Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Amicone “Dodges A Bullet”– For Now
Yonkers City Court, Cacace Justice Center, Yonkers, N.Y.
City Court Judge Charles Wood, Presiding


Last Thursday afternoon, October 18th, Westchester Guardian Publisher Sam Zherka, and several of his employees, were present in Yonkers City Court for a scheduled 1:00 p.m. appearance. At three minutes before 3:00 p.m., after clearing out all of the other items on his calendar, City Court Judge Charles Wood looked up and announced, “Mr. Lovett, please approach.”

Following the exchange of a few comments with the Judge, Attorney Jonathan Lovett, counsel to The Westchester Guardian and Publisher Sam Zherka, motioned Yonkers Assistant Corporate Counsel, Lawrence A. Porcari, to join him at the bench.

Moments later, the Court Clerk proceeded to call up nine employees of The Guardian, from the Circulation Department, by name and case number, as well as Publisher Zherka. Judge Wood, turning to Mr. Lovett, inquired, “Do you have an application?” Mr. Lovett responded, “We are in Federal Court, claiming that the Yonkers City Code, with regard to the distribution of newspapers, is facially in violation of the First Amendment
to the United States Constitution.”

The Judge then responded, “Let’s adjourn this matter to December 6th. Hopefully that will give Judge Brieant enough time to do his work.

Following the adjournment, Mr. Lovett, emerging from the courtroom, told this reporter, “They dodged a bullet.” Upon leaving the courthouse, Publisher Zherka and Attorney Lovett were confronted by reporters. Zherka stated, “I expected to be jailed today. However, the Judge did the right thing postponing the case until the Federal Court deals with it.”

Holding the current issue of The Guardian in his hands, he went on, “This newspaper represents the rights of the People. I am a firm believer in the Constitution and the First Amendment.”

Attorney Lovett then told reporters, “We have seven cases in Federal Court now, three of them name Mr. Porcari, Yonkers Assistant Corporate Counsel, in his individual capacity.” He then reached into his briefcase,
pulling out a copy of the Yonkers City Code, exclaiming, “You’d have to be a moron not to realize this Code violates the Constitution.”

Analysis:

Westchester Guardian Publisher Sam Zherka’s appearance in Yonkers City Court, together with several of his employees, was in answer to charges brought by the Amicone Administration under a City Ordinance
that is plainly un-Constitutional.

Mr. Zherka was prepared to go forward to trial, and to do jail time, if necessary, in defense of the First Amendment and the People’s Right to know. He understood, nevertheless, the Amicone Administration’s unwillingness, prior to Election Day, to bring any further public attention to their wrongful and vindictive actions,
their tyrannical attempt to silence legitimate criticism.

It should be noted that Amicone, and his subordinates, are under a Restraining Order imposed several weeks ago by Federal District Court Judge Charles L. Brieant.

Jonathan Lovett, attorney representing The Guardian and Publisher Zherka, has expressed his con-fidence in the outcome and success of his clients’ Civil Rights actions in Federal Court against Mayor Phil Amicone and several members of his City Administration for their flagrant, ‘content-based’ violations of the First Amendment against The Westchester Guardian, several of its employees, its publisher, and thousands of Yonkers readers, by the confiscation of 56 distribution boxes, as well as the use of harassment and arrest, to interfere with, and halt, the newspaper’s distribution in Yonkers for several weeks. His confidence is based, in part, upon very compelling evidence of the alleged wrongful conduct of City personnel under direct orders from the Mayor’s office; evidence consisting of explicit and damning photos, videos, and recorded statements, of City employees.

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