Thursday, July 26, 2007

Janet Difiore.

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

An Actual Depraved Indifference Murder Case
Westchester County Courthouse, White Plains
Acting Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary Presiding

Last Tuesday Defendant Anthony Burton, whose extremely reckless act with a handgun claimed the life of Jessica Santos, 19, a beautiful, vibrant, college student August 27th, last year, appeared at trial before Acting Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary on a three-count indictment, charging him with Murder in the Second Degree, as Depraved Indifference Murder, carrying a sentence of 25 years to life. Jessica, a second-year student at the University of New Haven, had packed and was preparing to return to school when she drove to Yonkers in response to a friend’s desire to say goodbye.

Represented by Attorney Barry Warhit, of White Plains, Burton, who confessed to having fired the shot from the back seat of a moving car, that claimed Ms. Santos’ life, is contending that he was merely firing at the sign above the deli/grocery at the corner of Beech and Poplar Streets in the Nodine Hill section of Yonkers. Ms. Santos was struck in the upper chest by one of six bullets fired from a 25-caliber handgun, causing massive blood loss and death.

The first witness called by Assistant District Attorney Robert Prisco, was Yonkers Police Officer Zielinski, who had been on the job approximately six months when he was called to the scene at around 10pm August 27, 2006. Arriving at the corner of Beech and Poplar, Zielinski testified, “I saw Jessica Santos lying on the ground.” Asked what he did at the scene, Zielinski replied, “I helped tape off the crime
scene, and accompanied Ms. Santos to the hospital.”

ADA Prisco inquired, “What do you recall occurring?”

Officer Zielinski responded, “Emergency medical personnel were attempting to keep her alive.” He went on to describe for the jury how he had ridden with Santos and the emergency workers to St. Joseph’s Medical Center, remaining close to her in the emergency room as doctors and nurses struggled in vain to keep her alive, ultimately declaring her dead at 10:55pm. Following Zielinski’s direct testimony, Defense Attorney Warhit did not seek cross-examination.

The next Prosecution witness was recently retired Yonkers Police Of-ficer Mario Mazzi, who spent the last sixteen years of his twenty-eight year police career working in the Criminal Identification Unit of the Yonkers Police Department processing crime scenes.

ADA Prisco, having quickly established that Mazzi had been called to the crime scene immediately following the incident, asked Mazzi, “What did you do upon arrival?” Mazzi responded, “We did a walkthrough of the crime scene.” He then explained those activities normally associated with a walkthrough for the purpose of collecting evidence and information.

Given the fact that the crime had occurred well after dark, Prisco asked, “While you were walking through, were you assisted by any lighting in your search?” Mazzi explained that, in addition to hand-held flashlights, he and his assistant were aided by a Civil Defense lighting truck used by the Yonkers Police Department under nighttime conditions.

Prisco quickly brought the witness to a discussion of his discovery of five 25-caliber shell casings found strewn on the roadway of Beech Street at varied distances from the intersection of Poplar, and varied distances from the curb. After lengthy discussion regarding the shell casings Prisco introduced the fact that Mazzi had not only produced still photos of the crime scene, but also had videotaped it as well.

Judge Neary, recognizing what he referred to as having been “important, but tedious testimony,” granted the jury a brief break before the Prosecution’s presentation of Mazzi’s videotape. Returning from the break, Prisco took advantage of the opportunity, as the tape played, to get former police officer Mazzi to describe the neighborhood immediately surrounding the crime scene. The witness responded,
as if on cue, “It’s residential; two- and three-family homes.”


This description of the neighborhood extracted by ADA Prisco was a tactical move intended for use later in the trial by the Prosecution, speci-fically in its closing argument, when attempting to persuade the jury that the crime committed by Anthony Burton was, indeed, a Depraved Indifference Murder, and not a Reckless Manslaughter, which would carry a significantly lighter sentence. By establishing the residential character, and population density, the Prosecution was laying the foundation for the notion that the Defendant should clearly have foreseen the high probability that by firing a weapon into the area into which he fired it would likely produce grievous injury and/or even death to somebody, as in fact it did. Essentially, the Prosecution was attempting to demonstrate a level of recklessness consistent with “Depraved Indifference” as to the possible outcome of his own conduct by the Defendant.
Westchester Guardian Publisher Sam Zherka, In An Unprecedented Effort To Help Eradicate Corruption And Strengthen Public Integrity in
Westchester County, Has Offered A $25,000 Reward For Information Leading To the Arrest and Conviction Of those In Political and Governmental Administrations, Under the Leadership of those Depicted, Who Are Engaged in Unlawful Activities.

Persons with verifiable information are urged to call 914-738-1670. Information will be turned over to Federal authorities and informant identities will be kept confidential.
George Pataki’s Negative Impact On The Prison System Is Still Felt

Part 2

By Jeffrey Deskovic

The Death Penalty

George Pataki wasted no time getting the Death Penalty passed. In 1995 at his urging, the Legislature, still feeling the heat of the “hot button” topic the death penalty had become - so much so - that it decided the gubernatorial race, again passed the death penalty. And this
time, with Pataki in office, it was signed into law. His initiative proved costly: from 1995 to 2004, New York State spent $200 million dollars and executed nobody, thus wasting financial resources that could have been better spent on social programs and crime prevention.

While he passed the death penalty, he certainly made clear, very quickly, that there would be no good time bill, which was a measure which would have provided incentive and hope for the inmates, that had long been championed by Mario Cuomo. Thanks to Pataki’s death penalty measure, New York has come frighteningly close to executing someone who was innocent, when Rochester Prosecutors attempted to indict
Doug Warney for 1st degree murder, for the purpose of being able to seek the death penalty. Warney was wrongfully convicted of 2nd degree murder based on a false confession and served 10 years, before being cleared by DNA. Fortunately for him, the grand jury only indicted
him for second degree murder.

Prison Expansion

When Pataki became Governor he built even more prisons, many of them built specifically as part of the special housing units, in which prisoners would be held with little time at all out of their cells, with less access to showers, less recreation, no phone access, often double-
celled with other prisoners who had committed violent acts. As might well be imagined, this regime led to more violence at a time when Pataki remained opposed to spending money on therapeutic and educational programs.

Work Release

When George Pataki became Governor, he altered the criteria by which inmates could become eligible for work release. Work release had been a program in which prisoners were able to work in the community for up to 14 hours, and then returned to their correctional facility. They
were thus able to support themselves, send money to their families, and pay taxes, rather than being a burden to taxpayers. It was a program midway between prison and home, and for many inmates it paved the way for a better transition. When Pataki got into office, he disallowed all those who had been convicted of a violent crime to participate in the program. That was a great disservice to the community because
the better prepared to reenter society inmates were, the more likely they would experience a successful transition. I remember being in the college program and overhearing one of the college administrators say on the phone, “Not only have the criteria been changed by executive order, but even those who are in the program successfully are being rounded up and returned to prison.

Sex Offender Program

With Pataki in office, Department of Corrections Commissioner Goord felt free to push around the prisoners, knowing full well that the Governor didn’t care about them, and had built his career around taking things from them, and generally making their lives more difficult, just because he could. In 2002 one example of this was the State’s changing of Correction Department directives with respect to the Sex Offender
Program. Previously, if one was imprisoned for a sex offense, he could take the sex offender program without admitting guilt. What changed under Pataki, however, was that the Department was now taking an all-out approach, shoving the program down inmates’ throats. I, along
with other prisoners, was warned that if I did not take the program I would not have much of a chance before the Parole Board, and that I would not be allowed to participate in the family reunion program, which was designed to strengthen and maintain family ties by enabling
prisoners and their families, and/or spouses to spend a few days in a trailer located on prison grounds. Those who were appealing their cases were allowed to be given an exception to having to complete the program before participating, in recognition of ongoing litigation, and the possibility of innocence.

What sense would it make, after all, for someone who was innocent to take the program? Under the new rules, that exception was eliminated. Also eliminated was the former procedure of allowing prisoners to take the program for parole purposes while not admitting guilt. From
Pataki forward, in order to take the program, one would have to admit guilt to the instructors, and then in front of the class, and then again, in writing, giving full details. Failure to do so was automatic grounds for dismissal from the program. These rules totally disregarded the idea that the innocent are sometimes wrongfully convicted of sex offenses, thereby placing prisoners in the position of having to lie to have a chance at freedom, or to maintain their innocence at the cost of possible freedom. It also placed a strain on spousal relationships wherein the couples were used to having the visits for conjugal purposes. I can remember one man’s direct appeal that had not yet been decided, and yet the Department of Corrections had given the fact no consideration, and neither did the court. These rules personally affected me because it prevented me from having a family visit in the trailers, and also prevented me from applying to Honor Block, where a few prisoners had it a little bit easier by being given a little bit more recreation and the option of not having to go to the same rec area as the general population.

That option enabled inmates to get away from being in the same area as a lot of the violence, and granted them more access to showers, refrigerators and stoves. While that might not seem like much to think about now, while I was incarcerated the standard of living was considered much higher for those in Honor Block.

My declining to participate in the program also resulted in my being housed in Elmira Prison for a much longer period of time than I might have despite having stayed out of trouble. It also prevented my transfer to a prison closer to home. Prior to Pataki, one could simply stay out of trouble and earm a transfer closer to facilitate family visits. This affected me because, as time went on, the long trips wore down my mother, along with her health, resulting in my receiving fewer and fewer visits.

Sex Offender Civil Commitment

I lived in fear that the Civil Commitment Bill would be passed. Every year Pataki would call on the state legislators to pass civil confinement laws, that would allow the state to continue to keep people in custody even after their sentence was complete. The way it worked prisoners would be examined by a couple of psychologists and, if certi-fied as a future danger, they could then be kept in a mental hospital, being reviewed every year or two for continued dangerousness. I knew from my studies that one of the factors in determining whether somebody was dangerous was whether they had undergone treatment, and, treatment entailed admitting guilt. I personally felt fear because I realized
that the crime for which I was imprisoned was a sex crime, and that, because I would not admit guilt, I would be labeled as dangerous and likely would be imprisoned in a mental hospital. I knew that sex offenders were easy political targets who legislators could use to create
a climate of panic. I also realized that the public did not fully understand the issues or the pitfalls, a situation deliberately perpetuated by some politicians.

It was not hard to imagine that the law would be passed, and I was very fearful that innocent people, including myself, would get caught up in it. Every year, when Pataki would revisit the subject, I would become frightened, and would remain so for quite a while. Despite its failure to pass in any given year, I knew that Pataki would continue to pursue it, and so the danger never ceased and loomed large over my head.

Under Gov. Spitzer the law has passed, and I now wonder how many innocent people have finished their unjust sentences and yet cannot go home. Instead being committed to mental hospitals, having no means of clearing themselves for lack of legal representation, or definitive DNA evidence. Because DNA evidence is only available in 10 percent of all serious felony cases, and there is nowhere near the legal resources needed by all those pleading innocent, this is no remote possibility. In addition, the idea of being denied freedom based on what
somebody thinks that you will do, or not do, in the future is silly. No one knows what anybody will do in the future, no one has a crystal ball. Additionally, the problem of those who are innocent being caught up in its web remains.

Libby Pataki’s Suggestion

In the first couple of weeks following my release, after spending the initial couple of days with my family in Upstate New York, I returned to Westchester County at the first opportunity, realizing that it was too rural where my familiy now lives, to be able to rebuild my life. My mind was still very much clouded, and I was not adjusted well at all. In addition, since I was released with nothing but the clothing on my back, I had tremendous financial pressure on me. I was painfully aware that the goodwill of other people in allowing me to have meals with them could not last indefinitely, and that I would not be able to continue to stay with other people. At the same time I knew that I was not in any shape mentally to work yet.

I had been informed that the standard fee for an attorney to represent me in a lawsuit against the state would be one third of any monies awarded. That seemed like an awful lot to me, particularly since, before the one third was paid, I would have to pay the court costs, which was estimated at between $75,000 to $125,000. I also knew that the average time before one might actually receive any compensation was
between 2-7 years, and that I needed money as soon as possible. There was a priest at The Assumption Church in Peekskill that I knew
from the days when I had attended the church in my youth and the adjoining school. During a conversation with him I learned that he knew George Pataki personally. Out of desperation, I asked him if he could approach the Governor on my behalf, in an attempt to get the State to compensate me on its own, voluntarily, in light of the wrong that was done to me. I was hoping that my financial predicament might be immediately solved and that I might have money to live off of, and not have to pay lawyers anything. At the same time I believed I would be saving the State some money by accepting less than they would otherwise potentially have to pay.

The priest said that he would try and was somewhat hopeful, but could not promise anything. I, too, was hopeful, and pleased with the compromise I had thought of, if only naively, and viewed as a win/win for everybody. As I reflect now, I was really desperate. The priest made a few attempts on my behalf but told me that Pataki said it would involve too much money. He was not happy, and told me he was going to try again, this time going through Pataki’s wife Libby. However, when he contacted me again, he related that when he explained
everything to her, detailing my general destitute condition, including the fact I had no place to live, Mrs. Pataki replied “Let him go to Catholic Charities.”

When the priest told Mrs. Pataki “This is not a matter of charity,” and that I had been wronged, she remained steadfast against any aid to me. I could tell by the look on his face that he was both frustrated and saddened that he could make no headway on this issue, knowing full well my circumstances.


George Pataki did not make decisions with the best interest of New Yorkers in mind with respect to the prison system, keeping in mind the need for inmate rehabilitation in order to prevent future crimes.

Instead, he set the stage for anger and rage, and the returning of ill-prepared prisoners to society in a condition worse than when they entered prison. On a personal level, he made my already difficult time in prison for a crime I had not committed, even worse than it had to be.
Our Readers Respond...

Open letter to Mr. Richard Blassberg, Editor of the Westchester Guardian

CC: NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct; Eliot Spitzer, Governor of the State of New York; Honorable Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge; Honorable Ann T. Pfau, Chief Administrative Judge; Francis Nicolai, Administrative Judge, 9th Judicial District

Dear Mr. Blassberg,

I’m writing to you in regards to the article “Blue Ribbon Panel Delivers White Papers DA Asked For” from the July 12 issue of The Guardian. In your article you revealed the name of the former Assistant DA Robert Neary among the four main wrongdoers in the conviction
and imprisonment of innocent Jeffrey Deskovic. In your article you correctly stated that at present Mr. Robert Neary acts as an appointed NYS Supreme Court Judge.

I believe that you are aware that Mr. Robert Neary run three times unsuccessfully in elections for Westchester County and NYS
Supreme Court Judge and was recently appointed as a Supreme Court Judge by governor Pataki. What strikes me is the fact that you stopped here. I have a couple of questions to you:

1. Do you feel comfortable that one of the guys who took away 16 years from the life of young Jeffrey Deskovic (and most probably
contributed to the murder of Pat Morrison) is now acting with full immunity under the guise of a Supreme Court Judge?

2. Do you think that having Mr. Neary on the judicial bench does not represent an imminent danger to the life and property of
Westchester County litigants?

3. Do we need to wait until the wrongdoer does a major strike (of the magnitude of wrongful conviction of Mr. Deskovic or the murder of Pat
Morrison) in order to take measures to prevent him from doing wrong.

4. What do you think is the role of journalism and in particular of The Guardian - keeping it cold blooded and report the events post
factum (just like the investigative panel appointed my the Westchester DA) or taking a proactive role in uprooting the public corruption and
helping the society. Curious to know your stance.

My personal believe is that Mr. Neary needs to be suspended immediately from his position. Of course he might challenge the investigative
panel’s report and if he proves that he didn’t do anything wrong he can be reappointed to the Supreme Court. I’m sure you can do better.

Thank you in advance for your response,

Peter Petrov, White Plains

Editor’s Note: Mr. Petrov’s letter is misdirected. Perhaps his inquiry would have been more intelligently directed to any one of, or all of, the five sources to which he CC’d his letter to us, and then CC’d to The Westchester Guardian, if he so desired. Nevertheless, since he directs four specific questions to us, We will attempt to address each one of them.

1. Given the fact that The Guardian publicly revealed former ADA Neary’s up-until-now publicly-concealed role in the sordid Deskovic
affair, we believe the answer to this question is obvious.

2. Despite the awkward way in which he phrases this question, suf-fice to say We have never endorsed Mr. Neary’s judgeship.

3. It is difficult to know who the “we” that Mr. Petrov makes reference to, actually is. However, We, The Westchester Guardian, believe
that We have been fulfilling our obligation under the First Amendment by exposing the truth, and, that is the “measure” that We have taken
and will continue to take on behalf of the People of Westchester.

4. As regards “taking a pro-active role in uprooting the public corruption and helping society,” as Mr. Petrov refers to it, We would wonder
if he is aware of any other weekly Westchester newspaper that has been more pro-active?

Finally, We appreciate Mr. Petrov’s assurances in his statement, “I’m sure you can do better.” In fact, We are striving to do better all the time.

In Our Opinion...

When Larry Met Larry

Last week’s resignation by State Supreme Court Justice Larry Horowitz, while disconcerting and surprising to outside observers, raising eyebrows in polite circles, actually had its origins in a deal struck with the Devil six years ago. In 2001 when Larry Horowitz, an unknown struggling attorney, met with Larry Schwartz, Andy Spano’s Deputy County Executive, and agreed to be the Republican “fall-guy
candidate” to run against Andy, a process was set in motion that would ultimately devastate Horowitz’ professional career.

In exchange for playing the stooge Horowitz was guaranteed an appointment to a County Court Judgeship the following year, which he received, and then used as a springboard to run for State Supreme Court in 2003. The whole deal was very fraudulent, and obvious to most political observers. And, just in case any voter was naïve enough to miss the fix, the last Republican mailer for countywide offices, just
before Election Day 2001, showed the faces of three candidates against the background of the ballot, Jeanine Pirro for District Attorney, Len Spano for County Clerk, and Andy Spano, a Democrat, for County Executive. Larry Horowitz was nowhere to be seen.

Horowitz was uncomfortable in his position as a judge almost from the very beginning, expressing disillusionment and regret for having left private practice. Things apparently were not going too well on the home front either, and perhaps it was inevitable that something would give out under the weight of it all. Larry Horowitz, ostensibly a decent, likable, fellow before his entanglement with Larry Schwartz
and the political dregs of Westchester, having been badly sullied by his involvement with them, hopefully will find the strength and the courage to acknowledge his mistake, and pick up the pieces of his career returning to private practice.

• • •

Schwartz’ Revenge In Greenburg

It would appear that Suzanne Berger has learned nothing from Larry Horowitz’ sad experience with Larry Schwartz. Last week’s “spontaneous gathering” of misguided local Democrats, supposedly in support of Berger’s candidacy for Supervisor of Greenburg, was, in actuality Schwartz’ political payback against Supervisor Paul Feiner who stood up for the residents of Greenburg several months ago, refusing to permit Schwartz to install a so-called “Homeless Drop-In Shelter” behind the headquarters of the County Department of Public Safety, in Hawthorne, in violation of a contract between the Town of Greenburg and the County of Westchester banning such institutions within less than two miles of any other shelter. In Mr. Schwartz’ twisted mentality Supervisor Feiner’s first allegiance should be to him, Schwartz, and not to Feiner’s constituents.

By standing firm, and holding the County to its contractual commitment, Mr. Feiner demonstrated the kind of courage, and dedication to the well-being of the People of Greenburg, very rare in public officials these days, particularly here in Westchester. It is obvious to us that Ms. Berger has now demonstrated that she is all too willing to cozy up to Larry Schwartz and his evil agenda. No doubt, there is a commitment of Democratic County Committee funds, -monies which have been totally, but wrongfully, under Schwartz’ control for many years now- to her campaign.

But, We digress; the subject of monies raised for many years, by Democrats in Westchester, and their misuse to promote election fraud, and to betray the intentions of contributors, will be the subject of another writing, in the near future.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

For Ernie Davis It’s Three Strikes, You’re Out!

It appears the People of Mount Vernon have had their fill of Ernie Davis and his broken promises. They are more keenly aware than ever
before that ‘Old Ernie’ merely talks a good game but does nothing; nothing about violence in the streets, violence in the schools; schools that are going backwards despite sky-high taxes. The fact is, conditions are so bad in some neighborhoods that many houses are up for sale, and families are moving back to the Bronx and other communities where parents feel their children will be safer.

Under Davis, Mount Vernon has become a city without hope, without a future for young people. Only a select few, those politically
connected, those closest to Davis, enjoy the limited recreational opportunities - summer camp, summer youth employment. Money
provided by the federal government for housing and recreational opportunities, lots of money, somehow mysteriously disappears. How does a mayor who has been in charge for 12 years, fully three terms in office, look his citizens in the eye and tell them he can’t account for $3 million missing on his watch? How does he ask for a fourth term?

Ernie Davis has been getting away with corruption and indifference to the serious needs of Mount Vernon families for so long that he believes
he is anointed. He’s been controlling the election process, bribing party workers, and ward healers with City jobs and contracts for so many
years that he places little stock in the power of Mount Vernon’s families to control their own city’s destiny. And, what he cannot control by
bribery, he has lately attempted to control by force and intimidation.

Last week the Mayor sent ‘goon squads’ into certain neighborhoods armed with lawn signs, attempting to intimidate homeowners, many of
them middle-aged and elderly, into keeping his campaign sign on their property. Homeowners in one such neighborhood, in the southeast
section of the City, that had been inundated the weekend before last with Davis signs, had taken down just about every one of them by last
Wednesday afternoon.

That evening Mount Vernon’s favorite son, and strongest supporter, Denzel Washington, was greeted by more than three hundred cheering residents in the parking area of the Centennial Church on Eighth Avenue, at an event billed as “The Mount Vernon Youth Forum” featuring “It’s Time For A Change.”

Washington, who frequently comes home to the city of his youth, has contributed more than $2 million and much of his time and energy
primarily to the city’s Boys and Girls Club, and to other youth-oriented programs over the years, and holds a very special place in the hearts of Mount Vernon families. A er greeting and congratulating numerous young people, some for academic achievement such as Rashad Senior,
who will be going to Harvard University on a full scholarship; others for athletic prowess, such as 12-year-old Deajah Stevenson who will be
competing in the National Junior Olympics in California, Washington spoke to the crowd about the importance of providing opportunities
for their children, and encouraging them to reach high.

He then turned to his friend, County Legislator Clinton Young, declaring, “I love this brother like a brother and I support him one hundred
percent.” Washington then introduced Young as “The Next Mayor.”

Ernie Davis has become a tired act. It’s time he exits the stage and makes way for someone more positive, more motivated, and more
concerned about the families of Mount Vernon than he has been for a very long time. It’s time for a leader who will renew the spirit and
the confidence of Mount Vernon. In brief, it’s time for a change, time for Clinton Young.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our Readers Respond...

Feiner Rejects Cavallo

Dear Editor:

I would like to thank The Westchester Guardian for the stories about the Independence Party. As a result of your reporting, I decided, earlier this year, not to seek the endorsement of the Independence Party.

The Independence Party sounds independent and non-partisan to those who are not familiar with the party, but the party (under the leadership of Giulio Cavallo) doesn’t share my beliefs. The party leadership has sold cross-endorsements for dollars and/or jobs. I want to be associated with political parties that share my philosophy about government. I’m running in the Democratic primary on September 18th with Kevin Morgan, Sonja Brown (council candidates) and Judith Beville (clerk). We are also starting to circulate petitions to form a new political party: Greenburgh United Party. Over 1500 voters will sign petitions in the coming month creating the party. This party will be formed by people who want good government, not by the political bosses.

Paul Feiner
Greenburgh Town Supervisor

More Concern About Cavallo

Dear Editor:

I have been following your editorials on Giulio Cavallo with great interest. What has not been reported is the disposition of the investigation by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into Mr. Cavallo’s no-show, six-figure job as a doctor in the New York State Department of Health Hospital Unit in New Rochelle. As you know, he never had a doctor’s certificate from the State to attach ‘doctor’ to his name. He quietly resigned from this position. Was he made to pay restitution of the salary he collected for years for this no-show job?

While he was still “working” for the Hospital Unit he bragged how he got a job in the same unit for Marianne Oros who, in effect, became his boss after she was fired from Westchester Medical Center. Mrs. Oros is the wife of George Oros, who is in the County Legislature. He is also on the board of one of the hospitals that Mrs. Oros oversaw, clearly a conflict of interest. When a patient who had a complaint against the hospital made the state aware of this situation, Mrs. Oros was asked to resign, which she refused to do. She was then given another position.

This is just another example of Giulio Cavallo’s influence in this state. It seems corruption and incompetence are rewarded instead of being rooted out. If you have any information on the outcome from Mr. Spitzer’s office please print it or let your readers know how to obtain this

A Concerned State Worker

Aghast At Condition of Mt. Vernon High School

To the Editor:

Last month, friends and I attended a commendable performance of Dreamgirls at Mt. Vernon High School. As it was our first visit to that institution, we were shocked at the shabby condition of the unmown grass, the profusion of weeds and bare patches of earth--as
well as the generally unwelcoming appearance of the grounds fronting the building’s entrance. In addition, the Venetian blinds covering the
large windows of the edifice, were bent, broken off, or in some cases, missing slats entirely.

Once inside the school, we viewed the equally shabby courtyard (presumably for students’ use), where weeds proliferated between the blocks of concrete on the walkway and a sense of miasma hovered over what might once have been a thriving area for student interaction.
Considering that the new, completely non-utilitarian musical fountain at the traffic circle on Gramatan Ave. in Mt. Vernon reportedly cost taxpayers a cool $4 million, it is unconscionable that money was not allocated to the high school for landscaping and maintenance of the grounds as well as for purchasing new Venetian blinds. The fact is that the patent neglect of the premises sends a terrible message
not only to visitors but to attending students. It says, in effect, “We don’t really care about you. You don’t deserve to study in an attractive place.” Hasn’t it occurred to Mayor Davis or other officials who are involved with the Mt. Vernon schools, that if we treat our young people
as though they were second-class citizens, so will they consider themselves?

Aware of the crime statistics in the schools as well as in the streets, residents with children approaching school-age often move out of Mt. Vernon. Yet Mayor Davis, ostensibly oblivious to it all, seems to believe that erecting a visible monument (the fountain) to his tenure will
again catapult him into yet another term in office. But parents who cannot afford to leave the city want something better for their children and are now clamoring for a change in government. Judging from the condition of Mt. Vernon High School, that change can’t come fast enough.

Elaine Booth Selig, Mt. Vernon

Concerned About New Rochelle Development

Dear Editor:

A report at the City Council meeting from the New Rochelle Environmental Committee suggested many ideas for a greener New Rochelle. The Committee favored open space and more environmentally-friendly buildings and mentioned that the new construction in downtown
does not fit these criteria. Among the items mentioned was flooding caused by too many impervious surfaces. Certainly residents can remember the recent flooding in many areas of the city.

There are other environmental problems in New Rochelle. On North Avenue, between Huguenot and Main Streets, there have been numerous instances of the Con Edison cables overheating. Yet in the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) for the proposed Simone Project
for Church/Division Streets, Con Edison on page 3b-11 claimed that they can supply the gas and electricity. Similarly, in the environmental report for Forest City Ratner’s proposal for the Brooklyn Atlantic yards, Con Edison said they could supply the electricity and gas. But when Con Edison appeared recently at a state Assembly hearing about a large rate increase, they claimed they were “strapped” and massive
projects like these Atlantic yards are to blame. Therefore, all residents are forced to subsidize these projects.

These are just two examples of how our City’s taxpayers and residents will be impacted by the high rise Simone project. The City Council is likely to vote on this proposal this month. Any one who is concerned about the environmental impacts of this large and dense project on the Queen City of the Sound should let Council members know immediately.

Peggy Godfrey, New Rochelle

Games People Play

We found last Wednesday’s gathering at County Democratic Headquarters in White Plains amusing and somewhat ironic. Several prominent local Democrats, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had come together to welcome Republican Assemblyman Michael Spano, little
brother of former State Senator Nick Spano - once the Number Three Republican in the State - into the fold.

Yes, after ten years in the Assembly as a Republican; after leaving that body for personal reasons, and apparently failing to cut it in the private sector, and, after running against an under-funded Democrat, and reclaiming his old seat, as a Republican just last year, Mike Spano decides he’s really a Democrat, and has been for some time. Some might say, “Wow!” We simply ask, “What else is new?”

Naturally, the powers that be, Larry Schwartz, Inc. brought together as many local Democratic legislators and politicians as could be rounded up on short notice for the photo-op. Of course, some of those Democrats standing behind Mike had stood behind Big Brother Nicky and Daddy Leonard Spano numerous times, and they didn’t have to switch parties for their support. No fooling.

Andy Spano, no relation mind you, and Larry Schwartz’ puppet, Reggie LaFayette, did their best to re-elect Republican County Clerk Len Spano in 2001, and Big Nick, every two years, succeeding right through 2004. Last year the presence of federal monitors and attorneys raised the stakes to where nobody was willing to step over the line to put Nick back into the Senate. In that regard We would wonder what was going through Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ mind as she stood smiling amongst the assemblage.

Truth be told, Andy Spano didn’t appear especially delighted to be welcoming Mike Spano, no relative, into the Democratic Party. The bigger question, however, involves how Larry feels about the move. Does he believe it will strengthen his hand in Albany? Does he think Mike will be willing to accept his oppressive presence?

We have a few questions for Mike:

• Would you be changing parties if Nicky were still sitting in the State Senate?

• Is it really George W. Bush you’re trying to distance yourself from, or is it Big Brother Nicky?

• And, having won your seat as a Republican, how do you face your constituents next year, for re-election, and tell them that you really stand for the philosophy, and the politics they thought you opposed when they elected you last year?
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Stonewalling: Final Tactic Of Culpable Government Actors

Those of us who were adults in 1974 when Richard Nixon’s presidency came crashing down on that unforgettable hot August day are surely familiar with stonewalling. For more than a year, Nixon and his cohorts H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and several other top aides, had engaged with increased frequency in the practice, under growing pressure from the press, until, with his back to the wall, Nixon’s only defense for withholding inculpating information regarding the Watergate break-in were misguided claims of “Executive Privilege.”

Today, thirty-three years later, we are witnessing those same tactics coming from George W. Bush, and Company, another administration
that has abused the Powers of the Presidency, refusing to be held accountable either to Congress or the American People. However, accountability is the indispensable element in the democratic equation, without which all other elements must fail. Without genuine and meaningful accountability there cannot be an informed electorate, without which the operations of a representative democracy are not possible, and the Separation of Powers between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government become obscure and irrelevant.

Those who hold high office, having sworn an oath of allegiance to the Constitution, yet willfully committing acts in violation of that document, are nothing short of treasonous. Treason may take many forms, but always it is a breach of faith, a betrayal of public trust. Treason is not a one-way street, involving only the acts of individuals against the state. It may be the conduct of the state, through agents
empowered to act, under color of law, who would deny the lawful rights of individuals whose well-being they have been entrusted to preserve and protect.

In reflection, Nixon’s initial transgressions seem relatively minor as compared with those of Bush and Cheney. Yes, he authorized a burglary at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee housed at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., a totally unlawful, and needless, as it turned out, enterprise, given the historic landslide by which he defeated George McGovern. It was an act analogous
to corporate espionage.

However, how loathsome was that act as compared with the acts of a president who knowingly misled Congress and the American People into a war, from which the only certain gain to be derived was the enormous financial profits collected by Halliburton Corporation, an entity with which Dick Cheney is intimately connected. To date, nearly 3,500 American lives have been lost, 25,000 Americans have been seriously injured, and almost half a trillion dollars have been spent, with no end in sight.

In addition to the enormous loss of human and financial resources, the pain and grief visited upon tens of thousands of families of injured and disabled American military and civilian personnel, is catastrophic. Then, there is the terrible loss of reputation and face our nation has suffered in the eyes of friends and foe alike, brought on by our use of torture and our detainment, without due process, without charge or legal representation, of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. It will be decades before respect for our country abroad will be restored, if ever. The current administration’s treason, its betrayal of the American People’s trust, is not limited to Iraq and international affairs.

Here, at home, the Justice Department scandal, the politicizing of Justice, and the politically-motivated firings of United States Attorneys,
coupled with warrantless wiretaps and searches, have reduced our federal government to the use of tactics more like those
of a military junta, all in the name of the “War On Terror”.

Messrs. Bush and Cheney must surely know that they will not stonewall their way out of the trouble they are in. Advising Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, and proposed appointee to the Supreme Court, as well as Sara M. Taylor, the former White House Political Director, not to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last week, based upon Executive Privilege, will go a long way toward precipitating a Constitutional crisis.

It would appear that Bush is both stupid, and stubborn, two traits which, when combined in one person, particularly one who is entrusted with extreme power, can be very destructive. Let us pray that more reasonable and enlightened heads will prevail shortly, and that the kind of ‘rocky road’ our nation endured some thirty-three years ago, will not be the experience of the next eighteen months.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

United States Attorney’s Office Submits Post-Trial Memorandum Of Law In Port Chester Voter Rights Case
United States Federal District Court, White Plains
Judge Stephen C. Robinson Presiding

Last week Assistant United States Attorney David J. Kennedy, on behalf of United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael J. Garcia, filed a post-trial memorandum of law in the matter of United States Of America and Cesar Ruiz v. Village of Port Chester. The 78-page document was submitted to encourage the Court to render a decision, based upon the evidence produced at trial, that will compel the Village of Port Chester to dispense with its long-standing At-Large Election System, and adopt a District Plan.

The essential thrust of the government’s argument is that the present system violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended, 42 U.S.C.
Section 1973. The Government opens its argument with Census figures from 2000, establishing that more than 46% of the Village’s population was Hispanic, and that, as of one year ago, the Hispanic “CVAP” (citizens of voting age) population was 21.9%, clearly a substantial portion of Port Chester’s population who have never succeeded in electing an Hispanic to public office. The memorandum
goes on to point out that the Hispanic population is cohesive, but that, “their preferred candidates are usually defeated by White Bloc Voting.”

Attacking the Village’s at-large system directly, the memorandum declares that “Under the totality of the circumstances,” it violates the Voting Rights Act under seven different theories: The Government claims, firstly, that there is a history of official discrimination in Westchester County, including the Village of Port Chester. It cites historic English literacy tests that had the effect of denying hundreds of thousands of Spanish-speak-ing New Yorkers the right to vote as far back as 1946.

Secondly, Attorney Kennedy declares that voting in Port Chester has traditionally been polarized by race and ethnicity, pointing out expert witness testimony of Dr. Hadley, recognized in the field of Voting Patterns and Analysis, that there was “significant polarization” in those village election contests that were polarized. Additionally, Kennedy points out that the United States Supreme Court has held that
staggering the terms of trustees as the Village does, tends to enhance the discriminatory impact of at large voting systems.

Kennedy goes on to argue that the method by which candidates for Village office are selected, the slating process, is exclusionary, and “compromises the ability of Hispanic voters to elect their candidates of choice.” He cites the fact that Hispanics “bear the burden of discrimination in education, employment, and health,” as a further hindrance to their ability to engage and participate in the electoral process. He declares that elections in the Village of Port Chester in the recent past “have involved racial and ethnic appeals.”

And, finally, he points to the fact that no Hispanic individual has ever been elected to any position in Port Chester, and only one has been
elected county-wide to a jurisdiction encompassing the Village, Family Court Judge Nilda Morales Horowitz, as further evidence of voter discrimination under the present system.

In conclusion Mr. Kennedy calls upon the Court to order the Village of Port Chester to abandon its present at-large election system, and
adopt a district plan.
The Garin Family, And Westchester Families, Want To Know Saturday, July 7th - The Westchester Guardian received a call from Mrs. Ramona Ramos, 42, a White Plains mother of three, informing us that she might have information relating to the accidental death of twenty-one–year–old Gabriela Garin at the Mind Scrambler ride at Rye Playland on June 29th.

Guardian Exclusive

Visited at her home, Ramos revealed that she, her husband, and their three children had been at Playland five days prior to the tragic accident. She reported that while she was on the Mind Scrambler ride with her six-year-old daughter, and her eighteen-year-old son, she saw Ms. Garin, (who she recognized from a newspaper photo) dancing to the music standing between the walls of the enclosure, and the operating ride while it was in motion. Ramos said, “I was concerned when we came two inches from her,” holding her hands two inches apart to demonstrate how close to Ms. Garin’s body her seat had come, “three, or four times.” After reading accounts that had claimed that
Garin had been on the ride and had been thrown from it, Mrs. Ramos said she wondered if perhaps she might actually have been “dancing while the ride was in motion, and accidentally gotten too close.”

Last Tuesday evening The Guardian visited the Mind Scrambler at Playland. While photographing the entrance to the ride, a young woman,
about thirty, approached and volunteered that, although she lives in New York City, she had been to the park a few times since it opened for the season, and had ridden the Mind Scrambler twice on the day just prior to the incident. Not wishing to reveal her name, she insisted that
each time she rode she saw Garin “inside the booth until the ride stopped.”

Clearly, two conflicting accounts based upon experiences four days apart do little to establish a pattern. However, had Ms. Garin been in the booth for the entire time the ride was in motion she would not have been struck. There have been a number of theories advanced, since the incident, some suggesting she was on the ride, and thrown from it; others that she was attending to riders in one of the cars as the ride started too quickly; still others indicating that she was standing where she should not have been.

There are no fewer than three governmental investigative agencies attempting to piece together just what might have happened to take a young mother’s life; The Westchester County Department of Public Safety, The New York State Labor Department, and the Federal Occupational Safety Hazard Administration. In addition, insurance investigators, possibly personal injury attorney investigators, and
the County Department of Parks, with oversight and supervisory responsibilities at Playland, are, no doubt, working overtime as well.

The Guardian recognizes, despite Mrs. Ramos’ experience, and account, that speculation as to the circumstances and cause of the accidental death of Gabriela Garin, a White Plains resident, and mother of a two-year-old daughter, is notproductive. However, we also recognize that her family, as well as families from all over Westchester, and beyond, who call Rye Playland home, have a right to know what really happened to Gabriela.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Jing & Tristram Kelly Update: The Struggle Continues

In response to numerous requests from readers, seeking current information about Jing & Tristram Kelly, The Guardian has once again prevailed upon Attorny Robert Wayburn, who has been working with Jing and her parents for several years in the effort to reunite them with Tristram. At the conclusion of the dispositional hearing, the family court issued an order placing Tristram Kelly in the care of Douglas and Corrine Kelly in California while, at the same time, approving the permanency plan proffered by ACS which establishes the permanency goal as being that of reuniting the child with his birth mother, Jing Kelly. The question remaining then is how this reunification should be accomplished. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a “services plan” in effect that is geared to returning Tristram to his mother’s care. It appears that this will be a long range process, with periodic visitation between mother and child, on a supervised basis initially and with no contact between mother and child except during the visitation period itself. On the surface, this seems a bit overly cautious and tentative.

But, it is legitimate to have some monitoring and therapeutic assistance in the reintroduction phase. The problem here is the current caretakers of Tristram, his paternal uncle and wife, in California, cannot be expected to encourage Tristram to warm up to the idea of getting to know and love his mother again and wanting to leave his present home to join her in New York City. The child may be fearful of losing the home he has known for the past four years and at this time his birth mother is an unknown entity in his life. Of course, Jing wants to push for this reunification to be done as quickly as possible, but in a manner consistent with Tristram’s needs, while Doug and Cori Kelly,
and the law guardian it seems, wish to delay this as long as possible. In a situation such as this, both parties can be expected to highlight the aspects that favor their respective positions and it is possible the child can get lost in what amounts to a tug of war. To avoid this from happening, clearer direction and greater involvement is needed from the family court. The management of the visitation process should not be delegated solely to the law guardian, as is the case here, with only the law guardian being permitted to speak to the family therapist who will supervise the initial visitation sessions between mother and child.

Douglas and Corrine Kelly filed a custody petition after the second appeal ruling in Jing’s favor ousted them as interveners in her neglect dispositional hearing. They told California case workers that they want to adopt Tristram. Given their position in this matter, a direct placement with them, as ordered by the family court, is inappropriate. Jing had requested that any placement be ordered with ACS as the primary child protective agent and with ACS being responsible to implement its own permanency goal of reuniting Tristram with his birth
mother. ACS could then request assistance of California child protective and child preventive agencies to arrange for therapeutic monitoring of the initial visitation and for follow-up visitation and to assist in explaining to the child that the fact he is going to meet his birth mother and get to know her better does not mean he will be abruptly uprooted from his current setting. If the child has this fear and no one is helping him understand the true situation nor encouraging him to begin a warm and loving relationship with his mother-- the transition here will be all the more difficult.

In fairness both to Jing and Tristram, the custody petition of the paternal uncle in California should be dismissed or held in abeyance until the reunification plan is fully developed and implemented. The paternal uncle should be told that he cannot hang onto this child in a
vain effort to defeat the permanency plan of reunification of Tristram with Jing and he cannot seek custody nor adoption while that goal remains viable. The paternal uncle should be told that he is accountable to ACS and the reciprocating California case workers in helping out
with this reunification process. Right now, Jing Kelly cannot telephone or write or e-mail her son at his current residence. Right now, Douglas and Cori Kelly do not communicate with Jing and do not provide her any information concerning her son. This is, for lack of a better
word, “plain stupid.” Doug Kelly, if he wants to serve as temporary caretaker of Tristram during the period the permanency plan of reunification is developed and implemented-- should be told to communicate with Jing Kelly on a frequent basis and to provide her with relevant information concerning her son and to encourage Tristram to want to be in contact and communication with his birth mother.

By effecting a direct placement of Tristram with Douglas Kelly and denying any role to ACS in the implementation of its own permanency goal, the family court signaled these nonparent relatives that they can continue their past misconduct of doing everything possible to isolate this child from his mother. It appears that the only requirement imposed on them is that they cooperate by transporting Tristram to and from visitation sessions with his mother when these are scheduled to occur in the town of their own residence. It is the birth mother who will have to travel out there, clear across the country, at her own sole expense, to see her son for an hour at a time, once or twice a month. At this rate, it will take twenty years to implement the reunification and Tristram will be an adult before the plan has any chance of fruition.

Obviously, the current state of affairs is unacceptable. It is legitimate to ask questions here, such as, when will Jing be able to telephone and write her son at his current residence in California? When will her son, Tristram, be permitted to travel to New York City to see his mother, and maternal grandparents here? When will unsupervised visitation occur? What is the target date for Tristram to actually resume living with his mother? Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions at the moment. That fact alone, the absence of a bona fide services and reunification plan in a case such as this, is an indictment of the entire family court system. It is not acceptable to announce reunification as a goal and then make that ruling an empty gesture and sham.

If you were devising a method for implementing that goal, wouldn’t you want the petitioning agency, ACS, to play the primary role and the child’s current caretakers to be accountable and responsible to that agency? Wouldn’t you tell the child’s current caretakers that to remain in their role with the child they must support the permanency plan with their whole heart and do everything possible to assist the child in making this adjustment from their home back into the care of his birth mother? Wouldn’t you require the current caretakers to immediately begin communication with the birth mother and to exchange information about Tristram with her and invite her input and consultation on what is going on in her son’s life. Wouldn’t you require them to encourage Tristram to get to know his mother and to appreciate and return
her love and to be in touch with her and understand her joy. Wouldn’t you require the current caretakers to travel to New York City with Tristram (they could stay inexpensively in the Hiler home in Larchmont) so he could visit his mother and maternal grandparents here and
become familiar with the locale to which he eventually will be returned? Wouldn’t you tell the family therapist in California that she does not have to worry about having divided loyalties or being caught up in a tug of war as this is not a custody situation but instead simply a matter
of implementing the return of a child to his mother, a fait accompli, that is to be done in a way conducive to the child’s emotional health but for sure is to be done.

It is true that many things were done wrong in Tristram’s brief life both by his parents, their relatives, the family court, and the lawyers litigating the various matters. It is true that Tristram was affected by all of this and that his final destination, the resumption of living with his birth mother, should be accomplished in a way that takes into account his emotional health and lessens the burden of transition as much as possible. But this does mean that there should be inordinate delay and posturing for potential custody litigation by the current caretakers. If that is their posture and intention, they are not suitable to care for Tristram in this interim period.

The role played by the law guardian in this case is troubling (as in other cases). Consider, for example, that when Jing Kelly was transported from Vancouver, Canada [where she had been arrested on January 3rd, 2003] to Westchester County for arraignment in Westchester
County Court on March 7, 2003, and was denied bail and, accordingly, incarcerated at the Valhalla jail facility, she was about thirty minutes driving time from the home of Tristram’s paternal aunt, Gail Hiler, in Larchmont. Ms. Hiler had retrieved Tristram from Canadian
police on January 4, 2003 and thereupon subjected the child to a media frenzy as attested to by the numerous press clippings and press releases and TV reports, and by Ms. Hiler’s later testimony that twenty or more people were in the home virtually every day to congratulate
her and celebrate Tris’s return there. Yet, while rejoicing that she had again regained physical custody of Tristram, Ms. Hiler made no effort to bring the child to visit his mother at the accessible jail facility. Tristram had been in his mother’s care for an eighteen month period (June 21, 2001 through January 3, 2003) and the child surely would have benefited from having contact with his mother while adjusting to being in the Hiler home once again. Tristram would have benefited from seeing his mother and speaking to her both in English and Chinese
as was their custom.

Why was it that Tristram did not see his mother again while she was in jail awaiting her criminal trial? Well, the primary blame for this lies with the family court judge who denied visitation to this incarcerated mother citing, of all things, a “security issue.” This denial of visitation
on March 20, 2003 in New York County Family Court was coupled with an order placing Tristram in the legal custody of his paternal aunt, Gail Hiler. I have it on good authority, however, that the jail facility at Valhalla is fairly secure and that many incarcerated persons have visitors there and that there is little danger of their leaving the facility during or after any such visitation period. The security issues were a sham and the denial of visitation was ultimately reversed on appeal but the damage was already done. The custody award was also reversed on appeal but caused even more damage to mother and son due to the actions of Gail Hiler and other paternal relatives, including Douglas Kelly, after that order was entered. But the good question here for the law guardian and ACS petitioning agency is why they did not request visitation for Tristram with his incarcerated mother in March of 2003 at the final dispositional hearing. Another good question is why neither the law guardian nor ACS opposed the unlawful award of custody to Gail Hiler at this time.

Now, nobody says Jing Kelly was right to take her son and travel to China on an unsupervised visitation on June 20, 2001. This was a violation of the temporary parole order then in effect directing that Tristram reside in the Larchmont home of Gail Hiler until the dispositional hearing was completed. But Jing was apprehended with her child in Canada and both she and the child were returned to New York State and the question then became one of correctly applying the laws of our state to their situation. Clearly, visitation was lawful and
proper and should have been ordered for this mother and child. Clearly, no custody award was permissible nor warranted at this stage. This is a unique convergence of events where both the Family Court, the law guardian and petitioning agency got it all wrong. It is hard to imagine such a scenario could unfold in Family Court in this era. It is not sufficient to lay back and say “Well, the Appellate Division reversed all the errant rulings” because of what happened to this child in the interim before the initial appeal ruling was obtained and what has happened

Tristram was not doing well in the Hiler home in Larchmont. This is undisputed and clearly reflected in the testimony of Gail Hiler at the recent Family Court hearing. Ms. Hiler’s solution to this problem was not the obvious one of notifying the Family Court and law guardian and petitioning agency (and birth mother) of the fact that it was not viable for Tristram to remain in her home and in her care-- so that the court could then make proper inquiry as to the child’s best interest (in which inquiry the birth mother could participate). Instead of doing the correct thing here and what is presumably best for the child, Ms. Hiler chose instead to ship Tristram to another paternal relative’s home out of state and she then told no one of this development. It defies belief that Ms. Hiler (a practicing attorney) defends her actions in this regard, and one can only hope that some day she will acknowledge the wrongness of what she did and that she played a huge role in creating the current situation.

Ironically, although Ms. Hiler testified that the reason she shipped Tristram to California in late July of 2003 to reside permanently with her brother, the paternal uncle, Douglas Kelly, was “to avoid media publicity during the upcoming criminal trial of Jing Kelly” -- it was when
that trial commenced in January 2004 that Tristram was brought back into the Hiler home in Larchmont and left there virtually the entire month of January, while the trial was ongoing, Thus, Tristram was here in Westchester County during his mother’s criminal trial. And
in poignant testimony of Douglas Kelly at the recent Family Court hearings he indicated that Tris saw a picture of his mother in the newspaper on a table in the Hiler living room and said “momma, momma” while pointing to this picture. Here it was a whole year later since Tris and Jing were separated and this child knew and recognized his mother.

Don’t you weep for Tristram, here? Does anyone in their right mind think it was appropriate for Jing to be held without bail for thirteen months while awaiting the conclusion of her criminal trial for custodial interference in the first degree (a felony of which she was never
convicted)? Does anyone think it was appropriate that Jing had no visitation nor contact with her son during this entire period? Can you imagine that Gail Hiler and Douglas Kelly would both testify at Jing Kelly’s criminal trial and neither would say Tristram no longer lives with Gail Hiler but was secretly living out of state with Douglas Kelly since July 2003. Would this information have influenced the jury had they known the true situation here? I wonder if the jurors who did their public duty at that trial, quite honorably, would be willing to now come forward and say whether this information would have influenced their verdict against Jing. I wonder if the trial judge would have ruled differently on allowing the jury to consider Jing’s affirmative defenses to the misdemeanor charge, had this information been made known to
the court at the time. It certainly was disturbing that at this criminal trial, Gail Hiler herself admitted that her brother, Craig Kelly, was living full time in her home during the temporary parole period of December 21, 2000 to June 21, 2001 (when Jing left ). This was a clear violation
on her part and Craig’s part of the temporary parole order. Yet, Ms. Hiler was not held accountable in any way.

Douglas Kelly testified at the recent hearings that he “took it upon himself ” to not have any pictures of Craig Kelly or Jing Kelly in his home and to not discourage Tristram from referring to him and his wife as “daddy” and “mommy” and to their two sons as his brothers.
In other words, Douglas Kelly claims he did not deceive Tristram as to his true parentage (i.e., that his real father is deceased and that his mother lives in New York as do his maternal grandparents) because Doug never told Tris, “Yes, I am your birth father and Cori is your
birth mother.” Well, come on here, not telling the child this information is the same as lying to him about it, right. This is a child who recognized his mother’s picture and pointed to it with his little finger, at three years of age, after not seeing his mother a full year. Obviously, there was a strong maternal bond between Jing and Tris and it is Gail Hiler and Douglas Kelly who broke it. They bear a tremendous responsibility here. They also took it upon themselves not to give Tristram the cards and gifts his real mother was sending him, after her release from incarceration, care of Gail Hiler.

Making matters worse, neither Gail Hiler nor Douglas Kelly, notified Jing Kelly nor the family court nor the Appellate Division nor the New York County Supreme Court about Tristram being out of her home and resident permanently in California when Jing was released from incarceration in January 2004 and made numerous court applications for custody and visitation with her son, Tristram. This lack of disclosure of cogent information pertaining to a child concerning which courts are exercising jurisdiction is a “crime” that should not be
condoned anywhere at any time. It is a crime far worse than a mother fleeing with her child under the circumstances in which Jing Kelly fled to China in June 2001. One can only wonder why the paternal relatives in this particular case seem to get away with so much wrongdoing
without being held to account.

Partly, the answer to the above question is the law guardian. While the law guardian did stand tall and urge the reversal of the erroneous family court rulings of March 20, 2003 (denying visitation to this mother and awarding custody to the paternal aunt) and did seek court orders compelling Ms. Hiler to disclose the whereabouts of Tristram (not done until after the initial appeal was decided)-- the law guardian in the subsequent hearing in the family court, on remand from the appellate court, then shifted gears and took the side of the paternal uncle and supported Tristram’s remaining there. First, the law guardian supported the application of Douglas Kelly to intervene in the new dispositional hearing against Jing’s wishes (a clear violation of the governing statute) and this was reversed on appeal (second appeal ruling).

The law guardian also opposed immediate visitation for this mother, claiming the initial appeal ruling required a mental health evaluation of both mother and child before any such visitation could occur. And, while the law guardian urged removal of the family court trial judge (Judge Sarah P. Schechter) from the case during oral argument of the first appeal, their position changed to being one of supporting this judge staying on the case (during oral argument of the second appeal). During oral argument of the second appeal the law guardian appellate counsel declared that the interest and position of the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, Juvenile Rights Division, was “identical” with the interest and position of the paternal uncle, Douglas Kelly.

Well, this is quite a turn around. It is clear that the law guardian does not support the permanency plan goal adopted by the family court judge and proposed by the petitioning agency, ACS, of reuniting this child with his birth mother. Is the law guardian free to oppose that stated goal? Is the law guardian free to decide to take a position and develop a strategy that favors the child remaining in the home of the paternal uncle when the family court has already ruled the plan is to the contrary? Can the law guardian be trusted to communicate and
coordinate the therapy sessions with the child and birth mother and give fair and impartial direction to the supervising therapist? Won’t the law guardian overplay the child’s fear and reluctance in commencing visitation and joining in the reunification effort if this is in keeping
with their new thinking on the case? What is this law guardian about, anyway?

Lost somewhere in this entire process is the simple concept that the Family Court judges, the petitioning agencies, attorneys and caseworkers, the court-appointed lawyers and law guardians to the parents and children, SHOULD ALL BE WORKING IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH APPLICABLE LAW. The law required that Jing and Tristram have visitation back in March 2003 when she was finally transported to Westchester County from Canada.

This was not granted nor did the law guardian request it. The law required that Jing Kelly be present in court for the continuation of her dispositional hearing and she was not produced. The law required that any dispositional order in the neglect case be for a temporary period
only and that the requisite permanency hearing reviews be held thereon-- but this was not done. The law required Gail Hiler to make a showing of “extraordinary circumstances” before she could be granted legal standing to seek an award of permanent custody of Tristram as
against his mother, Jing Kelly, but this was not done. The law required disclosure to the various courts dealing with this matter that Tristram was no longer living in the Hiler household, but this was not done. The law required consent of Jing Kelly to any application for intervention
by family relatives in her neglect dispositional hearing but this consent requirement was ignored and the hearing was inordinately delayed by the paternal uncle putting on his case first. The initial appellate ruling required an “immediate inquiry” as to resumption of visitation
and an “expedited dispositional hearing” but neither was done. Indeed, by mandamus issued by the appellate court in early August 2006, nearly a full year after the initial appellate ruling, the family court judge was “reminded” of that direction, but this was of little avail.

SO WHAT IS THE UPDATE HERE? Quite simply that the reunification is about to begin but is severely handicapped by the absence of a detailed implementation plan, the absence of any monitoring or supervising role by the petitioning agency, ACS, and the adoption by the law
guardian of a litigation posture and strategy supportive of the nonparent paternal uncle’s inchoate claim to a possible custody award and adoption sometime in the future if only the current permanency goal of reuniting this mother with her child can be derailed.

My bottom line: I can’t believe this is how the family court is supposed to work. Something serious and drastic needs to be done to prevent this from happening to this mother and child and to other parents and children. Jing will need help in paying for her visitation expenses to and from California. Anyone wishing to contribute financially should forward the funds directly to her per the address set forth in her web site,

My hope is that Jing and Tristram will each have a fair and reasonable chance to reacquaint with each other, and establish the bond that can lead to their eventual reunification. It is sad that their chances for this probably depend on her perfecting yet another appeal and again seeking a new trial judge and, perhaps, a new law guardian, but in any event, application of the law of our state governing family matters. Is the latter too much to ask?
George Pataki’s Negative Impact On The Prison System Is Still Felt

By Jeffrey Deskovic


In 1995, the year of George Pataki’s election as Governor, I had been incarcerated for about four years. I remember on election night how I, along with many of the other prisoners housed in the cell block reserved for those who were in the college program, listened via headphones for the results of the election. At that time, televisions were not allowed yet into the cells in Elmira prison, and so therefore listening on
headphones into an intercom system was our way of “watching TV”. As I look back on it now, many of the abnormalities that were part of everyday prison life came to be thought of in terms that gave it the surface level appearance of being normal, even though we mentally knew that it was not. It was the mind’s way of softening things just a little bit so as to protect our sanity. We were hoping, against hope, that Pataki would not win, although we realized that he probably would.

I had been following the race as best I could, given the difficulty of keeping up with current events while in prison. One particular report had stuck out in my mind, which was when Gov. Mario Cuomo stated, during a really tense moment in the campaign, when he had been backed into a corner on the political issue of the death penalty, but still would not back down though he realized the probable consequences
to his career, that ‘he would not sell his soul by supporting the death penalty, in order to win the election’. He further stated that in response to his position, the voters could take the governor’s of-fice away from him if they wanted. I remember that I had cheered for him that
he would take such a moral stance, and that he would not yield to the mob type mentality, unlike the historical figure of Pontias Pilate mentioned in the Bible.

But even as I cheered I felt a sense of foreboding, kind of an inner knowledge that it would wind up costing him the office. Yet because of the probable consequences if Pataki won, I somehow made a way inside of my mind, to go against all logic and say to myself that he would not, and tell other people that in conversation, even while knowing better. Some of the other prisoners, made crazy by the general inhumane conditions of the prison system, embarked down peculiar lines of reasoning that only desperate or abnormal conditions could cause: They hoped that Pataki would win, even though it would mean the death penalty and the probable execution of innocent people. They were willing to have a few people executed, even if that meant that along the way a few innocent people were wrongfully executed if it meant that more people, not the least of which was them, were able to go home earlier.

The death penalty bill had been passed not too long before the election only to be vetoed by Gov. Cuomo, and then come within a few votes of having the veto overridden. Attached to that bill had also been a provision allowing for time off of sentences, referred to in legal jargon as “good time”. The rationale behind “good time” was that it provided an incentive for prisoners to turn their lives around and avail themselves
of educational opportunities by staying out of trouble. Because both good time and the death penalty had been in the proposal together, the prisoners thought that meant that the two proposals would be together again, and that in order for a state to have a death penalty, they would also have to give good time.

George Pataki did indeed win the election, and I remember hearing the news while in my cell, and fearing what would happen next, not only in terms of the death penalty, but also to the prison system in general, and therefore by extension to me since I was in it. As I went to sleep that night, I tried to mentally prepare myself for things to get worse, and worse was what things got.

School And Vocational Trades

While Pataki was governor there was a variety of vocational shops which were systematically phased out of the prison system. When the instructor retired or passed away, the class was closed as well, because they would simply not hire a replacement. Therefore the situation became that at the same time the prison population was swelling because of the systematic parole denials, recategorization of who was eligible for work release, and the lengthier prison sentences imposed, there were also fewer programs for the prisoners to take, thus resulting in more idle time, rather than allowing inmates the opportunity to make the most out of their time, thereby making them less skillful and less prepared for their release thereby decreasing the chances of a successful reintegration into society and a lower recidivism rate.

When I first got to state prison in 1991, everybody was required to take a morning program and a afternoon program. At some point in the early 2000’s prisoners who were arriving at the prison were only being given one program, and were being made to wait six months before being given a second one, which meant that time previously utilized on turning one’s life around and preparation for release, was now being
spent idly in the cell. For the first time, there suddenly became waiting lists to get into school. At the same time, the policy of allowing prisoners to go to recreation when their school class or vocational shop was closed to at least remain out of the cell, was discontinued,
and therefore one’s program being closed meant even more in-cell time, which caused the general level of frustration to go up thus making the prison more volatile. In addition, at some point during that period of time, the policy of not allowing prisoners who had completed one vocational trade to take another trade came into being. I remember when I wanted to take another vocational trade, with the idea of acting on my uncle’s saying ‘you can never know enough things to do, because unanticipated layoffs sometimes occur in ones primary field’ of trying
to take another vocational trade, and I was told that I would not be allowed to do so because of this policy. I had completed a few, of course, but I wanted to continue to prepare myself. The counselor further explained that in light of fewer programs, they wanted to allow those who had not completed a trade to take one. While I understood this policy, the question remained: Why was there such a dearth of programs that
it got to that point? I began to wonder and worry about being able to use my time as productively as possible, for I already considered it to be a waste just being in there, but I wanted to minimize the waste. I would like to further add that the programs that were offered were simply the basics of how things used to be done five years earlier. With the shrinkage of programs, the level of violence increased. I believe
that there was a definite correlation. An idle mind, as the saying goes, is the devil’s playground.


At the time Pataki became Gov., Senator Helms finally succeed in getting the federal government to ban prisoners from receiving Pell Grants for college after having made several attempts. On the state level, Pataki followed suit and banned them from getting TAP. The fallacious
argument advanced forward was that ‘why should prisoners get free college when I make too much money for my children to qualify, and yet cannot afford to send them? It was a fallacy because firstly, no one received financial aid while in prison who would have been ineligible on the outside. The forms were the same, as was the eligibility. Secondly, nationwide the total number of prisoners who went to school on grants was ½ of 1 percent.

Therefore nobody who was free was denied to go to school because a prisoner was going to school. Further, the recidivism rate was much lower for those who had gone to college as opposed to those who had simply taken vocational trades. Therefore college education was, in reality, far from coddling criminals, a powerful future crime fighting tool. Simply put, the reason for this was because prisoners were more qualified to get a meaningful job upon release, and plus the overall level of thinking was elevated, many prisoners, having seen more horizons, and having more hope. They could see a future for themselves not involving crime. Yet, with the source of funding removed, the colleges left.

On a personal note, as a result of his decision, I was not able to graduate with a B.A. degree and thus be that much further ahead, but instead was forced to stop after accumulating 90 credits.

Phone Calls

In prison the only phone calls that the prisoners were allowed to make were collect calls. In 1996 Gov. Pataki entered into a contract with MCI which lasted until 2007 in which over that time span MCI was allowed to overcharge the families and friends of prisoners 630% more
than similar collect calls would have cost someone who was free to make them. The incentive was clear: The Department of Corrections received a 57% kickback from MCI. The success of this diabolical scheme was assured because a monopoly existed: prisoners’ families and friends could either talk to them on the phone, or not. The option of using a different phone company was not available. A lawsuit was
filed on behalf of the prisoners and families, but was fought by the Pataki administration, at one point getting dismissed.

It was not until Eliot Spitzer became Gov. that the practice ceased. During the same time period, MCI adopted the policy of further infringing on the rights of the families and friends by rendering them incapable of accepting collect calls if their regular bill, with their own phone company, reached $100. As I see it, however high a customers bill got with another phone company, it was not MCI’s business. Several families tried to correct this by complaining, but neither complaining to MCI nor to the Department Of Corrections nor anyone higher up availed anybody of anything. There reached a point in time when I had to slow down on the number of phone calls that I made because I was conscious of the bill. I would go weeks and sometimes a month and only make 1 or 2 calls because of the bill, and yet the next time on the phone I would learn of the bill, which in turn made me feel guilty and therefore made me even less inclined to call.

Double Bunking

When Pataki took office, it was at his direction that the Department of Corrections began the practice of double celling. What this meant was that for the first time in New York State, two prisoners would be housed in the same cell. The cells were only built to accommodate one person, and were small even for that purpose. They were no way equipped for two people. Yet, the sole adjustment made was simply to
weld another bed frame on top of the one already in the cell. There were many conflicts and complications arising from having two people, often strangers, suddenly put into the same cell. For example, disputes over when the light was turned off, housing smokers with non-smokers, thefts of food items, one prisoner receiving the mail of another, rummaging through each other’s property, privacy issues, and having two people in the same small area about the size of a small bathroom, (for example many cells in Sing Sing Prison are 3-1/2 x 7 feet) while the other defecated, were among the uncomfortabilities.

Often many of these issues led to violence, and sometimes stabbings and cuttings, because many prisoners would seek to resolve things with violence. Stories circulated throughout the prison system of some people being killed by their cell mate. Ordinarily, when one was locked into one’s cell at night, that at least had meant that normally one could relax a little bit, having the cell bars between himself and the other prisoners; a brief respite from the normally constant vigilance that is needed in order to survive. The double celling was also dangerous for the guards, because it was not unusual for a fight to break out in a cell, necessitating the guards to go in and break it up, which only one guard at
a time could make it through. It was not uncommon for both prisoners to then turn on the guard. It was so dangerous that the officer’s union filed a lawsuit against the practice.

Correction Officers Contract

I remember that sometime between 1999-2002, the contract between the correction officers and the state of New York was up. A power struggle ensued regarding the next contract that would be offered. The issue was that inflation and the cost of living expenses was rising, and
yet the officers were not getting raises to match. As a result, the prison population suffered, because the guards were resorting to the tactic of letting the prisoners out of their cells for recreation later and later, while returning them to their cells at the regularly scheduled time. Thus,
rather than 2 hours and 45 minutes, we sometimes ended up with 2 hours, 1 ½, and sometimes simply 20 minutes; during which time was our only opportunity to use the phone, shower, exercise, engage in recreation, or attempt to stay in touch with the world by watching television. Parole Governor Mario Cuomo believed in giving deserving inmates a second chance.

While he was in office, one could simply do one’s time, stay out of trouble, take educational programs to demonstrate a commitment to a crime-free life, and one would make parole. If denied, then one was certainly going to be paroled at the next parole board appearance. That was fair, after all, the trial judge, being familiar with the facts of cases, were in a position to impose the minimum sentence which the ends of justice would require. When George Pataki became governor, he swore an oath to uphold the laws of the state. That included the statute governing parole. There were press releases news articles, in which he would publicly say, “We must end parole for those convicted of violent crimes,” indicating that he wanted the state legislature to change the laws surrounding parole. The legislature never did that, realizing the wisdom in allowing people the opportunity to turn their live around and contribute to society. Unable to get his way, Pataki then advise the parole board to start automatically denying the parole applications of persons convicted of a violent crime, including those of first time offenders, and even those who had demonstrated a commitment to self improvement who were therefore in good position to contribute
to society. There were a variety of statements made to reporters, anonymously of course, from people in the Pataki administration, to the effect that The Board had been told not to parole those who had been convicted of violent crimes. Similarly, there were public statements
by Parole Board members that the board ‘had gotten the message.”

At one point, Brion Travis, was removed as State Commissioner of Parole and transferred to a job at the State Insurance Department, as the result of having paroling Kathy Boudin, who had been convicted of a felony murder but had served her time, staying out of trouble, and bettering herself. The sentencing judge in Boudin’s case had stated, in assessing the facts, “I see no reason why Boudin should not be release
after her ‘minimum’ if she stays out of trouble.

This sent a clear message to the Parole Board and constituted blatant interference and contravention of the law. To highlight the acknowledged illegality, the Pataki administration, in attempting to cover its hide, officially denied that the transfer of Travis was in any way related to the decision to parole Boudin. Yet, off the record, an official with knowledge of the situation said that the move was a direct
result of that very decision. In addition, in the case Chen vs. Travis, Chen, who was convicted of a violent crime, was actually told, on the record, in a warning by a commissioner, that he had better not get arrested for another crime because then “his father’s money” would
not help him. The reference was specifi-cally to his father’s huge financial contribution to Pataki’s gubernatorial run. As a result of that, the FBI ultimately arrested a commissioner for corruption, and he was found guilty after trial. He kept his mouth shut and never named names, but can anyone doubt that he was acting on orders from the very top?
Our Readers Respond...

An Open Letter to Judge William Giacomo

Dear Judge Giacomo,

I am writing to let you know how my three children are doing since you have taken them from their mother. Unfortunately,
sir, DEEPEST POCKETS do not parent better than DEEPEST HEART.

Since you have written your decision, or should I say since Barry Swersky, with the assistance of Therese Malach, law guardian,
has written the decision that you signed off on, nearly a year after the trial, the emotional state of my three beautiful children
has deteriorated. They are angry, confused and depressed. They cannot understand why they are being punished.

They are acting out in school, camp, with friends and, most noticeably with me, their mother. Enclosed is a letter my daughter
wrote to you last July, 2006 after the in-camera interview you had with her and the law guardian, Therese Malach. She now
cannot understand why, after expressing to you and the law guardian her feelings, she has been taken from her mother.

She told me back then that she and your daughter shared the same name and that you were “…a nice man, and would not take her from her home, I just know it Mommy…” Do you ever stop to consider your own words, at trial (taken directly from the transcripts) “…These are not parenting issues, they are issues between two parents. These kids are doing great. They are happy, healthy, and someone is obviously
doing something really nice with them…” “…and your daughter is a doll…” The facts and the truth have been swept under the PLUSH carpet of the DEEPEST POCKETS, and I just have one question for you, Your Honor, and the law guardian... HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

Suzanne Stephans, Irvington

cc: The Westchester Guardian

Desperate Plea to Judge Pfau

Dear Editor:

The following is an open letter to Judge Ann T. Pfau, Chief Administrative Judge of the State Court System:

As of today, July 3, 2007, Judge Peter Forman continues ignoring my numerous letters to him requesting a court-appointed
attorney. My next court date is July 12. I have less rights than the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by being in the 9th Judicial District which employs my ex-wife who works for Judge Francis Nicolai.

I can no longer attend Family Court in the 9th Judicial District. My civil rights have been violated. Please move my case to the Bronx.

Tim Wilson

Peekskill’s Jan Peek House - A Beacon In A Sea of Tyranny

Dear Editor:

It is important for us, from time to time, to reflect upon the events of our lives and see how we got to where we are today. By the standards of the society, I would be considered successful. Gainfully employed with two jobs, never missed a day’s work, pay my own way, established good credit and seem to be doing the things a responsible citizen would do.

I would like to acknowledge that this could not have been possible had it not been for the love and unselfish caring of the staff of Jan Peek
House who are the embodiment of the very mission this great establishment was founded on. Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Give love and unconditional acceptance to those you encounter, and notice what happens.” I can tell you what happened in my case:

In April of last year I was released from prison a er doing 18 years. I endeavored to earn back my right to be a citizen in the free world. To my surprise, many of the social and religious agencies who are mandated to assist people in my position only observed my situation with impersonal distance. Their scripture even warns about ignoring the needs of even ‘the least among us’. Where examples of love and compassion are absent, inhumanity, hatred and violence will likely fill the vacuum.

God directed my feet to Jan Peek House. I was greeted by staff with a warm smile, and an invitation to put my bags and my burdens down.
Even a superficial message of love and hope beats none at all.

I was invited to stay and avail myself of the opportunity to re-acclimate myself to the society I had left so long ago. Certainly the world had changed and I had resolved to turn my life around and regain my dignity and self respect by being a law-abiding citizen.

But sometimes good intentions are not enough. At Jan Peek, at every turn, on every shift, there is staff willing to listen, help, direct and give you advice and comfort. With each trip up the hill, or to a job interview, I was cheered on and supported and when I returned many times and things did not go too well, there was always a sympathetic ear.

They deserve great recognition for their work. They are tools of transformation. They kneel down in the sea of human suffering and dirty
their hands with service. They highlight the value of human life and the importance of loving, supportive treatment toward others.

I have watched Peekskill undergo a great transformation. Buildings where there were none before. New businesses. Urban renewal and downtown revitalization. I often asked myself, “what about the people? Is anyone doing anything to rebuild the shattered lives and broken dreams of people who have fallen short of life’s mark? I represent to you that Jan Peek House undertakes this monumental task where other religious and social agencies have fallen short. They are the unsung heroes. Jan Peek is just as much a part of the soul and fiber of our city as some of the greatest establishments and institutions. I urge anyone who reads this to call the facility and see how you can help.

Someone once said, “A love that defies all logic, is sometimes the most logical thing in the world.” Through the work of Jan Peek we see God’s unconditional love. The love for the addict, the homeless, the battered, the mentally ill, the ex-convict, the runaway. None of us are completely without sin, fault or acts of ill intent towards others.

None of us travel through life completely guiltless in our conscience. Fortunately, we have words such as forgiveness, reconciliation, grace
and mercy to soften judgment’s iron fist. And fortunately we have places like Jan Peek that stands as a beacon near our river, and says with
its deeds: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,…send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”


Kudos From Bronxville

Dear Editor:

We are avid readers of The Guardian and have enormous respect for its efforts to eradicate the corruption that permeates Westchester County.

We wish the newspaper great success in its totally justified litigation in Federal Court. We felt for some time that the paper merits wide distribution in the County and we are currently making sure that certain key people are receiving the weekly issues. The response, of course, has been so overwhelmingly positive.

We only wish there were more Richard Blassbergs on the scene. After a nice telephone conversation with Mr. Blassberg we sent two communications that were not answered. We assumed his ‘plate was full’ with many extremely important issues. One communication concerned a development in the New York State Chief Judge’s office. At this point I’m sure the issue is far better known to him than it is to us.

Our case, which originated nearly eight years ago in the Westchester Supreme TORT, has evolved, inevitably, into three separate litigations.
Eventually when the INSANITY ends, our SAGA will rival many of the NIGHTMARES The Guardian has been addressing.

We’ve endured a series of menacing “anonymous” telephone messages – one of the more moderate threatening to put my husband Carl “out of business” if he refused to drop his case against (SL)UDGE Aldo Nastasi! The source of the calls is becoming rather obvious. The $leazy, bumbling, fumbling POWER CRAZY CROOKS carried out their outrageous threat, precipitating our third case against the SEC, or Society for the Ethically Challenged (practitioners of Slander, Extortion and Criminality).

Carl has been a leading money manager, consistently ranking in the top twenty in world surveys and named Manager of the Year in 2006.
He has been admired and respected by the entire investment community for his entire professional career. Fortunately, he is also a maverick
with a legal background who will never concede to corruption.

Once again, we wish The Guardian the very best. If there is any way we can bolster the effort for wide distribution of The Guardian, just
say the word.

Joan Lawrence, Bronxville

Message From Someone in the Belly of the Beast

Dear Editor:

Ahh, life in Arrogant Andy’s County... Also includes his lousy 25 million (in)security system, which is vulnerable as hell and never really tested, nor weaknesses explored until the murder in the Galleria parking structure across the street. It might have been patched in places but the main vulnerability (see those police cars parked outside everyday, they are a ‘patch’, a band-aid) has never been addressed.

The main problem with Andy’s county government, as I see it, is the total disregard for civil service law when promoting from within. Civil
Service Law means NOTHING to the commissioners. They promote their ‘favorites’ even when the ‘favorites’ are not in a position to be promoted and other qualified people are available.

Do not forget, Civil Service Law is not there just to protect the jobs of the clerks and supervisors, and other underlings, it is there to protect us all. Protect us by making sure the best, and most qualified, people are doing the work, NOT the flunkies with the brownest noses. To me, this is why children die at Playland and the social service system is a mess. The brown noses cannot think, they only react.

A Civil Servant

In Our Opinion...

Sodom and Gomorrah

It’s difficult to look at the regimes of Mayors Ernie Davis, of Mount Vernon, and Phil Amicone, of Yonkers, and not be aware of their striking similarity, each having acquired and secured their position through the machinery of municipal clubhouse politics. And, although Davis has been Mayor for three terms, a total of twelve years, Amicone, who is finishing up his first term, was right there, at John Spencer’s elbow for eight years as Deputy Mayor; to hear him tell it, deeply involved in the decision-making process right along.

Having said that, We believe it would not be unfair to suggest that the present condition of each city, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers, can largely be attributed to the actions, and/or lack of action of each, now standing for re-election as mayor. How else may one assess the prospective performance of one who offers himself for high public office and public trust, who is an incumbent, other than by evaluating the product of his labor? Measured against such a standard We must sadly conclude that Davis and Amicone have each been abject failures, little more than caretakers, at best, not likely to improve the circumstances of the city they have been entrusted with, if placed back into their present positions. In short, We believe Ernie Davis and Phil Amicone have not only squandered vast human and financial resources, but also the wonderful opportunity to bring about significant positive change.

Consider the fact that Mount Vernon and Yonkers are each under Federal Investigation, subpoenaed by the United States Attorney’s Office, in connection with projects and programs involving huge sums of money. Mayor Davis has repeatedly acknowledged publicly his inability to account for more than $3 million of federal housing funds that have seemingly disappeared. In Yonkers the FBI is looking into governmental maneuverings over the past few years by which mammoth residential and commercial development projects involving billions of dollars have negotiated the hurdles of municipal review. There’s a distinct odor of fish somehow attached to these financial mysteries.

However, the handling of funds is but one area of concern, but certainly not the issue of greatest concern, or most immediate impact upon the daily lives of the residents of each city. Their worries, on the one hand, tend to involve crime, and the activities of the police, and on the other, property taxes and the quality of public education. As regards crime, there is no denying that street crime and gun violence in both Yonkers and Mount Vernon have been spiraling out of control under Amicone and Davis respectively. Additionally, the Yonkers Police Department has had, and continues to have, a well-deserved reputation for police brutality, a problem neither Phil Amicone nor Commissioner Hartnett have made any convincing effort to abate.

In Mount Vernon, the street violence is every bit as alarming, if not more so. However, in fairness We must recognize the fact that after several failed attempts, Mayor Davis did finally succeed in bringing in a dedicated, very competent, Top Cop, Commissioner David
Chong. Unfortunately, We do not get the impression that the Mayor, when confronted with difficult choices that might enhance public safety, and the delivery of professional police work, at the necessary expense of political cronyism, gets his priorities straight most
of the time.

As regards property taxes, and the quality of education in each city, it would appear that there is somehow a reverse relationship; as taxes continue to rise, the quality of education continues to decline. It is common knowledge that taxes in New York State are the highest in the nation, and Westchester has the highest taxes in the state. Given the inferior performance of public schools in Yonkers and Mount Vernon, in the face of such an oppressive tax burden, many families have actually begun a reverse migration, over the past few years, from each of these cities back to neighborhoods in the Bronx.

The decay and destruction of formerly strong, proud neighborhoods and public schools under Davis and Amicone has been the inevitable product of corrupt, uninspired administrations more concerned with satisfying, and fattening political powerbrokers and criminal
elements such as Giulio Cavallo, Zehy Jereis, Nicky Spano, Larry Schwartz, Reggie LaFayette, and their ilk, than with bringing about meaningful reform and social benefit to their constituents. In short, We believe Ernie and Phil have been marching to the beat of the wrong drummers for quite some time, and are not likely to alter their cadence anytime soon.

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