Thursday, June 28, 2007

DNA Expansion Proposal Considered by State Assembly Had Provisions Inconsistent With Justice

Part 2

by Jeffrey Deskovic

Issues Which The Assembly Requested be Addressed

The Assembly wanted to know what the primary causes of wrongful convictions were. I weighed in on this subject. Because I have written
extensively in previous issues of The Guardian, I will not go overly in depth on these points, but instead will summarize:

(Note: All statistics utilized are in reference to DNA-based exonerations, and do not factor in exonerations achieved by other means, such
as discovery of suppressed evidence, and witness recantations, real perpetrators coming forward to confess.)

a) False confessions were responsible for 25% of the wrongful convictions as established by DNA. Videotaping interrogations, while not a cure-all, could help cut down the rate by providing an objective recount of who said, and did what, when, and in what context. This requirement would prevent police from leaving out details that they would rather the world did not know they engaged in, and it would
simultaneously protect police from false claims of coercion.

b) Misidentification caused 75% of all wrongful convictions.

c) Deficient Representation by Public Defenders. The skill level of those who represent the public as opposed to those that the rich can
afford, is like night and day. Additionally, even those who are not worn down and jaded by the system, have built-in handicaps, such as
an uneven economic playing field. Wherein the prosecution has an almost unlimited budget, the public defender has a very limited budget
and often must resort to asking for discretionary funding from a judge, the granting of which is risky. Another problem confronting legal aid
attorneys is the representation of too many cases at once. Stephani Bench, of the New York State Defenders Association, echoed the sentiment that the state of public defense is in shambles, and advocated for a centralized state-wide system which would lend itself to more oversight. As reinforcement, she referenced the Spangenberg Group’s Report, a study commissioned by Chief Judge Judith Kaye, whose findings were that the state of public defense in new York was, indeed, in shambles. Bench advocated for the centralization of public defense, wherein all public defense would be done on a state-wide basis, as part of one big organization, allowing for more oversight and review.


d) Incentivized Witnessing was involved in 25% of the wrongful convictions, wherein people are given a reward for testifying, sometimes
literally in the form of cash, “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of ” a perpetrator of a crime. And then there is the
incentive offered to those in a desperate legal position to make deals to have charges dropped against them or to receive a lighter sentence
for information. Such individuals, when lacking legitimate information, often resort to making up stories consistent with what prosecutors
are looking for.

The Assembly Committee persons asked whether the present procedures for the collection, cataloguing, and preservation of evidence
are sufficient. Alan Newton, who served 21 years for a rape he did not commit, weighed in on this subject, explaining clearly how the present
system is not sufficient, detailing the struggle he endured, in which for 12 of the 21 years he served, the police claimed that they could not
find the evidence, which, when located, proved through DNA that he had been innocent all along.

They asked whether the current compensation statute on the books was sufficient. I explained that it was deficient in two ways:

Firstly, that in order to receive compensation one must litigate, which is a process that takes between 2-7 years, and that the exonerated
are released with simply the clothes on their backs, and that the remedy for this would be to immediately award $15,000 for every year
of wrongful imprisoned in order to cover such basics as cost of housing, cost of living, mental health services, and educational pursuits, and
that this should be in addition to a lawsuit.

Secondly, there is bad case law on the books, which states that if one contributes to their own wrongful conviction, they are entitled to
nothing. For example, it will be the state’s claim that I contributed to my wrongful conviction by falsely confessing, whereas it is my position that I did not contribute because the confession was coerced and involuntary. In any event, it is absurd that anybody should have to overcome such an obstacle in receiving financial compensation, because the idea that someone will purposely get themselves arrested and wrongfully convicted, to then exonerate themselves to then be in a position to sue for compensation, is ridiculous.

Other Noteworthy Things


Discussed At The Hearing Prof. Ben Gershman recounted, both with nostalgia and wistfulness, a time gone by when he worked as a prosecutor, when a defendant was found not guilty, the District Attorney would call a meeting and want to know whether or not the office
had prosecuted an innocent man, because his office had no business prosecuting the innocent, and how far away the system had come from
that. After he said that, I sadly wished that this attitude had been the case in all jurisdictions, never to have fallen out of practice, and that it had been the case during all of the years in which I had fought to establish my innocence during my appeals process, and when I was requesting further DNA testing, with DA Jeanine Pirro fighting tooth and nail against me, which wound up costing me all of those years.

Prof. Gershman also advocated for a internal review program within the District Attorney’s of-fice itself, in which cases would be examined voluntarily, as something wholly apart from litigation, to ensure that only the guilty were in prison. I thought that this was a great idea, and would further shore up the idea that it is not the job of the prosecutor to do everything possible to win a conviction and then doggedly
fight to preserved it, no matter what, but instead to be a true seeker of truth as a court officer, dedicated to protecting the public, of whom
innocent defendants are a part.

Lonnie Soury, of Soury Com-munications, spoke at length of the corruption going on in the Marty Tankleff case, in which Marty is
currently serving a 50 year prison sentence based on a false confession obtained from him under circumstances very similar to mine. And,
how the discovery by a retired police detective, of 25 witnesses, all putting the puzzle together, proved who really committed the murder, as well as a host of improprieties by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, such as previously representing people involved in the Tankleff murder while still prosecuting the case and representing the detective who was found by a commission of investigation to have perjured himself in a prior murder case; still has not proven to be enough for the prosecutor or the courts to either acknowledge that a wrongful conviction occurred or at the very least to grant Marty a new trial.

The topic of having an Office of Wrongful Convictions was also discussed. Its purpose would be to study wrongful convictions, determining
what went wrong, and what lessons might be learned in order to prevent reoccurrence. The discussion centered on whether it should be within the Governor’s cabinet or outside of it. One of the Assemblymen mentioned that the Governor would like it to be within his office. William Hellerstein gave the point of view that the office should be outside of the Governor’s office in order to keep the office objective and free from in-fluence. His point was that that since the Governor has a background of being a prosecutor and attorney general, an in-house office would lend itself to more access and inclination to prosecutors and police than to defense counsel, and that relationships and trust that naturally form over time could impact upon objectivity.

Scott Christianson, Ph.D, author of the book Innocent: Inside New York Wrongful Convictions, which is the only book dedicated specifically to the subject, includes some cases wherein the defendant was still incarcerated at the time but would go on to be cleared after
the book’s publication. He recounted how one of the problems with wrongful convictions and the difficulty of undoing them is the unwillingness of those in power to acknowledge when a miscarriage of justice had taken place. He mentioned how an unnamed official
once bragged about how, in their county, there was a 100% conviction rate, and that there were no wrongful convictions in New York.

All in all, I was pleased that everybody who spoke was against the one-year time limit for the bringing of 440.10 appeals, and that so many
people were concerned enough that they came. I was disappointed, however, that there was not similar universal support for the expansion of the DNA Databank. I had hoped for the expansion of the databank, and the adoption of other changes spoken of and long-championed by The Innocence Project.

I came away with the sense that the one-year time limit, changed on the hearing day to three years, would not pass because the assemblymen
and women realized the lack of wisdom inherent in such a law, and how it ignores the hard-learned lessons of history about such matters,
gleaned on the backs and sufferings of those who had been wrongly convicted and served lengthy prison sentences.
Our Readers Respond...

A Father’s Desperate Plight



Dear Editor:


I’m a parent of two young daughters, 6 and 8, one of whom is in the first grade. Their mother and I are divorced, and she has remarried and
has been granted residential custody. I recently received the following note from my daughter’s first grade teacher:


“Right now I am just trying to get her to stay ‘in this world’ without aliens, nightmares etc. Children are shying away again and she’s not in
a good place. That’s just my thought. If something changes, I’ll let you know.”What would you do if a teacher with over 20 years experience wrote this to you about your child?

What if you were powerless to help your child or the teacher? If the school sent notes home to you saying that your 6-year-old
child was spitting at, and hitting children on the school bus, what would you do?

If you received notice that there was an attempted abduction of your child from a school gym by a man in a black ski mask and your child
struggled to break free, what would you do? If your 6-year-old child came home and said that two first grade boys threatened to cut her throat with a razor blade the following day at recess, what would you do?

If you learned that your ex-spouse and her partner began hitting your child when she was 3 years old child with a wooden spoon as punishment for not coming to the dinner table on time, what would you do? Would you call CPS (Child Protective Services), go to court, call the police? What would you do if your child was subjected to over 20 interviews between the ages of 4 and 6 by just about every agency imaginable, DSS, CPS, doctors, forensic doctors, nurses, detectives, state troopers? Would you put your child into therapy? What if I were to tell you that I had four charges lodged against me by my ex-spouse, all of which were determined to be unfounded?

If you would like the answers to these questions you’ll have to ask the following people in the Westchester Court System: Ken Bunting, James Montagnino, Judge Edlitz, Judge Donovan, Gregory Salant, Rhona Bork, John Ruti, John Rubin, Judge Ratner, Judge Cooney, Judge Leibowitz, Sal Lagonia, Joan Iacono, Harriet Weinberger and others.

For four years my children and I have endured absolute horror at the hands of the Westchester Supreme Court - Matrimonial Part. I have
sat in court and endured Law Guardian Ken Bunting and former Referee James Montagnino making jokes about my children being hit. I have
been coerced, manipulated, and abused. I have watched witness tampering, forgery of court-subpoenaed documents. I have been denied counsel and forced into bankruptcy. I am on the verge of losing my home, the marital home. This is the home my children were born into.
I have spent two years trying to get my children back into therapy that was ordered by the Supreme Court. The accuser, their mother, refuses to bring my children to the therapist. After retaining yet another lawyer, John Rubin, at a cost of over $7,500 merely to fend off more absurd allegations by my ex-spouse, I once again tried to secure therapy for my children before Family Court Judge Edlitz. As a result, another “attorney-only conference” was held and another ludicrous decision with regard to my children’s welfare was generated.

Bill G.



More Kudos

Dear Editor:



Keep up the good work! Joe Pulitzer’s climbing out of the grave and coming over with a prize for the publication’s outstanding value as reporting Justice and its lack thereof.

Richard Gosselin, Jackson Heights



Editor’s Note: Thank you!

The Battle of Mount Vernon

Dear Editor:


Excuses! Excuses! Excuses! That’s all you get from corrupt Ernie Davis and cronies like Joan K. Battle who wrote the latter in the June 14 edition. Hey, Battle, if Ernie Davis isn’t corrupt why is the U.S. District Attorney and the FBI investigating him for taking federal money? Answer that.

Oh, I’m sure you go along with Davis’ excuse that the U.S. District Attorney and the FBI are conducting a political witchhunt. The investigation is the best thing the federal government can do for the people of Mount Vernon to clean out all of the corrupt politicians who enslave and oppress the people with high taxes, high crime, dirty streets, poor schools, no future for the youth. They grab everything for themselves, their families, their cronies – cronyism and nepotism is rampant.

This Battle person said she was an Assistant Property Manager for Levister Towers. I bet she had no experience. She probably got this as a no-show job because she was politically connected to Davis and Serapher Con Halevi. What a disgrace that the poor residents of Levister Towers had to pay high rents for her no-show salary. Her payback? Write a letter for Davis and Con Halevi. No more excuses. They all need to be in handcuffs.

Concerned Resident, Mount Vernon

Reader Responds to Judge Lange’s Column

Dear Editor:


Your paper has been a much-needed breath of fresh air ever since the first issue. I enjoy your features, including the informative articles by retired Judge Kenneth Lange.

But in his otherwise fascinating coverage of the September 21, 1938 hurricane, he states incorrectly that “Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia” on September 22nd. It’s true that most people’s attention was distracted from the hurricane by the threat of a new war in Europe, but September 22nd is significant only because the Munich conference began on that date. It ran for a week, and ended with Britain and France (Czechoslovakia wasn’t even represented!) giving in to Hitler’s threats and recognizing Germany’s “right” to annex Czechoslovakia’s mostly
German-speaking Sudeten border area.

In effect, Czechoslovakia was abandoned, and had to agree to Germany’s occupation of the Sudetenland, which took place on October 1st without armed resistance. By March 15, 1939, Czechoslovakia--- already gravely weakened by the loss of the Sudetenland, the Munich pact’s requirement that she demobilize most of her armed forces, and the desertion of her main allies, Britain and France---was helpless to resist Hitler’s demand that she allow Germany to “protectively” occupy her two western provinces, Bohemia and Moravia.

That occupation took place on March 15th, again with no armed resistance. So I don’t think it can be said that Hitler ever invaded
Czechoslovakia, and in any case not on September 22, 1938.

Al Raymond,

Croton on-Hudson


In Our Opinion...


Anybody Seen George Pataki Lately?

We haven’t heard anything lately from George Pataki. Wasn’t he running for President? We seem to recall an exploratory committee and fundraising effort headquartered in Virginia. And, didn’t he open an office, with great fanfare, in downtown Peekskill sometime back in December? A check with the phone company revealed no number at either location. A Yale graduate, with a law degree from Columbia, George seemed to offer such promise when he moved into the Governor’s Mansion, having defeated three-term Governor Mario Cuomo. He entered with the promise that, unlike Mario, he would only serve two terms. It would be eight years before the People of New York would discover how hollow that commitment was. But, there were harbingers very early on that his performance would fall far short of his rhetoric.

That’s not to suggest that he didn’t keep any of his promises. He brought back the Death Penalty as promised, and eliminated vocational and college education in the penal system. However, he did parole some inmates early; those whose father’s contributed five million dollars. He balanced his budget, as promised, albeit on the backs of the physically and mentally disabled and the elderly infirm. After all, he needed to make cuts somewhere, didn’t he?

In 2002, after he had been governor for two terms, Andrew Cuomo decided to run against him, even though Carl McCall was the Democratic Party’s favorite. Cuomo, taking some bad advice from his campaign director Josh Isay, attacked Pataki for how little he had done in response to the World Trade Center disaster, characterizing the Governor as having, “held Giuliani’s coat.” Perhaps Andy might of fared better had he, instead of pointing to what Pataki hadn’t done, pointed to all the wrong he had done.

George Pataki distinguished himself amongst governors of New York State, by bringing a new dimension -well, maybe not an entirely new dimension - to state government, but clearly, a lot more of it: Corruption. From Day One George made no secret about the kinds of characters he would be appointing to high state office, and giving sweet deals to. For five years, until he was convicted of massive tax fraud in Federal Court, in June 2000; Al Pirro was repeatedly referred to, by Pataki, as his “best friend and fundraiser.”

Pirro, in his capacity as a lobbyist, walked away with numerous sweetheart deals for himself and his clients, as did many other Pataki insiders. At the same time, Pataki had a penchant for appointing some of the most criminal, and scandalous individuals, many of them Peekskill cronies, such as Robert Boyle who, together with Al Pirro, had ripped of the Hudson Valley Hospital Center, and who was forced from office in disgrace over the Javits Center Scandal while he was Chairman of the Port Authority.

Then there was Jack Gaffney, former Supervisor of the Town of Cortlandt, and father-inlaw of Kieran Mahoney, Pataki’s campaign director. Gaffney, appointed to a $138,000- a-year position as Chairman of the State Bridge Authority, first investigated by the State Inspector General, was ultimately indicted and prosecuted, and forced from office by Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams, for some $188,000 in over-charges, charges for personal travel, and false charges for compensatory time.

As time went on the rampant corruption, and blatant failures of the Pataki Administration; the World Trade Center paralysis, the starved up-state economy, the inability to pass a budget on time, and run-away taxes, highest in the nation, came to be viewed as the Pataki Legacy by most New Yorkers. The notion that he could seriously suggest he was seeking higher office, the Presidency, seemed ludicrous, even more so than his ‘comb-over.’ Nevertheless, there were numerous trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, states with early presidential primaries, to “test the waters.”

All that presidential campaign talk has somehow faded to silence. Nobody has seen, much less heard from, George Elmer Pataki in months. Maybe, just maybe, his pollsters discovered that the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and elsewhere decided that, if elected President, he might do for them what he did for New York.

Janet Difiore.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Pirro-Gate: No One Is Above The Law

As with another power-hungry wrongdoer, who severely abused the authority entrusted by those who elected him, Richard Nixon, tape recording her own misconduct, and that of her co-conspirators, may very well contribute to the ultimate complete exposure and successful prosecution of Jeanine Pirro. And, more importantly, may provide new evidence helpful in the exoneration of numerous victims of her extreme prosecutorial misconduct, and that of many of her assistant DAs, as well as others under her control, operating under the color of law.

The continued existence of tapes that Pirro had ordered destroyed by one of her investigators, was brought to light only recently in connection with the Anthony DiSimone case. DiSimone, who was released from Greenhaven State Prison a few months ago by the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, on a habeas corpus petition, had compelled District Attorney Janet DiFiore to reveal the existence of 376 pages, and 52 boxes of exhibits, all Brady material, exculpatory evidence, clearly pointing to the fact, from the outset, that DiSimone
was not the murderer of Louis Balancio. DA DiFiore was also compelled to reveal to his defense attorneys that there was even “more Brady
material,” a box filled with secretly recorded tapes that, amongst other things, contained conversations between Pirro, her top level deputies Clement Patti, and Steven Bender, in telephone communication with a top level Assistant United States Attorney, with regard to the Balancio murder and prosecution.

It was no coincidence that at least one of those taped conversations occurred on December 18, 1997. In fact, in December of 1997 then-United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, cleverly “leaked” to Al and Jeanine Pirro the fact that they were both under investigation by her office for a massive, joint, ten-year tax fraud scheme. Whether it was merely a precautionary move, in light of the tip, or more likely, an affirmative attempt to entangle White’s Office in her prosecutorial misconduct, for possible later use as a bargaining tool in dealing with the federal prosecution she feared she and Al might soon face, the recently re-elected Westchester DA
wasn’t letting any control opportunity pass her by.

Not unlike Richard Nixon, who had won his second term by a landslide against George Mc Govern, Pirro, in December, 1997, had just been re-elected to a second term by a two-to-one plurality, albeit, in a fixed race. She was entering her fifth year as DA, at the top of her game, the center of the cabal in total control of Westchester, having already sent numerous innocent indi-viduals to prison for crimes that she knew very well they had not committed, including Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo, convicted only weeks earlier for Depraved Indifference Murder, having saved his middle-aged father’s life from a bat-wielding violent assailant with a long criminal record. Emboldened by her conviction of Officer DiGuglielmo as the result of extreme prosecutorial misconduct, she was now convinced that she could not only
“indict a ham sandwich,” but also convict it. Constitutional rights, the Rule of Law, to Pirro, were mere technicalities. Even a confession from the actual killer of Louis Balancio, six days after his brutal stabbing by Albanian youth, Nick Djonovic, in February of 1994, wouldn’t stop her from inventing a scenario more politically useful, to prosecute an Italian, preferably someone, somehow, connected to Organized Crime.

She would not be deterred from her evil mission, not even by more than two dozen witnesses, young men and women who were present inside and outside the bar, the murder scene, who refused to lie for her. She would send many of them to prison on trumped-up charges, as she pursued that someone, amongst the crowd, having been involved in the rumble on the sidewalk outside the “bucket of blood” - the Strike Zone Bar - in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, Central Avenue, Yonkers. One way or another Jeanine Pirro was out to establish that she could prosecute Organized Crime. And, the fact that the Assistant United States Attorney she was tape recording was telling her, and two of her top deputies, that there was significant evidence that Balancio was murdered by Nick Djonovic, who had escaped to Albania, was not going to alter her plans.

We know there are many tapes, and that not all that was recorded by Pirro necessarily involved criminal investigations. Several current, and former, public office holders, including many judges, as well as political operatives such as Giulio Cavallo, Larry Schwartz, Anthony Mangone, and numerous other co-conspirators had routine telephone access to her. They are now experiencing high anxiety knowing that they were taped, and that those tapes have fallen into the hands of federal investigators.

The Feds have good reason to be very upset with former DA Pirro. After all, she swindled the FBI into putting Nick and Darren Mazzarella, two multiple murderers, who were in federal custody, into the Witness Protection Program in exchange for Darren’s perjured testimony against Anthony DiSimone. Hopefully, they will diligently investigate not only her transgressions against them, but also her horrific prosecutorial misconduct against scores of innocent individuals, conduct, compared to which Michael Nifong was a “choirboy.”

It is understandable that Pirro has very likely already been indicted by sealed indictment, and that the Government is in no particular rush to reveal their hand to other possible targets by unsealing it. Still, for those who languish in prison cells, convicted of crimes they did not commit, and for those who have already done their ‘hard time’ and emerged, the announcement of Mrs. Pirro’s indictment cannot come soon enough. They know that 376 pages, and 52 boxes, of withheld and concealed Brady material was not the exception under DA Pirro, but the rule. Pirro and many of her top assistants, much like Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, and crew, simply did not play by the rules.

Given the existence of the Pirro tapes; numerous tapes; in the interest of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office has a clear obligation to turn copies of them over to defense counsel whose clients are engaged in the appeals process, as relevant discovery, if called upon to do so. It is fair to say that Michael Garcia had no idea as to the scope and depth of the corruption and the injustice that would emerge in response to his ‘tip line,’ 1-877-363-4723. However, having secured additional staff, Mr. Garcia, must now proceed full throttle to aggressively apprehend and prosecute all who have committed crime, and, particularly those who have violated the civil rights of innocent individuals
under the color of law.

Jeanine Pirro, and her henchmen, and co-conspirators, must come to understand what Richard Nixon and his pack learned more than thirty years ago. No one is above the law!

Janet Difiore.

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Hendrick Hudson High Seniors Arraigned on Felony Charges
Cortlandt Town Court, Cortlandt Manor
Town Justice Gerald Klein Presiding


Last Monday morning 19 seniors from Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose appeared in Cortlandt Town Court for arraignment before Town Justice Gerald Klein, the result of a ‘senior prank’ that somehow garnered a more harsh reaction from the school administration, and police, than the kids had anticipated. The prank, involved some 67 inexpensive wind-up, butterfly shaped, alarm clocks that were all set to ring at the same time, the previous Monday morning. They had been planted all over the high school, on walls, and in lockers, held in place with duct tape, by students who had gotten into the school late Sunday night, June 10th. Picked up on motion detectors, their activity quickly brought police with bomb sniffing canines to the school. The youngsters, all charged with 240.61 of the Penal Law, Placing A False Bomb or Hazardous Substance, a Felony, were accompanied to court by their attorneys, their parents and other family members, as well as several uncharged schoolmates, who had come to support them.

Despite the large turnout, Justice Klein managed to quickly complete the arraignment proceedings for all but two of the youngsters, who had failed to bring legal representation, and, who required assigned counsel. Following the arraignment, a group of six seniors, young men and women who had come to support their classmates, told The Guardian, “Nobody could have taken the butterfly alarm clocks seriously. They weren’t made up to look like bombs, or anything dangerous. They were just supposed to ring at the same time.”

A mother of one of the charged students, who had just come from the courtroom, seemed to express the sentiments of several parents, declaring, “They’re not punishing the kids; they’re punishing us. We had to go out and hire lawyers, and lose time from work. They’re over-reacting to what they, (the kids) did.”

White Plains Attorney Peter Goodrich, a former Westchester Assistant District Attorney, who represents one of the charged students, told The Guardian, “It was a total over-reaction to have charged these youngsters with a felony once they discovered they were harmless clocks. They knew there was no malicious intent, just a senior prank.”

Proceeding to the high school, The Guardian met with Youth Resource Officer Velez, a New York State Trooper, who indicated that he knew the students. He told us, “They are good kids. They just made a poor decision.”

Analysis

Most observers are in agreement that the youngsters involved in the Hendrick Hudson High senior prank have been over-charged and dealt
with too severely. Given the fact that there was never any attempt to imply that there were bombs, or any explosive devices, but merely to have the alarm clocks all going off simultaneously on Monday morning, it is apparent that there was really no malicious intent. Furthermore, the fact that those involved voluntarily turned themselves in and, also, that classes were conducted Monday morning, June 11th, without interruption, should have mitigated for a lesser charge.

The students involved will not be allowed to attend their graduation ceremony, a painful consequence in itself. Perhaps a better course of action might have been to couple their absence from their graduation with a mandated forty hours, or so, of community service.

Hopefully, District Attorney Janet DiFiore may be persuaded to reconsider the impact that having been charged with a felony will have upon the future prospects of so many basically decent kids, and will opt for the more constructive, and reasonable, community service approach. Surely, no good purpose can be served by causing so much more in the way of judicial, prosecutorial, and parental resources, to be expended, than has already been, should the District Attorney’s Office persist in its pursuit of felony charges against these youngsters.

After all, had the same prank been attempted just six years ago, prior to 9/11 and, prior to some of the high school and college incidents that
have spawned the hyper-reactive mentality with which many now approach any departure from routine at any public gathering place, these
kids, now facing felony charges, and 1½ to 4 years in prison, would merely be experiencing the embarrassment of having had their senior prank foiled, and the pain of missing graduation.
Lesnick Access Concept Moves Forward With Ridge Hill Task Force Appointment Mary Ann Crotty, Director of Operations & Policy Management Under Former Gov. Mario Cuomo, Hired As Manager

Last Monday, June 18, members of the inter-municipal Ridge Hill Task Force gathered on the southbound shoulder of the Sprain Brook Parkway, just south of Jackson Ave., site of the proposed access ramp to the Ridge Hill development to announce the appointment of Mary
Ann Crotty as Manager. Under the terms of agreement between the Town of Greenburgh, the Villages of Ardsley and Hastings-on-Hudson and the municipal and corporate entities engaged in the development of Ridge Hill Village, a Task Force consisting of representatives of each of the villages, the Town of Greenburgh, the City of Yonkers, and developer Forest City Ratner, were charged with employing a manager to assist with the investigation of a potential Sprain Brook Parkway access as well as the obtaining of the necessary local, state and federal
approvals. Ms. Crotty, with more than 25 years’ experience in the public and private sectors, at one time serving as the New York State Assistant Secretary of Transportation involved with funding, additionally brings a decade of experience with a major engineering rm where she worked on implementation of global transportation projects.

Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick, who has advocated for the Sprain Brook Parkway access right along, expressed his delight with Crotty’s appointment, declaring, “I worked with Mary Ann Crotty on several New York State Transportation Bond Act projects during Governor Cuomo’s administration and, if anyone can identify funding sources, and coordinate among governmental agencies, utilities
and engineers, she can.”

Not too coincidentally, former Governor Mario Cuomo has simultaneously been retained, at no fee, to serve as a Special Advisor to the Task
Force. Mary Jane Shimsky, Task Force member and community activist from the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson, expressed her delight with Cuomo’s involvement, stating, “He would not get involved with the project unless it was important to the region and had a reasonable likelihood of success.”

The project, which has encountered some frustration in negotiations with the County regarding access over County parkland, despite recent disparaging remarks by Larry Schwartz, would nevertheless appear closer to fruition in light of comments by County Executive Andrew Spano, who said, “I look forward to working with Mary Ann Crotty and Governor Cuomo to reach a consensus on a plan that bene ts all citizens of Westchester County.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

We Must Keep Child Protection Laws From Becoming Tools of Family Harrassment

Editor’s Note: In a County and State already heavily encumbered with social legislation, at times apparently intended to protect us from ourselves, it is essential that those entrusted with such authority employ
reasonableness and common sense in sufficient measure if well-meant laws are not to become vehicles of harrassment and wrongful prosecution. Likewise, such legislation must anticipate misuse and contain the necessary preventative safeguards.

Assemblywoman Paulin’s Bill on Child Abuse Passes Assembly and Senate

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin to improve the procedure for reporting child abuse passed both the Senate and the Assembly and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Spitzer.

“This legislation strives to make the process as efficient as possible,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “The person most directly observing the abuse, or its results, is the most able person to report the claim.”

This new bill, if signed into law, will amend the current Social Service Law by requiring teachers and other professionals who interact directly with children to report suspicions of child abuse, mistreatment or neglect, directly to the state agency. After the report has been made, the reporter must inform his or her supervisor and both the reporter and the supervisor will be listed as contacts for the State’s investigation.

In the past, teachers were required to report suspicions to their principals and it was left to the discretion of the principal as to whether or not the State Central Registry was contacted.

“In attending public hearings all over the state I learned that teachers were reporting suspicions of child abuse to their supervisors but the supervisors were not necessarily reporting these incidents to the State Central Registry.” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “With this new legislation teachers who have suspicions of abuse call the State directly; they see something, they report it.”

Additionally, this legislation protects professionals who report a claim under the New York State Labor Law from having retaliatory action taken against them. Also, the bill clarifies the list of professionals who would be responsible to report such claims. It specifies “school officials” to include teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists or social workers, school nurses, and administrators. Other responsible professionals outside the school district include physicians, mental health care providers, police officers, and various care givers.

Dr. Barbara Bernstein, Co-Chair of the Westchester Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, has been a strong supporter for this bill. “Mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect play a powerful role in protecting vulnerable children. By bringing to light situations of abuse, these circumstances can be investigated, and where appropriate, services and protections put into place for children. This task force has advocated for legislation to clarify the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters and we are delighted that this bill does so while also protecting reporters. These changes should ease the process of reporting, which in the long run, will serve our children.”

A New York Mets Fan

A little boy in the Irvington school district just turned seven years old. Most seven-year-olds jump, flip, run and fall, and never worry about the outcome. However, this little boy, although physically able to, has a stress most of
us will never know. The Irvington School District has singled him out. Let me explain. Joey loves the Mets - he knows a great deal about the Mets and can easily hold his own in any conversation about them. Other than his outspoken love for the Mets he is a quiet, shy and playful child.

It all started a few months ago when Joey was playing with me (his mom), and his sisters. I went to grab for him and scratched his face accidentally. A few days later Joey told me that his teacher asked him, as he was getting on the school bus to come home, how he had gotten that scratch. He innocently replied, “Oh, my mom scratched me” and proceeded to get on the bus. Child Protective Services was soon at my home. While I was very upset, I, nevertheless, allowed them full entry and full range in speaking with all my children. I have four children who are all in the Irvington School System.

I went to the school that evening and spoke with the principal, Mr. Joseph Rodriguez. I asked what happened and why the matter was handled so poorly. His explanation was that it was a judgment call on the teacher’s part. I cried, and asked him how someone with little knowledge about my child or my family could determine abuse. It was only the beginning of the school year. They never asked Joey to explain what happened and never asked how it happened. He didn’t lie. I did do it, but purely accidentally. The shocker is that the teacher at the time, Ms. Dempsey, reported to Child Protective Services, “Joey was smacked so hard by his mother that it left open wounds on his face.” The only mark was a scratch the size of a pea, no bruising, no swelling, no welts, just a small scratch.

This was an outright lie and an absurd exaggeration by an inexperienced teacher. When I spoke with Mr. Rodriguez, I explained that I am not comfortable with Joey’s teacher. She accused me of harming my child without any facts to back it up. I wanted Joey out of her class. Mr. Rodriguez, understanding my position, switched Joey the next day to Ms. Warager. After a two month investigation, it was noted that the complaint was “unfounded” and it was dismissed. Time went by, and all through the year Joey would come home and say his
teacher would ask him questions about other scratches or booboos he had. How naive was I to think that the harassment would stop even with a new teacher? It was soon to be his 7th birthday and to no one’s surprise it was going to be a Mets theme. He wore a large Mets tattoo on his face that covered his whole right cheek.
He fussed when I told him he could not go to school with the tattoo. But, because it was his birthday, I gave in and let him wear it one more day. He went to school with it on and the teacher, as well as all of his classmates, could not have missed it. After all, if they can see a small scratch on his face, they simply could not miss this huge Mets tattoo. That day he came home from school and he was asked to wash it off and he did. He used a towel, wet the end and started scrubbing it off. He rubbed so hard he reddened his skin. It looked almost like rug burn on his cheek. When I came home from work, I asked him what happened and he said, “I scrubbed off my tattoo.” My response was “With what, sandpaper”? He said, “No, mom a towel.” I asked if it hurt. He said no and our night went on.

The next day I was at work and I received a phone call from Child Protective Services. They said they needed to come to my home again because of the mark on Joey’s face. Upon receiving this phone call I immediately called to speak with Mr. Rodriguez, the principal. I asked, “How could you do this to my child and my family again?” I was being profiled and harassed. His explanation was “a judgment call.” I asked, “Based on what? When Joey was asked about the mark what did he say?” The principal admitted Joey had told him he washed a tattoo off with a towel. So what was the problem? He also told the teacher the same thing. Are they calling Joey a liar?

Mr. Rodriguez said he didn’t see Joey the day before so he didn’t know if the tattoo was there. I replied, “Well his teacher was there. She saw it. Common sense would prove Joey’s story.” Mr. Rodriguez replied “Well I didn’t question Ms. Warager about that.” This is another example of poor communication and bad judgment on the part of both the teacher and principal. I hung up with him, finished my day of work stressed and upset, and went to pick up Joey.

Joey seemed upset when I picked him up from the after-school program. He said his teacher asked him what happened again and again, and even sent him to the principal’s office so he could see it. He told me he does not like to be sent to the principal’s office. He said he told his teacher that he washed his tattoo off with a towel but she kept asking him over and over. Child Protective Services came again that day and were allowed to go through the entire house, open every door in the home, interview every family member and again the complaint was “unfounded”.

Children and the elderly are often at risk for abuse. I am all for protecting children from harm. However, there are other factors that go into abuse and neglect. The Irvington School District and Principal Joseph Rodriguez
missed a few things. They should be mandated to routinely send inexperienced staff to attend classes on how to identify certain “flags” of child abuse. The school has a psychologist on staff. Why was she not consulted on this matter? She is a professional. Joey was never sent to see her once during the year. If it is suspected that Joey is being abused he should be sent to the psychologist for a professional opinion. This is blatant, unfounded harassment, bad judgment calls, and sheer lies. I would like an investigation that would reveal how many calls are placed by the Irvington School District, Dows Lane specifically, and what the odds are of one family being targeted twice within a few months of each other? Are other families visited when their child appears with bruises or scrapes? I have seen many children at the school with either stitches, casts or a brace. Was CPS called on these children as well?

If this is indeed the school’s policy, then the records will have to show multiple cases of abuse being reported. We cannot believe that Joey is the only 7-year-old child with a cut and scrape on his body. If the policy is to ask the child what happened and, even after the child states he did it, three times, to still report it to officials, there must be multiple records indicating this. How can the teachers decide which child is telling the truth and which child is not? They are only mandated to report, not to make a determination. So, therefore, every bruise should be reported. How do they determine which parents are abusive? Do they go by which parent they see all the time? Maybe they go by who volunteers more. Either way it’s a failing system. Either way people are given power to falsely accuse others and lie outright with no repercussions for their lies.

It’s not like Joey’s scrapes were so ‘out there’ that it should have even been considered suspicious. I believe the teachers are not trained to determine who is - so all injuries should be reported. This can be easily proven. Most importantly, what about little Joey? I watched the other day when he was at bat with his friends. He hit the ball and, while running to first base, fell and scraped his knee. He brushed it off as most 7-year-olds do. The following day it was time for school and when I took out his clothes he became upset. He refused to wear the shorts I had taken out for him. He began to cry and said he did not feel well enough to go to school. Only after a lengthy conversation did I find out he was scared that his teacher would question him and send him to the principal’s office.

He was afraid “they” (CPS) would come back and question him again and ask him if his mom hurts him. Joey said, “Why would a mommy hurt their kid? That’s so dumb. I don’t like them thinking that you hit me. You’re the best mommy.” The very system that was designed to protect children is causing them unnecessary pain and fear. I have requested a meeting with school officials because of the fear they have inflicted on Joey. You would think at the very least the school would be concerned enough to extend a phone call to the family to bridge the gap. At the very least the principal and teachers that saw fit to disrupt an entire family’s life twice would be concerned enough to follow up with a phone call or letter. How the principal and teacher are unable to make the connection that the interaction between school and family is vital to a child’s well-being and success is of great concern to us.

They have succeeded in Joey’s no longer liking school and being afraid to play because he might fall down. He worries about things like, “If I fall down and hurt myself my teacher is going to blame my mommy.”

Do you have a young child or grandchild? Just do a quick look over their bodies and ask yourself how you would like strangers coming into your home at dinner time, interrogating your entire family because inexperienced staff want to be heroes. The school’s actions have proven twice to be dysfunctional, false and not in the best interest of the child.

Natasha Clewell, Irvington
Our Readers Respond...

Facts of War

Dear Editor:

Nations, including mid-Eastern countries, have been sending their young, uneducated and unemployed men to wars throughout history so they wouldn’t be rioting and starting revolutions at home.

Now the radical Islamic countries, funded by oil-rich billionaires, are using their young men and women as suicide bombers against the “decadent” West, especially the United States. Meanwhile, the moderate Muslims throughout the world seem paralyzed by these murderers who kill in the name of Allah while living among the moderates.

A Pew Research Center survey of Muslims, released on May 22, 2007, stated that 22 percent of them supported violence and suicide bombings. Muslim leaders do speak against these extremists but the
networks must give them access on a regular basis to denounce the use of violence, using Islam as an excuse.

This “holy war” didn’t start with the war in Iraq or on 9/11. There were attacks against the West since the 1980s but the U.S. retaliation had been mediocre and feeble. Whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not, the Bush administration decided it was time to - ght these Islamic radicals outside the United States and in
their own countries. When the troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan, the murderers will follow them to the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

The Iraqis were given the opportunity for freedom and an elected government with laws, an open court system, and an economy based on contracts but they chose corruption and sectarian slaughter. Millions of Iraqi men are leaving their country instead of fighting for a new way of life. Some are attending college in the West while Americans are dying in Iraq.

Americans are at a distinct disadvantage in Iraq. e U.S. hasn’t won a war since World War II* and, although victory will be claimed, success doesn’t seem achievable, according to the generals in charge.

Young Americans, in order to get a college education, will sell their “pound of flesh” to Shylock (the military) possibly after viewing a “peace-keeping, feel-good” commercial. Unfortunately, during their first day of training, these recruits find out the primary mission of the military is to kill the enemy. ey also aren’t told about the possible loss of limbs, eyes, and brain functioning, followed by inadequate medical care with long waiting periods at under-staffed Veterans Administration hospitals.

All wars end in larger governments and a greater, permanent loss of economic and personal freedoms, including illegal “stops and searches” of innocent citizens, bag searches in subways, the military with machine guns on trains and at stations, and extensive, personal humiliation at airports. Still, the public clamors for more “security.”

The solution might be an 85 percent turnout in the 2008 election, as the French recently achieved, and a vote for candidates who swear to starve this dinosaur government by cutting its food supply – TAXES.

Charles Roda, Mount Vernon

* Editor’s Note: e United States, in fact, accomplished its limited objective, winning the war (or Police Action, if you prefer) in Korea, having pushed the North Koreans back to the 38th Parallel.

Reader Responds to Advocate Column

Dear Editor:
Richard Blassberg asks, ‘what other choice did Officer DiGuglielmo have under the circumstances?’ He clearly did have another choice: Officer DiGuglielmo and his brother-in-law, having just subdued Charles Campbell, should have attempted to subdue him again, instead of firing three shots into his chest. They were able to wrestle him to the ground once, they should have wrestled him to the ground again.

Richard Blassberg does a disservice to Officer DiGuglielmo with such biased and emotional account of an event
he did not witness. By killing Charles Campbell, Officer DiGuglielmo took the law in his own hands and applied
the punishment that he deemed appropriate.

He’s a convicted murderer and deserves to spend a long time behind bars.

Robert Brisbane
New York City

Editor’s Note: Mr. Brisbane is clearly entitled to his opinion, and we welcome it. However, he would do well
to consider that Officer DiGuglielmo’s response was precisely what he was trained to do for 12 years as a police
officer, under the circumstances.

To suggest, as he does, that Officer DiGuglielmo and his brother-in-law, “were able to wrestle him to the ground
once,” and should have done that again, is to lose sight of the fact that, now, Campbell was in the act of using
a deadly weapon and, based upon the bullet entry points, as revealed at trial, was swinging at his victim when shot.

Clearly the jury that heard the case could not bring themselves to convict Officer DiGuglielmo of Intentional
Murder, or even Assault. His conviction for Depraved Indifference Murder was not supported by any evidence of that crime.

A Reader’s Well-Deserved Tribute To Doris L. Sassower

Dear Editor:

Flag Day, in which we Americans celebrate truth, honor and justice for all, was also the 16th anniversary of
the suspension of the license to practice law of Doris L. Sassower. Her contention that the Judicial Nominating
Convention as a method of choosing judges was fundamentally corrupt, has been validated as New York State must, this year, change from that method. I believe it has been deemed unconstitutional.

We have read several articles in The Westchester Guardian which detail corruption in the courts, particularly
as it pertains to women and Domestic Relations. The same is true of Putnam County.

Doris L. Sassower began her crusade to help women during her early years of law practice when she first saw
women devastated by former husbands who corrupted the process of divorce.

She later saw these same women become victims of corrupt judges, and said women, according to your articles,
suffer irreparable harm. They are continuing to suffer such harm. However, they no longer have the courageous
and ethical Doris L. Sassower to practice law on their behalf.

Ms. Sassower has been honored too many times over the years to mention. She was recently honored with the
Giraffe Award, and has been honored in the book Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1965.

Whereas, I am fully aware that many are too fearful to openly support her fight, I am also fully aware that
Doris L. Sassower is deserving of recognition for her long battle on behalf of women, ethics, and honor. Isn’t it
time we begin to redress the grievous wrongs that she has suffered? Might The Westchester Guardian honor her
achievements in some small way? To those of us who consider her a legend, and feel her life is a lesson in the
struggle for truth and honor, it would be deeply appreciated.

Eileen Redmond-White, Esq.
In Our Opinion...

We are surely living through a very interesting time, a period in which some of the most fundamental principles of our democracy are being overridden daily; as one overrides, when a computer does not follow a command,
indicating that a certain desired action does not conform to established rules. On the federal level much of what is passing for “okay” is driven by, and camou aged with, the so-called “War On Terror.” We are told that it is okay to detain and imprison United States citizens, and non-citizens alike, without bringing formal charges, or indictment against them.

We are told that the use of torture, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention, as pertains even to those who are labeled “enemy combatants,” is also okay. And, if it’s inconvenient, or too conspicuous to carry out torture here at home, we simply export the operation to foreign soil. In short, “ e ends justify the means.” e staunchest advocate on behalf of such unconstitutional behavior, of course, is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Here in New York we have a Chief Judge, Judith Kaye, who is now threatening to file suit, presumably against the State Legislature for not legislating pay raises for judges. Judges are taking bribes and going to prison. The
Matrimonial Part of the State Supreme Court is a scandal, with judges, law clerks, attorneys, law guardians, and forensic experts wringing every penny they possibly can out of the process, for the most part, catering to the spouse with the deepest pockets. “ The best interests of the children” be damned.

Cross the courthouse to the Criminal Part, and discover years of prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of statutes such as the Depraved Indifference Murder Statute, Brady violations and malicious prosecutions, unchecked,
and unpunished. Nevertheless, Judge Kaye’s focus remains on those pay raises. Imagine threatening to go to court to sue? Pray tell, what court would not be in con ict of interest in hearing such an action?
The Court Report
Richard Blassberg

Family Court and Supreme Court-Matrimonial Part


Judges Must Reconcile The Inequities Inherent In The Monied Litigant v. The Pro Se Litigant
Westchester County Family Court, White Plains Support Magistrate Rosa Cabanillas-Thompson Presiding

Wednesday June 13th Marc Warnock, and Suzanne Stephans, formerly Mrs. Suzanne Warnock, both of Irvington, appeared in Westchester County Family Court, White Plains, with regard to an Order To Show Cause filed by Mr. Warnock’s attorney, Clifford George Kleinbaum of White Plains. The purpose of the filing was to initiate compliance by Stephans with regard to child support payments she must now make to Mr. Warnock for their three children, ages 6,7, and 11, who are no longer in her “residential, joint legal and physical custody,” as of May 1, 2007.

The children who had resided with Stephans, their mother, for some five years, following Mr. Warnock’s departure from the marital household, and subsequent divorce, attend school in Irvington. Their residential, and joint legal and physical custody was taken from their mother, and given to their father who has remarried, as “sole legal and physical custody”, following a recent 13-day trial before State Supreme Court Justice William Giacomo. Giacomo who had initially stated from the bench, “These are great kids. They are doing great in school. They are healthy, and someone is obviously doing something right with these kids,” apparently had no problem, however, tearing them away from that “someone,” their mother, to accommodate the questionable
agenda of appointed Law Guardian Theresa Malach.

That mother, Suzanne Stephans, charged, “Malach did not have the best interest of the children, or their relationship with their father, and mother in mind when she wrongfully charged their mother with parental alienation.”

She added, “This has devastated our children.” According to Stephans the law guardian came to court with, and left with, her former husband, held private meetings with him outside the courtroom during their trial, and acted
as though she was Mr. Warnock’s private attorney, treating Stephans as the “enemy,” rather than maintaining neutrality between the opposing parents while working in the interest of the children.

Stephans, who appeared pro se, (representing herself) no longer having funds to retain an attorney, came out of last Wednesday’s court session concerned because the child support formula to which she will be held, for at
least two months before the next scheduled hearing, is outdated and inaccurate as pertains to her actual income. It was obvious to this reporter that Mr. Warnock’s high-powered attorney was behaving aggressively, almost belligerently, toward the mother of his client’s children, scarcely allowing her the opportunity to respond to his allegations. At one point when Ms. Stephans, who is employed full-time, attempted to inform the Court of the fact that she actually presently earns approximately $40,000, and not the $60,000, including bonuses, that she had once earned more than a year ago, Mr. Kleinbaum told the Court, “Perhaps she’s under-employed.”

Magistrate Cabanillas-Thompson acknowledged the financial hardship to Stephans that she was about to set in motion, but expressed her powerlessness to rectify so recent an order imposed by Supreme Court Judge William Giacomo, declaring, “I don’t have the jurisdiction or the authority to alter it.”
Article on Nader Sayegh:

“My Candidacy For Mayor of Yonkers Is Not About Politics, But About People”

– Dr. Nader Sayegh, Principal, PS 13

Nader Sayegh, who hopes to occupy the Mayor’s office in Yonkers City Hall this coming January, standing outside Public School 13 last thursday afternoon, declared, “My candidacy for Mayor of Yonkers is not about
politics, but about people,” as he tossed his hat into the ring.

Responding to reporters’ questions as to why he had decided to run for mayor, given his long and distinguished career in public education, Sayegh said, “Our children must respect education and law enforcement.

We must turn a new page, rejecting corruption and the politics that has been all about the highest bidder. We must refocus our priorities, recognizing that education is the key to our childrens’ future as well as the future
of our great city.”

Two years ago, the Rotary Club of East Yonkers, in bestowing the “Leadership In Education Award” upon Nader Sayegh, Principal of Public School 13, said, “Dr. Nader Sayegh, an outstanding administrator and a dedicated professional, has clearly demonstrated an incredible passion and commitment to empowerment through education. roughout his 32-year professional career as an educator and public school administrator, Dr. Sayegh’s understanding of the importance and value of a sound education has been his primary focus and motivation for the articulation of the District’s educational programs and its emphasis on curriculum and instructional
improvement.”

They went on to say, “Challenged by the diverse needs of the student population in this district, Dr. Sayegh displays a hard-driving, charismatic leadership. He is an urban educator who truly enjoys the challenges of an urban education. For Dr. Sayegh, every complex problem has a solution; triumph, in the face of adversity, is
the name of his game. Dr. Sayegh’s leadership focuses on constructive ways to solve problems inherent in every concern and issue.”

Rotary recognized Sayegh as a “proactive leader in many community based organizations,” including:

• The Spanish Foundation as a Trustee for more than 25 years;
• Helped in establishing the Yonkers Anti-Crime Initiative;
• Implementer of Drug-Free Zone policy in school communities;
• Planning the DARE program;
• Continuing Education Initiative for Adults;
• Parks Board Member over 15 years;
• Chairman of the City’s Parking Authority for 5 years;
• Member of Board of Directors, Yonkers General Hospital;
• Awarded by e March of Dimes for his service;
• Awarded by e American Red Cross for his service;
• Recognized by the Yonkers branch of the NAACP.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

DNA Expansion Proposal Considered by State Assembly Had Provisions Inconsistent With Justice.



by Jeffrey Deskovic




Introduction



Part 1





I had heard that there was going to be a hearing on strengthening the state DNA Database, and also that there was some sort of compromise in the works that would limit 440.10 motions to one year following conviction.





Such motions are intended to bring to the Court information that was unavailable at the time of trial and conviction, which, if known, would likely have influenced the verdict. I was concerned about the one-year limit, and the limitations that it would place on other people who are currently wrongfully convicted and who are attempting to establish their innocence. I therefore decided to attend the hearing before the Assembly Codes Committee, in order to both observe what was going on, and participate in the hearing by testifying from my own personal experience about the deficiencies and cracks in the system whereby the Innocent can be wrongfully convicted and have to overcome tremendous obstacles and difficulties undoing such convictions.





I often view myself as speaking on behalf of those whom I metaphorically left behind, but who remain in prison
wrongfully, unable to speak for themselves. I viewed this opportunity as an extension of that principle. There were a variety of different proposed changes in the way the code of criminal procedure works that were under consideration, as well as a variety of other related matters that the Assembly invited commentary on.



As part of Governor Spitzer’s proposal to expand the DNA Databank, those convicted of nonviolent isdemeanor crimes would be required to submit a DNA sample. I felt that this was a welcome change which could only increase the chances of freeing the wrongfully convicted. The reason is DNA Expansion Proposal Considered by State Assembly Had Provisions Inconsistent With Justice that when someone who is wrongfully
convicted requests a DNA test to compare DNA found at a crime scene with the databank, the larger the pool to compare against, the better the chances of a match, and thereby simultaneously demonstrating the innocence of the wrongfully accused, and the guilt of the real perpetrator.



When I was in prison, and was dreaming about having the DNA in my case compared against the databank,
hoping for a match, I realized just how much of a long shot it might be that the person who really committed the crime would have their sample in the Databank. I therefore wanted my lawyer to push to have the DNA not merely compared to those who were in New York’s databank, but also to those in the databanks of other
states, as well as the federal databank. My reasoning was that I wish to cast as large a net as possible to maximize my chances.





The strengthening of the DNA databank by increasing the samples available is a natural extension of this rationale. Additionally, strengthening the database can prevent wrongful convictions by increasing the chances that the real perpetrator will be arrested originally. Surprisingly, the expansion of the databank was not welcomed by all. Robert Newman, testifying on behalf of The Legal Aid Society Of New York City, although stating that including profiles from all persons convicted of crimes “would enhance to some degree the crime-solving capacity of law enforcement,” then continued, “However, we feel that in practice, this additional expansion of the Databank, following so quickly upon last year’s substantial expansion, would divert resources away from other crime-prevention efforts that promise more substantial benefits.”



My response was that anything, anything at all, which can aid in the proving of innocence as well as the prevention of a wrongful conviction, must be done. If it only saves one life, I think that, in and of itself, is well worth it. What price can we place on a man or woman’s freedom? To hold otherwise would be, in effect, to say
to someone who is wrongfully convicted, “You must stay in prison, unable to prove your innocence, because we are unwilling to spend the money needed to include samples from those convicted of misdemeanors, which could prove your innocence, because we don’t think it is worth it financially. But you understand, right?’



Also in opposition to expansion of the DNA Database was Professor Harvey Levine, of Queens College Graduate Center. His objection was two-fold: Firstly, that the nonviolent misdemeanors, most often consisting of smoking marijuana, represented crime at its lowest levels; and, secondly that African-Americans and Latinos were more likely to be arrested for non violent misdemeanors and therefore it would be mostly their DNA which
would be collected, and that therefore it’s a racist outcome.



As I see it, Levine’s arguments fail. Those who break the law and start out with low-level crimes often go
on to bigger and more serious ones. Marijuana is known as a gateway drug which can lead its users to more serious drugs, such as crack and heroin, which may then cause them to commit more serious crimes in order to support their habit. Use of the more serious drugs may cause them to commit crimes while in an altered state of mind. Steven Cunningham, for example, the perpetrator of the crime I served 16 years wrongfully for, was, in fact, a known crack user who said that he was high at the time he killed the victim. Therefore, the idea that all those who commit low level crimes are harmless and, by implication, that their samples are worthless is simply not true. Additionally, the implementation of the collection of DNA from all of those who are convicted of
nonviolent misdemeanors, is not racist because it calls for the taking of the samples from anybody, regardless of
race or ethnicity.



Robert Perry, representing the New York Civil Liberties Union, was also against the expansion of the DNA Databank. He argued that because human beings collect and analyze the samples, and because humans are fallible, the databank should not be expanded. If the crime lab does not use correct safety protocols to ensure that cross-contamination does not occur, or if mislabeling of the sample happens, this can lead to errors and false positives. He noted a couple of cases where issues such as contamination and mislabeling led to wrongful convictions, and felt therefore that if even more samples were obtained this would increase the error rate. There
are a variety of responses to this. While I agree that scientific protocols must be observed in order to obtain accurate results, this is true of any science. The occurrence, and correction I might add, through additional DNA Tests down the line which corrected the wrongful convictions, does not disprove the general theory. It merely shows that a safety feature could be built in requiring confirmatory tests by different labs in order to ensure the accuracy of results when DNA is used to prosecute defendants, just as third and sometimes fourth tests are utilized before anybody is released based on a negative showing.



Additionally, although there have been a few rare instances of false positives, there has never been a case of a
false negative, nor has there ever been a case in which defense witnesses testify to an exclusion while the prosecution testified to a match. In those couple of cases of wrongful convictions based on initial inaccurate readings, when the error was discovered, the accurate readout was confirmed by experts for the prosecution
so that there was agreement by both sides.




To not expand the DNA Databank because of a few rare false positives is to also say that DNA should never be used at all, which would have had the result of not obtaining the 2002 exonerations that have been achieved nationwide, including the approximately 30% of cases wherein DNA has not only shown innocence but has also shown the guilt of the correct party, often accompanied by admissions of guilt by the accused.



Further, if the idea to not use technology because there is a human element to it and therefore it is not perfect were applied across the board, there would be no invention or advancement ever used in any aspect of life.


Peter Neufeld, co-founder of The Innocence Project, which nationwide has helped clear 2002 wrongfully convicted people through DNA, stated, “Anytime lawmakers are weighing bills on DNA and the criminal justice system, the bottom line question is whether the reforms can prevent wrongful convictions, help people prove their
innocence more quickly, and improve public safety. Legislation introduced in the Assembly meets that test far better than the Senate proposal does. These are serious problems that demand serious action, and New York’s criminal justice system will best be served by the Assembly reforms.”


Shortcomings Of The Bill Unfortunately, there were other provisions in the bill which were very objectionable. For example, there was a one-year time limit provision, modified to three years by the time of the day of
the hearing, in which defendants would be able to file a post-conviction motion known as a 440.10, after which they would be time-barred. This rule was to apply to all non-DNA or newly discovered evidence claims. This rule is inconsistent with justice, truth, guilt and innocence. Everybody who spoke was against
this rule. Consider the following:


• In cases wherein there is misconduct by a prosecutor, a defendant would only have one year to bring this
issue forward;


• When it is discovered that a previous attorney knew about evidence but either did no investigation or else failed
to bring this to the court’s attention, such evidence would not be considered newly discovered because the prior attorney knew about it or the defendant knew about it, and therefore if the one or three years had passed, it would be too late.


• A defendant who discovers, more than a year after conviction, that the police or the prosecutor withheld evidence that by law they were supposed to disclose to the defense (Brady material), they would no longer be able to raise the issue.


• Sometimes The Court of Appeals adopts a new rule and decides that justice requires that it be applied retroactively to cases already in the system. A defendant who has already exhausted his appeals or has progressed beyond the state level, would no longer be able to raise the issue in court, thereby denying
him the benefit of the new rule.



With regard to the proposed time limit, I addressed several points before the Committee. I spoke of how being
time barred could lead to injustice, recounting how then-Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro had urged
the federal court to time bar me because my legal paperwork arrived 4 days too late, and how the court’s adopting of this position led to my continued incarceration.


I pointed out that it should make no difference how much time it has taken a defendant with scarce resources
and little, if any, legal representation to uncover that the prosecutor has illegally held back information which, by law, she should have turned over to the Defense. I then cited the case of Anthony DiSimone, who had
52 boxes of exhibits and 376 pages of statements from various witnesses indicating that another man committed
the crime other than he, would not have had a legal leg to stand on, since this was uncovered years later. I mentioned that the proposed rule was an example of putting procedure over fairness, truth, justice, guilt and innocence. Professor Bennett Gershman, of Pace University Law School, highly regarded former prosecutor, and author of the book Prosecutorial Misconduct, which is generally regarded as the definitive work on the subject, and frequent media commentator, speaking from his heart and with passion flowing from his voice, expressed how the inclusion of this time-limiting provision in a bill designed to strengthen DNA testing and access was undoubtedly the result of a compromise reached by the Governor with some prosecutors. Jonathan Gradess, of the group New York State Defenders Association, which provides research information to public defenders
who request it, when asked by the Assembly if such a time limit proposal has any place in a DNA expansion bill,
replied that it did not.



An additional problem with the bill as proposed was that it would limit defendants to the filing of only one 440.10, and that any additional motions filed would automatically have to be denied by courts without even looking at the merits of the issue. This would create several pitfalls inconsistent with justice.

First off, defendants have no right to a lawyer when filing a 440.10, therefore a lot of them have been prepared without benefit of a lawyer to argue and prepare them correctly. Defendants who have no means and are incarcerated, having no lawyer, often resort to filing petitions on their own, out of desperation. Often these
petitions are not argued correctly. If that same defendant then somehow manages to obtain a lawyer at a later date, that lawyer would be barred from filing a properly argued 440.10.

In addition, if a lawyer provided inadequate representation on a 440.10, this would kill the opportunity for a subsequent lawyer to file a new motion. Lastly, as Prof. Hellerstein, the director of The Second Look Program, which works to clear those wrongfully convicted who do not have a DNA issue, pointed out, the provision would make no distinction between frivolous and non-frivolous 440.10 motions. In other words, it would not matter how compelling the new facts or legal arguments in the second motion were, they would not even be looked at or considered by the court. Assemblyman Lentol, who chaired the hearing, chimed in, speaking to the absurdity of the rule, stated that the message being sent to those of scant legal and financial resources, if such a rule was adopted, was “You have one year, so hurry up.”
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

How Have Gene Tumolo & George Bolen Lived With Themselves All These Years?

We are all so familiar with the dodge that corporations and government, at every level, are so fond of invoking when we confront them with their failure to properly deal with us. “It was the computer,” they tell us. Or, perhaps when faced with claims of injustice, as with the courts, they’ll say, “It’s the system.” We are simply expected to accept the notion that somehow no one, no flesh and blood individual, really had a hand in the failure to do the right thing by us, and therefore no one can be held accountable.

I suppose to some extent, we must accept a moderate level of de-personalization as a by-product of our computerized culture, as with calls to the phone company, insurance companies, and even the local post office.
And, to some extent, being greeted by an automated answering service with a long menu of options is tolerable for the more mundane problems of day-to-day living. But, when it really matters, only a live voice from a real
person vested with authority, and bridled with accountability, will do. Yes, accountability, that element, that commodity, we see less and less of as time goes on. When did it become less important for a man’s word to be his bond? When did it become acceptable that the contract of our democratic government, the Constitution, both federal, and state, to which those acting under Color Of Law, have sworn their allegiance, be routinely violated in the name of expedience?

What is it that makes an individual entrusted with our liberty, our very lives, by our society - police officers, and prosecutors - think that they should not be held accountable for their intentional, knowing, and maliciously cruel, acts against us? What makes Peekskill Police Chief Gene Tumolo, and former Assistant District Attorney George Bolen, think they should not be held accountable for what they did to sixteen-year-old Jeffrey
Deskovic? Their acts, individually, and in concert with each other, as well as with others, calculated to send an innocent boy, whose DNA and hair follicles clearly did not match those found in, and on, a rape and murder
victim, to prison for life, cannot be excused, cannot go unaccounted for, cannot go unpunished, if we are to prevent similar atrocities. What Tumolo, who masterminded and ran the investigation, and Bolen, who prosecuted the case, did, together with Detectives David Levine, and Thomas McIntyre, as well as former Putnam County Sheriff ’s Deputy, and Polygraph Operator Daniel Stephens, was utterly despicable and
unlawful, and each must be held accountable for their role. Each must be made to pay for the vile and inhumane scheme they worked against an innocent, defenseless child.

It is absolutely essential that Tumolo, and Bolen, the prime movers in the unconscionable injustice that robbed sixteen years of his youth from Jeffrey Deskovic, and subjected him to an unspeakably cruel and difficult fate, despite DNA, and other evidence, clearly proclaiming his innocence, not be allowed to escape without accounting for, and paying for their misdeeds. To permit otherwise would only serve to encourage further
injustices, at a time when the New York State Legislature, and Governor Spitzer, have begun to act affirmatively to remedy years of police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Tumolo and Bolen are the penultimate poster-boys for everything that is wrong with our criminal justice system. They represent everything that all law enforcement and judicial personnel must rail against, and strive to purge from our midst. Not only did their evil scheme result in sixteen years of undeserved imprisonment and punishment for an innocent boy, but also the death of Pat Morrison.

State Senators and Assemblypersons currently engaged in writing legislation intended to reverse, and combat, wrongful prosecutions and convictions, must understand, based upon the Jeffrey Deskovic case, that what is needed is a two-pronged approach. The first prong involves legislative help for those innocents already imprisoned and struggling to achieve exoneration. Enhancement of the DNA Database, and the formation of a totally independent, Permanent Commission, to investigate, make legislative recommendations, and oversee the implementation, and adherence to said legislation, would be a good start. Jeffrey Deskovic, and Pace Law Professor Bennett Gershman, and many others have already weighed in on the matter.

However, the second, and equally important, prong involves the preventative aspect; the creation of powerful disincentives to ensure that police and prosecutors are not willing to risk engaging in the type of misconduct that has put so many innocent persons behind bars, and, in many instances, on Death Row, in the first place. Such disincentives must include both significant financial and incarcerative penalties and punishment, sufficiently persuasive to control even the most self-serving and mindless in the ranks of law enforcement. After all, how have Gene Tumolo and George Bolen lived with themselves all these years?
Our Readers Respond...

Mother Pours Her Heart Out, Revealing Court’s Destruction Of Her Family

Dear Editor:

I’m a Mother, self-represented in the Westchester County Supreme Court. For years I’ve been involved in an acrimonious divorce and recently I was before Judge La Tia Martin.

I’m compelled to express the excruciating pain I feel since my three children were abducted by their father in October 2006. I have not seen nor spoken with my children in over 235 days. The nature and extent of this occurrence clearly violates my State and Federal Constitutional rights.

Ironically, Judge Sandra Edlitz of Family Court issued a baseless temporary custody order, without any independent fact-finding or evidentiary hearing, that handed over the children to live with their abusive father, John Walter, only to be unlawfully extended again by Judge Martin, of the Supreme Court, without a hearing and absent the benefit of effective counsel to the Mother.

Over the past years, I have continued to litigate for the protection of my three children and myself under the most tumultuous conditions while permeated with fraud upon the Court that denied our procedural and substantive
rights and Equal Protection clauses. In part, I believe I am being victimized because I helped expose the improper practices by the Supreme Court Judges and referee James Montagnino which led to the “Historical
Rotation” in June 2006.

The father, John Walter, took the children from their home as a retaliatory strike only a few days after he was financially obligated by the Supreme Court under Judge John LaCava’s direction. Since that time he now claims I no longer am fit as the primary caretaker of the children. Moreover, recently Judge Martin overrode a recent Appellate Court order that financially obligates the father to greater child support and maintenance to me. However, the unlawful action taken by Judge Martin places more pressure that affects my economic stability and furthermore, erases all of the fairness that I courageously sought in the courts. The years of painful measures that I’ve undertaken to exhaust the channels of legal remedies throughout the protracted litigation, literally went up in
smoke, due to Judge Martin’s lack of judicial wisdom to view the adversarial motivation underlying the totality of the circumstances presented.

It was clear, Judge Martin was unfamiliar with any of the details of the paperwork I presented and did not exercise any judicial sense of fairness. The financial hardship that I had fought in spite of, for years, to restore and which was finally granted in part, by the Appellate Division, included substantial retroactive child support and extended maintenance to adequately provide for the children and myself.

Judge Martin’s failure to recognize the contempt order I filed in compliance to the recent Appellate Court order for retroactive non-payment of the father’s mandated child support, coupled with her unlawful order to suspend child support, has effectively given the father carte blanche to steal and obliterate the integrity within the judicial framework.

Moreover, Judge Martin improvidently acted by automatically eliminating the funds I use to pay normal and recurring expenses that maintains the VERY household I saved from imminent foreclosure. Although, the merits seemed clear, the father forced the issue, of not keeping the house, back to court before Supreme Court Judge John LaCava. In October 2006, self represented, I battled to protect against the father wanting the children out of the house because of his mistaken expectation that his obligation would cease.

After that legal defeat on October 10th, the father, John Walter, Sr., Executive of the Leukemia and Lymphoma
Society, with a W-2 for $245,000 in 2006, who resides on the Upper East side of Manhattan without the need to pay for rent nor car expense, took the children away from me on October 14th.

All rights to my children have been relinquished because of him and, clearly, he further shows no compassion, as this clever father, co-navigated by unruly attorneys, are unbelievably railroading the Court to also coerce me out of my home, jeopardizing my ability to reasonably subsist at all.

Further, both Judge Martin and Judge Edlitz have relied on the purported law guardian Gregory Salant, Esq., to advocate in the best interest of the children. Mr. Salant immediately aligned himself with the father at the time of the custodial interference in October 2006. Since then he hasn’t conferred with me on any matters concerning the children. I was suspect of this automatic alliance and learned that the alleged law guardian blatantly lied to the court about a conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety I had raised as an issue in court.

Had Mr. Salant told the truth about his actual role and association with the law firm, it would absolutely have been grounds of disqualification based on his inability to render independent counsel to my children. Both Judges have failed to recognize the heart of the matter since acceptance of the truth will completely compromise the integrity of the officer of the court and likely reveal such other systemic fraud and manipulation that permeates our Westchester legal system.

Ironically, based on my frame of reference, the only distorted course of action I can take is to use the court system again, and the legal abuse is underscored by a history of relentless battering and assaulting blows through the plight of a highly tainted administration of justice. Now I am challenged with torture to continue the endless nightmare of litigation without the benefit of counsel.

Indeed, the Judges would rather obliterate the truth of my devotion to the children and my dignity to protect our
rights and the consequences of the challenges than to confront the reality that the officers of the court are dishonest and have wrongfully led my children to believe that my disappearance is in their best interest.

The law guardian’s conduct is unconscionable. Mr. Salant, Esq’s duty, as a professional, must be scrutinized for his inappropriate appointment and involvement in this matter has caused improprieties that are robbing the best interests of the children from their 24/7, loving and caring mother simply because it favors the father’s financial interests, who clearly chose to take an inactive role during the children’s lives.

Moreover, Judge Edlitz failed to recognize the significant conflict of interest that exists in the history of my case with a former counsel Donna Abrams that affects the alleged law guardian working in the same law firm to act independently of the custodial and financial issues that pertain to my three children. Only recently was it revealed that the law guardian lied outright to Judge Edlitz of Family Court and to the public about his position (website
www.familycourtlawyers.com/) and association with the law firm stating previously to the Court that he was not a partner and worked independently whereas on his website it clearly establishes he is a partner and works closely with his father, Jeffrey Salant, another partner in the firm. Judge Martin refused to recuse herself regardless of the prejudice and bias she has clearly demonstrated against me in this case.

The father has improperly conspired with the direction of opposing counsel, Carl Stahl Esq’s bad-faith litigation and the law guardian to orchestrate provoked deliberations that led to the misrepresentations and extreme fact that falsely supports the father’s position. Opposing counsel’s practices underscore a history of grossly unlawful and unethical actions.

These illegal acts need scrutiny but come by no coincidence resulting from the association on my case between Carl Stahl, Esq and my former attorney, Joel Bender of Bender, Jenson, and Silverstein, LLC and James Montagnino, the former Special Referee of the matrimonial Part in the Westchester County Supreme Court.

Back in the spring of 2006, there was public attention to Mr. Montagnino’s bias and prejudice targeting
the at-home moms. Such inequities were manifested by stripping the non-monied spouse, often the stay-home mothers of their disproportionately allocated marital assets directed by the referee that inadequately provided for the needed care of their children and the mother.

Having read the recent article in the Westchester Guardian of the Debra Weissman vs Ronald Weissman case, it
proves to be just another example of the undue improprieties that are maneuvered by the very institution we place our trust in for fairness. One would expect uniformity in the Color Of Law but beware in Westchester, as there is no rule of thumb; the application of law belies on the thumbprints that choose to stay in line or those that go astray.

Moreover, the retaliation to the unauthorized loss of custody is reminiscent of the threat tactics used by former referee James Montagnino. I went out publicly in the New York Post last April 2006 to reveal Mr. Montagnino’s mindset of bias and prejudice, regularly shown inside and outside the courtrooms. Mr. Montagnino’s punitive measure for at-home moms was to routinely impute income regardless of the need to care for their young children and of the condition of their health.

Further, Mr. Montagnino wrongfully imputed income to me which evinces his will to go beyond gender bias by his prejudice of my national origin, too. Mr. Montagnino made it known in court that among the considerations for imputing income, was his view that despite my Cuban-born nationality, I did not have a trace of an accent and thus, not speaking with an accent was a determinant factor for my instant ability to be gainfully employed, retroactively from the time the father bolted out of the house, many years prior. The Appellate Division
reversed the imputed income.It took years of litigation, to finally get fairness at the Appellate Division and
now, the Supreme Court took both the support and the kids away. I continue to be embroiled in more litigation, totally injured with much less altogether. So far I’ve witnessed our legal system being governed by foul play under the guise of fair play, and the well preconceived monied litigant always wins.

Additionally, as in many cases, my matrimonial action has been legally tainted over the years, in part; the systemic
abuse of power has been due to malicious and capricious conduct, and rulings by the o cers of the court or by
acts in excess of authority. While unsure of the current status, I learned of a Federal investigation targeting the unlawful and criminal acts by the officers of the court that have resulted in the devastating tolls destroying families.

The purported law guardian is wrongfully acting as an agent of abuse by using his unauthorized power to usurp
my rights as a woman and mother to care for my three children. The law guardian refuses to permit my contact with the children, gave sole custody to the father devoid of any authority empowering him to do so and has had no contact with me, as the primary caregiver. Judge Martin has wrongfully ignored my rights and accepted the purported law guardian’s sole representation.

Further, Judge Martin has failed to recognize the protection of my rights to maintain a parent-child relationship and to prudently ensure that some level of contact is restored, a fundamental right that is even provided by law to convicted felons.

The inappropriate and harsh measures taken by the alleged law guardian and wrongfully supported by the Judiciary has denied me my Constitutional rights and has furthered the consequential damages caused by the intentional in-action of emotional distress and unwarranted financial pressures.

The obvious irretrievable injury to my three children and myself is a constant reminder of the continuous and immeasurable hardship that this wrongful notion of equitable distribution has generated over the years.

I so desperately need pro bono counsel willing to help rectify the systemic destruction of family as in this crucial
matter.

Margarita T. Walter, Somers

Reader Blasts Letter Writer

Dear Editor:

I would like to respond to the letter written by Concerned Resident, printed May 24, 2007 regarding the “truth” about Mount Vernon’s City Government. Like Concerned Resident I, too, am a resident of Mount Vernon and would like to shed some light on the Ernest Davis Administration.

Ernie Davis, whom I have personally known for many years, is not corrupt now nor has he ever been! It is time for the lies – dare I mention the despicable allegations involving the handcuff and ankle bracelet – to stop! If Concerned Resident is purportedly so concerned,why didn’t he expose the corrupt political officials while he was employed by the city? He is a coward!

I am very active in the political workings in Mount Vernon, and I am led to believe that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt, an attempt by Ernest Davis’ political opponents to throw dirt on his name and so conveniently
near the upcoming election. If you are truly concerned about the City of Mount Vernon, we should talk about issues rather than giving breath to unfounded rumors.

Additionally Concerned “Coward”, after reading your letter it was quite obvious to me that you really do not know Serapher Halevi. My relationship with Serapher began in 1990 when my granddaughter attended her school and continues presently as I work with her as a District leader and friend. Serapher is one of the most caring, loving and compassionate womenthat I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

To imply that one receives “payoffs” is slanderous and should be supported with actual evidence rather than egregious assumptions. To state that she receives a “payoff” after evicting tenants is a lie and, as a former Assistant Property Manager at Levister Towers, I know this first-handed. I would prefer to no longer
continue your use of the word “payoff” as you so evidently have no real understanding of the word.

If by “payoff” you mean bribe, by definition a bribe is an under-the-table money transaction meant to influence
the judgment of a person. It has never been a secret that Serapher’s daughter works for the City of Mount Vernon and that she receives a regular paycheck.

Since you were a former employee of the city, Concerned Resident, I will assume that you are familiar with the process. Furthermore, her son does not have a “no-show” job, but spends a great deal of time working at his office.

And, finally, Serapher did not give herself the nomination for the seat as County Legislator but she was encouraged to join the race by political officials, family and friends who believe in her character and know that she is qualified for the position.

I can make these statements wholeheartedly because I know and have witnessed them for myself. What I also
know is that you are gutless, too afraid to sign your name to the lies you made a conscious decision to write!

Joan K. Battle, Mount Vernon

Judges Must Not Be Litigators

Dear Editor:

Yes, scrutiny of judicial misconduct is an old story, and a long one. It has, in fact, a still growing list of culprits. Gerald Garson of Brooklyn Supreme Court, Michael Feinberg of Kings County Surrogate Court, Laura Blackburne of Queens County Supreme Court and now, with The Guardian’s reportage, it may well
appear to be growing even longer. In this adversarial system, the fight may be nasty, lengthy, and expensive, but it must be a battle between the litigants, those party to the war. This contest between the parties, in Debra C. Weissman’s recent account (Thursday, May 24, 2007), and most recently, the plaintive story of “Deepest Heart”, mother of three (Thursday, June 7, 2007) whose experience with the litigation process is fraught with blatant threat, coercion, and collusion, brings into the picture the pervasive shadow that clouds the transparency
of the process for so many, the phantom litigator, the Judge.

The judge is meant to be the referee who makes sure that the lawyers follow the rules of this war game and ultimately decides who wins and takes home the spoils. The judicial inclination to “move things along” still must be activated by the promulgated devised rules that govern the litigation process. Even the appearance of impropriety is not tolerated by this procedure and its rules. Even a decision before a hearing with “evidence”
is not tolerated by this procedure with its rules. Even the appearance of a coin flip or pocketed bribe is not tolerated by this procedure and its rules.

Public expectation and legislated Public Policy on procedure is that decisions from the Bench are based on
rules of substantive law that are “fair” and they should be made after observing a “fair” process. “Having your
day in Court” was meant to have meaning beyond front row seats in this theater of the absurd. The surreal outcome of inappropriate judicial influence by Justice Silberman mentioned in Ms. Weissman’s letter to Judge Jonathan Lippman is the tip of the iceberg.

The behind-the-scene deals brought into focus by the tried and convicted likes of Judge Garson and Judge Feinberg are felt painfully by many mothers like “Deepest Heart” and ex-spouses like Ms. Weissman.

Judge Ann T. Pfau has a full plate of bitter deals to chew on as replacement for Jonathan Lippman as Chief Administrative Judge. Sherrill Spatz, as investigator for Chief Judge Kaye, should be kept busy too.

As long as judges act as litigators in the trial process, without repercussions, the long and old and tired story will only grow more so.

Seen It All

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