Office knows that!

The Mount Vernon Police Department, for example, has been extracting false confessions from innocent individuals for years in their notorious so-called “Conference Room” in the basement of Police Headquarters, and Mayor Ernie Davis, and his new Police Commissioner David Chung have each been made aware of the fact. Selwyn Days, now serving 50 years for a “double-homicide” that was really a Murder/Suicide, and Kareem
Bryan, serving 43 years, as Mrs. Pirro’s “Bedroom Bandit,” because the Mount Vernon Police let the actual perpetrator escape, each underwent the same 36 hours in handcuffs, in a chair, until they would say anything they were told to say to turn off the torture.

Juries find videotaped “confessions” just too compelling to resist, even when the accused makes 37 different statements totally inconsistent with the police account, and the Prosecution’s theory of the case, as with Selwyn Days. And, it doesn’t seem to matter a bit to judges or juries that these videotaped confessions somehow never, ever, include a reading of Miranda Rights to the accused. After all, if the Defendant is actually volunteering
a confession why wouldn’t the police want the giving of Miranda warnings on the tape?

DA Janet DiFiore knows only too well that there have been numerous miscarriages of justice in Westchester, particularly under the Pirro Regime. That’s how New York City Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo got convicted of Depraved Indifference Murder for saving his father from a bat-wielding assailant, and Anthony DiSimone got convicted of Depraved Indifference Murder in the death of Louis Balancio, even though the DA had a confession from the actual murderer six days after the incident.

Miscarriages of justice have been pervasive in Westchester, in part because of insufficient screening of complaints on the part of the District Attorney’s Office, and their willingness to charge and bring to a grand jury for indictment, all too quickly, whatever police and civilian complainants allege. So many of the “he said / she said” Rape and Sodomy cases brought to indictment by Jeanine Pirro should never have gotten out of the Complaint Room; complainants who when asked, under cross-examination by defense attorneys, “Did you ever say No?” all too often had to admit they hadn’t. One need only ask any of those defendants who, despite being acquitted, if their personal and professional lives were ever the same again?

We renew the call to DA Janet DiFiore to consider establishing a special investigative unit for the sole purpose of investigating Serious Claims Of Innocence, brought by defense counsel who are prepared to present reasonable, and significant, evidence in support of their client’s claim of actual innocence, as well as guaranteeing the full cooperation of witnesses and the accused. If DA DiFiore is truly sincere in her professed desire to “make sure we get justice,” she should make the effort to discover “mistakes,” willful, and otherwise, before proceeding with a miscarriage of justice, rather than after.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

But, For Tony Castro

Five years ago, following the countywide elections of 2001, in which he was the only legitimate candidate, the only one who was not part of the “Spano-Pirro Fix,” Tony Castro said to me, “It takes time for it to seep in.” He was, of course, referring to the truth about Jeanine Pirro, who he had just missed upsetting by six points. She had spent $1.2 million, and he exactly one tenth of that. Furthermore, up until ninety days before election he was a virtual unknown candidate.

Well, it was pretty clear last Tuesday, that after five years, the truth had seeped in to where it was a flood! Still, despite the gradual public awareness, and her many gaffes in her campaign, she managed to gather more votes than any other Republican statewide, more than 40 percent, so strong is the residual media hype, and public relations imagery that has surrounded Pirro for more than fifteen years since her first election to public office.

Over the years she acquired quite a collection of Pirro-ettes, Cindy Adams of the New York Post, Phil Reisman and Glen Blain at The Journal News, Jan Benzel of The New York Times, not to forget her greatest ‘media
cheerleader,’ Janine Rose, of NEWS 12. Pirro could grab the front page and the boob tube at a moment’s notice, any time her personal or professional performance required damage control. Once, about a year ago,
when her public image was suffering, she appeared on NEWS 12, with News Director Rose, and stated of herself, and her performance as Westchester DA, “I always gave one hundred and ten percent,” to which
Janine Rose, practically falling off her chair, responded, “More like one hundred and fifty.”

Tony Castro, a resident of Rye, with fourteen years on the job in the Bronx DA’s Office, saw through Mrs. Pirro immediately, and wasn’t the least bit afraid to challenge her in her prime. In her previous election, in 1997, against Joanne Norton, another absolute fix, Pirro had won with 67% of the vote. Castro immediately understood the immorality of the so-called “Power Couple,” and the absurdity of a District Attorney whose spouse was the most outrageous white-collar criminal in the County, and the joint signer on ten years of fraudulent tax returns.

It wasn’t merely Castro’s coming within six points of her in 2001 that was so pre-determinative of last Tuesday’s outcome. It was his willingness to run against her again in 2005, and her decision not to face him that really sealed her political fate. When she spent a fortune telephone polling in March and April of 2005, to discover that she could not possibly beat Tony Castro if she ran against him again, and dropped out of the race for District Attorney grudgingly, less than 24 hours before the Westchester Republican Convention in late May, her political future was determined.

Those of us who knew what she was about, realized that without her badge, and her media pulpit, Jeanine Pirro was virtually de-clawed. Without the opportunity to constantly try defendants, on trumpedup charges, in the press and on television, she would lack the ability to deflect and distract from her personal and professional
misconduct, particularly at a time when many of her major wrongfully, and unconstitutionally obtained major
convictions were beginning to come to light in state and federal appellate courts.

But, for Tony Castro’s willingness to stand up against Jeanine Pirro’s tyranny, not once, but twice, thereby effectively removing her from power, the outcome of Tuesday’s election might have been different.

Had she been running from the position of four-term District Attorney of Westchester, with all of the broadcast, and print media at her constant disposal, there is no telling what might have happened. After all, the fact that she lost the Attorney General’s race by somewhat less than 20 percent means that a swing vote of a mere 10 percent would have given her the race.

But, for Tony Castro Jeanine Pirro might have been sitting in the Attorney General’s Office come New Year’s Day.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Here We Go Again?
State Supreme Court, White Plains
Acting Supreme Court Justice Francis Nicolai Presiding

White Plains, Thursday, November 9th, attorneys for Andrea Stewart-Cousins, apparent winner in the race for State Senate in the 35th Senatorial District, and incumbent Nicolas Spano, appeared in State Supreme Court to file motions before Judge Francis Nicolai in connection with the documentation of the outcome of the election.
Present in the courtroom were Attorneys Henry Berger, and Jeff Pearlman, representing Stewart-Cousins, and John Ciampoli, and Anthony Mangone representing Spano, and Rosemarie Panio, Westchester County Republican Chair, respectively.

Also present were Democratic Election Commissioner Reginald LaFayette, his counter-part Republican Commissioner Carolee Sunderland, Democratic Deputy Commissioner Jeanie Palazzola, and her Republican counter-part Melissa Nacerino, as well as Assistant County Attorney Gallagher.

Prior to the arrival of Judge Nicolai, Commissioner LaFayette, responding to a reporter’s question, indicated, “Nothing has been opened yet.”

Commissioner Sunderland, asked about how many absentee ballots had been received, stated, “There are more than twentyseven hundred so far, with more coming in until next Tuesday.”

Immediately upon entering Judge Nicolai offered, “I would suggest that what might be best at this time would be a brief adjournment until we see what develops.”

Attorney Berger responded, “I think that we can wait until next Thursday.”

Attorney Ciampoli agreed, however asking the Court if he might have “a survey of all the
paper ballots.”

Judge Nicolai expressed a willingness to go along with the request, and set Thursday November
16th, at 3pm for reopening of the hearing.

Outside the courthouse, remembering the record-setting, more-than-three-month election dispute between Stewart-Cousins and Spano following their contest in 2004, The Westchester Guardian asked Republican Attorney Ciampoli, “So, we’re not anticipating a protracted litigation, are we?”

Ciampoli responded, “I never anticipate anything. We’ll see what happens.”

Confronted with the same inquiry, Attorney Berger responded with an immediate, “No.”

Thursday, November 9, 2006

What's Going On at the County Jail

In Our Opinion...

Four weeks ago, in our October 12th issue, We made the point in this column that the time had long ago arrived when the Westchester County Department of Corrections needed a full-time commissioner, whose time and attention were not shared with the management and administration of another department, as is currently the case. Presently, Rocco Pozzi, serves as both the Commissioner of Probation, and the Commissioner of Corrections. We pointed out the fact that the Department of Probation with its many innovative programs, including the Sex Offender Unit, the DWI Unit, and Family Support Unit, has been consistently performing well, but that certain events and conditions at the County Jail, in recent years, clearly suggest that the Department of Corrections was definitely in need of a full-time administrator.

Having learned, from a reliable source, last week, that an inmate at the County Jail had been severely injured, about two weeks earlier, as the result of an altercation with a corrections officer, and that the inmate had been taken to the Westchester County Medical Center, possibly in a coma, we attempted to gather more information. We began making calls to Commissioner Pozzi’s office on Tuesday, November 1st, explaining the nature of our inquiry, and asking for a return call. Two days past, without a callback, or any response from Corrections Commissioner Pozzi or any member of his staff.

Calls to the Westchester Medical Center, Ward 29, produced only an acknowledgement that there were a number of inmates on the ward, but no specific information. Thursday, November 3rd, mid-morning, another call to the Commissioner of Corrections put The Guardian in contact with someone who identified herself as “Dottie,” secretary to Commissioner Pozzi’s Chief of Staff. After learning the nature of our inquiry, she apparently contacted the Corrections Department Press Officer, Vicki Hochman, who, in turn, called our office about a half hour later.

Press Officer Hochman, professed no immediate awareness of any inmate who had been taken to the hospital with severe injuries following an incident with a corrections officer several days earlier. We shared with Hochman our information that the altercation had reportedly occurred on the 3-11pm shift, and involved an officer on mandated forcible overtime, who had been assigned to a high-tension area. We explained that we were on deadline, and would appreciate a response by 3pm, allowing almost five hours for a return call.

The Westchester Guardian labors under no illusion with regard to transparency, and Westchester County Government. We are fully aware of the fact that County employees, even those not in key, or policy making positions, may not give information, of any kind, to the press without prior clearance from Larry Schwartz, and/or Susan Tolchin.

As We stated one month ago, We again call upon the County Executive, and the County Board of Legislators to immediately consider the hiring of a full-time Commissioner of Corrections, whose job description would prohibit any other form of employment.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Attorney Updates and Appeals on Behalf of Jing and Tristram Kelly

Editors Note: The following correspondence from attorney Robert F. Wayburn, who has been involved in the Jing and Tristram Kelly matter for some four years now, is self-explanatory and is printed in its entirety for the benefit of our readers. With no end in sight to the horrific injustice that continues to keep a loving mother and her young son apart, Mr. Wayburn appeals for assistance on Jing Kelly’s behalf.

November 1, 2006

As reported after our October 16, 2006 court appearance, Jing’s case is not scheduled to be continued in New York County Family Court until November 27, 2006, and again on November 29, 2006 and December 1,
2006 and December 6, 2006 and all day on Friday, December 8 commencing at 11 AM.

Dr. Dawn Hughes is still being cross-examined and Judge Schechter appears to have delayed ruling on our application that MHS and Dr. Conrad be provided with Dr. Hughes’ reports and testimony both in Criminal Court and Family Court until such time as Dr. Hughes’ testimony is totally completed. The logic of waiting
escapes me.

Discussion was had as to obtaining a therapist for Tristram. Tomorrow I will be forwarding a suggestion in this regard to all counsel in the case. I believe that Mr. Perrella will also be forwarding a suggestion in this regard.

Clearly, it is time to move forward on the visitation front and engaging a family therapist for Tristram is the first step. It is astonishing that this was not the first thing resolved and ordered by the Family Court at the first court appearance back on December 29, 2005 after the November 17, 2005 Appellate Division ruling directed an immediate visitation inquiry. The early August 2006 mandamus, also issued by the Appellate Division, does not seem to have sparked a sense of urgency in this regard. Many observers find this baffling.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching. Summer has already passed us by. Still no contact between Tristram and his mother. None, whatsoever. The Family Court judge, Sara P. Schechter, has precluded Jing Kelly from phoning her son in California, from writing him, from sending him gifts, from sending him current photographs of herself or her home. Apparently, Tristram’s caretakers, Douglas and Corrine Kelly, see no need, on their part, to encourage Tristram to write or call or contact his birth mother.

Dr. Conrad observes that such contact could be confusing to the child. Well, hello. Tristram has a mother living
here in New York City and maternal grandparents too. They have been wrongfully isolated from his life and being. Any confusion at the onset of reestablishing contact and communication, on Tristram’s part, can be readily managed IF ONLY THE PROCESS WOULD BE FINALLY STARTED!!!

Jing Kelly is a loving and caring mother who wants what is best for her son. She is not blind to the concerns as to how the process should be managed and that Tristram should be reintroduced to her in a manner that is comfortable to him.

So what are we talking about here - a continued custody fight where the prior custodian, unlawfully established, has withdrawn, and her designee caretaker living some three thousand miles away, has apparently never sought custody in his own right - and so the matter lingers here in New York County Family Court - without a rather simple and straight forward visitation inquiry yet being determined and with a neglect dispositional hearing needlessly complicated and protracted by the family court judge allowing intervention of the California relatives [over the objection of this mother and which intervention ruling though appealed and fully argued in May of this year is yet to be decided by the Appellate Division] and, in the meanwhile, not one word being passed between mother and son. With the holiday season fast approaching - can there be some measure of hope that real progress will begin to be made here. Will this family court judge expedite the process NOW or continue to delay determinations and let the matter unfold again in the Appellate Court’s lap. For example, Judge Schechter stated at the last court appearance that any visitation for the maternal grandparents must await the determination of Jing Kelly’s dispositional hearing despite the fact that they both intervened in that proceeding as well as filed a visitation petition in their own regard. Why must this wait?

The longer visitation and contact and communication is delayed, the harder it is on Tristram to get going on this process. He surely should have contact and communication with his maternal lineage even if there is no visitation
yet. The total cutoff of contact and communication is unlawful and inhumane. I guess there will have to be yet another appellate motion in the next few days to again attempt to get some form of affirmative relief and remedy
at that level.

The litigation burden placed on this mother and her son are tremendous. She was denied poor person relief on the prior appeal and was required to print briefs and record even though the statute dispenses with this requirement in family court appeals (see FCA Section 1116) and, inexplicably, the same trial judge who made all the erroneous and tragic prior rulings was continued in presiding over the remanded case and only recently “redirected” to attend to the visitation provisions of the November 17, 2005 appeal ruling. This mother cannot pay for trial transcripts, she cannot pay for therapy and forensic costs. It is a burden on her pro bono lawyers to work year after year after year on this endless merry-go-round... but Jing cannot give up, nor can we, nor can you.

Please help if you can this upcoming holiday season. Please pay for a transcript (I can give a listing of the dates and cost) so the newer appeals can be perfected. Please pay for photcopying, for therapists reports and sessions for both Jing and Tristram.

If any donation is sent to my office in this regard, I will photocopy the check and not only deposit it in an attorney
escrow account but scan and e-mail the check, the deposit slip, and the litigation expenses paid, on a weekly basis to your newspaper and any other newspapers interested in receiving the information. Jing needs help.

Tristram needs help. We are not asking for payment of legal fees, just litigation costs and expenses and therapy
costs and expenses for mother and child.

Please help if you can. Mail the donation (by check) to:

Robert F. Wayburn, Esq., 60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1414, New York, New York 10165 made payable to Jing Kelly Litigation Expenses Account c/o R.F. Wayburn, Esq. Although I presently represent Jing’s own mother, Ling Mei Xing, in the ongoing Family Court litigation, there is no conflict as every expense paid will be reviewed and approved, in advance, by Jing’s own lawyer, Nicholas Perrella.

I have never asked for donations in a litigated matter in my thirty-three years of legal practice. Whatever monies, if any, come in to my office in response to this appeal, will be detailed to Jing’s tax account for proper handling.

I am simply acting as an agent in collecting and disbursing the funds for her litigation costs (not lawyer fees). I am willing to do this only because her situation is so protracted and shows no sign of ending soon.

Jing and Tristram truly need your help in meeting these litigation costs and so do Tristram’s grandparents. Please do not call me. If you wish to donate, simply send a check, along with a note to Jing if you like.

In closing, since this is the month of Thanksgiving, now upon us, I want to thank all the many people who have helped Jing and her parents in the past, especially, Michael Dowd, Esq., Robert Shaw, Esq., and Rocco D’Agostino, Esq., all of whom worked many hours representing Jing pro bono at her criminal trial in
County Court of Westchester County, and Dr. Dawn Hughes who evaluated Jing and testi-fied in the criminal trial on her behalf at very reduced fees and who now re-evaluated Jing and has testified at two separate family court appearances, and will be at a third appearance at the end of this month in such regard, totally pro bono this time around, and Dawn Hazelhurst, Esq., Professor Shen, Mary Rothwell Davis, Esq., and Sanctuary For Families, all of whom at various points of time worked on family court litigation and appellate matters for Jing and her current family court lawyer, as well, Mr. Perrella.

I also want to especially thank City Councilman John C. Liu and his past assistant, Ellen Young, now running for elective office in her own right, for their constant support in this matter.


Bob Wayburn
Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

I am Steven Kaufman’s attorney and must strongly react to the Letter to the Editor of the “Anonymous police employee who can’t get involved,” which appeared on Oct. 5, 2006.

Mr. Kaufman’s medical condition is real and has repeatedly been confirmed by a host of physicians. Mr. Kaufman is not an active fire-fighter and denies the other assertions made about his firefighter status. Equally untrue is the allegation that Mr. Kaufman has been doing electrical work.

Mr. Kaufman’s claim against the Town started before any purported investigation by the Town. The disciplinary charges against Mr. Kaufman are bogus and he will be exonerated, if justice prevails. As Mr. Kaufman’s court papers show, it is the Town who has played the “race card”, by discriminating against police officers of a
certain ethnicity.

Alan E. Wolin, Esq.

Dear Editor:

It is a sad commentary that most of the candidates only criticize their opponents, but do not state to the electorate what they themselves plan on doing for the public, if elected. A person who criticizes his or her opponent, without giving his or her solution to the issues at hand, is self-serving only, and without merit.

To provide a personal example, I submitted an appeal to several of our candidates for office to assist in creating legislation to ENFORCE the provision in the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT of the USA, which covers vast numbers of physically handicapped Veterans, senior citizens, and all disabled people. Few responded, without any expressed commitment whatsoever.

The voters should reject criticisms by any candidate or another without some constructive proposals as to their own platform. WE DO DESERVE BETTER.

Howard W. Rasher, Esq.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Federal Investigation of Pirro Must Press Forward

Now that the elections are behind us, and Mrs. Pirro can no longer complain that the United States Attorney’s Office, or any other investigative agency is on a “witch hunt,” or pursuing a political agenda, it is time that the federal government begins to turn its attention to the more serious instances of her criminal conduct, particularly that which involved prosecutorial misconduct, and the denial of Constitutional rights “under the color of law.”

There are those sophisticated observers who might say that most prosecutors cut corners if they can get away with it, and do not always protect the rights of innocent individuals with the same zeal that they apply to prosecution. The truth is, even under that jaundiced perception of present day jurisprudence, Jeanine Pirro’s abuse of process, and official misconduct are each without peer.

From very early on, in her twelve-year regime, Pirro’s consistent objective involved manipulation of victims, and those accused, for primarily self-promotional purposes. She understood, and mastered, control of the media, particularly The Journal News, whose president and publisher, Gary Sherlock, was a business partner of her spouse, and NEWS 12, whose news director Janine Rose gave Pirro virtual carte blanche whenever she wanted to publicly hang someone, or needed damage control. Yes, the media, New York Magazine, with its front cover hype of her unlawful, so-called, Internet Sting, and all the fluffy Westchester magazines with their coverage of the “Power Couple,” played into her hand, never questioning the Constitutionality of her activities, or their own role in perpetuating her myth, and her crimes.

It is imperative that the United States Attorney’s Office move forward with their investigation of Jeanine Pirro, a chief law enforcement officer who carries on, both in her private, and public lives as though she is above the law.

Much of what she has been guilty of, particularly with regard to the malicious and unlawful prosecutions of innocent persons may no longer be prosecutable under the Statute of Limitations. For example, her activities in the Richard DiGuglielmo case, and the Anthony DiSimone case, goes back ten years. Her cover-up of her husband’s theft from the Hudson Valley Hospital Center occurred fifteen years ago.

Nevertheless, it is essential that all of her criminal conduct be investigated, prosecuted where possible, and punished as a clear signal to other prosecutors who might abuse their awesome powers, and the trust vested in them. It is equally important that federal investigators uncover the “patterns and practices” that defined her control of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office for twelve years, wreaking havoc and grave injustice in the lives of scores of innocent individuals and their families. For it is only upon exposure of those repeated unlawful practices that the criminal pattern will emerge, helping not only to exonerate the innocent, but also to provide for their compensation.

Furthermore, it is essential that United States Attorney, Michael Garcia press on with his office’s investigation of Jeanine Pirro, because, as accurately pointed out by former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, in his 14-page letter, three years ago, the County of Westchester has been run by a cabal, of which DA Pirro was the central figure.

Most of those individuals who conspired with Mrs. Pirro to rig and fix election outcomes are still in office, still controlling the purse strings, still influencing the daily lives of nearly one million residents. Only a thorough investigation, not only of Jeanine Pirro’s prosecutorial misconduct and unlawful violation of the Constitutional
rights of innocent citizens, but also, as importantly, her key role in the corruption and criminality that runs all through County Government, and much of the State Judiciary, will bring down the cabal, and ultimately restore justice to the Westchester Community.

To be sure, it will be necessary, in some instances, to grant immunity to police officers, prosecutors, and attorneys, to finally unearth all of the criminality and corruption cultivated during the Pirro years. However, it is essential that we restore integrity and lawful operation to the more than forty police agencies in Westchester
that have suffered and deteriorated under her unlawful, oppressive hand.
Maureen, We’ll Miss You

The Publisher and Staff of The Westchester Guardian were profoundly saddened by the sudden, and untimely passing of our Northern Bureau Chief, Maureen Keating Tsuchiya, on Saturday, October 28th, the result of complications following surgery a few days earlier.

Maureen was a wonderful person, in so many ways larger than life. She seemed to have an infinite capacity for giving of herself, and there wasn’t anything you might ask of her that she wouldn’t do, and do well. And, while she was an amazingly energetic advocate for causes and candidates others might only have paid lip service to, she was, at the same moment, a loving and devoted wife to Takashi, and mother to Hannah. Whenever she couldn’t be reached at home, it was certain that she was bringing Hannah to dance lessons, to school, or to some other event.

Despite her already full agenda, as a wife and mother, and community activist, I called upon Maureen several
months before the opening of this newspaper, because I could think of nobody I wanted more to report the signifi-cant happenings in Northern Westchester on a weekly basis.

She never rejected, nor failed to complete, an assignment. She had the remarkable ability to quickly, but objectively, analyze situations, grasping the implications and identifying the wheat from the chaff. Maureen had a loving, giving, heart. However, she had no qualms about letting you know exactly what she thought. She had little tolerance for hypocrisy, and none for injustice, and she worked endlessly against each. She had a wonderful network of media and organizational contacts, and she could marshal scores of correspondents to a cause in minutes. To me Maureen embodied the spirit of the Sixties, a willingness to “fight City Hall.” Social advocacy defined her.

She was a one-of-a-kind spirit, taken from our midst, and our lives, far too soon. And yet, having had an enormous impact on all who knew her, and many who would not. Asking no exemption, or favor, she took on one challenge after another. I will always remember that wonderful, spontaneous, burst of laughter that invariably
greeted news that some ‘Dragon of Injustice,’ or other, had been foiled.

We will all miss Maureen, each for our own special reasons, each in our own way. I will miss her friendship and her spirit, her selfless willingness to stand up for us all.

Richard Blassberg,
Editor in Chief

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Spano Asks County Executive to Create Inter-Agency Task Force

State Senator Nicholas Spano, responding to his opponent Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ call for Justice Department
poll monitors for next week’s coming election, stated that he had already approached County Executive Andy Spano in a letter two weeks ago, asking him to set up a task force in cooperation with the Justice Department to insure that no voters are disenfranchised.

Spano complained two years ago that people were bused in from the Bronx and elsewhere, into the 35th District. Those allegations were never substantiated.

Stewart-Cousins Writes Justice Department For Poll Monitors

Last Monday Democratic candidate for State Senate from the 35th District, Andrea Stewart-Cousins held
a press conference at Lincoln High School in Yonkers, in part, to announce that she had sent a letter to
the Department of Justice in Washington requesting poll watchers for the upcoming election, in light of the irregularities and difficulties encountered by voters in her contest with Nick Spano in 2004.

County Legislators Jose Alvarado, and Lois Bronz were both present. Alvarado charged, “All we have in our polling places in my district are bullies.” Lois Bronz complained,“Irregularities two years ago surely impacted the outcome of the election.”

Stewart-Cousins, stepping to the podium, declared, “In 2004 there was a lack of poll workers equipped with maps to direct voters to the right polling places, and overaggressive Republican poll watchers intimidating voters
in some areas of Yonkers.
Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

Why Jeanine Pirro is not good for New York. Like a bad script from Desperate Housewives, Jeanine Pirro’s personal life seems more volatile than a bottle rocket of baking soda and vinegar. Aside from her starring role in this unending saga of domestic woes, Ms. Pirro plainly lacks the professionalism to be our state’s highest law enforcement officer.

She paints herself as a strong woman. But her involvement in the recently reported Deskovic case does not support true strength of character. The DA’s office had DNA samples that excluded Deskovic as the murderer.
At any point while she was Westchester DA, Ms. Pirro could have verified that his DNA did not match that found on the murder victim; she failed to do so. After having served some ten years in jail for a crime he did not
commit, she curtly refused his request for an interview for new DNA tests and in 2000, opposed his attorney’s petition for a new hearing and new DNA tests. Even on his release just last month, more than 16 years after his
wrongful incarceration, when the real killer was finally identified through his matching DNA, while serving jail time for a murder that occurred after Deskovic was in jail for the earlier homocide, Ms. Pirro offered no apology
for this prosecutorial atrocity.

For all the Pirro’s wheeling and dealing to display high-on-the hog living, including pet pigs, a big beautiful landscaped home, furnishings and cars – elaborate business expenses, as the Feds finally established from the
Pirro’s fraudulent joint tax returns. Yet, Ms. Pirro managed to escape her husband and her brother-in-law’s jail fate and took no responsibility for her own complicity in their fraud on the government. That’s strong?

Jeanine’s claim that her tenure in the Westchester DA merits higher elective office as NYS Attorney General. Yet, her behavior reflects a continued self-serving, politico-sociopathic path, for which she has never been held
accountable, and has never been strong enough to admit mistake.

No, it’s pretty clear why Mrs. Pirro won’t serve the citizens of NY State well. Candidly, I don’t think she gives a fig about the state’s voters. It’s all about Jeanine. Representation of We, the People, doesn’t start by eating
thumbtacks for breakfast and plotting vengeance on your cheating husband or your close friends, blaming federal prosecutors, or those from opposing parties for leaks to the press, wildly condemning them, rather than acknowledging her current troubles as self-created. Representation of We, the People, starts with accountability, and respect for law, ethics, and common decency for the citizens of New York.

Jeanine Pirro has demonstrated through countless interviews she’s a street fighter, with language to match. I’ll give her that. Inasmuch as I’d love to see the first woman Attorney General, there’s been too much grandstanding, too much fluff, too much time in the spotlight, and not enough hard work in the courtroom or in-the-trenches as Westchester D.A., while NYS taxpayers footed the bill.

Andrew Cuomo may be a little “wet behind the ears,” but I’ll vote for him any day of the week before I rally to the side of this self-annointed “strong” woman. Better she run for a job on TV soap opera.

New York

In Our Opinion...

Given last week’s discovery of 33 under-aged partiers at a house on Pleasant Ridge in Harrison, followed by Police Chief David Hall’s inconsistent statements, we feel compelled to ask, “Will the real David Hall please stand up?”

When interviewed on Sunday, the 22nd, by CBS NEWSRADIO 880, regarding the police discovery that led to 26 arrests around midnight Friday, Chief Hall’s response was, “They’re good kids who just made a mistake.
We’ll give them some streets to sweep so they remember next time.” However when questioned the next day by NEWS 12 , in a piece that featured a photo of the late Robert Viscome, Jr., whose life was lost at such a party
in Harrison, in April of 2002, Hall responded, “We’re not going to tolerate it. It’s a serious crime.”

The circumstances of this latest under-aged drinking episode in Harrison are remarkably similar to those that cost young Rob Viscome his life. In each case the parents of the “host teen” were away, and apparently without
a clue as regarded their youngster’s intention to have a drinking party. In the present case, police were called around midnight, and came out to discover 33 teens, 26 between ages sixteen and eighteen, all of whom were
charged and arrested, and, 7 aged fifteen, sent home.

Since the Viscome incident, more than four years ago, involving some 25 teens, there have been numerous under-aged drinking parties in the Town of Harrison. Perhaps contributing to the repeated incidents is the
fact that no one was charged, or held accountable, for their failure to summon emergency medical assistance for their friend Rob, who lay dying on the patio of the Porzio Family home, a few doors from DA Pirro’s house.

In fact, Pirro, not only let more than two dozen youths ‘skate free’ of that incident, but also attempted to let Patrick Rukaj, the boy whose punch sent Viscome crashing to the concrete patio, off without punishment as
well, by over-charging him with felony, First Degree Assault, and predictably failing to indict him. Only after extreme pressure from the West Harrison community, particularly Rob’s friends, was Pirro compelled to go
back and recharge Rukaj with misdemeanor assault, resulting in a pre-arranged probation sentence.

None of the other teens present, including Pirro’s own daughter, Christine, were ever charged, or held accountable for their indefensible failure to call for help for their dying friend. In the years since that tragedy
there have been repeated rumors that the police shredded statements taken from several of the youths involved, including John Porzio, Jr., who instructed the others present, when he came rushing home from the Rye Country Day School, “This didn’t happen here.”

In an interview, two years after the tragedy, with a reporter for a local weekly newspaper, Police Chief Hall took serious issue with then-District Attorney Pirro. Referring to the two dozen teens who had let Rob Viscome
lay unattended for more than half an hour as they cleared away all drug and alcohol evidence, Hall declared, “They should have been given community service in the emergency room of a local hospital.” He expressed
concern for the fact that letting them off without being charged, as DA Pirro did, had “sent the wrong message to other teens, and left those involved with unresolved guilt, without closure.”

Loss of one precious life was one too many. Will the real David Hall please stand up?

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