Thursday, December 27, 2007

Connecticut Court Considers Banning State’s Death Penalty

By Jeff Deskovic

Background


On December 13, a Connecticut court heard arguments the State’s death penalty system was discriminatory.
The basis of this challenge was a study, paid for with taxpayer dollars, which showed that the death penalty was more frequently given to minorities who stood convicted of killing Whites, than the other way around.

Studies in other states, conducted by The American Bar Association, show similar results in Alabama,
Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

There are currently nine people on death row in Connecticut. Unfortunately there were a variety of
irregularities in the proceeding. Firstly, it was held on a basketball court inside of Northern Correctional Institution. Secondly, it allowed five of the nine prisoners who were a party to the litigation and part of the case to attend the hearing, which is unheard of in a postconviction proceeding unless new evidence has been received.
Their attendance was the reason that the hearing was held in Connecticut Court Considers Banning State’s Death Penalty the prison, because state officials decided that no courthouse in the state would be safe enough in their
presence.

The judge was seated at a regular desk with a chair and microphone. At half court were the lawyers for
the defense and the state. Behind them were the prisoners, who sat in handcuffs and leg shackles. Each
prisoner was separated by makeshift cubicles.

Context


There are very few things in life that happen in a vacuum. Instead, there is usually a context not only for
a specific given event or occurrence, but also a much larger general context. This issue is no exception.
Nationwide, support for the death penalty is waning. There have been many issues which have led to
this change of opinion: The death penalty poses a grave risk of executing innocent people. There have been many people executed who were later determined to have been innocent. The organization Death Penalty Information
Center’s website, deathpenaltyinfo.org, lists eight cases of innocent people who have been executed. Due to
public awareness of the 209 DNA exonerations nationwide, as well as the many other non-DNA exonerations,
the fact that innocent people are found guilty is not seriously disputed by anybody who is objective.

Those same problems which led to the wrongful convictions in noncapital cases are present in capital
cases. There have been 124 exonerations from death row. There is no telling what the true rate is at which
wrongful convictions occur because often the wrongfully convicted have poor lawyers, scant financial resources,
and DNA is only available in 10% of all serious felony cases.

It cost New York two hundred million dollars from 1995-2004 to have a death penalty on the books while
not even being used once. Those resources could be better spent on crime prevention, law enforcement,
and social programs.

Victim’s family members are speaking out more and more that they are against the death penalty, because every
time the condemned has an appeal, there is publicity generated, which hinders their healing process, and
places the emphasis on the accused, and not on the victim.

Where a crime takes place, along with the local District Attorney’s views on capital punishment, often
shape whether the death penalty is sought. Thus, rather than an objective standard being applied, it is instead
arbitrary.

If the District Attorney where the crime has taken place has political aspirations, they often see a death penalty
eligible case as an opportunity to solidify public perception of them as tough on crime so as to facilitate their
seeking of higher public office.

A defendant who is Black and is convicted of murdering a White victim is more likely to get the death penalty than the other way around. Other minority defendants are also more likely to get the death penalty than Caucasian defendants. Thus there is racism built into the system of death. Any penalty which is not evenly applied to all defendants regardless of their color and the color of their victim, can truthfully be said to be discriminatory.

When the government executes murderers or alleged murderers, it sets a poor example to its citizens. It sends the message that it is okay to kill people in a premeditated way, so long as there is a justification. When executions are performed, they are not broadcast so all can witness it, based on the fact that it is considered too ghastly, in and of itself a tacit admission that it is wrong.

As I reported in the Sept 20, 2007 issue of The Guardian, the New York Court of Appeals on Sept. 10, 2007
heard the last death penalty case in New York. At issue was whether the court would let stand its previous
ruling in People v. LaValle, in which the court ruled that the statute was Constitutionally defective due to it’s
jury charge, or if it would reverse it and thus reinstate the death penalty judicially. In a 4-3 decision, the court
upheld its decision on October 2007 thus judicially ending the death penalty in New York.

New Jersey has recently made history by legislatively repealing the death penalty. Gov. Corzine assembled a blue
ribbon panel consisting of law enforcement officials, victim family members, religious leaders, legal experts who studied the death penalty.

That committee recommended that it be repealed. The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill to repeal it, and
Gov. Corzine signed it into law on Dec 17, 2007, thus making history as the first time that the death penalty
had been legislatively abolished. Nationwide, executions are on hold as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a case regarding the Constitutionality of Kentucky’s lethal injection procedure. Many states have the same protocol, so that decision will impact upon cases nationwide.

The Thomas Arthur case in Alabama has attracted some national attention, as Alabama wants to execute Arthur without allowing him a DNA Test, which could show his innocence or guilt. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review his case, thus leaving all of his appeals exhausted, with only the ability of Gov. Bob Riley to order the test standing between him and death. The governor has refused thus far to order testing, and refused
to discuss the matter with The Innocence Project, which offered to pay for the test. And only months prior
executed Darryl Grayson without allowing him to have a DNA Test. Ironically, while they refused to halt the execution so that DNA testing could be performed, Arthur’s execution has been halted until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Kentucky case.

In Conclusion

I would first like to comment on the venue of the Connecticut hearing and how the prisoners were
treated. As noted earlier, it is rare that in a post-conviction proceeding not involving new evidence, that
prisoners are permitted to attend. I believe that any time someone is challenging their conviction or sentence
they should be allowed to attend. Why should all of the parties to a litigation - the judge, lawyers for the defense and the state, and any interested spectators, be allowed to attend whereas those whose lives will be immeasurably affected by the outcome are not?

Therefore, I salute the judge on this issue. Where I have a problem, however, is how the prisoners were
treated, and where the proceeding took place. The idea that no courtroom was safe enough and therefore
the hearing warranted being held on a basketball court of a prison - as if desperados were going to burst into
the courtroom, guns blazing, in an all-out effort to free one or more of the defendants, a la Wild, Wild West
style, is ridiculous. Further, there are security protocols on the bottom floor of any courthouse. There are metal detectors which all must pass through, and plenty of security should any unruly people show up.

That normally secure environment could have been further beefed up by simply paying a few hours overtime
to have more personnel work that day who ordinarily would have been off. In terms of extra security inside
the courtroom itself, stationing two bailiffs, carrying side arms as is normally the case, standing behind each
defendant, is enough security. Requiring the prisoners to be full of manacles while in a court proceeding is inconsistent with the dignity that should be attendant in court proceedings, and is, in my view, a violation of human rights.

If the case is decided against them, their punishment for their alleged crimes is that they will be executed; it is not, nor should it be, that they are mistreated while in court. I can speak from personal experience as to how degrading and inconsistent with human dignity it is to enter a courtroom with handcuffs on.

Regarding the issue of whether or not the Connecticut Death Penalty discriminates, the answer is an unequivocal yes. It discriminates in every state, including Connecticut. Putting aside my views on the death penalty as a whole, which are well known considering all of my advocacy against it, I will say that any penalty whose application is applied in a discriminatory manner is dangerous. It sends a message to society that there are two systems for justice in place: one for minorities and one for Caucasians. This only fans the flames of distrust on race-consciousness, as opposed to the ideal which our courtrooms almost always fall short of: that Lady Justice, as depicted with the blindfold on, is blind to who it is that is before her and that everybody is treated the same.
Connecticut, along with all of the states of the Union, should abolish the death penalty.
Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester

How A Serious Sex Offender Escaped Authorities In Northern Westchester

In September of this year, Jose Broudwiack, who previously had been convicted as a sex offender in California, was stopped by the Port Chester Police for a traffic violation. Broudwiack had originally entered the United States illegally from his native Peru. He served time in California but failed to show for subsequent court appearances at which time an arrest warrant and a deportation order was issued for him.

By 2002, Broudwiack was in New York State where he was pulled over by a State Trooper for a traffic violation. By then, Broudwiack was using an alias, so no connection could be made to his criminal record. The following year, Broudwiack had his license revoked for failing to answer a court summons. In 2005, Broudwiack’s saga continued – he was once again stopped for a traffic violation. His previous criminal record was not revealed and again, he ignored the summons and had his license revoked.

But it was Broudwiack’s latest activities that caught the attention of his neighbors, local authorities, and government officials. In September, when he was stopped for a traffic violation, the Port Chester Police ran a
background check which uncovered both his revoked license and his prior arrest in California. An additional check revealed that he had never registered as a sex offender in New York. The case was handed over to the State Police. In the interim, Broudwiack made bail on his driving violations and once again disappeared.

In October of this year, the State Police caught up with him in the hamlet of Purdys and charged him with
failing to register as a sex offender in New York, a misdemeanor. At his hearing in North Salem Town Court,
Broudwiack made bail of $10,000. He subsequently failed to show up for his next court appearance and has once again disappeared.

This long saga of a career criminal escaping justice provoked Assemblyman Greg Ball, who proceeded to
accuse the police and the courts of bungling the case. Chat rooms and immigrant forums have filled with rants on the issue under headings such as “Illegal Alien Sex Predator Runs Around United States Unabated”. However,
the rhetoric fails to note precisely how a career criminal, illegal im-migrant or not, can evade detection and incarceration. In these days of rampant identity the , it’s all too easy for a predator like Jose Broudwiack
to run free in our midst for years.

An interview with Lieutenant Glenn Miner of the New York State Police revealed some of the difficulties
encountered when dealing with such a career criminal. Lt. Miner noted that such criminals often carry
multiple identities. An alias means a criminal is simply using a different name. An identification means
the criminal has taken the time to establish the alias so it is verifiable with address or credit checks, even
to the extent of having supportive employment records.

Such identities will be “clean” – that is, they will not show any violations or criminal record. If such an
individual is pulled over for a traffic violation, the apprehending police officer has no way of knowing he is
dealing with a criminal, since the driver’s license produced will not show any infractions or arrests.

The only way the officer can do further checks is if he has “probable cause” – the offender would have to
do something that arouses the of-ficer’s suspicion. Only if the officer becomes suspicious, believing that
he is indeed dealing with a criminal or someone using a false identity, might he detain that individual at
the police station for further investigation, including fingerprint and background checks.

Lt. Miner explained that doing such additional checks is strictly governed by both state and federal
laws. Police officer must have a legitimate rationale for wanting to do the background checks and even then, a
database search is restricted by civil liberty, privacy, and national security laws. It is not a simple matter of
“Google-ing” the individual’s name into a computer and instantaneously retrieving the entire criminal record
à la television crime shows.

Each state and local jurisdiction has its own method of entering criminal data. What constitutes a crime
may be classified differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Lt. Miner noted that a level one sex offense
in New York may not correspond to a similar categorizing in California.

Even when states do share data on criminals, the information often must be sorted through manually before it is useable, hence, a possible reason why the initial traffic stop on Broudwiack did not connect his prior criminal record in California.

In the case of an illegal immigrant such as Broudwiack, many of the crimes may not have been reported to begin with. As the Center for Immigration Studies notes:

“Many victims of immigrant criminals fear reporting crimes to the police because their victimizers are of
the same nationality, and thus are more likely to retaliate in ways that dissuade them from calling the police”.

Of course, all of this assumes that the police have a correct identity to pursue to begin with; which, in the
case of career criminals, is often not the case. The driver’s license that an officer holds in his hand could
be based on a stolen identity.

In that case, even a detailed background check will reveal nothing and the individual will be released. Lt.
Miner noted that there are literally “thousands of ways for a criminal to forge an identity”.

The police have to rely on paper identifications at traffic stops since they currently have no other means of ascertaining identity. Fingerprints and DNA testing would correctly identify an individual, but those checks are beyond the scope of a routine traffic stop.

Again, the officer would have to have “probable cause” to detain the individual at the police station to be able
to conduct such testing. If the criminal is expert at escaping detection, he/she is unlikely to do anything to
raise the suspicions of the officer to warrant detention.

Even when the police have access to fingerprint and DNA checks, the results are not instantaneous or complete.
Fingerprint and DNA evidence would only be available on individuals who have a prior criminal record
(or had this information entered for their employment, such as government employees).

If the individual being detained was a suspect in a crime, but had no prior record, police records would
not have any previous data that would reveal his correct identity. Further, most of the computer data available
for such inquiries are new records – old data is not always entered (many jurisdictions are backlogged and do
not have the funding, or means, to enter this information). And, even when this data is available, analyzing
the fingerprint and DNA test results takes time thus often permitting a criminal to escape on bail in the interim
– they cannot be detained for a lengthy period without cause.

The issue of bail poses yet another set of difficulties when handling career criminals. In Broudwiack’s case, Chief Hawley of the North Salem Police Department noted that the State Trooper did manage to ascertain his correct identity and criminal record. However, Broudwiack still managed to escape arrest by successfully posting bail at
his initial hearing. Despite the fact that he was a convicted sex offender in California, had repeated driving violations and license revocations, and had a deportation order, bail was still legally permissible since
he was being detained for failing to register as a sex offender in New York – a key distinction under the
law. Broudwiack was not being detained as a sex offender; therefore, he could only be detained for what
he was guilty of – failing to register - a crime that is only considered to be a misdemeanor in the State of New
York.

Given Broudwiack’s track record, however, the local magistrate set his bail at $10,000 which is generally
considered to be quite high for a misdemeanor. On a variety of criminal defense websites attorneys have noted “In misdemeanor cases, bail is set at over $5,000 only in extraordinary cases”2 and is “extremely rare”3. But as evidenced by Broudwiack’s case, even setting bail at a relatively high level poses obstacles for some criminals.

When the criminal in question has multiple stolen identities, he/she may also have access to the funds associated with those identities enabling them to post bail for hundreds of thousands of dollars using “other people’s money”. If the criminal cannot make bail either with their own funds, from friends and family, or through stolen resources,
that poses no problem for them either. There are a plethora of bail bondsmen who will front the money for them.

These bondsmen advertise that “collateral (is) not always required” and to “ask about our returning customer discounts”! Given the network of defense attorneys and bail bondsmen, the complexity of the police databases,
the legal restrictions governing detainment, and the availability of stolen identities, the odds of a Broudwiack, or any other criminal, being able to escape incarceration are pretty favorable. But those odds may soon be declining in the State of New York.

As a result of Homeland Security counter-terrorism investigations, New York State established a clearinghouse
for classified intelligence in August 2003, the Upstate New York Regional Intelligence Center – UNYRIC.

Originally established as a response to 9/11 to track specific crimes; this clearinghouse is now being expanded to exchange information among federal, state, county, municipal, and tribal law enforcement agencies within New
York State.

The center has been renamed the “New York State Intelligence Center” and funds are currently being provided through State Grants to establish “fusion centers” to connect with law enforcement agencies, government agencies, and the private sector. The Westchester District Attorney’s office recently announced that they would establish a unit as a result of the Broudwiack case, but did not indicate that this unit would be a local “fusion center” with accessibility to the State’s regional headquarters.

While greater access to information will allow law enforcement agencies the opportunity to use criminal records, it does not address the complexity of those records.

Both Lt. Miner and Chief Hawley noted the need for a Federal standard for the classification of crimes to enable the sharing of information. Chief Hawley also noted that the standards and guidelines for the establishment of bail for repeat offenders need to be amended.

Currently there are no proposals before the State Legislature that would alter laws governing bail and the ability of a judge to set bail. There are no proposals to reclassify crimes such as Failing To Report As A Sex Offender, or Repeated Minor Offenses from misdemeanors to felonies.

Nor are there any proposals to allow law enforcement greater leeway to detain individuals for background
and identity verifications.

Endnotes:

1. Americans for Legal Immigration, December 8, 2007

2. Storbin & Associates, P.C.;

3. Lauren Asher, Esq.

4. Claremont Williams Bail Bonds Service

Northern Westchester Round-Up

Cortlandt: The two suspects in the crossburning case will return to court on January 11, 2008. The judge issued a
Temporary Order Of Protection barring the defendants from contacting the victims.

Ossining: Town officials approved the 2008 budget for the Village. The $26.3 million budget calls for a 6.7% increase over 2007 due to shortfalls in sales tax revenues. The father of the four-year-old daughter of Anne Trovato has been awarded custody in Westchester Family Court. Ms. Trovato was convicted of killing her mother Patricia Mery in Ossining last year.

Sleepy Hollow: The F.B.I. is investigating allegations of brutality and misconduct by the local police. The investigation stems from the use of Tasers by the police in recent incidents.

Somers: The town board proposed a tax increase of almost 9% for Somers residents for 2008 based on their projections of decreases in sales and mortgage tax revenues and lower interest earnings.

– Catherine Wilson

Janet Difiore.

Our Readers Respond...


Dear Editor:

My sister, Maureen Keating Tsuchiya, was honored by Westchester Disabled on the Move posthumously as the advocate of the year, at their annual Spirit of Independence Awards Dinner at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains, NY. Also honored were Assemblywoman Amy R. Paulin for the Spirit of Independence Award, and the Verizon Foundation for the Corporate Citizenship Award.

Maureen was the second of 8 children, my baby sister. She contracted polio as a child when she was three years old after receiving the polio vaccine. She was one in five million for this to occur. As a child she walked with braces but they never slowed her down. As an adult she walked with crutches and also rode a scooter or
a wheelchair for her mobility, though many people would say she had too much energy to let that hold her back. As my sister I never thought of her as disabled she was just Maureen, my little Mo.

Maureen was involved in politics throughout her life. She found you had to learn about the political system to get changes made, and she found the Democrats were her party favorites. She lived in Minnesota in her 20’s and had to cross a major busy street in downtown Minneapolis. The light would turn red before she could get to the other side. That was when she learned she had to be the one to contact the local street department or the department of roads to get changes made. As a young women, one of Maureen’s most exciting days was to attend the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the south lawn of the White House in the 1990’s.
She fought for those rights in the Chappaqua area too.

Her deepest desire as she lived in Chappaqua was to make all places accessible to those with disabilities. One of the places she wanted this access to occur was at the front doors of the Chappaqua Train Station. It was her desire to see it accessible for wheelchairs and people with disabilities. As she always said “Let my people through the front door!” As the plans were being made for the sidewalks along Quaker Road, she was adamant about having the sidewalks accessible to the disabled as well as accessible for strollers for those who were walking their children. She was a great supporter of campaigning for local Democrats as well as making
polling places accessible for the disabled.

Maureen was 51 when she died a year ago of a pulmonary embolism following knee surgery. She was a great advocate for the disabled. She is deeply missed. The award was given to her daughter Hannah, at the awards ceremony that was attended by over 100 people. And it was apparent that this awards ceremony strives
to “recognize and celebrate those with disabilities to attain independence both individually and as well as collectively”. Maureen would have been proud to have been honored. Her and I challenge all of you to help others to be independent.

Mary Rose Schaaf
Bassett, Nebraska


Editor’s Note: Readers will recall Northern Bureau Chief Maureen Keating Tsuchiya’s ground-breaking contributions to The Westchester Guardian, including exposure of the New Castle Police Department’s time card/pension fraud.

Dialogue Between Readers


Dear Editor

Jennifer Walford’s spirited response to my letter to the Westchester Guardian is an extraordinary abstract of the
presence and role of Americans of African descent in the United States. It was a good refresher for me and new
information for many readers. My only issue is that she is preaching to the converted. Ms. Walford, let me shortly express some of my bona fides that might suggest to you that I am not an idle observer of what you are saying.

The problem is my lousy communication skills for which I apologize. By “new white community” I mean to put
African-Americans on a close to equal footing to white Americans. I said nothing about the struggle to reach that; nor this I suggest that the piece of pie was large enough. However, you are at the table and exactly where you should be.

A little about me. As I type this response I am looking proudly at a certificate from the Southern Poverty Law
Center. It enrolls me in the Wall of Tolerance. I shared a foxhole with African Americans and saw no difference in the color of our blood, only our musical tastes. I lost ancestors in the Civil War who volunteered for all the reasons you would to defend the rights of African Americans for equal citizenship.

You mention history — I am aware of Crispus Attucks as well as the valiant role played by African Americans in
all of our conflicts. However, I also am aware of the progress made – we have a man of color running for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of this great country. We have Condolezzaa Rice, Colin Powell, Ron Paige, and many governors, mayors, and representatives.

You surely are aware of the power displayed by John Conyers and our own Charley Rangel in Congress.
As a student of history, let me share an anecdote. When I was in Greece on assignment, one of my contacts was a Greek national who became a close friend. When I asked him why there were so many blonde, blue-eyed Greeks, he smiled and said, “why be surprised; we held Northern Europeans in slavery and bondage for a thousand years.” Another cruel chapter.

And, the beat goes on. Blacks enslave blacks in Darfur, whites other whites in parts of the Middle East, and
so on. My point is that we have all lost some focus. The time has come not to minimize or forget the African American struggle, but to push the struggle of our Hispanic neighbors to the forefront.

This is the new battleground to be fought. The Intelligence Report put out by the aforementioned Southern Poverty Law Center has a new cover story on the the wave of violence engulfing Latinos. You sound like a woman who is strong and committed enough to be outraged by this and your voice is needed in this new struggle.

Ms. Walford, I don’t know if you are a religious woman, but I will risk it by saying that my religion commands me as follows ---- “whatever you do unto the least of them, you do unto me.” The new “least of them” are the Hispanic community who, parenthetically, come in all colors. In any event, I am tired of the assignment
by color. Tiger Woods said it best when he created an anagram combining the letters of all of his heritages. He was proud of his mixed heritage. I am sure that Alicia Keyes, Hallie Berry, Rashida Jones, Lennie Kravitz, and so many others share that view and must flinch every time they are asked to identify who they are.

Because, who they are is what they are as people. You, Ms. Walford, strike me as someone I would be proud to know and if I offended you by my careless choice of words, I apologize.

Warren Gross, New Rochelle


In Our Opinion...

...Why Can’t The Westchester DA’s Office?

Probably the most disheartening aspect of the recent revelations about nearly 100 Major League Baseball players and their abuse of performance-enhancing compounds, such as growth hormones and anabolic steroids, contained in the Mitchell Report, is the fact that the sports activity involved just happens to be the “National Pastime”. It’s not as though other popular sports haven’t had their scandals over the years: Basketball’s point-shaving, fixed horse races, even the NFL has had drug problems. But, somehow, none of those exposés were as hurtful or as disappointing.

Baseball, after all, is a game of numbers, statistics; RBIs, HRs, AVGs, ERAs; a game of heroes, larger-than-life names we feel personal about, and disappointed to discover were cheating, gaining unfair advantage through unlawful activity. It’s upsetting to realize they were lying to us, both in their unlawful indulgences and their desperate denials, even in the face of undeniable evidence.

We tend to feel let down by people we’ve placed our faith, our belief, in, people we trusted and admired. Yes, we feel deceived and betrayed, but not totally surprised; mostly disappointed. Yet, somehow, we are relieved that the Truth is finally out, even if some continue to lie and feign indignation. Yes, we are glad the Truth has
been told, but sadly, we may never see the game quite the same way. And, yes, we find ourselves reflecting upon the greats from an earlier time - the Babe Ruths, the Joe DiMaggios, the Hank Aarons, the Ted Williamses, and the Willy Mayses - the Real McCoys.

Here, in Westchester, we have another painfully disappointing institution, in many ways similar to Major League Baseball, but infinitely more consequential in terms of its impact on our lives: the District Attorney’s Office.

As with Major League Baseball, there are those players who really do want to play by the rules and We have witnessed and acknowledged their efforts over the years. But, unfortunately, there are far too many who engage in prosecutorial misconduct to be ignored, not to mention the high stakes of the game they play: 3 Years-,
5 Years-, 25 Years-To-Life.

As with baseball, the element of power is key to their game. No, not physical power, but the power of the State; the power to accuse, to prosecute, to harass and persecute, to exhaust and bankrupt, to incarcerate and isolate, to effectively destroy anyone, irrespective of guilt or innocence!

Again, as with Baseball, it’s all about winning, and winning has nothing to do with Justice. The rules are restrictive and very oppressive; no Accidental Deaths, no Self-Defense, in Westchester. And, naturally, there is no sharing of information unless their backs are against the wall; 376 pages of exculpatory information, 52 boxes of exculpatory exhibits, must be kept from the knowledge of the Federal Courts, much as a batter keeps a corked bat from the knowledge of the umpire.

Of course, corked bats and spitball pitches are child’s play compared with Tampering With Evidence, Suborning Perjury, Witness Intimidation, Withholding of Brady Material, and Total Confabulations and Lies; not to mention deliberately undermining the relationship between defendants and their attorneys.

What we in Westchester need now is for United States Attorney Michael Garcia, who posted a hotline number 19 months ago seeking information on issues of public integrity and corruption in our County, to step up to the plate and hit a home run by doing for the Westchester District Attorney’s Office what former Senator George Mitchell did for Major League Baseball.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Joan Walsh, Harrison’s Next Supervisor, Shares Her Thoughts

Last Tuesday morning, December 18th, we sat down for about an hour with Harrison Town Clerk Joan Walsh to share her thoughts on the eve of moving down the hall to the Supervisor’s Office. Joan, of course, has been a long-term resident of Harrison Town Hall, having served a total of 13 years as Town Clerk. Always accommodating residents’ needs whenever and wherever she possibly could, Joan is respected for her
even-handedness and her high ethical standards.

Joan was moved to run against three-term incumbent Stephen Malfitano because she had come to the conclusion
that he was “ruining the Town.” During the campaign she spoke about taxes, and “the heavy burden” Malfitano’s projects, in recent years, had placed on Town residents. She deplored the millions of dollars that were wasted
on consultant fees and cost overruns.

During the campaign, she also criticized Malfitano’s stubbornness and his unwillingness to admit that some projects, such as his “Project Home Run,” a venture begun in 2002 to create two ball fields on land that the State had appropriated $6 million to Harrison and the City of Rye to rehabilitate and turn into a nature preserve what had been a “brown field”. By some estimates, the Town has spent nearly $10 million for a parcel that remains barren and sinking in several places.

Walsh was most concerned, however, about the “lack of openness with residents.” She cited the appearance and the reality of withholding information, not making full disclosures, at Town Board meetings; the lack of public participation and input in projects and, more importantly, in the drafting of a Master Plan of Development.

Now that she is about to take hold of the reins, she told us, “It is vital that we complete the Master Plan, a document that will be a picture of what exists and what we will need over the next 25 years.” She expressed particular concern regarding the Beaver Swamp area, the Quarry in West Harrison, the parcel involved in “Project Home Run” that she believes should be allowed to sit as the ground settles for five or even ten years.

With respect to the possible need for more ball fields, Walsh told us she would like to appoint a “Task Force On Recreation whose responsibility it would be to determine whether, in fact, there was a real need for more
ball fields; and, if so, where?” She mentioned Park Lane, Veteran’s Field, and the as-yet unutilized Klingenstein Property on North Street, as a few potential ball field locations.

Turning to another subject, we asked her, “What is your understanding of what has been going on within the Harrison Police Department?” She quickly responded, “The people of the Town are upset with the Police Department.” She went further, acknowledging that the outcome of the election may very well have had as much to do with residents’ dissatisfaction with Malfitano’s failure to deal with the continuing tensions and charges between the rank and file and Chief Hall and Captain Marriccini, as it had to do with any other issue. She said,
“The Townspeople are looking for a change.”

Then Walsh intimated, “I had Chief Hall in my office just yesterday. I told him I will be looking to have the Department accredited. He told me that they have been involved in that process but have not completed it. I asked to see the paperwork.”

Supervisor-elect Walsh then turned to another issue that she feels has been neglected, activities for seniors.
She explained, “Current programs involve bingo and travel.” Asked what kinds of trips were involved, she explained that day trips and overnight travel were presently enjoyed, but that the existing Senior Center is inadequate for the needs of the program which has grown to more than 200 participants, roughly 100
from downtown Harrison and an equal number in West Harrison. She made a commitment, declaring,
“I will see that the Senior Center on the grounds of the Underhill School is completed by summer.”

Pointing across the room toward the railroad station, Harrison’s next supervisor spoke of another high-priority for her administration. She explained that she wants to replace the large, unattractive parking area on the south side of the train station, along Halstead Avenue, which she described as a gap that is harmful to potential shopping and business in the Town, with a concept that she credited Steve Malfitano with introducing and
bringing along.

The project would involve commercial development on the ground level with three stories of residential
above, “in scale with existing nearby structures.” As we were wrapping up our conversation, Joan Walsh, still smiling, turned and said, “By and large, I want to make every effort to alter residents’ perception of civil servants, Town employees. I have worked with them for many years. I know them personally, I know them to be professional, hard-working, and knowledgeable, and I think it’s time the Townspeople come to know them that way as well.”

Janet Difiore.

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Defendant’s Mother Reveals ADA John O’Rourke “Over The Top” With Prosecutorial Misconduct
Westchester County Court, White Plains
Judge Robert DiBella Presiding


Wednesday, December 19, Kevin Cleary, 24, appeared before County Court Judge Robert DiBella in a pre-trial Wade Identification Hearing, accompanied by his 18-B Attorney, Peter Saint George Davis. The prosecutor was Assistant DA John O’Rourke. Mr. Cleary, a Mount Vernon resident, is charged under a 26-count indictment including First-Degree Attempted Robbery, Assault, Criminal Possession Of A Weapon, and Menacing, in connection with an incident on September 20, 2006 in the City of Mount Vernon.

Defense Attorney Davis opened with a statement to the Court that he had “just been informed” that the photo array, the ‘Six Pack’ used to identify his client “is being claimed lost,” by the District Attorney’s Office and, “was almost certainly presented to the Grand Jury in obtaining an indictment against my client.” Mr. Davis went on to tell the Judge that he believed the photos were Rosario Material. ADA O’Rourke responded, “It’s not Rosario. It’s not evidence at a trial. Photo arrays don’t come in at trial.”

Mr. Davis advised the Court that he intended to make application regarding the missing photos. DiBella responded, “I have no problem with your making a submission to the Court so long as it’s applicable to the issue you’ve raised.”

Judge DiBella then proceeded to express his concerns to Mr. Davis with respect to a videotape that his client’s co-Defendant, a Mr. Robert Walker, had turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, and its possible inculpatory implications for Mr. Cleary. He appeared to be nudging Davis when he remarked, “Ironically, Mr. Walker’s attorney has made a Motion for Severance from Mr. Cleary, but Mr. Cleary’s attorney (Davis) has not, despite the fact that Mr. Walker’s videotaped statement may be inculpating.”

Attorney Davis responded to the Judge, indicating that he had just been made aware of the taped statement in question and hadn’t had the opportunity to view and listen to it, but would avail himself as soon as possible and would file the appropriate motion if necessary.

Judge DiBella, apparently not satisfied that he had sufficiently alarmed the Defense Attorney, now revisited the likely need for Severance of his client from Co-Defendant Walker, asserting, “The problem was evident just based on the information accompanying each case. I would prefer if Mr. Warhit and Mr. Davis would both be present tomorrow so that we may flesh out the issue and determine what actions might be appropriate.”

DiBella went on, “I’m less concerned about who’s making the application, but more concerned that some action is taken to protect the interests of this Defendant.” ADA O’Rourke then proceeded to put on a Prosecution witness, Village of Ossining Police Officer Juan Encarnacio, who was a Police Officer for the City of Mount Vernon with three years on the job when the incident with which Kevin Cleary has been charged occurred September 20, 2006 in that city.

Encarnacio recounted, under direct examination by ADA O’Rourke, his contact with a Mr. Maricio Cruz Quevas, one of the alleged victims of the attempted robbery and assault with which Kevin Cleary is charged. Officer Encarnacio explained that he was brought into the case by Mount Vernon Detective Young because
of his facility with the Spanish language. He then described having shown a photo array to the victim/witness resulting in that individual’s having picked out Kevin Cleary.

Mr. Davis then proceeded to cross-examine Officer Encarnacio, asking, “On September 29 of last year, where were you called?” Encarnacio answered, “To the Detective Division.”

Davis: “Have you ever been certified as a translator?”


Encarnacio: “No.”

Davis then asked the officer to describe how he and Detective Young presented the photo array to the alleged victim. Officer Encarnacio responded, “The photo array was put on the table, and she (Detective Young) asked me to ask him if he could recognize any of the persons as someone who injured him, and, to circle such a person.”

Davis now asked, “Did you make any notes in connection with this case?” Of-ficer Encarnacio answered, “No.”

Then, in a very unusual move, Defendant Kevin Cleary broke in with, “Your Honor, may I speak?”

Judge DiBella answered with, “Why don’t you speak with your attorney,” which brought Cleary and Attorney Davis into a huddle, following which Davis told the Court, “Your Honor, I’m just learning now that Mr. Cleary is considering obtaining different counsel.”

Then the Defendant took the liberty of addressing the Court, again, directly with, “I don’t want to hold up the Court, but, there is a lot at stake for me, and I would like to...”

At that point, DiBella broke in with, “We are set to go to trial on January 2nd, but there is a group problem. There may be a severing of the cases. One will have to go first. I know you have a lot at stake and I’m not barring you from making an application for a different counsel or additional counsel.” Having said that, Di-
Bella then declared, “We’ll stand in recess until January 2nd.”

What followed next was totally unexpected. Upon exiting the courtroom this reporter hesitated in the corridor to copy some particulars from the calendar posted outside the courtroom. Approached by the Defendant’s mother, we briefly began to discuss the Defendant when his attorney, Mr. Davis, emerged from the courtroom, and, stopping for a moment, quipped to Ms. Cleary that her son’s comments to the Judge regarding his desire for a different attorney was a first for him and was totally unexpected.

With that, Ms. Cleary, without a moment’s hesitation, told Davis, in my presence and the presence of a very prominent Defense attorney, “I had a long conversation with Mr. O’Rourke who said ‘Mr. Davis is a crappy lawyer who doesn’t know what he is doing.’” She went on to state that ADA O’Rourke had approached
her advising her to tell her son that he, O’Rourke, was offering him a good plea deal, and that he should get rid of Mr. Davis before he messes up his chances.

Reached later at his office, Attorney Davis told this reporter, “If what I was told by Ms. Cleary is true, it is a very serious prosecutorial misconduct.” Thursday morning, this reporter returned to Judge DiBella’s courtroom. Mr.
Cleary’s Co-Defendant, not remanded to jail like Cleary, but free on $50,000 bond, was seated in the courtroom awaiting the opportunity to offer a plea of guilty. Mr. Davis, unaware of the fact that his client, Kevin Cleary, had actually been brought to the courthouse in error, and was available in the holding area, arrived at 10:25 a.m. Upon becoming aware of the fact that his client might still be within the courthouse, he brought the fact that he would wish contact with him and to have a calendar “add-on” item before the Court.

Judge DiBella called ADA O’Rourke and Defense Attorneys Barry Warhit and Russell Smith, representing Co-Defendant Robert Walker, to the bench. Following a brief conference, the Judge then turned to Attorney Davis, asking, “Mr. Davis, did you want to approach before we start?” Davis responded, “Yes, Your Honor.”

He then proceeded to the Bench and related to the Judge what had transpired in the corridor the previous afternoon.

Judge DiBella, loud enough to be easily heard in the courtroom, responded, “Let me do what I gotta do, then I’ll hear you.” The Court then proceeded to take a guilty plea from Co-Defendant Robert Walker, 30 years old. ADA O’Rourke addressed the Court, “We have agreed to accept a guilty plea to Count 15 of the Indictment,
Assault Second Degree, a D-Violent Felony, in satisfaction of all counts, with the understanding that Mr. Walker will receive six months shock incarceration and five years probation.” Walker then proceeded to formally plead guilty, and the Court established a sentence date of March 7, 2008.

At 10:55 a.m. it appeared that Mr. Cleary, having been brought to the courthouse in error, was still in the building and that he would shortly be brought upstairs to Judge DiBella’s Court. During a brief recess, as the Court awaited Cleary’s arrival, this reporter stepped out of the courtroom to find ADAs Patricia Murphy
and John O’Rourke engaged in conversation and approaching the courtroom. It was apparent that O’Rourke had just informed Murphy, his supervisor, about what Attorney Davis had said to Judge DiBella earlier in conference at the bench.

At 11:15 a.m. Defendant Kevin Cleary was brought into the courtroom. Judge DiBella asked, “Is there an application?” Mr. Davis then stated, “What I was told by Ms. Cleary was that Mr. O’Rourke allegedly told her that I didn’t know what I was talking about; that I was a pretty crappy attorney, and that that was the reason
she and her son were seeking to get another attorney.” Davis went on, “I am now placed in a position where I cannot represent him. I’ve told Mr. Cleary that I cannot even handle a possible pleading. All I’m saying is a conversation did occur and as a result I cannot feel comfortable going forward with this case.”

At that point, ADA O’Rourke, seated beside ADA Patricia Murphy, said, “We deny saying anything disparaging about Mr. Davis.”

Following that terse denial, Judge DiBella, directing his remarks to Attorney Davis, said, “Very well, I see nothing in the record other than that you have provided adequate and competent representation, and if there is a crisis of confi-dence, I’d like to know about it.”

The Judge then called upon Defendant Cleary for his take on the matter with respect to his having asked for a different attorney. The Defendant, speaking directly to DiBella, said, “My statement was based upon the conversation my mother had with the DA.”

Judge DiBella then responded to the Defendant’s apparent affirmation of what the Court had been told by Mr. Davis, telling Cleary, “Mr. O’Rourke has denied it. It’s not Mr. O’Rourke’s opinion that matters here. It’s yours and mine. I’d like to hear your feelings before I rule on this application.” (An application by Mr. Davis
to be relieved as counsel.)

Davis now addressed the Court, “Your Honor, he wants the opportunity to speak to his mother. I don’t want to get involved with a plea in the absence of his mother. If I stand in for the plea today, it will be over my objections.” Davis was sensing, from DiBella’s remarks, that he was not inclined to grant the application
for relief.

DiBella, speaking to the Defendant, then said, “I understand Mr. Davis’ position. I have no problem giving you time to speak with your mother.” He then asked the Defendant, “Are you joining Mr. Davis in his application to be relieved?

Mr. Cleary, do you want to proceed with, or without, Mr. Davis?” The Defendant responded, “With Mr. Davis on the case.”

DiBella then began to suggest that Attorney Davis contact Ms. Cleary, the Defendant’s mother, in order to arrange for her to discuss the possibility of her son’s accepting a plea agreement.

Mr. Davis, uncomfortable with that suggestion, told the Court that he did not wish to contact the Defendant’s mother, stating, “My position is based upon my conversations with Ms. Cleary. I’m not willing to have any further conversations with her.”

Analysis:

What this reporter stumbled upon last Wednesday inside of, and outside of, Judge Robert DiBella’s courtroom, specifically, the straightforward statement by the mother of a 24-year-old Defendant, under the weight of a 26-count indictment for a variety of felonies, that she had been approached by ADA John O’Rourke, the prosecutor in her son’s case, and told that his assigned 18-B attorney, Mr. Peter Saint George Davis, was, “crappy and didn’t know what he was talking about,” is so egregious, and yet so in keeping with the modus operandi of
the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, for many years.

There is obviously such a disconnect, such a span separating where that Office, under the present District Attorney, and her predecessor, stand, as compared with where the Constitutions of the United States and the State of New York stand, as to be virtually ‘over the horizon’ apart. And, incredibly, they have been getting away with so much prosecutorial misconduct for so many years, that they continue to live by the creed, “Do whatever it takes to get a conviction, no matter how unethical, how unlawful, how criminal. Just don’t get caught doing it.”

The unlawful things that prosecutors continue to do in Westchester, obviously without fear of consequences, would result in their immediate firing in the Bronx. For Patricia Murphy to be sitting beside John O’Rourke as he told the Court, “We deny saying anything disparaging about Mr. Davis,” was laughable given Murphy’s less-than-credible recent performance on the witness stand in Judge Rory Bellantoni’s Court, not to mention her years of prosecutorial misconduct, knowingly sending innocent individuals to prison by whatever means necessary.

For a prosecutor to take it upon himself to forcibly break the bond between an Accused and his attorney in any case, much less a serious criminal case, in an effort to remove that attorney whose due diligence and committment have frustrated and might possibly defeat the flawed case proffered by that prosecutor,
is totally reprehensible. Clearly, it calls for a thorough investigation. Surely, the Criminal Defense Bar should want to get to the bottom of this mother’s disclosure.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester



The Looming Alzheimer’s Epidemic: A Real 21st Century Challenge For Westchester’s Medical Community

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 72 seconds, someone in our nation develops this dreaded disease. The Association estimates that 5 million Americans aged 65 (1 in 8) already have Alzheimer’s. It is
already the fifth leading cause of death for this age group. From 2000 to 2004, deaths from heart disease,
strokes, and certain cancers decreased by as much as 10% while deaths from Alzheimer’s increased by one third. Presently, Alzheimer’s causes almost 10% of the deaths in New York State.

Currently, the direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias amount to more than $148 billion
annually. A recent study by the National Institute of Health confirmed that the prevalence of dementia increases
significantly with age: 5% of the population for ages 71 – 79; 24% of ages 80 – 89; and 30% for those 90 years old and older. The National Institute for Aging believes that almost 50% of individuals over 90 could be affected.

To quote the National Institute of Health: “Advancing age is the most common known risk factor for Alzheimer’s”. And as the baby boom generation ages, and our life expectancies increase, this risk is growing.
Johns Hopkins University has projected that victims of dementia will increase to over 10.3 million by 2047
– or 1 in every 45 Americans. By 2050, that number could grow to 16 million – a 300% increase over current levels. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by that date, more than 60% of people with Alzheimer’s will be 85 or older.

The increase of dementia victims will pose a medical and economic crisis for our local communities long before
2047. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this looming epidemic will cost Medicare and Medicaid over $160 billion by the year 2010 – less than three years away. Medicare and Medicaid are only partially funded through payroll taxes, premiums paid by beneficiaries, and the federal government – the balance is funded by each state and passed through to local communities.

Worse, the medical studies predict a 27% increase in cases by 2020 and a 70% increase by 2030. And these
estimates are only for Alzheimer’s disease – they do not include victims of vascular dementia from strokes, or patients with other geriatric conditions destined as cognitive impairment, falls, incontinence, low body mass index, dizziness, vision impairment, hearing impairment which already impact 50% of adults 65 and older. Obese studies also do not include the indirect victims of these diseases and conditions.

As the population ages, their declining health and abilities, and increasing dementia, affects not just the victims,
but their families and communities as well. Many caregivers lose their jobs or must quit working to care for an affected family member. In 2002, the cost to workers responsible for caring for Alzheimer’s patients already
exceeded $36 billion nationwide.

In addition to lost income and increased expenses, such workers are paying less in income taxes due to their
reduced or eliminated earnings. Therefore our local communities suffer economic setbacks from each Alzheimer’s
patient in several areas – the added Medicare and Medicaid payments for the victims, the support services required such as additional Para-transit vehicles, the loss in local buying power and income tax revenues from the
care-givers, and the loss of local buying power of the victims.

Scientists project that a delay in the onset of this disease in its victims for even one year could result in a benefit of
over $1 trillion. But such medical developments could still be years away. And our communities are facing this crisis on an increasing basis daily. The local solution for Westchester is clearly to allow caregivers to be employed for as long as possible and to provide the victims with a level of care that enables them to maintain their
health and abilities longer. The National Alzheimer’s Association lauds a local care facility, “My Second Home” in Mt. Kisco, as the perfect model for how Alzheimer’s victims, and their families, should be cared for.

My Second Home is an Adult Day Care Program run by the Family Services of Westchester, a non-profit organization. The Director of this facility, Ms. Rina Bellamy, states that their purpose is not only to provide care to its participants, but also to encourage “productive aging”. To achieve that goal, My Second Home is an intergenerational facility that shares a building, programs, and events, with the Mt. Kisco Day Care Center. Ms. Bellamy believes that “adults who are stimulated stay healthier” and that the social model provided by the center gives the participants a rhythm and purpose to their days.

Many elderly patients suffer from varying degrees of depression due to physical limitations, economic difficulties,
and grieving for loss of friends and family. According to Ms. Bellamy, facili-ties such as My Second Home provide “a second family” for their participants – from connecting with the children over art projects, to reminiscing with individuals their own age, to support from the staff and social workers. That interconnection
is extended to the families so that, as Ms. Bellamy notes: “everyone is working together as a community”.

The center offers a variety of programs to cater to all cultures, genders, and desires. The participants may take piano lessons or plant vegetables in the garden with the children for use in the center’s kitchens. Ms. Bellamy
believes that such productivity allows the participants to feel valuable and contributes to their self-esteem by helping them remember and connect to prior achievements in their lives. As Ms. Bellamy points out: our participants are adults who have lived productive and interesting lives. They are positive role models for aging”.
The goal of the Family Services of Westchester is to “keep families together”.

In doing so, they place less of a financial burden on our local communities to provide services. Such facilities delay the need for nursing homes, relieving the economic demands on Medicare and Medicaid from these individuals and allowing them the ability to choose their care for themselves, rather than having to adhere to stringent Federal rules.

While the need for these facilities is growing, the local funding for them is not. My Second Home currently
struggles to survive and depends on contributions and local support, in addition to fees charged to participants.

Currently, 167,000 individuals, or one in five Westchester County residents, are aged 60 or older. The Westchester Partnership for Aging Services notes that this is nearly twice the national average.

The County has already planned for an increase in its Medicaid costs of $5.4 million in 2008 but claims that
“this increase has no effect on the tax levy, as the county prudently set aside a reserve fund for this. The remainder of funds in this reserve account will continue to provide tax payer relief for Medicaid increases for future years”.

However, the budget fails to note how the county is preparing for the increase in Alzheimer’s patients and services and the drop in taxes from their caregivers. Indeed, the county’s 2008 budget and capital plans do not specifically make any mention of how our local governments intend to cope with this looming crisis.

The Alzheimer’s crisis is no longer an issue for debate – in 2007, the eldest baby boomers already turned 60. For the next 19 years, one boomer will turn 60 every 7.5 seconds. Conscious of their increased need for
medical care, and the related costs, “boomers” are already planning for the inevitable.

But in addition to long-term care insurance and other traditional plans, marketing consultants are also noting
a growing “trend toward expatriation among boomers seeking locales more progressive about healthcare”.
They’re literally jumping ship for fairer shores. And taking their money with them. It’s time for our county and local governments to acknowledge the growing health care crisis facing the elderly in our midst. The county needs
to develop and fund more facilities like My Second Home to help caregivers provide for their loved ones in our local communities. We need long-term plans to keep our families together and our communities intact. Just like global warming, this crisis has the potential to affect us all. And like global warming, there is no more time to wait.


Endnotes:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Reports

2. National Institute on Aging – press release October 30, 2007

3. Department of Biostatistics, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

4. Contact info: 95 Radio Circle, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549; phone: 914-241-0770; email: rbellamy@fsw.org


5. www.Westchestergov.com

6. Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers: Perceptions, Principles, Practices, Predictions, Paramount Market

Northern Westchester Round-Up


Cortlandt: State officials and environmental advocates hosted a Global Warming Forum on November 28. Attendees learned about new technologies, trends, and government initiatives. A second suspect was charged in
the Thanksgiving Eve cross-burning incident.

Ossining: Town officials presented an overview of a Comprehensive Plan for local development. The plan will address environmental and economic issues as well as developing the waterfront and maintaining the historical integrity of the village.

Tarrytown: A town Walgreen’s store was robbed at gunpoint. The incident occurred at mid-day on December 8th. The male robber threatened the store managers and forced them to open the store safe at gunpoint.

Yorktown Heights: Local seniors met with state, county, and town officials to discuss building a new senior center for the town. The town is investigating several sites for the center which will provide increased room for more activities for seniors.

– Catherine Wilson
Our Readers Respond...

A Message From Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins


Dear Editor:

I would like to take an opportunity to thank everyone for your support during this difficult time. The outpouring
of sympathy from my friends, supporters, and the entire community has meant so much to me and to my family.
Tom and I were married almost 30 years and raised three beautiful children. His loss and the love our family
shared is immeasurable but so is the generosity of spirit and love my family has received from all of you.

Know that we are strengthened by your thoughts and prayers and have been able to endure this trying life experience because we know we are surrounded by love. Your good wishes uplift our lives and help us to move forward in Tom’s memory.

Tom would have been overwhelmed to see all those who attended the services, sent food, cards, and flowers,
and called to convey their sympathy. His legacy of quiet strength and unwavering support for his family will always be remembered.

Again, thank you and accept my wishes to all for a safe and peaceful holiday season.

With deep gratitude,


Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Ernie Busy At The Shredder


Dear Editor:

Ernie Davis and his cohorts are busy trying to cover up his criminal tracks before he gets out of the Mayor’s office on Dec. 31st. I work in City Hall. The Copy Room person (Ms. Harris’) job was to work on Ernie’s campaign. That’s all she did in City Hall. Now she is seen taking files out of the Mayor’s office for shredding.

Ernie said in the article in the Journal News about the FBI investigation of Wayne Charles that he did not know
Wayne Charles. This is a lie. Wayne Charles, his brother-inlaw Tom Terry, Gerrie Post and Ernie went to China together; expenses paid by Mount Vernon taxpayers. Tom Terry is Ernie’s Commissioner of Management Services. Ernie is shredding these records.

Ernie’s personal accountant (Mr. Hakim) works in the Planning Department. He is being paid out of Urban Renewal money to work on Ernie’s scheme to cover his tracks from the federal investigation. Lisa Copeland is one of Er-nie’s cohorts trying to cover up his crimes before he is indicted.

I encourage my fellow City Hall employees to snitch on the corruption that they know about Ernie Davis.

Honest City Hall Employee

Reader Takes Issue With Prior Respondent

Dear Editor:


I am writing in response to Mr. Warren D. Gross’ letter to Guardian columnist Eridania Camacho. While I respect his intent and passion for immigration reform, I was very disturbed by Mr. Gross’ description of African-Americans as the “new White community.”

Firstly, I am American who is a descendant of African slaves. I can trace my American heritage to three of the original 13 colonies - Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. The United States is my country, my only country. I find it disturbing that in 2007 there are still Americans who discount and dismiss the important contributions
and experiences of those who are descendants of African slaves.

It is scary how many Americans, whose ancestors migrated to the United States in the late 19th and 20th centuries are unaware of, and willing to minimize, the contributions of their fellow citizens; especially citizens whose ancestors pre-date the founding of our nation and who played a significant role in building the nation’s wealth and molding the Civil Rights Legislation all of us hold so dear.

Mr. Gross apparently is unaware of the fact that despite how Americans of African descent were treated, the majority never left America. This was their country; all they ever knew. Leaving, even if they had the resources, was never an option; “The American Dream” was theirs, too. After all, three Amendments to the Constitution
were drafted in the 1860s in response to the treatment of these citizens; citizens who had to wait nearly another hundred years, until the 1960s, for the passage of the Civil Rights Act to enjoy what was rightfully, socially and historically always theirs.

Americans of African descent watched wave after wave of immigrants from Europe come, and eventually be allowed to enjoy many freedoms that they, as citizens, could not. Americans of African descent fought in every war this nation has engaged in; worked, if allowed, and attempted to be educated, if allowed, and still remain
loyal and faithful to a nation that refused to acknowledge their citizenship and legacy.

Finally, in the 1960s, a reprieve came with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The passage of this act provided not just the citizens who were descendants of slaves with the right to participate within American society, but millions of other people of color, women, and a whole new wave of immigrants.

The Civil Rights Act is the engine behind the rich cultural life we enjoy now in the 21st century. I fear Mr. Gross is unaware of the strict immigration laws that were in place up until the 1960s. With the breakthrough of the Civil Rights Act, those who immigrated after its passage were automatically awarded protections my ancestors, Americans from the colonial period, would not even dare to believe they could ever have enjoyed. Some of these new Americans entered an America with no idea of the history behind why they were now able to find opportunities and build a new life.

I honestly take offense to Mr. Gross’ blatant disrespect for American History. If, and when, such a minimization or disregard for genocide, slavery, and bias, in other nations is uttered, Americans are up in arms. But, when it comes to respecting fellow citizens whose ancestry resides in the earliest days of our great nation, it seems perfectly respectable.

Jennifer Walford, Yonkers


The Problem With Political Correctness

It would truly be a very sad day, indeed, when image totally outweighs reality in the realm of jurisprudence, legislation, and the fundamental processes that comprise the operations of our democratic society, our supposed
representative form of government, “For the People and by the People.”

Nevertheless, over the past few decades, a mind set, an inhibition, has slowly been working its way into the American psyche, with, We believe, a very corrosive impact.

Perhaps the phenomenon is due, in part, to television, movies, and the entire shift in emphasis, over more than 50 years, toward the visual component of public communication, the image. Whatever the underlying causes, we have become entirely too concerned with the packaging and not nearly concerned enough about the content, a particularly unhealthy trend as it pertains to candidates for public office, and their offerings.

The notion of political correctness, with all of its implications, has grown like a fungus on the tree of American politics, obfuscating and distorting the necessary exchange of ideas and passion with respect to fundamental
issues and problems confronting our great nation at every level of governance.

As a consequence, what a candidate has to say has become not nearly as important as the way in which he says it. We found it nauseating to watch ten Republican or Democratic candidates for President of the United States almost all saying the same things, avoiding the same phrases, and tip-toeing around the same issues, at the
recent nationally-televised, so-called debates. Few, if any, ever attacked an opponent’s track record, or position, for fear of being accused of negative campaigning. Few showed the kind of passion born from conviction and principle; and those who do are often criticized and avoided.

In this respect, hard-working American taxpayers and citizens are getting what they deserve due to the unwillingness of many to hear and to accept the truth, at times an ugly truth. If history has taught us anything, it is that turning a deaf ear to reality; rejecting the truth about issues that make us uncomfortable because it may challenge our long-held beliefs, will not resolve matters, will not bring about justice and fundamental fairness.

Only the delusional believe they live in the image. Those who are both sober and sane must deal with reality.
If we, as a free society, are to not only survive, but also to continuously strive to improve our circumstances, locally, nationally, and globally, we must be ready and willing to face issues, no matter how upsetting, head-on.

We must not reject either the messenger or the message merely because they may jolt us out of our stupor. There’s nothing desirable about political correctness if it keeps us from knowing what we need to know when we
need to know it.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Greed In County Government


Chairman Ryan And County Legislature Making The Best Argument Yet For Abolishing County Government

At a time when Westchester taxpayers are struggling, as never before, to hold onto their homes; at a time when we are the highest property-taxed county in the state, if not the nation; and, at a time when we are realizing
that our courts and law enforcement agencies have not always been working in our best interest; as if to add insult to injury, Westchester County Government, Larry Schwartz, Andy Spano and Bill Ryan, would have us
look the other way as one more time they stick their hands into our pockets in order to line their own.

The truth is, Larry and Company are totally out of control. There is no loyal opposition and virtually nothing to prevent the kind of looting of the public treasury we are now seeing. And, it’s not as though we didn’t see signs of what was coming back in March with Reggie LaFayette’s and Carolee Sunderland’s $28,000 raises, effectively paying our “part-time election commissioners” nearly twice what their counterparts in Nassau County are receiving. What we are witnessing is nothing short of arrogance and greed. At a time when Westchester’s families, homeowners and apartment dwellers alike, are struggling to keep their heads above water, Bill Ryan, who already earns nearly $1,000 a week simply for being one of 17 County Legislators, plus $800 more for being Board Chairman, now wants another $700 just because he believes he’s working too hard and too long, and isn’t making nearly as much as Andy Spano or, for that matter, Larry Schwartz, or Reggie LaFayette, or Rocco Pozzi, etc., etc.

From a taxpayer’s standpoint - what we get for what we give - they are all vastly overpaid, not merely for the actual time they put in, exclusive of their self-promoting and perpetuating activities but, more importantly, from the standpoint of what we have a right to expect from our County Legislators; to actually protect their constituents from the whim and the will of a County Executive whose agenda and modus operandi is under the control of someone, the likes of Larry Schwartz, a tyrannical control freak. From the standpoint of exercising checks and balances, needed control over a County Government grown way out of proportion to its rightful place in our lives, the County Legislature is a huge failure; perhaps more accurately, a body of co-conspirators.

It’s difficult to recall the last time a County Legislator took the County Executive’s Office to task, about anything.
Everything is so peaceful between these two branches of County Government, it’s frightening!

Who, after all, amongst the 13 Democrats on the Board, is going to stand up to Larry Schwartz, the man who holds the key to the vault, the depository of all the monies raised by the Democratic County Committee Organization; money that gets doled out to Democrats who do what they are told? When it comes down to a choice between doing what is right by their constituents or doing what Larry wants them to do, nobody seems to have principle enough, or guts enough, to do the right thing. That’s how Mob-connected carters took over the County solid waste operation for $17 million more than necessary. That’s how County employees work without a fair contract, some for years. That’s how one person is Commissioner of both Probation and Corrections, doing neither job well. That’s how fraudulent election outcomes were achieved before, and after, the fact.

The state of affairs in Westchester County Government, in many ways, resembles the conditions in County Court: Unresponsive to the needs of the people, and filled with players whose sole objective is to perpetuate their time in office, and to sap as much money from taxpayers as possible. As it stands now, there are far too many people in County Government who think we owe them a living.

The League of Women Voters, whose representative spoke out against increased stipends last Monday, remain consistent with their position two years earlier, in December 2005, when they declared, “The LWV of Westchester opposes stipends for everyone other than the Chair of the Board of Legislators. However, we want to emphasize that we consider the proposed $40,000 stipend for the Chair to be excessive.” Now, the proposed stipend has grown to $75,000.

Under the present circumstances, there are no checks and balances as between the County Executive’s Office and the Board of Legislators. Whatever Larry wants, Larry gets. Given the overwhelming Democratic enrollment, it’s no longer necessary to fix elections to reelect Andy as they did with Larry Horowitz in 2001. Remember when Andy first ran for County Executive, solemnly promising that he would be a two-term Executive? He’s now in his third term and making it abundantly clear that he will be seeking a fourth. Could it be that the County Executive perceives Bill Ryan as a probable strong rival for his position and is attempting
to stave off that possibility with taxpayer dollars?

Now that the Republican Party is virtually dead in Westchester, and even the cross-endorsing parties who were once a factor are insuffi-cient to make up the difference, those in office are totally free to rob the public treasury without fear of criticism from a meaningful opponent, without fear of a loss at the polls. As more and more middle-income families are forced to flee the County, unable to handle the enormous tax burden, the community will ultimately consist of the wealthy and the impoverished. Some solutions come to mind, term limits for one.

An elected official ought to be able to do their best work in eight years’ time, or else move on. Eight years, whether it’s two four-year terms, as in the case of the County Executive, or four two-year terms, as in the
tenure of County Legislators, should be sufficient. Let’s put an end to coronations. The residents of Westchester, families and taxpayers, are under no obligation once having elected someone to office, to guarantee
that person lifetime employment and a fat pension.

It used to be that one could argue, “But what if they’re doing a great job for their constituents?” That argument breaks down when one party becomes as overpowering as the Democratic Party has become in Westchester,
and loyal opposition is all but non-existent.

While we have recently seen the primary election solution, as in Mount Vernon, it does not take too much imagination to recognize that if County Government continues to fatten itself, as it has been in recent years,
there will soon come a time when taxpayer revolts and calls for the abolishment of County Government will be seen and heard everywhere, from Mount Vernon to North Salem. And, that might just be a good thing.

The Guardian interviewed Legislator Mike Kaplowitz, Chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee of the County Legislature. Kaplowitz acknowledged that at some time or another most, if not all, Democrats sitting on the County Board of Legislators, received some campaign assistance from Andy Spano, (Larry Schwartz).

He stated up front, “The issue of raises for legislators, and particularly for Bill Ryan, the Chairman, should have been handled with more transparency and not at the last minute.” He went further, stating, “It would have been
inappropriate to vote on it on Monday (December 10th), having just received it the previous Friday.”

The proposal was put forward by the Rules Committee, consisting of Republican George Oros, and Democrats Marty Ragowski, Clinton Young, and Bill Ryan.

Kaplowitz, obviously unhappy both with the reality and the public’s perception of the way compensation for legislators was handled, pointed out, “The County Legislature’s Charter makes allowances for a Compensation Committee that will go to the issue of compensation for County Legislators. We will deal with this in the new term.”

Asked how long it has been since a Compensation Committee has acted, Kaplowitz responded, “Years.” In any event the hard decision with respect to changes in legislators’ compensation was put off a week until Monday the 17th.

We introduced the issue that Chairman Bill Ryan is, after all, merely one of 17 legislators elected by only the voters in his legislative district, unlike the Yonkers City Council President, who was elected at large.

Kaplowitz concurred, responding, “He’s an equal amongst equals.” Kaplowitz also conceded that nearly all of the legislators, with the exception of a few who are retired and collecting Social Security and/or other pensions, do, in fact, have other full-time employment and are not totally dependent upon public compensation.

There’s an axiom that states, “The longer the distance between the person who earns the money and the person who spends the money, the dumber the decisions.” County legislators are not supposed to be that far removed from their taxpaying constituents.

Janet Difiore.

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Eleven Years Later: Another Man With A Bat, Another Wrongfully Targeted Police Officer; DA’s Office Still Trying To Twist And Turn A Truthful Witness As In The DiGuglielmo Case

Witness Reports Repeated Harrassment, Intimidation And False Imprisonment Tactics By ADA Egenhauser And Harrison Police In Effort To Make Her Lie

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
---------------------------------------------------X
SOFIA SAENZ,

Plaintiff,

-against-

TOWN/VILLAGE OF HARRISON, New York and BARBARA EGENHAUSER in her official capacity as a Westchester County, New York, Assistant District Attorney,

Defendants,
---------------------------------------------------X
07 Civ. 10534 (WCC)
COMPLAINT

Jury Trial Demanded

Plaintiff SOFIA SAENZ, by her attorneys Lovett & Gould, LLP, for her complaint
respectively states:

NATURE OF THE ACTION

1. This is an action for compensatory damages, proximately resulting from the conduct of certain police officers employed by the Town/Village of Harrison and Defendant Egenhauser jointly undertaken under color of the laws of the State of New York, for violations of Plaintiff ’s federal civil rights, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.

JURISDICTION

2. The Court’s jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 1331, 1343.

THE PARTIES

3. Plaintiff SOFIA SAENZ is a female of Peruvian national origin. She is also domiciliary of the State of New York and a resident of the Northern Counties.

4. Defendant TOWN/VILLAGE OF HARRISON (hereinafter “Town”), New York, is a municipal corporate subdivision of the State of New York duly existing by reason of and pursuant to the laws of said State.

5. Defendant BARBARA EGENHAUSER (hereinafter “Egenhauser”), who is sued only for injunctive relief in her official capacity, at all times relevant to this complaint was employed as an Assistant District Attorney in the Office of the Westchester County, New York, District Attorney.

THE FACTS

6. On August 20, 2007, at or about 9:15 P.M. at or about 235 Harrison Avenue in the Town, Plaintiff witnessed an incident involving Joshua D. Clark (Plaintiff’s then boyfriend) and Ralph Tancredi (Plaintiff’s former boyfriend, a police officer employed by the Town, and the President of the Town’s PBA) during which inter alia Clark threatened to strike Tancredi in the head with a baseball bat.

7. Responding Town police seized the bat, and inter alia transported Plaintiff to the Town’s Police Headquarters where they (Police Officer Vincent Mussolini and a female police officer whose identity is not presently known to Plaintiff) detained her in a room for approximately three hours with a view towards coercing her, over her repeated objection, to bear witness against Tancredi - - not because of any wrongdoing by Tancredi, but to retaliate against Tancredi for his having previously filed federal civil rights actions against the Town, its Chief of Police and other members of the Police Department who violated his and other police officers federally protected rights. De-Vittorio v. Hall, 07 Civ. 0812 (WCC); Duffelmeyer v. Marshall, 07 Civ. 2807 (WCC). That retaliatory conduct is known to, and has been expressly condoned by, a majority of the members of the Town’s Board of Police Commission which has final discretionary policy making authority over the Police Department and its administration.

8. At the time of Plaintiff’s detention in Headquarters she did not consent and made it clear to her captors that she had no interest in assisting in their retaliatory plan. In that connection there was neither probable cause nor arguable probable cause to believe she had engaged in any wrongdoing, she was conscious of her confinement, and that confinement was not otherwise authorized and/or privileged.

9. Several days thereafter Mussolini presented himself at Plaintiff’s residence and attempted to coerce Plaintiff to sign paperwork, requested by Egenhauser, as a predicate for issuance against Tancredi and in favor of Plaintiff of a temporary order of protection. Plaintiff refused and as a result Mussolini directed her to call Egenhauser.

10. In turn Egenhauser directed Plaintiff to report to the Office of the District Attorney where, again, Plaintiff repeatedly advised that she did not want anything to do with either an order of protection involving Tancredi or assisting in the [First Amendment] retaliation directed against Tancredi by reason of his federal lawsuits.

11. Despite Plaintiff ’s repeated protestations to Egenhauser, Egenhauser advised Plaintiff that if she did not agree to an order of protection Clark would “get in trouble” - - a threat that she had earlier conveyed to Clark who she told would be arrested on Tancredi’s complaint if he (Clark) did not first accuse Tancredi of criminal
wrong doing.

12. At the time of Plaintiff’s in-office meeting with Egenhauser and following Plaintiff’s repeated refusals to agree to an order of protection, Plaintiff’s confinement in Egenhauser’s office was non-consensual, Plaintiff was aware of her confinement, there was no probable cause and/or arguable probable cause to detain her, and that detention was not otherwise privileged or authorized. Egenhauser’s conduct with respect to Plaintiff was in accordance with long-established policy of the District Attorneys (past and current) who had knowingly condoned Egenhauser’s commission of crimes including subornation of perjury by a civilian complainant and a County Police Of-ficer before a Westchester County Grand Jury [Corona v. Lunn, 00 Civ. 7330 (BDP)].
As to the incumbent District Attorney’s condonation of crimination wrong-doing by high ranking members of the Harrison Police Department, see Tornello v. County of Westchester, 07 Civ. 6697 (CLB).

13. One day prior to Tancredi’s appearance in Town Justice Court on a violation (Harrassment in the Second Degree in violation of New York Penal Law Section 240.26) relating to Clark and the August 20, 2007, interaction, Egenhauser again summoned Plaintiff to her office at which time Egenhauser (in the presence of Town Police Officer Edward Lucas, and Town Police Detective Richard Light) repeatedly instructed Plaintiff (over Plaintiff’s objections) that she had been “abused” by Tancredi and questioned her about supposed cocaine abuse by Tancredi. Light then falsely advised her that Tancredi had referred to Plaintiff as a “coke whore”. Lucas then advised Plaintiff that Tancredi was a thief and had stolen money from the PBA. Egenhauser, Light and Lucas all then made not so subtle threats that if Plaintiff did not cooperate with them against Tancredi in connection with their retaliatory plan with respect to which Plaintiff did not want to participate they would seek to have her deported.

14. Subsequent to Tancredi’s Town Court appearance, to which Plaintiff had been brought by Town Police, Light (on the pretext that he was going to drive Plaintiff to her residence), drove her instead to Police Headquarters where he placed her in a room and interrogated her about Tancredi. In response Plaintiff repeatedly protested her confinement, advising that she was “hungry and wanted to leave - - I don’t want to
be part of this”. Light would not permit Plaintiff to depart.

15. Officer Lucas and Police Officer Mark DiGiacomo then joined Light in the room with Plaintiff and further interrogated her, this time suggesting that Tancredi was involved in illegal gambling operations. Again Plaintiff protested that she did not want “any part of this” and that she “want[ed] to go home”. In response Lucas cautioned her to “go with the order of protection - - you’re in with us”.

16. Plaintiff ’s confinement at Headquarters by Light, Lucas and DiGiacomo was not consented to by her, she was aware of her confinement, there was no probable cause or arguable probable cause for her detention, and that confinement was not otherwise privileged or authorized - - although unlawful conduct by members of the
Town Police Department has been knowingly condoned by a majority of the Town’s Board of Police Commissioner. Ultimately, Light drove Plaintiff to her residence.

17. As a proximate result of Defendant’s conduct Plaintiff has been forced to endure: repeated unlawful imprisonments; repeated victimization as a result of incidents of Official Misconduct, Coercion and Attempted Coercion by the Town police and Egenhauser; repeated threats against her and Clark; emotional upset; anxiety;
public embarrassment; public humiliation; shame and she has otherwise been rendered sick and sore.

AS AND FOR A FIRST CLAIM AGAINST THE TOWN

18. Repeats and realleges as if fully set forth the allegations of fact contained in paragraphs “1” to “17”, inclusive.

19. Under the premises the Town violated Plaintiff’s rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.

AS AND FOR A SECOND CLAIM AGAINST EGENHAUSER

20. Repeats and realleges as if fully set forth the allegations of fact contained in paragraphs “1” to “17”, inclusive.

21. Under the premises Egenhauser’s conduct, while acting in concert with the Town police, violated Plaintiff ’s rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.

WHEREFORE judgment is respectfully demanded:

a. Awarding against the Town such compensatory damages as the jury may determine,

b. Granting against the Town, its officials and/or agents a permanent injunction barring them from contacting, threatening, intimidating and/or imprisoning Plaintiff,

c. Granting against Egenhauser and/or other members of the District Attorney’s staff a permanent injunction barring them from contacting, threatening, intimidating and/or imprisoning her,

d. Awarding reasonable costs and attorney’s fees, and,

e. Granting such other and further relief as to the Court seems just and proper.

Dated: White Plains, N.Y.
November 21, 2007
LOVETT & GOULD, LLP

By:
Jonathan Lovett (4854)
Attorneys for Plaintiff
222 Bloomingdale Road
White Plains, N.Y. 10605
914-428-8401

Analysis:

Last week, The Westchester Guardian met with and interviewed Ms. Sofia Saenz, 26, Plaintiff in the above captioned action, in the presence of her attorney, Jonathan Lovett, at the law offices of Lovett & Gould, White Plains. Ms. Saenz detailed the series of events that followed the incident on August 20, 2007 at about 9:15pm in the Town of Harrison, that occurred between Joshua Clark, her then-boyfriend, and Ralph Tancredi, her former boyfriend.

The coordinated activities of certain members of the Harrison Police Department, together with Westchester Assistant District Attorney Barbara Egenhauser, as alleged in Plaintiff Saenz’ filing, are of particular interest to The Guardian in that they constitute a calculated effort on the part of certain members of the Harrison Police Department, as well as the Office of the Westchester District Attorney, to bring about retaliation against Harrison Police Officer, and President of the Harrison PBA, Ralph Tancredi, for having filed a federal lawsuit against
Harrison Police Chief David Hall several months ago.

Tancredi’s filing, as reported at the time in The Guardian, alleged serious misconduct on the part of Harrison Police Chief David Hall and Captain Anthony Marriccini involving crimes and civil rights violations perpetrated against numerous Harrison police officers, members of the PBA, as well as PBA President Tancredi. Tancredi’s filing, together with numerous members of the Harrison PBA, detailed the setting up of hidden audio and video recording devices in the locker room of Harrison Police Headquarters, in violation of the civil rights of each officer so recorded. Additionally, their federal filing alleged that Chief Hall had confiscated, forged, and converted a check in the amount of $2500 which had been mailed by a local country club to the Harrison PBA following their annual fundraising event at the club; serious felonies.

It is important to note that the federal filing was sought only after a criminal complaint that had been filed with the Westchester District Attorney’s Office was rejected by the DA. That same office, however, has seen fit to engage in activities in concert with police officers acting on behalf of Chief Hall and Captain Marriccini in a retaliatory effort against Officer Tancredi and other PBA members, who joined as Plaintiffs in the original suit.
Assistant DA Barbara Egenhauser’s repeated harrassment and false imprisonment of, and attempts to coerce false statements and testimony from, Sofia Saenz with regard to Officer Tancredi, not to mention Egenhauser’s obtaining of a Temporary Order of Protection against Tancredi, specifically contrary to the express wishes of Ms. Saenz, constitutes the kind of activity typically engaged in by the Westchester District Attorney’s Office for many years under former DA Jeanine Pirro as well as under the present DA, whereby rank and file police officers have been harrassed and falsely prosecuted in retaliation for their reporting of unlawful activity by police brass.

ADA Egenhauser’s attempts to get Plaintiff Saenz to issue false statements and give false testimony do not merely constitute a serious violation of the Plaintiff''s civil rights, protected under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, but, under the circumstances, if perpetuated, could also rise to the level of criminal activity suborning of perjury under 18 U.S.C. Section 1622, punishable by fine and/or up to five years in prison.
Guardian Not Surprised By Finding Of Drugs At County Homeless Shelter In Valhalla


The arrests last week of James Hill, 37, and Quatisha Jackson, 23, for the unlawful possession of crack, heroin
and marijuana at the County Homeless Shelter on the Valhalla Campus came as no surprise to The Westchester Guardian.

More than a year ago, in our November 30, 2006 issue, In Our Opinion stated, “We were further informed that the use of illegal drugs was routine amongst so many residents at the Valhalla Shelter that it was causing serious problems daily, keeping it under wraps. We are well aware that about two weeks ago, the day after We visited the shelter site on a photo-taking mission, identifying ourselves to a uniformed guard, several residents, reportedly involved in drug sales and abuse, were evicted from the building.”

One of our concerns at the time involved the fact that the County of Westchester was putting $155 per month,
unnecessary food allowance money, in addition to personal spending money of approximately $25 every two weeks, “into the hands of homeless individuals who are, for the most part, unemployed with lots of time and little accountability.” Confidential sources had informed The Guardian that, “Many residents of the County Shelter at
Valhalla routinely convert their food stamp money into cash at any number of unscrupulous and illegal food markets, and bodegas throughout Westchester; accepting as little as $90 or whatever they manage to negotiate,
and often using those funds to purchase cigarettes and illegal drugs.”

We stand by the position we took more than a year ago: “While it is true that individuals who are found to be, or
are suspected of being, involved in substance abuse upon screening by DCMH (Department of Community Mental Health), are referred to drug prevention and rehabilitation programs while under Department of Social Services case management and supervision, it is clearly counterproductive to be putting nearly $2,000 a year each into the hands of many hundreds of individuals who clearly have no entitlement to those funds under federal and state rules and regulations.

Worse yet, it is scandalous to continue to knowingly squander taxpayer dollars, hundreds of thousands per year, incredibly, to enrich unscrupulous merchants and local drug dealers.”

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