Thursday, September 27, 2007

Janet Difiore.

D.A. DiFiore Makes A Presentation At The Bronxville League of Women Voters

By Jeffrey Deskovic

Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Deskovic, an outspoken advocate in the struggle against prosecutorial misconduct
and the need for State and Federal legislation to quell such human rights abuses, is a frequent contributor to
The Guardian. Recently, he attended an event at the Bronxville League of Women Voters at which Westchester
District Attorney Janet DiFiore was the principal speaker. He files the following report:

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore gave a presentation to the Bronxville League of
Women Voters the morning of Sept. 19. Her talk centered mainly on the functions of her office in crime prevention and prosecution.

DiFiore stated that she did not think the first response of a district attorney ought to be a knee-jerk reaction
to lock somebody up and prosecute them, but also added that wherever the circumstances warranted
it, she would prosecute. The DA emphasized the importance of crime prevention and her role in such programs,
past and present, designed to accomplish the goal.

She stated that she did not think that the total emphasis of her office ought to be the imprisoning of people
as it was not good policy, once again adding that her office would not hesitate to prosecute crime whenever the
facts warranted it. She also spoke of the responsibility of a district attorney in not prosecuting and/or perpetuating injustice, referencing her actions in the Deskovic case.

Some months ago, prior to her appearance at the League, I spoke there in the role of a criminal justice
advocate, giving a presentation on the subject of wrongful convictions. Starting off with my case and its specifics,
I then segued into the general causes of wrongful convictions as well as the legislative reforms clearly needed
in order to slow down the frequency with which they occur. One of those reforms for which I have been strongly
advocating was the audio and video taping of all interrogations by police.

One of the purposes of such legislation would be to provide a complete record of who said what, when, and in
what context, thus providing a helpful tool for judges and juries alike in their effort to evaluate the voluntariness of
statements, as well as their truthfulness, and reliability. At the same time it would also be an effective tool for
protecting the innocent, as well as police interrogators against untruthful allegations of coercion.

The president of the league, Carol Godfrey, unable to attend, had a question read on her behalf to Di-
Fiore. The question made mention of the fact that I had lectured before the group previously and had advocated
on behalf of videotaping interrogations.

She wanted to know what DiFiore’s position was. DiFiore, responding to the question, unequivocally and with firmness, stated that she was completely in favor of taping and that it made for better evidence. An audience member responded with a follow-up question regarding the possible institutionalizing of that practice, given the resistance that many law enforcement agencies have shown to the process.

The DA made it clear that her office had no legal authority to compel police agencies to conform to the practice,
and that she felt legislation was needed. She added, however, that she would use the moral author-ity of her
office to try to encourage voluntary taping.

An-other question posed to her concerned whether the limited resources of public defender offices tended to enhance the conviction rate. She stated that, on occasion, it definitely did, but that she took no pleasure when her Office successfully prosecuted someone by overwhelming the defense team by virtue of the difference in resources allocated to prosecutors’ offices as compared to public defenders. She went on to reference The Spangenberg Group’s study, undertaken for Chief Judge Judith Kaye, evaluating the state of indigent defense, in which the inadequacies of public defense were well-documented.

Then she invited me up to the podium to answer the question. As I have frequently pointed out, there are built-in handicaps in the operations of public defenders. Having very limited budgets, and therefore being forced to ask judges to allocate discretionary funding, often denied, to pay for experts to review evidence in the furtherance of preparing cases, while at the same time being over burdened with too many cases, often results in inadequate preparation and presentation.

A balanced system is vitally important to any individual defendant, and it is in society’s best interest as a
whole to have competent defense accorded to the poor, in order that we may have more confidence in jury
verdicts and the outcomes of postconviction cases. A balanced system provides the protection that any one
of us might need in the event we were arrested for something we did not do.

Each time someone who is innocent is arrested, a guilty person is left on the loose to again prey upon society.
DA DiFiore emphasized that very point reminding those present that Steven Cunningham, the man whose
crime I was unlawfully prosecuted and sent to prison for, killed another victim 3½ years after the killing for
which I was doing time.
In Our Opinion....

Ernie Davis Should Do The Right Thing

We would have been surprised, albeit pleasantly, if following his defeat in last week’s Democratic primary election Mayor of Mount Vernon, Ernest Davis had done the right thing, the honorable thing, and simply conceded. After all, with a margin of 349 votes, and with only 90 absentee ballots uncounted, what possible hope could Mr. Davis have been nurturing, two days later, that a recount would reverse his fate?

We can understand the numbness that he may have experienced an hour after the polls closed last Tuesday night. We were there on the streets of Mount Vernon, and absorbed first-hand the shock and disbelief expressed by some of his loyalists. For many it was just too much to tolerate, the notion that an honest administration would be taking control of their city, and everybody would be expected to play by the rules. Perhaps, that prospect was far too devastating, particularly for Davis himself to grapple with.

Perhaps he knew something, or thought he knew something the rest of us were unaware of, some device, some magic, by which he would emerge the winner, if only he didn’t concede. After all, hadn’t Nick Spano managed
to wrestle victory away from Andrea Stewart-Cousins in 2004, despite her 355-vote lead walking into the Board Of Elections? If Reggie, a Mount Vernon “homer” could do that for Nicky, why couldn’t he do it
for ‘little old Ernie?’ Why, indeed? All he needed to do was hold out, and stretch it to the second canvass, the recount, or so he may have thought. “What about the will of the People?” some would ask. What about their
courage and hard work that went into tossing him out despite his having spent ten times the money Clinton Young had? We, of course, have known for some time that the will of the People, not to mention their wellbeing, has been the last thing on Ernie Davis’ mind for a very long time.

We fervently hope that Ernie Davis will have come to his senses, and will have conceded his defeat, and accepted the will of Mount Vernon’s People before this edition of the Guardian comes rolling off the presses
one week following the election. We hope that he will have abandoned any misguided notion that anyone would bring about a reversal.

We fully understand all that this rejection by the voters portends for Mr. Davis with respect to his problems with higher authorities, at least in his own perception. Clearly, however, his conduct in office, that has been the basis of ongoing investigations into his administration, is the same evidence upon which constituents based their choice at the polls a week ago. That having been said, We would hope that, if for no other reason than to save face, Ernie Davis will have stepped from the stage promptly and gracefully.
Our Readers Respond...

Reader Takes Issue With Columnist Camacho Over Bubaries Column

Dear Editor:

I just finished reading my first copy of The Westchester Guardian and I won’t be reading another one.
I was outraged by the articles about Officer Bubaris in Mt Kisco. You seem to forget that it was Rene Perez that was the criminal NOT Officer Bubaris. He is the scapegoat of political correctness and I hope and pray that when his so-called case comes to trial, common sense prevails.

How dare Ms. Camacho cast aspersions on the fine Police Dept. of Mt Kisco? How dare she accuse them of being complicit in the deaths of other vagrant, illegal aliens? That verges on libel, to my mind. Where is there ANY proof that any of these deaths are even related?

Even the heading of the column is offensive. When one chooses to live in this country, one should learn the language and assimilate, not expect that our English-speaking country adapt to YOU. If you want to speak Spanish...STOP AT HOME!

Mt Kisco is a very family friendly place for US citizens and legal immigrants who are grateful for the life the US has given them. And as I am an immigrant myself, I know what I am talking about.

So forget Living Latino in Westchester and try Living American in America!! She should be ashamed!

Louise Simmons

Reader Takes Issue With Columnist Camacho Over Gonzales Column

Dear Editor:

“Alberto Gonzales Squandered A Wonderful Opportunity” is the title of the Living Latino Eridania Camacho’s
Sept. 13th column. The substance of the column is based on a timeline of events from The New York Times, leading up to the resignation of the attorney general. According to Ms. Camacho, some from the Latino community felt a certain “ambivalence” with the appointment of U.S. Attorney General Gonzales. For some reason they lacked confidence, some even cited “his level of dishonesty and disrespect for the law”. They held no lofty expectations of his performance and a job well done.

This long-winded chronological sequence of events, however, from such a questionable and disreputable source
(NY Times), could not hide the truth lying just beneath the surface. Ms. Camacho states, “What else could we have expected from the Bush Administration.” And there is the real problem. Reasonable and fair-minded people would have given Mr. Gonzales a chance, especially those in the Latino community who should have greeted his nomination with measure of pride. But it was not to be. From the outset his fate was sealed, a victim by ssociation.

It would appear that to some, President Bush and his administration are the catalyst of so many of today’s ills. Just ask Messrs. Blassberg and Polvere, and now Ms. Camacho. And it does make one wonder, what liberals will do when Mr. Bush leaves office. You would think there would be shouts of joy and jubilation, perhaps even celebration in the streets. But I think not.

I believe over the last seven years many liberals have succumbed to their innermost demons, and have indeed fallen victim to the dreaded Bush Derangement Syndrome. This pathological disorder is formed deep within the
psyche, and aside from the mental strain it causes, is an addiction which eventually manifests itself as an unnatural compulsion, an irresistible impulse to act regardless of the rationality of the motivation. And it is for this reason
that liberals will require a fix, a daily dosage of Mr. Bush, just to sustain their mental well-being. All that hate, bitterness and contempt liberals harbor for this one man must have an outlet.

It was difficult enough when Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove and recently Alberto Gonzales resigned their positions in the Administration. So what will happen when George Bush leaves office? There’ll be no release mechanism.
All that bottled-up negative energy, where will it go? In God’s name, what will they do? Oh, what will they do?

Bob Pascarella, The Bronx

Harrison Resident Expresses Frustration With Mayor Malfitano and Town Board

Dear Editor:

In an article in The Harrison Herald (January 2007), there was a review of the December 14, 2006 Town Board Meeting. At that time, Mayor Malfitano noted that residents not having a municipal sewer can petition the Town Board to be taken out of the Sewer District and that the District would reimburse homeowners for septic tank cleaning. This process takes about nine months; the County Health Department has to determine eligibility.

I have a septic system and I wanted to opt out of the Sewer District as soon as I read that article. Immediately, I submitted my petition of withdrawal to the Town Board of Harrison. At the January 2007 meeting the matter was tabled because the Board “wanted more information.” I have sent a dozen (literally) letters to Mayor Malfitano and all the Councilmen, but all I have received is silence! Dozens of phone calls have been made to the Mayor’s office, but still no reply!

Indeed, the Mayor, who claims to have the interests of the Town in the forefront, refuses to talk to me. I have never seen or heard from any of the Councilmen.

From this matter, it is evident how the Mayor and his Councilmen run this town, by ignoring the request of a citizen of this town (for 28 years) and doing only what they think looks good in the press.

Judy Goldstein
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Jeffrey Deskovic Seeks Accountability And Damages From Police Chief Tumolo And Co-Conspirators

Last Tuesday, September 18th attorneys for Jeffrey Deskovic made a much anticipated filing with the United States District Court For The Southern District OF New York, against Peekskill Police Chief Eugene Tumolo, and several co-conspirators and governmental subdivisions, seeking damages for their knowingly false, and malicious prosecution and incarceration which claimed more than sixteen years of Deskovic’s liberty, in violation of his due process, and civil rights, under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, rendering him incalculably injured, and forever changed. The action stems from unlawful activities that began in November 1989 in response to the rape and killing by strangulation of fifteen year-old Peekskill High School student Angela Correa.

The 77-page summons and complaint identifies Steven Cunningham, then 29, as the crack-addicted assailant who attacked Correa, “leaving behind a trail of evidence, demonstrating his involvement in the crime, including, critically, his semen.”

That semen that Eugene Tumolo now insists he ordered tested, established as early as April of 1990 that Jeffrey Deskovic’s DNA did not match the assailant’s, and yet a malicious prosecution went forward predicated upon an indictment hastily sought and obtained by Westchester Assistant District Attorney George Bolen three days
before he would receive official word of the mismatch.

Tumolo, then a Lieutenant Detective with the Peekskill Police Department, of which he is now Chief, and who headed the investigation, not surprisingly, now publicly claims, through his attorney Tony Castro, that upon learning of the failure of the DNA to match that of his falsely confessed, sixteen-year-old suspect, went to ADA Bolen but was rejected, and informed that the prosecution would be going forward anyway.

Analysis:

That claim, seventeen years later, in no way mitigates his involvement and culpability in the obtaining of a forced, false confession from a vulnerable sixteen-year old boy, and the malicious, and unconscionable prosecution for many months, and ultimate incarceration of that youth for sixteen years thereafter. After all, is Chief Tumolo trying to now say that he had no recourse, once ADA George Bolen informed him that he would be going forward with Deskovic’s prosecution, despite compelling scientific evidence that the youth was, in fact, innocent?

Is Tumolo trying to suggest that he could not have gone to District Attorney Carl Vergari, George Bolen’s boss? And, even assuming Vergari might have been as evil, and hell-bent as Bolen, he could not have appealed to the State Attorney General’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office, or even the press and media to prevent the
tragic, knowing and malicious prosecution of an innocent boy placed in harms way by Tumolo’s own overzealous, unlawful, personally self-serving investigative tactics?

What, other than his lack of moral fiber, and depraved indifference to the outcome of a malicious prosecution set in motion by his own evil deeds kept Mr. Tumolo from attempting to right the wrong he had set in motion, and what, other than his own selfinterest, kept him silent for sixteen years as Jeffrey Deskovic, a person he knew was innocent, languished in state prison, while Steven Cunningham, someone not unknown to Tumolo, remained free to kill again, even as he would kill some three years later?
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

The Cabal Is Dead; Long Live Westchester’s Real Democrats

Not withstanding whatever shenanigans Davis’ operatives, Reggie La-Fayette, Lisa Copeland, Serapher Conn-Halevi, and John and Jane Does One through perhaps Twenty, may have attempted to pull off - à la the 2004 State Senate Race in the Thirty-Fifth District - between last Tuesday night and the appearance of this issue of The Guardian, Clinton Young has defeated three-term incumbent Mayor of Mount Vernon Ernie Davis.

That fact, coupled with Paul Feiner’s 67% victory over Suzanne Berger, is giving County Executive, for now, Andy Spano, and his puppeteer Larry Schwartz, acid indigestion, and, rightly so.

Andy and Larry are certainly not alone in their discomfort; there are several other members of the Cabal wondering about their future. Actually, there is nothing to be wondering about; the Cabal is dead! To confirm that
conclusion one must identify the membership and their individual roles. And, one must recognize that there has not been a legitimate two-party political system in Westchester for many years.

Each of the present principal members of the Cabal have played a very distinct part in its corruption and control of the electoral process in Westchester. Jeanine Pirro, when she was District Attorney, was clearly the central figure, as only she could control with the power to indict and prosecute. Now, ironically, she is very likely the subject of an indictment herself, a federal indictment, sealed for many months, as the United States Attorney’s Office continues to gather evidence against her, and against those with whom she did business. While she was DA she shared her covert power with Larry Schwartz, who now sits on the Throne of Evil alone, as he recently exclaimed to a horrified elderly couple, “I’m the most powerful man in Westchester.”

On the other hand, his boss, in name only, County Executive Andy Spano, has been the “public face” of the Cabal particularly since Pirro’s departure. Amongst the other members, Reggie LaFayette, Chairman of the
Westchester Democratic Committee, and simultaneously the vastly overpaid Democratic Election Commissioner, has been what used to be known in the Mob as a “Button Man,” literally executing the unlawful election frauds schemed up by Larry Schwartz, whether they involved race fixing, or election ballot tampering, or out and out election fraud.

Of course, there’s Giulio Cavallo, and Zehy Jereis, political gutter snipes whose bread and butter activities have been mostly covert, selling endorsements from the Independence and Republican Parties, respectively. The
common denominator, better yet, the common benefactor, and controller, of these two election fraudsters, is former State Senator Nick Spano, whose endorsement of Phil Amicone in exchange for $1.3 million in no-show patronage jobs for some thirty of his political hacks at Yonkers City Hall is but one of several unlawful activities engaged in by the Yonkers Mayor.

Of course, when Amicone comes back to earth he will realize that his victory over Vinny Restiano, in the Republican Primary, was hollow, and certainly will not translate into four more years when he faces Dennis Robertson in November. He will realize that despite his having the financial and political support of Larry and Andy, the Greenburgh and Mount Vernon primary results portend little, if any, positive impact on his re-election bid.

The trouble is the gig is up; the Cabal is dead. Rank and file Democrats have finally begun to recognize the sham and the manipulation flowing from the ninth floor of the County Office Building. Those in Greenburgh recognized the self-serving motives behind Larry’s and Andy’s support of Suzanne Berger, their finagling of State Assemblymen George Latimer and Adam Bradley, two Democrats with no particular beef against Paul Feiner,
to come out in support of Berger.

Funny how one becomes obligated to the Devil when one accepts money and other campaign support from him; a kind of Godfather Obligation, that, thankfully, constituents are beginning to see through and discount.

Who, after all, were Bradley and Latimer to be telling Greenburgh residents that they ought to be turning their backs on Paul Feiner? And why would the voters of Mount Vernon listen to the likes of David Paterson or Eliot
Engel, real outsiders coming into their besieged city, telling them to vote for Ernie Davis, a man under federal investigation, about to be indicted, just because Larry, Andy, and the Cabal wanted to keep their operative in
power?

Yes, the People, not only in Mount Vernon and Greenburgh, but all over Westchester, have opened their eyes. Not even massive amounts of money - Ernie Davis spent ten times what Clinton Young spent - no, not even money will fool them anymore. Naturally, the political bosses have had their way for so long that they find it difficult to accept the new reality.

They have fixed so many races, monkeyed around with voting machines, and gotten access to ballots for the purpose of rigging election outcomes so many times over the last ten years that it’s going to take a few federal indictments and convictions to fully convince them that the Cabal is history.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Court Of Appeals Hears Last Death Penalty Case In System; Future of Death Penalty Hangs In Balance



By Jeffrey Deskovic
Albany Correspondent,
The Westchester Guardian




Introduction

The case of John Taylor v. People of the State of New York represents the last death penalty case currently in the New York State court system. The highest court in New York, The Court Of Appeals, had previously ruled New York’s Death Penalty Statute un-Constitutional in the case People v. LaValle. Now, three years later, this last case could be one that brings back the death penalty judicially.



Since the previous ruling, there have been two new justices appointed to the Court by George Pataki, a governor
who had brought back the death penalty in 1995. Governors generally appoint judges whose political and judicial positions resemble their own. Such is the setting in which John Taylor’s horrific and brutal crime for which he stands sentenced to death is being considered. As such, the case represents a clear possibility that the death penalty might be judicially reinstated.



Factual Background



John Taylor and his accomplice, Crag Godineaux entered a Wendy’s restaurant in Flushing on May 24, 2000 as workers were preparing to close for the night. Taylor robbed the manager at gunpoint, taking about $2400. They then ordered all seven employees into a large freezer in the basement, binding and gagging five of them, and tying plastic bags over their heads. They shot each of the seven in the head, killing five. Jaquoine Johnson and Patricio Castro survived and testified at trial. Godineaux, his accomplice, who is mentally retarded, pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Taylor was convicted of five counts of first degree murder and sentenced to death on three of them. On the remaining counts and other non-capital crimes, he was sentenced to 15 consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison.


Prequel


This case was the sole case heard Court Of Appeals Hears Last Death Penalty Case In System; Future of Death Penalty Hangs In Balance by The Court Of Appeals heard on September 10, 2007. Representing the Defendant was Capital Defender Kevin Doyle, First Deputy Capital Defender Susan Salomon, and Deputy Capital Defender Barry J. Fischer. Representing the People, on behalf of Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown were Assistant District Attorney’s Gary Fidel, John Castellano, and Donna Aldea. The format was as follows: The Defense was given an hour and twenty minutes, the prosecution an hour and fifty minutes,
followed by thirty minutes of rebuttal by the Defense.


Although there were many issues which were argued in the legal briefs, there were three main issues which
were the subject of the oral argument.



1) Whether the court should uphold it’s previous decision in People v. LaValle,



2) The Prosecutor’s comments regarding the Defendant’s children testifying at the penalty phase of the trial, and,



3) The Defendant’s Right To Counsel. Because the judicial decision rendered in this case had death penalty
implications, issues surrounding the death penalty were also argued.


Upholding Lavelle


The main issue was whether the court should uphold its previous decision in Lavelle, which was that the New
York Death Penalty Statute was Constitutionally defective, in that the statute required judges to inform the jury
that they could sentence a defendant to death or to life imprisonment without parole, or should they deadlock, the
Court would sentence the defendant to the maximum amount that it could.



The previous ruling was that such an instruction was coercive because it encouraged a jury to do the same thing
and sentence a defendant to the maximum amount they could, death. Being flawed in that way, the Court said the
legislature would have to redraft a new statute if they wanted a death penalty.


The prosecution sought to overturn that decision attempting to compel the Court to bring back the death penalty
judicially. Susan Salomon, of the Capital Defenders Office, argued this issue on behalf of Taylor. She argued that the statute was indeed flawed in its construction, and under questioning from Judge Smith, indicated that any attempt by a judge to fix the flaw by substituting the legislature-required jury instruction to one of their own was improper.


Prosecutor Aldea, countered, opening her presentation by saying that the previous ruling of the court was “unnecessary, inappropriate and incorrect.”


This prompted the immediate response from Chief Judge Judith Kaye, “Those are fighting words, counsel.” Aldea tried to make light by chuckling a little while going forward with her argument, but it was clear that she had antagonized Kaye. One particularly telling exchange between Aldea and Judge Smith occurred when Smith asked her, “So you are saying that we should save the statute any way that we can, even if it means that we interpret the statute in a way other than that intended by the Legislature?” Her response was “Yes.”


If LaValle is overturned, it could mean the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York.


Right To Counsel


An interesting issue with respect to the right to counsel was raised in this case. In order to uphold the 6th Amendmentguarantee of The Right To Counsel, the law dictates that once it has been communicated to the authorities that a defendant has an attorney, all communication between police and the suspect must cease outside of the presence of that attorney, and any waiver of that right must be made in the presence of
a lawyer.


Unusualness In The Taylor Case


Taylor incriminated himself verbally, in writing, and on videotape. The problem is that while Taylor was in custody, but before he incriminated himself, Pam Jordan, an attorney who hadrepresented him in a previous matter, called the police and told them she was representing him. They then conveyed that information to the Defendant, who replied that he did not want her to represent him. The police then continued to question him, and at some point thereafter he implicated himself.

The next day, when the police wanted to conduct a police lineup they then called Jordan and had her come to the station to observe the lineup.

Arguments Surrounding This Issue

Barry Fisher argued this point on behalf of the Defense. Summarized, the arguments were: that the police should
not delve into the relationship between the suspect and the lawyer, or inquiring as to whether the suspect wants to waive the right to counsel, because that is a Pandora’s Box which could only open the door to a lot of controversies in other cases. Fischer mentioned the need for police to have a ‘bright line’ clearly indicating to them that once an attorney has communicated to the police that he is representing a defendant, all questioning must cease.

The question was asked what constituted sufficient relationship between a lawyer and a suspect, given that a lawyer who was a virtual stranger with no connection to a suspect could not simply call the station and announce he was representing the suspect. The reply was that a sufficient connection was being retained by the suspect or the suspect’s family, or previous representation on a separate case. Fisher found it suspicious that the police had accepted his waiver outside of the presence of Jordan, and yet insisted that she come to the station the next day
for the lineup despite what Taylor had previously said. When the Prosecution was asked by one of the Judges why the police had suddenly brought the lawyer in the next day for the lineup, one of them replied “Out of expediency”. The court’s follow up remarks indicated that that was an insufficient answer.

The importance of this issue was that if a violation of Taylor’s Right To Counsel was found, that would mean
suppression of all of the statements, which is what furnished some of the evidence of premeditation at the penalty
phase. This is an unusual case in that the Defendant was not raising this issue so as to get a reversal of his conviction, but merely to get a new sentencing hearing.

Prosecution Comments

At the sentencing hearing, the defendant’s children testified that they loved their father, and that he was loving. The prosecution attacked the Defendant by questioning what kind of father would subject his children to the horrible experience of testifying in such a hearing, and also referred to them as “props”, in a defense that was staged. Fisher argued on behalf of the Defendant that allowing such a commentary, which has previously been unknown in other cases, would have a “chilling effect on family mitigation”.

Aldea argued that the word “props” did not mean that the children were lying, and she also opined that the entire
relationship between the defendant and his children was established only after he had been arrested. Fisher responded on rebuttal that that was not true. Aldea’s reply to this issue in general was “The comments were proper given that the issue was injected by Defendant.”

The Death Penalty Issue as a Whole Because this case is one in which the court could bring the death penalty
back judicially, the proposition of the Death Penalty’s reinstatement loomed large over the proceedings. The defense therefore focused on the subject of the death penalty itself during a portion of the time allotted to them during oral argument. The defense elected to have Kevin Doyle, the Capital Defenders, focus solely on this issue. Putting forth a variety of arguments against the death penalty, he stated that a dozen polls taken since 2003 showed that the public has been turning against the death penalty, not just in New York, but also in other states, and internationally. He indicated three reasons for the shift in opinion:

1) When life without parole was introduced as an alternative punishment, favor for the death penalty drops considerably

2) The Catholic Factor

3) The Issue of Innocent People possibly being Executed

Evolving Standards Of Decency Argument

Doyle stated that evolving standards of decency were against the death penalty. He indicated, “Right across the
Hudson in New Jersey, for example, there is a current moratorium on the death penalty and it is on the verge of
being abolished there as a result of the findings of a study commissioned by the Governor, which recommended
that it be abolished.” He also referenced the United States Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons, which declared that the execution of juveniles was against the evolving standards of decency. Within that opinion the Court considered that all countries save the United States and Somalia had ratified Article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of children, which prohibited capital punishment, and the fact that the United States stood alone with only Iran, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and China in permitting capital punishment for anybody. He urged the judges to make New York a moral example that other states with the death penalty could look to in considering whether or not to continue it.

The Catholic Factor

Catholics make up a large portion of New York State’s population, and the recent definitive position taken by the Church against the death penalty was responsible for some of the change of opinion.

Innocence Argument

Doyle also argued that the death penalty has implications with respect to wrongful convictions. New York currently has an alarming 23 DNA exonerations. The reinstatement of the death penalty would assure that there
would be executions of people who were innocent but who had nonetheless been wrongfully convicted. To
further support this contention he mentioned that in the 19th century eight likely innocent people had been
put to death in New York. When asked by The Guardian, following the hearing the source of that statistic, Doyle
mentioned the book In Spite Of Innocence by Bedau and Radelet. He also referenced the fact that former Gov.
Cuomo, a staunch enemy of the death penalty, had also referred to that number in a 1983 speech at St. Rose College in Albany.

Comments Following The Hearing

A number of people offered comments after the hearing, both those who were directly involved, and those
who had an interest in its outcome.

Those with direct involvement

Commenting on the importance of the decision of the Court in this case, Kevin Doyle stated after the hearing that if the Court brought back the death penalty “the execution of the innocent is a virtual inevitability.” Regarding the racial dynamics inherent in the death penalty’s application, he said, “The dynamics of discretion is damned to be discriminatory.” He also said “We believe the Court will stand by its precedent.

We believe the death penalty is finished in New York.” Richard Brown, District Attorney of Queens, had some interesting comments. He stated that although he was the respondent in this case and his of-fice was arguing for the reinstatement of the death penalty, he was personally against the death penalty. He stated that his problem with it was that it was a ‘Terribly inefficient use of prosecutorial resources which took away from manpower
that could be used in the prosecution of other violent crimes; and that it didn’t provide the closure that families
of victims seek because appellate procedures create long intervals between trial and execution of sentence, which
often lasts as much as 20 years. When asked by The Guardian about the contradiction between his position and the fact that his Office was seeking to reinstate the very penalty that he was opposed to, Brown’s response was, ‘I had to defend the law as it existed’. It didn’t seem to matter to him that it is within a district attorney’s discretion whether or not to seek the death penalty, and that therefore there was no contradiction between not seeking the death penalty and the obligation to uphold the law, and that therefore he did not need to seek the reinstatement of a penalty that he felt was not good for society.

Interested Parties who were not involved in the litigation

There were people who were not parties in the litigation who nonetheless were interested in the outcome of
the case. Sharon Witbeck, whose nephew was killed, stated that “It’s ironic that we are talking about premeditation and morality, yet we are premeditating about executing him.” She also opined that the financial resources that are spent on the death penalty would be better spent on crime prevention. She wondered out loud about the cost of the hearing itself and all of the research and time that went into the preparation of the briefs, argumentation etc. inherent in capital prosecution and defense.

Marie Verzulli, whose sister was murdered, and who works as a Victim’s Outreach Liaison with the group New
Yorkers Against The Death Penalty, said, “I hope that the Court upholds its decision.” She did not want to live
in a state that had the death penalty, because it put all of the focus on the defendant and not on the victims, and
that the attendant publicity during the appeals process was a hindrance to victims’ family members healing.

David Kaczynski, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against The Death Penalty issued a press statement which, in part, stated, “The Court Of Appeals got it right in 2004. The Lavelle decision found that the 1995 Capital Punishment Law contained an inherent bias that could not withstand Constitutional scrutiny.” Kacznski referred to 2004 and 2005 public hearings of the Assembly in which victim family members, law enforcement
personnel, and other experts, testified about cases in which the death penalty was given. The Assembly learned
that the victims were re-victimized by the attention given the perpetrator, and taxpayers spent $200 million over 10 years while creating a serious risk that innocent people could be wrongfully executed.

Public opinions show that New Yorkers increasingly prefer life without parole to the death penalty.
Rebecca Kurti, of the group Campaign To End The Death Penalty, found it outrageous that the prosecutor commented on Taylor’s children testifying in his defense. Her sentiment was that the State was trying to execute their father and they wanted him to live because they loved him. what were they supposed to do, keep quiet and let him be executed?

Janet Difiore.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Will Officer Bubaris Be Sacrificed For The Sins Of Many?

Back on May 17th the front page of The Westchester Guardian declared “Perez Killing Demands FBI Investigation.” The editorial, In Our Opinion, opined, “It doesn’t require the wisdom of Solomon to recognize that neither the Mount Kisco Village Police, nor the Bedford Town Police Department, should be actively engaged in the investigation of the ‘death by homicide’ as determined by the Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office, of Rene Perez, in the early morning hours of April 29th.”

In light of the fact that officers from each of those departments had allegedly had contact with Mr. Perez, within
hours of his death, it appeared to The Guardian that “reasonableness, and professional investigative ethics demand(ed) that a thirdparty agency investigation be conducted.” The agency recommended by The Guardian was the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That position was justified, particularly given numerous cases involving police officers mishandled by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, cases such as Matthew McKerrick’s and Richard DiGuglielmo’s, in which innocent police officers were knowingly and maliciously subjected to prosecutorial misconduct, convicted, and sent to prison for political expedience. And, ADA Michael Hughes’ involvement, given his correspondence in the McKerrick case, suggesting that it didn’t matter
if the DA’s Office knew the man they prosecuted and sent to prison was innocent, does little to recommend
the integrity of the present investigation.

The indictment of Mount Kisco Police Officer George Bubaris, handed down by a grand jury several days ago, if anything, affirms The Guardian’s position and concerns. In fact, the indictment, first sought by prosecutors on August 21st, and finally obtained two weeks later, raises many more questions, not only about the circumstances surrounding Rene Perez’ death, but also about the relationship of the District Attorney’s Office with some forty-four police departments functioning within Westchester County.

It is noteworthy that although Westchester’s Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Luis Roh, declared that Perez’ death “was the result of a homicide,” that caused the tearing of the mesentery, a membrane that connects the intestines to the abdominal wall, Officer Bubaris is not charged with having delivered the deadly blow. He is not charged with any level of assault upon the person of Rene Perez, nor is anyone else.

Rather, Bubaris is charged with Second Degree Manslaughter, a Class C Felony, defined, as applied to the facts of this incident, as recklessly causing the death of another person; First Degree Unlawful Imprisonment, a
Class E Felony, defined as having restrained another person under circumstances which expose that person to a risk of serious physical injury; as well as two counts of Official Misconduct, a Class A Misdemeanor, presumably for engaging in “Border Dumping” as a knowingly unauthorized exercise of his official function. At her press conference, called to announce the indictment, the District Attorney declared, “The indictment specifically says Officer Bubaris restrained Rene Perez and exposed him to a risk of death.”

The first of many questions that come to mind, under the theory of this indictment, might be, “What if Mr. Perez had collapsed in the laundry or on the street, at Main Street, and Route 117, where Bedford Police reportedly had ‘border-dumped’ him following an earlier incident at Kohl’s in Bedford; would the Mount Kisco Police have conducted the investigation, and would a Bedford Police Officer, or Of-ficers have been indicted?”

Given that officers from both departments had each engaged in the unlawful, but, not necessarily unauthorized,
removal practice, did the determination of who, if anyone, was guilty of Manslaughter and other crimes rest solely upon who had had the last contact with Rene Perez before his alcoholic and neglected body gave out? Under these facts how does the United States Attorney’s Office permit the Bedford Police Department to be a participating agency in the investigation? How do they not see the glaring confl ict of interest?

Yes, unlawful perhaps; but was Officer Bubaris’ trip to Byram Lake Road in the Town of Bedford for the purpose of returning Perez to that jurisdiction, necessarily “unauthorized?” After all, Mount Kisco Police
Lieutenant Dunnigan had responded to the laundry together with Police Officer Dwyer, as well as Officer Bubaris. Dunnigan surely had the same opportunity to view and assess Perez’ sobriety and physical condition, as
had Bubaris. Clearly, he must have been aware of the ‘game plan’ for this vagrant immigrant who reportedly had had hundreds of such contacts between the Mount Kisco, and Bedford Police over more than a decade.

It is highly unlikely that Dunnigan, a superior o cer on the scene, had no knowledge of what would be done by Bubaris in dealing with Perez. Another question involves Dr. Luis Roh, who has come to be known by far too many criminal defense attorneys as a medical examiner who apparently has often said to the District Attorney’s Office, “Tell me what you want me to prove?” He turned the murder/suicide of Archie Harris, 79, by Betty Ramsharam, his home health aide, into a “double homicide” because Eastchester Police, and consequently the DA’s Office, needed him to, so that Selwyn Days, a perfect brain-damaged fall-guy could be convicted, and
more than $350,000 in cash and bearer bonds removed from the premises, and never accounted for by Eastchester Police, could finally be spent.

In the John Spruill case Roh had five Assistant DAs and four White Plains Police Officers at his side as he autopsied Spruill’s deceased aunt. Dr. Roh was so convinced that the middle-aged bus driver had strangled
his aged aunt, the only mother he had ever known. For Roh the fact that Spruill had attempted to stop his aunt from falling backward, tragically, but accidentally, falling on top of her in the process, was simply unacceptable because in DA Jeanine Pirro’s world nobody died by accident, especially when she could invent another Depraved Indifference Murder scenario.

Fortunately for Mr. Spruill, three medical examiners, including the Chief Medical Examiner of Suffolk County, and the judge/fact-finder in the case, thought otherwise.

How can we rely upon Dr. Roh’s analysis? Is it not even remotely possible that Rene Perez, in his drunken condition, might have fallen against a rock, or a guardrail, or some other object, thus injuring his already damaged abdominal area, either before, or a er being dropped off on Byram Lake Road?

Under the top count of the indictment, Second Degree Manslaughter, in order for Officer Bubaris’ conduct to have “recklessly caused the death” of Rene Perez, he had to have known, or should have known, of Perez’ failing physical condition. However, if it is presumed that he had that awareness so should Lieutenant Dunnigan, and Police Officer Dwyer, not to mention the Bedford Police Officers who apprehended Perez at Kohl’s and brought him to Mount Kisco. Why indict only Officer Bubaris? Was it some game of “hot potato” the officers were playing, and prosecutors are perpetuating; that whoever is holding the potato when the music stops gets indicted, and burned?

If not one of them is being accused of assaulting, or physically injuring, Rene Perez, then under the DA’s theory of guilt, aren’t each and every one of perhaps  ve, or more Bedford and Mount Kisco Police Officers
who interacted with and disposed of this intoxicated vagrant immigrant collectively culpable in his ultimate death?

Why is one police o cer being sacrificed for the actions of several? And, why is there no attempt to determine if, in fact, the abdominal injury sustained by Mr. Perez was the result of someone’s criminal assault upon him, or merely an accident?

The family of Rene Perez, the Latino Community, Officer Bubaris and, indeed, all residents of Westchester, are entitled to a more honest and accurate outcome than this indictment represents. Given that there are no fewer than three other male Latinos whose deaths in the Mount Kisco area in recent years, have gone unsolved and unexplained, perhaps United States Attorney Michael J. Garcia might take a moment to rethink the level of his Office’s involvement in the Rene Perez case. After all, one would expect that if the full resources and attention of the Federal Government were applied, many more answers might have been produced. And, wouldn’t it be more just and fair to get all of the facts on the table now rather than subjecting Mr. Bubaris, and any other potential defendant, to the double jeopardy of a later reprosecution in Federal Court, as has too often
been the case?
In Our Opinion...

There really is a Tooth Fairy, and Four-Star Generals never lie!

Isn’t it amazing the way those in the highest echelons of government who routinely spin and lie, and those apologists in the media who favor, and feed off of them, display such almost-convincing indignation in response to any exposure of their misrepresentations, and outright lies? One such media apologist, Sean Hannity carries on as if he just graduated from a parochial high school with unbruised knuckles and a piggy bank full of Tooth Fairy money.

Last week on Fox’s nightly Hannity and Colmes program Mr. Hannity made quite a fuss about those in Congress, particularly New York Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, and Chuck Schumer’s, criticisms of General David H. Petraeus’ testimony before them a few days earlier. Both senators, together with other senators and representatives, some of them Republicans, had voiced skepticism with regard to the statistics and analyses the good general had rolled out before them. Many, who had reluctantly financed the President’s surge tactic expressed open disappointment with the unabated daily casualties and deaths, both Iraqi and American,
reported nightly, experiencing difficulty reconciling the Four Star General’s positive evaluations with the known facts.

To hear Hannity carry on about those who believe that Petraeus was carrying water for a president who has gotten himself, and our Nation, into something we should not have entered into, one would think such observers and critics were guilty of blasphemy. Turning to the camera he declared, “This is a Four-Star General they’re
calling a liar,” indignation literally radiating from his brow.

We would remind Mr. Hannity, and others of his ilk, that there is nothing about high military position that inoculates one from telling an occasional lie, either by omission or commission, as former General, then Secretary of State, Colin Powell discovered the hard way in his address before the United Nations on the subject of
Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. We have no reason to believe that General Powell was any more loyal to this president then, than General Petraeus is now.

And, the phenomenon is hardly exclusive to the George W. Bush Administration. Surely Mr. Hannity is aware, if only from studying recent American history, of the exaggerated and often downright false body-counts that came out of Vietnam under General William Westmoreland in his concerted effort to create support for, and pressure on, President Lyndon Johnson, for a widening of the War and an infusion of significantly greater numbers of troops. Westmoreland, much like Petraeus, had his attrition charts and bar graphs, all designed to persuade Congress and the American People that we were succeeding in Vietnam. However, over time it became increasingly clear that the intelligence on enemy casualties and deaths, as well as weapons captured, and a host of other indices, could not be reconciled with the day-to-day reality on the ground, and Westmoreland was ultimately recalled and replaced by General Creighton W. Abrams.

Thankfully, many in Congress understand that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat prior mistakes. Additionally, the American People are not only wary of the war in Iraq, but have been voicing their opposition to it in ever-increasing numbers. Despite those whose political philosophy and blind loyalty to a misguided and stubborn leader keeps them in lock-step with his policies, and condemning of those who suggest that soldiers can be liars, the last time We checked this was still the United States and nobody, not even four-star generals, are sacred cows.
Our Readers Respond...

Candidate Decries Opposition’s Misrepresentations About Him

Dear Editor:

I am campaigning for Town Board with energy and optimism for the job ahead. During this campaign, I have spoken with hundreds of Greenburgh residents and listened carefully to their concerns and problems.

I believe in open, transparent government. I believe in enacting laws that improve the quality of our environment and the quality of the lives of our residents. I believe taxpayers’ money should be spent wisely and I believe in fairness.

I am running for Town Board because I stand up for what I believe in. Therefore, I must set the record straight about the gross misrepresentations of my opponents. Steve Bass and Eddie Mae Barnes knowingly disregarded the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Board by publicly repeating outrageous statements about me that the Board ruled unfair.

I AM and always will be pro-choice. By declaring to the contrary, Bass and Barnes thumbed their noses at the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Board. This behavior reveals the kind of politicians they are.

They claim credit for policies they oppose and make up lies about their opponents simply to win. How can they now be trusted to keep their promises?

The Scarsdale Inquirer said about me that I am “earnest, sincere and we believe a straight shooter.” You will hear no lies or see me take credit for things I voted against. I will seek your input on all issues and vote for what I believe is right for Greenburgh. I will serve you with energy, diligence and integrity. I am optimistic about our future!

Kevin Morgan, Elmsford

A Call For Impeachment - One Man’s Opinion

Dear Editor:

“We The People” can and must make the present political system implement meaningful change. I believe this can be addressed through public financing of campaigns and limiting the time of campaigning prior to an election. This would get big money out of the election process. It would force the public to pay attention to politics.

President George W. Bush and his elected and corporate partners in crime could not have pillaged this country and its people without the consent of both houses of Congress. Both houses of Congress and a large majority of our elected representatives have given new meaning to the term “checks and balances” and “We The People” are being cheated!

I believe that Impeachment is “Off Of The Table” because most of the Nation’s business is being conducted, bought and paid for “Under The Table”!

Indeed there are obvious grounds for impeachment: Flagrant, multiple violations of a U.S. Treaty. When the Congress ratifies an international treaty, that treaty becomes U.S. law. This is the case with Geneva Convention. Violation of this law is a crime.

Congress is required to uphold the law. Our representatives take an oath to uphold the constitution -- not when it suits their schedule and agenda, or when it is not politically strategic. Whenever the Constitution is violated, it is their legal and moral obligation to act.

Checks and balances must be defended. An executive that refuses to be checked by the other two branches is a danger to our entire system for generations. History has consistently shown that once a President has taken new powers for himself, no subsequent President of either party ever gives back those powers. The President’s extreme over expansion of powers drives us toward a dangerously uncheckable executive.

Impeachment is provided for in OUR CONSTITUTION. People mistakenly think impeachment is terrible for the nation while not recognizing that it is a tool to preserve our democracy. The founding fathers provided us with this tool so we can use it as often as necessary – to keep our Constitutional system in good health for the future.

Flagrant, multiple violations of Federal wiretapping statute. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) makes it a crime to order the wiretapping of anyone without a court-issued warrant. President Bush has admitted to doing precisely this not once, but several hundred times, and this includes only the known cases. Violation of FISA carries a five year prison sentence.*NOTE: Recent changes to FISA do not change the fact
that President Bush has already violated it.

Flagrant, multiple violations of Constitutional due process guarantees. In violation of the Habeas Corpus clause, the President has repeatedly imprisoned foreigners and Americans alike with no access to lawyers or to the charges against them.

*Habeas Corpus -- the 800-year-old cornerstone of our entire justice system -- is what ensures that we catch and hold the real criminals, and not mistakenly hold the innocent -- and so must never be violated. The Supreme Court has ruled that the President’s actions were illegal, and that his justifications were totally without basis in law.

The biggest threat to our nation is education - formal or otherwise. I think that if we had real open debate, instead of the present choreographed position presentations of scripted agendas, our country could call itself a genuine democracy.

Owen Fisher, Yonkers, NY

More Kudos for Judge Lange

Dear Editor:

I am a regular reader and enjoy your paper very much. I particularly like the articles written by Judge Kenneth Lange. I find them to be extremely interesting, informative and well-written. I look forward to reading them every week.

Thank you, Judge Lange, for your literary efforts. They are superb!

John J. Timmel

Another Candidate Rails Against Misrepresentation

Dear Editor:

In a mailing, the Democratic City Committee alleged that I am NOT a real Democrat and that’s why people should vote for their candidates instead of me, Candyce Corcoran, in the upcoming Democratic primary for Common Council.

How can they say that I’m not a real Democrat when one of their candidates didn’t even register with the Board of Elections until May 5, 2006, so she could vote? Did they forget that I was born and raised here?

The voting record of the Democratic City Committee’s candidate, Ms. Lecuona, according to the Board of Elections Voting History Report, reveals that she has only voted in one General Election in White Plains. That was on Nov. 07, 2006. According to Board of Elections voting records, which lists all elections voted in, she did not vote in the school referendum October 17, 2006, on the $66-million bond issue being used to renovate and
upgrade city school district buildings and fields, even though this was the largest bond issue the citizens of White Plains have ever been asked to approve. Interestingly, she was on the school district committee that reviewed the need, the scope, and costs of the bond issue in the summer of 2006 -- yet, she didn’t even bother to vote!

I’ve always believed that true citizenship is reflected in exercising your right to vote, especially in local elections which directly affect our homes and families. How can the Democratic City Committee make its ridiculous allegation that I’m not what they call a REAL Democrat, when they put up for office someone with such a flimsy
record of voting in White Plains Elections? The voters will have the final say in the Sept. 18th primary as to who is the REAL Democrat. In their wisdom, I’m confident they’ll recognize that I qualify for the title!

Candyce Canelstein Corcoran
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Terrence Chalk Update: Named “Westchester Business Person Of The Year” In 2006
Defendant, Ten Months In Jail, Begins To See Some Daylight
United States Federal District Court, White Plains
Judge Stephen C. Robinson Presiding

In our July 5, 2007 issue The Court Report entitled Riding High In February, Shot Down In November, concluded with the following:

Analysis: The Guardian has learned that Defendant Terrence Chalk, who, until his arrest by the FBI, had founded and was successfully operating Compulinx, a Westchester-based computer management firm, since 1990, is, in
fact, the twin brother of Todd Chalk, an FBI agent who does not get along with him. The significance of that fact may become more apparent over time given what appears to be a concerted effort by both FBI agent John Flanagan, and the United States Attorney’s Office to keep Mr. Chalk incarcerated, and unavailable to counsel.

The July 5th Analysis developed following Terrence Chalk’s appearance on June 26th before Federal District Judge Stephen C. Robinson would appear somewhat prophetic in light of information revealed to that Court Friday afternoon September 7th. Terrence Chalk, who is charged by the United States Attorney’s Of-fice, together with his nephew Damon T. Chalk, with Conspiracy To Influence Financial Institutions By Making False Statements On Applications For Loans, Lines Of Credit, and Credit Cards, once again appeared before Judge
Robinson, accompanied by his attorney, Mayo Bartlett of White Plains.

The hearing was essentially for the purpose of informing the Court with regard to issues of discovery. At the June hearing, more than two months earlier, Assistant United States Attorney Eugene Ingoglia, lead prosecutor in
the case, had told the Court, “The Government has produced voluminous discovery. There is more than a million files on the hard-drive, forty-five thousand e-mails, thirty-five thousand other documents, and four spread sheets. We’ve produced it and given it to Defense Counsel in its entirety.”

Judge Robinson had then asked Mr. Bartlett, “Do you have a sense of how long it will take to get your arms around the discovery material?” To which Bartlett had responded, “In the form in which the material was given
to us, it is as though it were in a locked safe.” Thus was crystallized the issue that would need to be dealt with in order for the case to proceed in a timely and expeditious manner, the principle issue that the Court expected
to address at the September hearing.

The hearing opened with a statement by Mr. Ingoglia to the Court that the Government was enabled to access the hard-drive with the use of “twohundred and fifty dollars of software, and an adapter.” There then followed
a discussion of the possibility of Mr. Bartlett being able to access the harddrive in the presence of the Defendant, even while he remains incarcerated at the County Jail in Valhalla. It was noteworthy that Mr. Ingoglia was not accompanied by FBI agent Flanagan, a key figure in the investigation who had sat beside him at the prior hearing, but rather by Special Agent Mazurka.

Attorney Bartlett, apparently pleased by the prospect of being able to work with the discovery materials, even as his client remains incarcerated, however, related his concerns with regard to scheduling and privacy issues inherent in the jail environment and regulations. Having voiced his concerns to the Court, and receiving
the necessary acknowledgements and offers of assistance, Mr. Bartlett then turned to another, perhaps unexpected, matter.

Addressing the Court he declared, “There’s an investigation of Todd Chalk, Your Honor, by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, regarding allegations by his mother of forgery and fraud in the transfer of property.” The statement, apparently duly noted by the Court, drew absolutely no response from the Prosecution.

Analysis:

It would appear that perhaps ‘the worm has begun to turn’ in this Cain and Abel scenario. Not only the failure of the Government to respond to Defense’s revelation to the Court about Todd Chalk, but also the absence of Agent Flanagan, who was apparently close to him, and a generally more pleasant and cooperative attitude than previously witnessed from the Prosecution table would tend to support such a conclusion.
Retaliatory Harassment By Hall And Marracccini Continues Against PBA President Officer Tancredi

Friday night, September 7th the Westchester Guardian was present at Harrison Town Police Headquarters
when Police Officer Ralph Tancredi, accompanied by P.B.A. Attorneys Gustavo L. Vila, and Gregory Kuczinski, emerged following a late-night arraignment before Town Justice Mark Lust. Tancredi’s appearance was in response to the latest in a series of harassments totally unrelated to his performance as a Harrison
Police Officer.

Questioned, following the arraignment, Attorney Vila told the Guardian that the information regarding two misdemeanors, Petty Larceny, and third Degree Menacing, as well as Second Degree Harassment, a violation, was essentially hearsay. Chief David Hall and Captain Anthony Marraccini, and officers compelled to do their
bidding, have been retaliating against Officer Tancredi using a 25-year-old female acquaintance, with immigration issues, in an all-out retaliatory e- ort against him because of actions by his union membership in United States District Court brought on by the installation of audio and video recording devices in the locker room at Harrison Police Headquarters, as well as the the by taking and fraud of a $2,500 donation to the union by Chief Hall.

Tancredi was additionally charged with Criminal Contempt allegedly having violated a Temporary Order of Protection, issued in connection with a separate matter in which Tancredi, in his civilian capacity, was actually threatened by a companion of the same young woman, from whom a sawedoff bat had to be taken by a responding Harrison Police Officer. The alleged violations involve communication with the young woman by
Officer Tancredi’s wife, as well as his mother, each of whom have independent relationships with her, and neither of whom were ever specifically prohibited from communicating with her.

A number of Harrison Police O cers have expressed their gratitude to the Guardian for exposing the wrongdoings and anti-union activities of Chief Hall and Captain Marraccini. One officer explained, “If not for your newspaper, they would pick us off one at a time.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Janet Difiore.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Only A Federal Investigation Will Protect the Residents And Honest Police Officers Of Harrison


It’s disheartening, but true nevertheless, that citizens and hardworking police officers, in many municipalities throughout Westchester, cannot count upon the Office of the District Attorney to protect their lives and property from unlawful and un-Constitutional violation by government agents, rogue police and prosecutors, acting under
color of law.

That reality is due, in large measure, to the legacy of corruption and injustice that permeates the law enforcement
and judicial communities of Westchester in the wake of 12 years of tyranny and confabulation from former DA Jeanine Pirro.

There were those who dared to hope that there would be significant changes with Pirro’s departure.
And, clearly those hopes might well have turned to reality but for the fact that the new regime was unfortunately
intertwined with the old, and lacked both the courage and the desire to repudiate and reverse the prosecutorial misconduct and criminality of the past. The Office’s 13-year Balancio Case lie, and their tenacious continued concealment of mountains of exculpatory evidence, erased any doubt about the intentions of the current administration of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office.

Very sadly, a wonderful opportunity to make a clean break with past horrors and injustices was clearly squandered, better yet, trampled, as lie after lie was proffered, not only in State Supreme Court, but also all
the way up into the lofty chambers of the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Nation’s second-highest tribunal, by misguided, treacherous, assistant district attorneys. The intense struggle to withhold 376 pages, and 52 boxes of information, not only clearly establishing the innocence of Anthony DiSimone, but also strongly pointing to the actual murderer, constitutes an unforgivable betrayal of the public trust, and explains, only too clearly, why federal investigators are now very busy at work in several Westchester venues. Innocent citizens and dedicated, honest, police officers and public servants know very well that they cannot turn to the County
DA’s Office for help and protection.

The Public Integrity Unit under Mike Hughes is an oxymoron, and has been for many years. The United States Attorney, Michael J. Garcia, who 16 months ago published a toll-free number for Westchester residents and businesspersons to use in contacting his office with information about public corruption and misconduct, recognized that the District Attorney’s Office, as incestuously connected to the Mayor of Yonkers and his administration, as it is, and as demonstrably unresponsive to citizen’s complaints of police brutality as it had been, compelled a federal response. Of course, any time there are legitimate, and persistent complaints of police brutality, the deprivation of civil rights under color of law, there exists justi- cation for federal intervention
and investigation.

However, police brutality, a long-standing stain upon the reputation of the 650-member Yonkers Police Department, is clearly not the only issue in police/community relations that warrants federal investigation and prosecution. In Harrison, police misconduct, and abuse of process and authority, unlawful harassment, and the deprivation of Constitutional rights of rank and - le police o cers, and citizens, alike, incredibly aided and abetted by the District Attorney’s Office, comprise a no less compelling reason for the United States Attorney, and the FBI to pursue a vigorous and aggressive investigation. the Westchester District Attorney’s Office reflexively turns a deaf ear to civilians and police officers targeted by high ranking police brass, a clearly political decision.

Consider the current state of affairs in a town with a police force of approximately 75 officers. Police Chief David Hall, already the subject of a lawsuit in United States District Court for the unlawful and unwarranted video, and audio-taping of Harrison Police Officers in their locker room, is the Defendant in still another complaint brought in the same Court by twelve Harrison Police Officers, members of the PBA, charging both criminal and Civil Rights violations. Chief Hall, on the criminal side, stands accused of forgery, and theft, in the taking, and altering of a check in the amount of $2,500 written to the Harrison PBA by the Brae Burn Country Club, thereafter depositing it to the account of the New York State Chiefs of Police Association, of which he was the President at the time.

It is important to note that when the alleged criminal activity by Hall was first discovered, and a complaint was filed with the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, earlier in the year, that office responded by quickly exonerating Hall, and refusing to investigate and prosecute the case. As outrageous as that response by the DA’s Office might seem, it is nevertheless consistent with Hall’s intense political involvement in the 2005 contest for DA, and the role repeatedly played by that Office in matters involving both Chief Hall and Captain Marraccini versus Harrison Police Officers, and civilian complainants.

The overwhelming majority of Harrison residents realize that the present harassment, and suspension from duty, of 10-year veteran Harrison Police Officer Ralph Tancredi, is all about retaliation, and the fact that Tancredi is the President of the PBA. And, Officer Tancredi is not the only Harrison Police Officer being harassed and suspended in retaliation.

Steven Heisler, 28, a lifelong Harrison resident, member of the PBA, and one of the complainants in the Federal Court action, is also under suspension on trumped-up charges.

Unbelievably, Hall and Marraccini, smarting after recent exposure in the Guardian, have arranged for a party in their own honor to be held at Wellington’s Grill in Harrison on September 18th. Tickets for the event reportedly will be $50, and pressure to attend, under threat of retaliation, has been brought to bear on every police officer in the department.

Their arrogance and corruption apparently know no limit. The once-proud Harrison Police Department has been morally and spiritually ravaged by a greedy, self-serving, pair of imposters; two rogue cops, long ago committed to milking their positions, and their authority for all it was worth, abandoning all principle and law in their joint pursuit of power and wealth. Chief David Hall, and Captain Anthony Marraccini, his puppeteer, will only be brought under control by federal investigators and prosecutors, a fact made abundantly clear by the District Attorney’s Office’s continuing collaboration in their unlawful and un-Constitutional schemes.

The United States Attorney, and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department must not ignore their compelling interest in what has been going on in Harrison for several years under this “tag team” of wrongdoers. It would be a tragic miscalculation by federal law enforcement to ignore the pleas of police officers and civilian victims alike, particularly in light of significant evidence, not only of criminal wrongdoing, but also of shelter and assistance by state prosecutors.

Federal investigators will not need to dig very deeply before discovering evidence not only corroborating the charges currently lodged in Federal Court, but also pointing to holdings, and enterprises totally inconsistent with the normal activities of honest public servants. They will not need to dig too deeply either to discover prior and ongoing unlawful enterprises facilitated by position, coercion, and extortion, RICO-type enterprises calculated to personally enrich the participants at the expense of innocent citizens.

There is no shortage of Harrison residents and businesspersons who have had their fill of the Marraccini-Hall Regime, and who anxiously await the opportunity to come forward and help purge their community of its oppressive stench.
In Our Opinion...

“It’s not the votes that count, it’s the person who counts….”

Within a few days party faithful, so-called prime voters, will be going to the polls in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and the Town of Greenburgh to cast their ballots in primary election contests. Two of those elections involve Democratic candidates, Greenburgh and Mount Vernon, whereas the Yonkers contest involves two Republicans, each with more than a decade in public office, each determined to wrest the Mayor’s Office and leadership of the Republican Party of Yonkers, from the other.

Phil Amicone, a man who has demonstrated a breathtaking contempt for the First Amendment, a former Deputy Mayor for eight years under John Spencer, and the incumbent, first-term mayor, has effectively been at the seat of power for nearly twelve years. His Republican opponent, Vinnie Restiano, served as City Council member, and President for ten years through 2003. Each stands in an arena reeking with the odor of the Nick Spano army, and battles past. Each must be mindful of the activities of Nicky’s boys, particularly at election time, at the polling places, and particularly at the voting machine storage facility on Saw Mill River Road.

Given that Phil Amicone, who had no compunction about stealing and destroying newspaper distribution boxes, has purchased Nick’s endorsement, to the tune of $1.3 million at taxpayers’ expense, and presumably the “special services” of his boys in the package, We say to Vinnie Restiano, “Forewarned is forearmed.” And, given some of the antics we have witnessed on Democratic Election Commissioner Reggie LaFayette’s watch,
both at the Board of Elections in White Plains, and throughout the County, We would extend a similar word of caution to Clinton Young, Democratic County Legislator challenging Mount Vernon’s stagnant, dysfunctional
Mayor, Ernie Davis: Remember, “It’s not the votes that count, it the person who counts the votes that counts.”

In Greenburgh, where eight-term Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, and his team, are facing off with attorney Susanne Berger, and her team, the concerns have run more toward the destruction of campaign signs, push-polling, and downright personal attacks leveled against the incumbent, on behalf of someone hardly as approachable, or accommodating. Unlike Yonkers and Mount Vernon, there’s little concern about polling place stunts.

However, in the event of a tight result, Feiner’s team must not lose sight of the Andy Spano-Larry Schwartz endorsement of Berger, and the absolute power they have wielded over Reggie LaFayette in the election of Republicans over Democrats; Nicky over Andrea, much less a Democrat over a Democrat they don’t like, and can’t control. Good advice would be to bring lots of savvy poll watchers and attorneys, and get out the vote!
Our Readers Respond...

Harrison Police Officer Speaks From The Heart

Dear Editor:

I have been a Harrison Police Officer long enough to know right from wrong. Our mission statement reads that
we should uphold local, state, and federal laws as well as the Constitutional rights of individuals.

I have seen first-hand the direct opposite of our mission statement at the hands of one. There is one, in our department, who has created his own team for his own personal gain. If our department was a corporation, the problem at hand would have been resolved. The people responsible for installing a video camera with audio wiring would have been terminated. Our PBA tried to resolve the matter but the retaliation became too much. Although the majority of the union voted to forge ahead with the matter, only 12 souls are sticking their necks out to seek justice.

I am one of the officers who knows that what occurred in our locker room was against our civil rights and is a crime. I am afraid to speak out against my superiors for fear of the same retaliation I see going on with others. I, in fact, act as a ‘yes’ man and do what is asked in order to attain monetary compensation. I remain tight-lipped and pray every night for the day when the Federal Government steps in to rid our department of this poison.

Shamefully, I and others see this department completely divided because of one. If one person retired I wouldn’t even be that happy. I would be happy if he finally was gone but the rest of us would have to work hard to form our own team, the only team, the way it should be, the way it was, the team called the Harrison Police Department.

He has turned friends of many years against each other and will continue to if left in power. He has turned members of our union against the union. We recently booked a PBA event at a local country club. Not long after, numerous traffic summonses (40 to 60) were issued mainly to people entering or exiting that country club.

The end result – less money donated to the PBA - only hurts members seeking additional monies for their family members or themselves in times of hardship. That’s what a union is, working together to help each other. A lot of officers need a refresher course in union ettiquet. The retaliation, coercion and harassment are happening not only to officers but also everyday citizens that live and traverse through the Town of Harrison.

When will it end, the future taxpayer burden and retaliation on officers for civil and criminal wrongdoing at the hands of one or two? I want my 12 brother officers to know that others stand silently beside them and will tell the truth only after raising our right hand in the hopes that justice will prevail.

A Brother In Blue


“Opinions Are Like....”

Dear Editor:

I would like to start by saying I feel for anyone who has been wrongfully accused of a crime. With that said, I am curious if Jeffrey Deskovic is now on the payroll of the Westchester Guardian, and if so can he please write about anything else but the time he spent in prison?

The little hidden messages he puts in his articles are just too much now. We get it, Jeff. You were dealt a bad
hand. I don’t know all the details about the crime you were accused of but it seems to me that if you would have gotten that education before you went to prison your life might not have went the route that it did.

I don’t know about anyone else but if a criminal hurt me or any of my loved ones I would not want him to be getting special treatment in jail, just so he can be provided with a free education.

Most of the individuals who are in prison are there for a good reason. That’s why there are bars on the windows.
Now you want them to get another chance at education when they obviously did not care about their first shot
at it. News flash, Jeff. Prisons are made to house bad people who hurt innocent individuals who go through life doing the right thing. I think your time can be spent more wisely by using your energy and efforts to locate other wrongly accused inmates and help them out so they might not have to spend as much time in prison as you did.

Matthew Colavito
Poughkeepsie

Editor’s Response

Mr. Colavito:

Permit me to say that we welcome all Letters to the Editor, including those which are directed to our writers
and columnists. The Westchester Guardian has been informing its readers with regard to Mr. Deskovic’s experiences since late December of last year, and he has been a regular contributor since January. For
your good information, Jeffrey Deskovic has written on numerous subjects relevant to the Criminal Justice System and the operations of criminal courts and prosecutors’ offices; not merely “the time he spent in prison.”

Furthermore, he has been a welcome and highly regarded speaker before both the New York State Assembly and Senate regarding issues pertinent to prosecutorial misconduct, the death penalty and the prevention of
injustice.

As regards your reference to “little hidden messages”, I feel compelled to tell you there is nothing covert or
subtle in his straight-forward presentation on behalf of wrongly convicted victims of a less-than-perfect court
system as well as all those who continue to suffer with them.

As regards your statement, “It seems to me that if you would have gotten your education before you went to prison your life might not have went (sic) the route that it did,” wake up, Mr. Colavito, and smell the coffee!

Jeffrey Deskovic was literally lifted off the streets of Peekskill on his way to high school class by three cruelly motivated police officers, bent on convicting somebody, anybody, for the crime of rape and murder of a 15-
year-old girl.

In case you haven’t noticed, Mr. Deskovic is a bright, articulate advocate; one, who it might interest you to
know, will be attending law school having completed the requirements for his Baccalaureate over the past year.

And, here’s a “news flash” for you, Mr. Colavito: Jeffrey Deskovic is an amazing young man who, unlike many, despite the ordeal he was put through, has emerged without a trace of bitterness or judgmentalness; more than obviously can be said for some people barely able to wrap their minds around all that he went through.

He is a man who, from the moment he emerged from prison one year ago, has been devoting every waking moment to preventing the kind of injustice and abuse of power leveled against him from being used against
other innocent individuals. Toward that end, he has created a charitable foundation that I am sure you will
want to contribute to. ank you, so much, for your comments.
The Court Report
Richard Blassberg

Jing and Tristram Kelly Update: “A Shameful and Grievous Commentary On The
Condition Of The New York State Unified Court System”


The following is a report from attorney Robert Wayburn who has alternately been representing Jing Kelly and her parents in their struggle to be reunited with Jing’s now-7-year-old son Tristram for more than five years.

The court appearance in Jing’s case was brief Tuesday morning, August 28th. The trial lawyer for ACS and
the Legal Aid Society trial lawyer, the assigned law guardian, were both away on vacation.

ACS submitted a new Permanency Plan Report which was supposed to have been served 14 days in advance
of the hearing, and, thus, was very late. ACS, noting that Tristram said he was reluctant to continue visitation
sessions with Jing, his “birth mother”, if by his doing this, he would be making it more likely that he will be uprooted from his current home in California (with Doug and Cori Kelly) and sent to New York City to live with Jing.

Jing noted that this was an astute observation to be made by a seven-year old child and, thusly, she wonders if
it is the product of discussions about the pending litigation held between Tristram and Doug and Cori Kelly.

ACS concluded that further visitation should be denied until such time as Tristram requests it be resumed. It would be strange, indeed, for a seven-year-old boy to be in control of visitation. The ACS recommendation in this regard is totally unacceptable to Jing.

Judge Schechter granted Mr. Schiff ’s application to consolidate the custody petition of Douglas and Cori Kelly with the permanent neglect proceeding. Jing objected to this but to no avail. On September 4, 2007, the court was scheduled to establish trial dates for both cases.

In the meanwhile, Jing still has no contact with her son, neither by telephone, nor by e-mail, nor by regular mail. How is Tristram to get to know his mother if he continues to be kept isolated. No new visits were scheduled.
I objected to the report of the social worker who monitored the visits in California, noting that it was beyond the scope of her court appointment order to make recommendations. That objection will be decided on the next court date.

All in all, it was a disappointing day for Jing. Tristram will never be reunited with her if he is left in the care of Doug and Cori Kelly and Mr. Schiff may substantially delay the new permanency hearing by being permitted to call his custody witnesses first. Jing feels she and Tristram were not given a chance to work things out between them. No competent decision can be based solely on five visitation sessions between a seven-year-old boy and his mother, neither of whom have seen each other for more than four years.

Analysis:

What we are now witnessing in this American Family Court Tragedy is the fulfillment of the most fervent
and cruel wishes of Gail Kelly Hiler and Judge Sara P. Schechter who, for several years, acting in concert, aided
and abetted by other members of the Kelly family, have succeeded in keeping a loving mother and her son apart.
There can be no question that this cruelty has been, and continues to be, at least partially racially motivated, and
has likely been financed by substantial funds left to the child by his deceased father but under the control of Gail
Hiler.

At no time was it ever established that Jing Kelly did anything harmful to her infant son. To the contrary, her taking him to China for some 18 months, when he was barely six months old, was motivated by her justifiable concerns caused by the child’s 24/7 contact with his alcoholic, abusive father in the Hiler household, in blatant defiance of court-imposed restrictions limiting his contact to supervised visitation.

All of the unlawful activities which Judge Schechter has engaged in with respect to this mother and child, as well as all of the perjury, connivance and cruelty employed by Gail Hiler in their joint malicious and bigoted scheme against this loving mother, cannot be permitted to succeed in perpetuity by virtue of the harm already imposed. The fact that this un-Constitutional and inhumane scheme has flourished unfettered, either by rulings or mandamus from the Appellate Division, First Department, insisting upon the reunification of mother and child, nearly two years ago, is a shameful and grievous commentary on the condition of the New York State Unified Court System.
Clinton Young Declares: “It’s Time For A Change” Outlines ‘Mount Vernon First’ Comprehensive Plan of Action

Promising a direct line to the Mayor, and monthly meetings between the public and all City commissioners, Clinton Young, candidate for Mayor of Mount Vernon, also promised a guaranteed response to all inquiries within 24 hours.

Recognizing the stagnant state of the City’s economy, Young proposed the immediate development of a Master Plan, coupled with the establishment of an Economic Development Office for the purpose of promoting existing businesses and attracting new ones. He declared, “Our young people must be able to find employment opportunities within their own City.”

Speaking further about the City’s youth, he proposed the establishment of a Youth Services Commission, whose goals and objectives would include the expansion of educational and recreational opportunities, training programs, and the cultivation of employment opportunities. He indicated that the need to bring about safe streets and safety in Mount Vernon schools are amongst his highest priorities.

Young declared that he can no longer remain silent in the face of the abuse of power and total disregard for the Democratic process. He suggested that from his vantage point as a County Legislator for the past 12 years he is uniquely quali-fied to assess the decline Mount Vernon has experienced under the Ernie Davis administration. He indicated that he views election to the Mayor’s Office as an opportunity to bring about positive change in the way the City is governed.

What Needs To Be Changed

• We must immediately cease the practice of tax abatement whereby business is attracted to Mount Vernon in exchange for inequitable tax relief which benefits the businesses and provides only token financial benefit to the city.

• The sporadic and inconsistent delivery of services. It is unacceptable that trash remains uncollected and snowremains on Mount Vernon streets creating infestations of rats and hazardous driving conditions while Mayor Davis boasts of a budget surplus.

• Denying the people of this City their Constitutional right to participatein open forum, provide comment andexercise their right to due process wherethey deem it appropriate prior to theestablishment and/or implementationof policies which will affect them, their families and their neighbors.

How Mayor Young Will Change It

• As Mayor, Clinton Young will establish a fair and consistent policy for commercial development. his policy
will benefit Mount Vernonites and at a minimum be required to demonstrate compatibility with the long-term growth of the Mount Vernon Community.

• As Mayor, Clinton Young will provide the expertise necessary for effective planning which will insure timely and consistent delivery of services. The future course of action for Mount Vernon will be determined only after the complex relationship between resources and objectives is carefully examined.

• As Mayor, Clinton Young’s administration is committed to the legal and open process which is already a part of our City Charter but which has been alternately adhered to and disregarded at the sole discretion of Mayor Ernest D. Davis. the process for the awarding of city contracts and all city business will be conducted in the strictest compliance with existing laws, and all contracts found to have been issued in violation of established
policy will be nullified and put out for rebid.

.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Vinnie Restiano: “Phil Amicone Simply Doesn’t Tell the Truth”

Describing Mayor Philip Amicone as “A bureaucrat who was unable to morph into a leader,” Vinnie
Restiano, for many years president of the Yonkers City Council, who is challenging him in the upcoming
Republican Primary, told the Westchester Guardian that Amicone’s claims have been “all about
smoke and mirrors.” Declaring, “ the reality is, crime is up in Yonkers over the last three and a half years, and so are taxes, by more than 30 percent,” Restiano said, “Amicone has had a stagnant administration.”

She pointed to a “scandalous” decline in tax ratables coupled with tax abatements and “sweetheart deals to developers,” as primary causes of sharply increasing property taxes.

Turning to Yonkers Public Schools, she pointed out that of the five largest cities in New York State,
Yonkers was the only one whose math and English scores were worse than the year before.

Asked how she would remedy the school problems that have dogged the city for several years, should she be elected Mayor, she quickly responded, “I would replace the Superintendent of Schools, for starters.” She
went on to state, “Four years ago, Amicone and I were both in favor of a Department of Education. My
four kids went to Yonkers Public Schools. Unfortunately, Phil has eliminated many of the former advanced education incentives once offered our teachers.

It appears the Mayor is loyal only to the developers and Nick Spano’s people. e residents of Yonkers are paying an enormous price for Nicky’s endorsement. More than $1.3 million taxpayer dollars are funding ‘no-show’ and ‘do-nothing’ jobs for more than 30 of Nick’s relatives and former staff.”

Questioned about police brutality, Restiano said, “I will have to have my own Police Commissioner. The Police need at least one more precinct and satellite precincts. ere are more than 36 gangs in our city, and I intend
to be a hands-on mayor, working to resolve the critical issues that Phil Amicone has neglected.”

Asked how she will achieve victory in the Republican Primary over the incumbent Mayor, she remarked, “Phil has a communication problem. You just can’t take a man out of the bureaucracy and make him a mayor. I’m going to win the Primary because voters understand it’s a matter of our records.

When elected Mayor, I intend to work closely with the City Council and community leaders, most of whom I have worked with before, to resolve the issues confronting our great city.”
Anatomy Of An Effort That Saved A Man’s Life

By Jeffrey Deskovic

The Facts

A man in Texas who was scheduled for execution even though he was innocent received an 11th hour miracle. Texas has a law known as The Law Of Parties, which states that if two people commit a crime together, and one
of them commits murder, and the other party should have anticipated that a murder might occur, then both people may be tried, convicted and sentenced to death as though both had committed the murder.

In 1997 Kenneth Foster was convicted of a murder, and sentenced to death. The facts of the case were as follows: Foster and several friends had been driving around drinking and committing robberies. Foster stated, “Enough is enough,” and that he wanted to go home. On the way home, Maurecio Brown, executed last year for the murder in question, left the car to talk to a woman. An argument ensued, that soon involved her boyfriend,
Michael Lahood. Brown claimed that Lahood reached into his jeans, a move he interpreted as, “Reaching for a gun.” Brown then pulled his gun and killed Lahood.

The murder occurred as Foster was sitting in a car nearly 100 feet away with three other passengers, but prosecutors insisted there was a conspiracy to commit the murder and therefore that he deserved a death sentence. Since Foster’s original trial, the other passengers, none of whom was tried under The Law
Of Parties have testified that Foster had no idea a shooting was going to take place.

The Movement Spearheaded by the Free Kenneth Foster Coalition in Texas, along with chapters from the group Campaign To End The Death Penalty around the country, Kenneth’s supporters undertook a grassroots campaign to raise public awareness of the case and have people express, to Texas Governor Perry, their opposition to the scheduled execution.

The movement took on a life of its own, attracting national and international attention. Many newspapers
ran stories about the case and ran editorials voicing opposition. There was near unanimity among Texas newspapers, including The Austin Chronicle, whose reporter Jordan Smith had been reporting on the case for years.

Television stations Democracy Now, ABC, MSNBC.COM and radio station WNAI covered the case. Amnesty International, who seldom get involved in domestic cases, referred to the scheduled execution as “A shocking perversion of the law”.

The President of the European Union, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, NY State Senator Bill Perkins, actress Susan Sarandon, Ray Ramirez and The Welfare Poets, and David Kazinski of New
Yorkers Against The Death Penalty, were among the more famous people who voiced their opposition.

Exonerees also added their voices: Yusuf Salaam of the Central Park Jogger Case; Darby Tillis, who was the first exoneree of Illinois; Shujaaa Graham who spent years on California’s death row before being cleared.

Campaign To End The Death Penalty founder and former Black Panther Lawrence Hayes, himself a former NY death row prisoner, also spoke out. Countless others inundated the Gov. Perry’s office with phone calls and emails, and signed petitions. Rallies were held all over the country. However, despite all of this, we knew that this was an uphill battle, with the odds against us. Texas is the nation’s leader in the number of executions.

My personal involvement

I first learned of Kenneth’s case two months ago through the Campaign To End The Death Penalty, whose events I had spoken at several times in the past. I did a good amount of research on the case, because, as always, I felt that it was really important to only support those cases and causes that I truly believed in, and whose facts I am well acquainted with. To me, it was a moral outrage that someone who, even the authorities were acknowledging had not killed anybody, would be executed.

Given that Foster wanted to end the robberies and go home was, to me, indisputable proof that he was not involved in a conspiracy to commit murder. Yes, he had participated in multiple robberies but the penalty
for that should not be death. In addition, he had already served 10 years in prison on death row, where
living conditions are inhumane, for example, not being able to hold his own daughter, or hold his wife’s
hand, or even hug his family.

Upon completion of my research, I was ready to do all that I could possibly do to help. I attended a rally in a church along with Darren Wilkins, my agent, in order to show my support. The program was already established, and I was not a necessary speaker. They simply wanted us there for whatever moral weight I could lend based on my own ordeal and the advocacy work I have engaged in since my release.

In a surprise move, with no advance warning, I was asked to speak by event moderator Yusuf Salaam. Taking the microphone, I explained who I was, and how critical I felt it was to voice our opposition to injustice, as well as how for many years, while I was incarcerated, I desperately wanted people to support me, and that it was only by coming together we might bring enough pressure to bear to even have a chance.

I urged people to make phone calls, sign petitions, and do all that they could, because when many do a little,
a lot gets done. A few months later I attended a meeting with Congressman Charles Rangel’s staff , and then
participated in the press conference afterward. I vocalized my solidarity with Kenneth; that I felt based upon
having been a victim of the criminal justice system, and I made a moral appeal to political leaders as well as
to others to voice their opposition to Kenneth’s execution, as well as against the death penalty in general.

Somebody recorded my remarks, and placed the video on the internet. the broadcast station Democracy
Now also used excerpts of my statement. I came away feeling that I had probably done all that I could. Many of us had difficulty sleeping the night before the scheduled execution. I could not imagine what went on in Kenneth’s mind, or in the minds of his family.

Victory

The Board of Pardon and Parole voted 6-1 in favor of commuting the death sentence on the day of Kenneth’s
scheduled execution, which was a minor miracle in and of itself.

We held our breath, uncertain what Gov. Perry would do. After all, he had previously signed 160 death warrants since taking in office; more than any other Texas Governor in history. Texas had already executed two people that week, with Kenneth scheduled to be the third, and five additional executions lined up for September.

Additionally, we knew that he had previously overridden the Board of Pardon and Parole on at least one occasion. At approximately 12pm word reached me that Gov. Perry had commuted Kenneth’s sentence to Life Imprisonment.

I found myself on Cloud Nine all day. It was extremely humbling and mind-blowing to know that I in some small way I had played a role in helping to save his life.

I immediately called my former attorney Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project, and left an excited
message on her machine in which I could barely contain myself. I called Darren Wilkins and verbally celebrated,
and other members of Campaign To End e Death Penalty.

That night, we were invited to Senator Bill Perkins office to celebrate. During that celebration we spoke
to a member of Kenneth’s family, and those who had worked on the legal side of things. Afterwards
we went to a Mexican Restaurant, where about 30 of us celebrated the victory. there was a feeling of being
naturally high, experienced by all, and a metaphysical feeling of this having been a watershed moment,
whose momentum would carry forward in our struggle against the death penalty, and wrongful convictions, as well as our effort to bring about legislative reforms.

While I am still buoyed by the experience, I realize at the same time it was a personal affirmation that I am
engaged in the right course of action in my quest for a more just judicial system in order that others should
not have to go through what I went through, rather than my simply trying to blend back into society and live
a normal life. I feel, now more than ever, that I have a moral imperative to do what I can to bring about reforms,
and to continue to struggle against the death penalty, and that I not only have a self-applied moral imperative,
but also a moral obligation to do so.

There is much work to be done in New York State, a state where the threat of the reinstatement of the
death penalty is ever-present, especially with the case of People v John Taylor, scheduled to be heard on Sept.
10th. The Taylor case is on in which the Court Of Appeals could wind up bringing the Death Penalty back
judicially, thus encouraging the periodic introduction of death penalty statutes by various State Senators.

However, I prefer to remain optimistic as I really believe the anti-Death Penalty forces can win. I am so pleased to be free so that I can add my voice and e orts to those who have been already working on these issues.

About Me