Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Mayor Amicone Imperils City Of Yonkers Recklessly Trashing The First Amendment
United States District Court, White Plains Judge Charles L. Brieant Presiding

Last Wednesday, August 29th, Attorney Jonathan Lovett filed papers in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, White Plains, under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, on behalf of several readers of The Westchester Guardian, residents of Yonkers, Plaintiffs whose Constitutional rights, as guaranteed under the First Amendment, were violated by Philip Amicone, individually, and several Yonkers City employees under his command.

The Plaintiffs, some 23 in all, constitute merely the first wave of hundreds of Yonkers residents who have called, faxed, and e-mailed The Guardian, outraged by the Mayor’s removal of The Guardian’s distribution boxes throughout the City, thereby curtailing their ability to access and read the content of the newspaper for some
three weeks. Also named as Defendants in the suit, in their individual capacities, in addition to Amicone, were Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett, Commissioner of Public Works, John A Liszewski, Corporation Counsel Lawrence A Porcari, Jr., Police Officer Paul Wood, and numerous “John Doe” police officers and sanitation workers.

The suit essentially charges Mayor Phil Amicone and several Yonkers City employees, with content-based First Amendment violations in that their concerted effort to confiscate and dispose of more than 50 of The Westchester Guardian’s distribution boxes, together with their contents, “intentionally prevented, and/or substantially impaired the dissemination of The Guardian within and throughout the City,” as the result of which Plaintiffs were “unable to obtain/read The Guardian and learn information, ideas and opinions as provided by that publication regarding on-going corruption in the City’s government.”

The complaint further alleges that as the result of Defendants’ actions, “Plaintiffs have been caused to suffer irreparable damage to their rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment; emotional upset; impairment of their otherwise insight into the criminal wrongdoing routinely indulged in by City officials, and persons with whom they associate; fear of the secrecy with respect to which Defendants have deliberately enshrouded their misfeasance, malfeasance and corrupt practices; fear of the blatant abuse of power and authority by the Defendants to support their campaign of terror against The Guardian, and its readers; anxiety attributable to the suppression by
Defendants of The Guardian and the impairment of Plaintiff ’s right to knowledge and information; punishment for exercising their right of free speech; and otherwise rendered sick and sore.”

The suit demands a jury trial and seeks an award from all Defendants in compensatory damages of $10 million, as well as an equal award in punitive damages, for a total of $20 million, “or such additional punitive damages as the jury may impose.”

Many observers have expressed shock over the heavy-handed tactics employed by Mayor Amicone, in his misguided attempt to silence criticism and commentary with regard to the conduct of his administration and the increasingly difficult plight of homeowners and taxpayers in Yonkers under his reign. Many individuals close to City government have recently expressed concern over Amicone’s failure to confront and deal with major issues. In this regard, readers may recall several articles that began to appear in The Guardian, nearly one year ago,
and frequently since, concerning Yonkers Police brutality, and Mayor Amicone’s and Police Commissioner Hartnett’s failure to adequately respond to that long-standing problem. Last week it was announced that
as a result of mounting complaints the United States Justice Department has launched an investigation into the matter.

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