Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jeffrey Deskovic Goes Back To Prison

By Jeff Deskovic

As most readers know, I was released from prison about 15 months ago after a 16-year prison term for a crime which DNA proved that I was innocent of. Much of my time since then has been spent raising public awareness of the problem of wrongful convictions, prosecutorial misconduct, and systemic failures and cracks which lead innocent people to be wrongfully convicted. I have attempted to accomplish this by
giving lectures at colleges, high schools, churches, and other community organizations, and also by giving many television, radio, and print interviews. Periodically, I go to Albany in an attempt to lobby lawmakers to enact reforms that would address these issues,
and I have also testified at legislative hearings when they solicit public comment on bills containing reforms.

All of this is a part of my new-found mission in life battling against wrongful convictions in order to prevent others from suffering the same fate that I did. Recently, I went to one of the state prisons in order to visit an inmate who was alleging actual innocence, as a natural extension of that mission. I had come into receipt of a correspondence from an inmate who was alleging actual innocence. It was a bit
haunting reading through the letter in that it was reminiscent of the uncountable letters that I had written to many places desperately seeking help. At the same time, I was aware that there are some prisoners who will falsely allege innocence thus tying up precious limited
resources that would be better used looking into and working on actual wrongful conviction cases.

I attempted to remain even keeled, trying not to come to any conclusions. Yet, the prisoner had mentioned enough things in his letter to pique my interest so that I decided it warranted further investigation. I made arrangements to visit him together with the editor of The Guardian, Richard Blassberg. I initially had trepidations pondering my going back into prison; but the realization that my future work, hopefully as an attorney for the wrongfully convicted, will obviously require me to visit prisoners, pushed me over the hump. Why not get used to
it now?

One of the ways that I attempt to catch up to speed on things in the world is by doing them with someone alongside me, walking me through it. Having done that, I feel con- dent about the future, knowing that I had done it before. I decided to apply this principle to my going to a prison. Being accompanied by Richard would both serve as a type of training so that I could go to prisons in the future by myself, as well as serve as a comfort to have him there in case I might have suffered some anxiety. Despite having arrived at that intellectual conclusion, however, as the day set aside for the visit drew closer, it seemed more and more incredible that I would actually go into a prison. After all,
I had never been inside a prison before since having been released.

As a coping strategy, I tried to put it out of my head, a technique that became harder as the day drew nearer. Deep into the night before my visit, the thought made its way to the forefront of my mind. All kinds of worries and thoughts occurred to me, yet I knew that this was
an inevitable rite of passage. Thus I never thought about cancelling.

The thought of “What am I going to do, how am I going to handle this?” did, in fact, repeatedly cross my mind. On that day I woke up, having limited time to shower and dress, so I simply didn’t have the opportunity to think about it that morning. I had decided that I would wear a suit, as a psychological tactic for countering my reservations. A suit often serves as a reminder to me that my mission in general is serious and important, and that I have a moral responsibility to work against wrongful convictions. I felt bolstered by the knowledge that I had the confidence, trust, and support of many people in my effort. As we drove closer to the facility my confidence grew as I internalized all that wearing the suit represented to me.

I engaged in conversation about recent political happenings and other miscellaneous things. As we entered the neighborhood
of the prison, looking for its entrance, it struck me how weird it was that there were houses near the facility, people waiting at bus stops, others walking and driving, going to work and school, and, in general, just living their lives as if nothing was wrong, as if there
wasn’t something evil going on in their midst at the prison; as if there weren’t some incarcerated wrongfully, and others serving excessive sentences; still others whose rights had been violated by the courts and or an assorted possibility of law enforcement personnel.
Aside from all of these matters and issues regarding who was in the prison and for how long, the question of mistreatment within the prison as basic human dignity, respect, constitutional rights, human rights, went ignored, trampled on, and seen as unwarranted extravagance as a matter of due course.

It seemed bizarre that people could just live and act normally as if none of the above-mentioned were true, as in complete opposition to the credo espoused by Dr. King, ‘injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.’ Yet, as my travel companion pointed out, the people were
oblivious to all of these things. As I walked about the prison grounds another thought went through my mind. The prison building served as a portal to another world, as if the two different worlds ran parallel to each other and only at certain points, such as the front door of a prison or a courtroom, were there portals from one world to another, from one reality to another. As we went through the visitor processing center, filling out various paperwork and supplying various information, the thought ran through my mind that my mother, and occasionally other relatives, went through this process in order to visit me. I felt funny witnessing and experiencing this side of prison which I had never been exposed to before. And the process was completed fairly quickly, I remember thinking that it was not so bad, that I could do that again by myself. I suppose that was because visitor harassment, which had been a usual tactic engaged in by various correction officers at many of
the prisons in order to discourage visitors from coming to see prisoners, such as by requiring them to remove clothing items
, and delaying the processing, were not being employed for some reason that day. As many family and friends of inmates know only too well, usually they
are not called until after the visitor is in the waiting area, and a half hour, to several hours, often go by before a prisoner is alerted of the visit and allowed into the room. It is but one of many methods that correction officers and staff employ to discourage visitors from returning.
For whatever reason, again, good fortune was ours and, when we walked into the room, I was quite surprised to see the inmate waiting at the correction officer’s desk.

He instantly recognized me, shook my hand and greeted me. On the way to the table, a memory came to mind of how, when I used to receive a visit, I would be given something to drink from the vending machines in the room, and so I immediately asked if he wanted a cup of coffee and got him one. Returning to the table, I made it clear up front that I was not an attorney and that I could therefore offer him no legal advice. I explained that both The Guardian and I had been receiving many letters from prisoners since I had been cleared and writing for the newspaper. I indicated that many individuals claiming to be innocent were writing and asking for help of whatever nature could be provided.

Having been on the other end of such letters, I knew what it was like to write for help and receive no responses. I explained that I therefore had decided that I would start looking into these cases to check into the veracity of the claims, and acknowledging that visitation and interviewing would be a necessary part of that process. I attempted to make it clear that I would not simply be taking the word of people claiming innocence, and that I would come to my own conclusions, attempting to operate in an unbiased and objective manner without predetermination about what my conclusions would be.

Furthermore, even if I were convinced of someone’s innocence, or that reasonable doubt existed, or if violations of rights had occurred, the only help that I could, in my life, be able to offer, was to lend a sympathetic ear, offering hope as a living example that exoneration was possible and that efforts to achieve that goal should not be abandoned by the truly innocent. Beyond that, if after reading documentation
and obtaining corroboration of claims, I was convinced of innocence, I determined that I would write about the case in The Guardian, which hopefully would inspire people who had truthful information about the case to come forward.

Incidental to my conclusions, if a case could serve as an example of why various reforms were needed to prevent wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct, I would reference them in my lobbying attempts and when testifying at legislative hearings. I could neither promise nor commit to anything beyond that. Speaking with the inmate, I informed him that his was the first case that I was checking out. I interviewed him at length to learn more about his circumstances and anything that he could add beyond what was already part of the record. In more than two and a half hours together, I learned a variety of things from him that further piqued my interest. I learned, for example, that his conviction was predicated upon misidentification, in a photo array from which he was selected by the victim that was unduly suggestive, in that he was the only person in the photos whose eyes were blackened.

He said that he had, himself, been assault by a bunch of people the night he was arrested; was full of his own blood, and had called people he knew to come and help him and drive him home, waiting near the scene for them to arrive. However, before help arrived, the police came and arrested him. He told us that the prosecution theory was that after being assaulted by a group he obtained a knife and tried to retaliate against an attacker, but that a third party inserted himself between him and the intended victim, and that he stabbed that third party several times.

What further grabbed my interest was that, despite supposedly stabbing this third party multiple times, DNA testing of his own clothing had revealed that he did not have the blood of anyone other than himself on his clothes. As a result, to counter the contrary DNA evidence, the prosecution claimed that the alleged victim merely bled on the inside and that was why there was no blood on the accused. That theory defies all common sense. The inmate mentioned that the authorities believed he had witnessed a crime several years earlier that he actually
had not, and that he would not point the finger at another innocent person that they were insisting he identify. His wrongful arrest and conviction, he was convinced, were in retaliation for having been “an uncooperative witness.” He claimed to have some documentation of
that fact and promised to show it to me at some later date.

Given the charges for which he was convicted, his sentence was so excessive as to suggest that there was a lot more to his case than meets the eye. Individuals convicted of murder were not given as much prison time as he. He spoke of numerous Brady violations and advised us that he had been seeking documents in an effort to turn up leads which, when followed, could turn up evidence of his innocence. It
was clear from documents that I had already looked at prior to visiting him, that whatever the truth of his case turned out to be with regard to any other issue, I was positive that the withholding of information was occurring.

As the time drew near to leave, I remembered the schedule that all of the prisons run on, and realized that by the time our inmate left the visiting area, it would be questionable whether he would’ve have missed the chow run. I did not want him to have to have missed lunch as the price for having visited me and spoken about his case. At the same time, I remembered what it was like to be in prison. Prison is an unnatural place whose everyday reality could never really be understood by anybody other than someone who has either been in, or at the very least known someone who had been in and therefore had a little bit closer vantage point.

Life in a prison consists of everything being essentially reduced to its basest level and extreme survival mode such that courtesy, consideration, and things that should go without saying often are not the reality. That being said, when I was a prisoner, I often looked forward to visits, not simply to see a familiar face, or to experience precious contact with the outside, but I also looking forward to eating
vending machine food. It was not that the items were very good, but that they were a lot better than what we got to eat as inmates.

In a karmic kind of way, I felt that what goes around comes around, and it was now my turn to provide something to eat to someone who was less fortunate than I currently was, even as I was the recipient when I was incarcerated. Perhaps realizing that I am not fully
established financially, he initially didn’t want me to purchase him anything. Realizing that the few dollars that it would
cost me would neither make me or break me. However, because I insisted, he eventually agreed.

Having left the table, I was now standing at the microwave, and I found myself reflecting that I had much verifi-cation to do with regard to his case. He appeared to be innocent, and again, re-flecting on what my own situation had been, I nearly came to tears. As we were leaving, the more steps that I took, the weirder it felt leaving, as if I was in some parallel universe where I was miscast as the person who could leave
the prison as opposed to the one who had to stay as the visitor left. As we walked to the door, the prisoner gave me a symbolic thank you on behalf of the prisoners in the system, for the efforts that I have been undertaking in lobbying lawmakers. His words touched me, and were a powerful reminder to me that my present course of action is the right one. He informed me that many who are still inside were aware of my experiences and have been reading my articles. I knew that I was read in some facilities, but I had no idea that it was as widespread as he described.

Taking the last few steps out of the prison, I felt pangs of frustration that I was not able to take him with me and spontaneously
correct the wrong that I felt had been visited upon him. Still, I had yet to investigate and come to any final conclusions, but his case had all of the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction and everything he reported seemed very plausible. I quickly reflected that the family and friends of wrongfully convicted prisoners, including at one time my own mother, must have felt something similar. In a small way, kind of reminiscent
of General MacArthur’s famous “I will return”, I then silently renewed my vow that I would return to prison, not only to merely hear and investigate the stories of others, alleging actual innocence, but, more importantly, taking action that might, in fact, result in the exoneration
of some prisoners and the pleasure of taking them out of prison with me.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Northern Westchester Bureau Chief
Catherine Wilson

Before Accepting that College Offer, Consider This

Every high school student is familiar with the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March” (Shakespeare). Unfortunately for Caesar, the “Ides of March” warning proved fatal. Caesar was assassinated on that date, marking the end of his illustrious life and career. The “Ides of March” takes on a more personal meaning for our local High School seniors. For those students it represents a
critical end to their college search. March 15th (the ‘Ides’ denotes the middle date of the month on ancient Roman calendars) is the date when most private colleges start sending out their acceptance packages and rejection letters. Twelve years of hard work and months of preparations and applications by these seniors is now reduced to the thickness of the notices they will receive in the mail this month.

But receiving an acceptance package in the mail from a college of choice is not the end of the process. In fact, according to several local High School guidance counselors and administrators, receiving an acceptance is just another step in the road towards college.

Westlake High School in Mt. Pleasant has a reputation of having a very ‘hands-on’ college application guidance program. Donna Garr, the Guidance Leader for Westlake, graciously offered her twenty years of experience to Guardian readers. As it happens, I am a parent of a Westlake High School senior currently wading through the college acceptance maze with the invaluable help of our school’s guidance department. Realizing that other Westchester families are also struggling with this critical and expensive decision right now, the idea for this article was born!

“The acceptance packages are just the first step” Garr said. “There are a host of questions that need to be answered before a student accepts a college offer”. Chief among these is the campus housing issue. Garr recommends that parents ask prospective colleges if housing is guaranteed for all four years and if so, where? “One Boston school recently had to house students at a ‘Holiday Inn’ due to overcrowding” Garr noted. “Many colleges are tripling and quadrupling up students in rooms. Some colleges offer housing on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, and some award housing through a lottery. Parents should ask what happens if their child does not get campus housing”. Also, many college students do not always return home on vacation breaks due to school commitments, internships, etc. Garr advises that parents should ask if students may remain on campus during vacation breaks.

Included in housing considerations is the issue of roommates. “How are roommates selected? How are problems with roommates handled? If
a roommate indulges in drugs or alcohol, how will that affect your status?” are all questions Garr advises students to ask. Parents should also obtain the rules for damages to college property, including dorm rooms. “How are damage fees assessed? If a roommate trashes the dorm room, are all the roommates responsible for these fees? Damage costs could amount to thousands of dollars” Garr warns “so parents need to know how a college will handle these matters”.

Garr also recommends asking each college for their attrition rate. “Parents should ask how many students actually remain in the college for all
four years.” The attrition rate represents the percentage of students who actually graduate from the college. While students drop out for a variety of reasons from financial difficulties to personal hardships, a high drop-out rate could represent a dissatisfied student body.

College Board, a national association of over 5,400 educational organizations, and the administrator of the SAT college exams, has issued an
“Admitted Student Questionnaire Sourcebook” on its web site which provides responses from 1,449 students nationwide. The College Board’s survey revealed that over 90% of the students enrolling at a college selected the campus surroundings as a major criteria and “access to off-campus activities” and “quality of social life” as major factors in their decision. Garr recommends that parents should ask “how is my child really selecting their college? Is a boyfriend/girlfriend a factor? Plus many students may not want to go to a college where they perceive they may know too many students from their high school – many students are looking ‘for
a fresh start’. But having a familiar face around may be helpful, especially on a large campus where a student from a small high school may feel lost at first” Garr notes.

Given the unaffordable expense of college, many students will graduate with a significant level of debt. To those students, having a job upon graduation is critical. Garr advises that parents and students ask the colleges for the list of companies who recruit on campus. She also recommends that the parents and students ask what types of jobs those prospective employers were recruiting for: “students want to make sure that the recruiters coming to campus are actually looking for graduates within their majors, and not just looking for management or nursing graduates, for example” Garr notes.

Since parents usually foot most of the bill for college, many parents are surprised to find out that their payments do not entitle them to information concerning their child. “Parents should ask the colleges exactly what information they will provide - such as ‘is my child actually attending classes’?” Garr advises. “Parents do not want to find out that their child has been suspended from college after the fact. There are many issues that can affect their child’s status in college that a parent needs a ‘head’s up’ on”. Investigating this issue at several colleges, the Guardian discovered that students are considered to be attending college full-time if they are taking twelve or more credits a semester. But if a student drops a class and consequently drops below twelve credits to part-time status, this can risk not only their scholarships and merit aid awards, but also their medical insurance, parental tax credits and deductions, and their ability to graduate within four years – extending the financial burden for their parents. Therefore, parents need to ask the colleges if they will be informed of any intent by their child to drop a class before the student actually does so. Students also need to ask if they can use their High School Advanced Placement
(AP) courses to offset any dropped classes in college. Many colleges will also allow students to apply some, or all, of their AP courses to their graduation requirements.

Safety is also a critical issue for parents. Garr advises that parents investigate the criminal records of both the colleges and the towns in
which they are located. “These are public records and should be readily available” Garr notes. Since students could be spending a large part of their time socializing, working, or even living off-campus, the safety of the area surrounding the college is a critical issue. The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies issues an annual ranking of the Most Secure U.S. Places to Live. Fortunately for our local students, the localities of several private New York colleges and the major SUNY (State University of New York) campuses are listed as among the 20 safest cities in our nation – Syracuse, Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, and Long Island all make the list. Smaller towns in New York like Binghamton and Ithaca also make the ‘top 20’ list for safest communities nationwide.

Any parent of a teenager is familiar with how much food they can eat. But parents should “resist the urge to sign a student up for the most expensive food plan at their college”, Garr warns. “Parents should check the options carefully and match them with their child’s needs. Students may not be out of bed in time to eat breakfast so a parent may not want to spend money for a food plan that specifically includes breakfast. Parents should note how the school defines ‘meal’ – is it one swipe of a meal card? Students could use their meal card for just a snack, but end up being charged for a full meal”. There are many other hidden costs to attending college that may not be noted on a school’s web site or information packages. Many families may have visited prospective colleges in summer, and paid reasonable rates to
the college town’s hotels, only to find that those same hotels gouge for stays during orientation weeks, move-in/move-out periods, homecoming, and graduations. A hotel in Ithaca that can cost $89 a night in July can cost as much as $300 a night on college graduation weekends. Small college towns offer a certain appeal to many students but can be more expensive than major cities to visit during prime college events since the selection of accommodations can be extremely limited. “Parents should factor in the cost of travel and visits to the colleges and the costs of the student’s trips home to their overall cost projections” Garr recommends “Hotel stays should be
booked as far in advance as possible”. In small college towns with limited accommodations, parents often book the hotel stay for their child’s graduation as soon as their child is accepted to guarantee a hotel room.

Other hidden costs and services that parents need to take into consideration, Garr notes, are any parking fees, gym costs and availability (can the student use the pool/tennis courts/etc. and when), cleaning expenses and frequency that the dorms/bathrooms are cleaned, laundry charges, printing/ paper costs if any, club fees, and any phone/cable/internet charges. Binghamton University offers free laundry facilities to students along with free internet and long-distance phone service (plus free pizza deliveries up to 3:00 a.m. for those late-night ‘study’ sessions). City University of New York offers students accepted into their honors program the use of a free laptop. But other colleges, such as Cornell, charge students for access to the court time at the gym. Many colleges charge for printing and paper costs over a certain
usage. “Parents should actually ask who provides the toilet paper!” Garr bemuses. Students should ask the colleges what they are expected to provide for their dorm rooms and what they are not allowed to bring. “Many colleges do not allow microwaves and hot plates” Garr notes.

The most important material a parent can arm themselves with is the college student handbook, Garr recommends. “This will list all of the fees, clubs, campus rules, and consequences. If a freshman at Fordham, for example, pays a visit to a friend at a senior dorm and accidentally drops in upon a party where alcohol is being served, that underage student could find themselves facing probation charges. Even comments that may have been innocent to their fellow students in high school could have serious consequences in college where students are from many other cultures and backgrounds. Students need to educate themselves beforehand” Garr warns. Dr. Glading, the author of “Overcoming the Senior Slump” and co-principal of Yorktown High School, agrees with that recommendation. “High School students need to be given an opportunity to make mistakes in their senior year; they need to ‘fail’ while they are still at home, not when they are away at college” Glading notes. “As parents, we need to make sure that we do not send our children off to college defenseless”. Glading advises against the
tendency of parents to ‘hover’ over their children’s’ lives – a practice known as ‘helicopter parenting’ among college administrators. “Parents should walk alongside their child, but stay out of their way” Glading advises.

Glading recommends providing the students with experiences in their senior year that are relevant to their interests – like internships and community service. “Children need to experience different things” Glading notes. “Students also need to get out by themselves before going away to college. A student with an interest in the theater might volunteer on Broadway this summer to get an opportunity to see what that life is really like. But by traveling into the city, that student would also learn how to follow train schedules and ride the subway – critical life skills. European schools offer a ‘gap year’ between high school and college to students. That year offers those students an opportunity to prepare for the next level of their education. We as par-ents and educators should also be providing our students with that same opportunity
in their senior year – from teaching them how to do college-level research, to learning necessary life skills” Glading recommends. For many local families, the college decision facing them this month ultimately boils down to money. Parents should make sure that they have
filed both the federal ( and state ( financial aid applications and review their financial aid packages from the colleges carefully. Parents should note that money awarded to students for work-study programs will be paid to the student directly as income, and not given to the parents to offset tuition costs. Merit grants are usually contingent upon a student maintaining a certain grade point average. And parents can negotiate with colleges if a financial aid package is not suf-ficient to meet their needs. But most important of all, parents should not forget their own needs in this decision – a student can ultimately borrow to finance their college education, but a parent has few choices, if any, to borrow for their own retirement and medical needs.

In the end, what really matters is the success of our students. Hopefully all of our local High School seniors are currently receiving an abundance of acceptance packages in the mail from their colleges of choice and are in the enviable position of having to decide which of those colleges to attend. We wish all of our local graduating seniors the best of success in their college careers and beyond.

Northern Westchester Round-Up

Croton-on-Hudson: The operator of the newsstand at the Croton train station, Theresa Fiorentino, was killed by a passing train after falling onto the tracks. Officials suspect that Fiorentino fell onto the tracks accidentally.

North Castle: Donald Trump has been ordered to stop work on an access road to his Seven Bridges estate pending the outcome of a lawsuit by local residents. The road is currently used as a hiking path but Trump’s lawsuit alleges that he has an unfettered right to use this

Ossining: Four local high school students involved in an attack on a fellow student that was broadcast on the YouTube website appeared to
court to answer charges relating to the attack. Their case has been adjourned by the Court until March 27th.

White Plains: Several hearings are currently scheduled for the public to voice their opinions regarding the relicensing of Indian Point. At the initial hearing in White Plains earlier this month, local activists complained that no microphones were provided for the public to hear
the speakers. The judge officiating over the hearings, Lawrence McDade simply noted that “the acoustics in (this) courtroom are
what they are.” Activists are hopeful that better accommodations will be provided at future hearings.

Janet Difiore.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Our Opinion...

Bring On The Videotapes

We believe far too many questions remain unanswered in the tragic shooting death of Mount Vernon Police Officer Christopher Ridley, fully two months after he was killed in a fusillade of police bullets. We are neither questioning the motives, nor condemning the actions, of the four Westchester County Police Of-ficers We are told were involved. Each of them already carries the heavy burden of having been thrust into a nightmare every police officer dreads.

We take no comfort, however, in the fact that the investigation and presentation of information to a grand jury was conducted by the Westchester District Attorney’s Office. The silence of DA DiFiore, immediately following the incident, coupled with her firm pronouncements following the grand jury’s failure to find fault, do not satisfy the People’s right to know. Clearly, the conduct of the investigation has displeased Officer Ridley’s family and friends as well as police officers throughout Westchester, particularly the Mount Vernon Police Department, whose members continue to grieve their loss. The National Black Police Association, Westchester
Chapter, had indicated that they would have preferred a federal investigation, and so did We.

Given the sorry history of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office with respect to the handling of cases involving police officers in fatal incidents, it is no wonder that many in law enforcement, as well as knowledgeable civilians, are displeased with the secrecy and selective leaks that have been associated with the Ridley Investigation. Numerous conflicting accounts, some of which placed Officer Ridley’s service
weapon in the hands of perpetrator Anthony Jacobs, perhaps five seconds before the hero officer was cut down in a hail of bullets, have raised too many unanswered questions.

Those who are all too familiar with the Westchester District Attorney’s Office’s ability to indict a ham sandwich, or fail to indict, or even charge, clearly guilty individuals, as in the death of Rob Viscome, are not inclined to accept their pronouncements at face. There is no question that a clear conflict of interest was inherent in any investigation and prosecution by this District Attorney’s Office in the shooting
by four County Police Officers of an off-duty Mount Vernon Police Officer on the street in White Plains.

In light of the attempted subornation of perjury by ADA Egenhauser against Harrison Police Officer Ralph Tancredi in an effort to assist Police Chief Hall’s and Captain Marriccini’s retaliatory false charges; the total failure to follow up numerous complaints of Yonkers police brutality; the thrusting of all responsibility for the death of Renee Perez on the shoulders of then-Mount Kisco Police Officer George Bubaris; the pressure and coercion brought to bear by ADA Patricia Murphy, through the Dobbs Ferry Police Department, on the eyewitnesses in the Richard DiGuglielmo self-defense shooting of Charles Campbell, to gratify Jeanine Pirro’s self-serving version of
events; and the false case brought by ADA Robert Neary that sent innocent New Rochelle Police Officer Matthew McKerrick to prison, why should any reasonable observer accept the DA’s handling of the Ridley Investigation?

We are therefore calling upon District Attorney Janet DiFiore to clear up all doubts and questions by releasing to the public the videotapes from however many surveillance cameras that captured the events on Court Street, just prior to 5pm on January 25, that cost Mount Vernon Police Officer Christopher Ridley his young life. Not too long ago, another young police officer, New York City Police Officer,
Eric Hernandez, of White Plains, was shot, and ultimately died, of wounds inflicted by a fellow officer responsding to a call about a “man with a gun” outside the White Castle restaurant on Fordham Road in the Bronx. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson had no problem releasing a cellphone video of the tragic incident. We believe DA DiFiore would do well to follow his example.

Our Readers Repsond...

Senator Stewart-Cousins Endorses The New Governor

Dear Editor:

Governor David Paterson is an executive who has the intelligence, talent, experience as both a legislator and executive not only to put forth
an aggressive bi-partisan agenda for the State of New York, but to get it accomplished as well. He is an incredibly gracious yet firm individual
whose brilliance and more than capable people skills will serve us all well during the budget process, and in the months and years to come.
He is a proponent of highly functioning public education, tax relief, health care and women’s health care rights. I am very happy to be able
to call him a friend, and also to have the opportunity to work with him in his new capacity.

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins,
New York State Senator, 35th District

Reader Appreciates Columnist Polvere

Dear Editor:

Thank you for publishing the recent article by Fred Polvere, “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition.” This is an issue which has troubled
me for a very long time, as it troubles many Americans. I see banners stating, “Torture is Wrong” and I wonder who in this country can
possibly think it’s right??? Polvere wrote an excellent piece, putting the issue into a wonderful historical context and pointing out how close we are to the mindset of the Spanish Inquisition (can you believe it???) I especially appreciated his emphasis that this country executed Japanese soldiers who had waterboarded American prisoners in WWII.

I commend this article to every American civics class for required reading -- as well as to every US Congressperson! Kudos to you, Mr.

Susan Weisfeld
Yonkers, NY

Good News For A Change From The Yonkers Schools

Dear Editor:

Lincoln High School Academy of Finance seniors Maurine Koranteng and Neville Green created a prototype comprehensive business
plan, Especially Yours, a company to help low income individuals develop custom resumes at minimal cost, giving their clients a professional
edge in the job market. Their plan was so outstanding that Maurine and Neville are 2 of only 38 students in the world to be selected as 2008
Global Young Entrepreneurs of the Year, sponsored by The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

Especially Yours focuses on Maurine and Neville’s hometown of Yonkers, offering professional résumé preparation services at affordable
prices. Their prototype business plan seeks to open the door to employment opportunities for low income individuals. A unique feature of the plan is that it incorporates a philanthropic goal: Ten percent of profits go to the Hudson Valley Make a Wish Foundation.

Maurine and Neville competed with students from high schools in Westchester County, New York City, and Fairfield County, Connecticut,
and received the only award for this region. In preparing their plan and competition entry, students worked under the advisement of Lincoln
High Academy of Finance Coordinator, Lauren Trager. Through entrepreneurship education, NFTE helps young people from low-income communities build skills and unlock their entrepreneurial creativity.

Maurine and Neville will be honored on Wednesday, April 2, 2008, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City where they will receive
their awards and showcase their business plans.

Ralph M. Farina

Janet Difiore.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Black Law Enforcement And Black Community Have Serious Problems With Westchester Justice System And District Attorney’s Office In Particular

People Of Mount Vernon Refuse To Accept DA’s “Fast Shuffle”

Last Wednesday afternoon, some 200 family, friends, and fellow police of-ficers of Christopher Ridley, as well as 15 members of the Mount Vernon clergy, stood in the pouring rain at 85 Court Street, White Plains, to rally and speak out regarding the handling of the investigation into his tragic death by the White Plains Police Department and the Westchester District Attorney’s Office.

Reverend W. Franklyn Richardson, pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, made the feelings of those assembled abundantly clear when he declared, “We are here because we are not happy with the results of the grand jury.” With that statement, the crowd broke into a repeated chant, “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!” Rev. Richardson went on, “We are gathered here to say that we are dissatisfied with the conclusion that no one could have acted differently.”

Turning specifically to his dissatisfaction with the actions of the District Attorney, Richardson told the crowd, “Janet DiFiore said to me ‘Without truth there is no justice.’ We say, without justice there will be no peace. We will not go away.” He went on, “We are calling for a summit to discuss how the Criminal Justice System works in Westchester.” Reverend W. Darin Moore of the Centennial Church in Mount Vernon, stepped forward to address the gathering. Moore, who is Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young’s close friend and pastor, empassioned, “The blood of Christopher Ridley cries out to us. We hear, and we cry out with Christopher Ridley. We will not allow the
conspiracy of silence to silence us.”

Rev. Moore remarked that it was altogether fitting that the rally occur just before the Easter celebration, observing, “Until we get the facts of the crucifixion, we cannot join in the resurrection.” Rev. Richardson then followed with, “Justice is our agenda. We are out here in the rain because we feel justice must come. It was a mistake not to call for an independent investigation from the beginning. The District Attorney and the White Plains Police and County Police are too close.”

He concluded, “We want the Judge to release the transcripts from the grand jury; and, DA Janet DiFiore will be asked to release the statements of the police. Furthermore, we want Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to enter the investigation.” Damon K. Jones, President of the Westchester Chapter of the National Black Police Association, who has been calling for a federal investigation into Officer Ridley’s killing from the start, declared, “Everywhere Black cops are being treated as perpetrators.” Jones has been pointing to the broader implications of the circumstances that contributed to Officer Ridley’s death, right along. He is particularly disturbed with what he describes as the “sweep under the rug technique” of Westchester politicians, particularly the District Attorney, describing such actions as a “disservice to the Ridley family as well as to the four County police officers involved in the tragic incident.” In a published statement entitled, Will the Black Community Ever Have Trust In Law Enforcement, Politics, And the Justice System In Westchester County? released last Monday, March 17, which we reproduce in part, Jones cited several reasons why those involved in the investigation did not perform a “complete and thorough investigation,” stating, “For instance,

• Within four hours of the tragic event, Detective Robin Martin’s name, the only Black of-ficer involved, was leaked to the media and the
community at large.

• After investigating the crime scene for four hours, there was no shell casing found from Detective Martin’s gun.

• There was no final ballistics report indicating whose gun was used for the two fatal shots that killed Detective Ridley.

• Detective Ridley was reported to have had powder burns on his shirt. What is the distance from the shooter to the target that will render powder burns?

• The report to the family that one officer was so close, he claimed he could have grabbed Ridley’s feet while he and Jacobs were struggling for the gun. Why didn’t he react with pepper spray?

• The disrespectful and discouraging manner in which some interviews were conducted; on one occasion involving imprisonment. Was this because their statements contradicted the pre-judged theory that the blame was on our brother Detective Ridley?

• Why wasn’t the Mount Vernon Police Department’s I.A.D. Unit involved in the investigation? It is normal procedure to have a representative from the officer’s police unit participate in the investigation when one of their member’s weapons discharges.

For the Grand Jury to make a determination within 35 days on a case that involved police firing their guns during rush hour in downtown White Plains is troublesome, and appears to be inadequate to say the least. The DA’s office claims to have had 62 witnesses that came before the Grand Jury. Are we to assume that 62 witnesses gave statements, were questioned and follow-up was done to validate their statements including cross-checking with the video surveillance; and this was all completed within 35 days of the incident?

How is this possible when it took almost a year to investigate the Sean Bell case, a civilian with less than half of the witnesses, a police
department much larger, with more resources, before going to the Grand Jury? For the Westchester PBA President to criticize
supporters of the Ridley family by saying they must have an “agenda” and a “preconceived outcome”, he is totally mistaken. Nothing is preconceived when New York’s history shows that this type of unfortunate incident only happens to Black law enforcement professionals and NEVER in the reverse. Nothing is preconceived when generations of Black males have been subjected to police brutality, police misconduct, and unjust shootings cloaked by biased institutional policies that allow them to say it’s ‘JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE’.
The Westchester NBPA’s statements are not an indictment of the four County police officers.

This is an impartial continuous request for a fair and full investigation for COMPLETE JUSTICE. We would hope to think if the families of the four County police officers were in the Ridley family’s situation, they would request the same.

Unfortunately, Westchester County is using smoke and mirrors on the issue at hand. The Westchester NBPA feels they are totally missing the point. We need to deal with ALL Law Enforcement that carry a weapon off-duty and have the powers under NYS Criminal Law Section 2.10 to make warrantless arrests and the use of deadly force. That should include training for Police Officers, Probation Officers, Court Officers, Corrections Officers, Sheriffs and all other Law Enforcement Professionals that fall under NYS Criminal Law Section 2.10 in Westchester County.

It is no surprise that minority citizens, especially the Black community, have a constant cry for justice. The tragedy of Detective Ridley and its ‘so-called’ investigation is a constant reminder of the negative perceptions and biasness of institutional policies. We must take a critical examination of the issues at hand. There is a lack of Black representation among law enforcement agencies in the cities, towns, and villages of Westchester County. There must be certified, conventional training for all law enforcement officers on how to carrying firearms off-duty. There must be racial sensitivity classes to better understand the races and cultures they protect and serve. There must be better community relations with the minority community.

Without these things the Black community is at a tremendous disadvantage and can never hope to receive the service and protection from the police they are rightfully due.” District Attorney Janet DiFiore, and those advising her, have sadly miscalculated the determination of the Black community and Black law enforcement if they believe that they will soon quietly walk away. Officer Ridley’s death has
served as a wakeup call about all that has been wrong with the Criminal Justice System in Westchester for far too long.

Christopher Ridley, at 23, embodied all of the soul and the spirit that any mother and father would be proud to see in their son. His actions on the afternoon of January 25, 2008 were not merely heroic, but in the finest tradition of public spirit and personal selflessness. Young men of that caliber come along all too infrequently; and his loving family and the police officers he worked alongside of, will simply not permit the Westchester DA’s Office, in its usual callous, political expedience, to sully either his actions or his memory.

Rev. Richardson was so right, but so gentle, when he observed that the District Attorney, and the White Plains Police and County Police
were “too close” to produce an objective and comprehensive investigation. He was alluding to the historically notorious incestuousness of
the Westchester DA’s relationship with both of those departments, and others.

We, of course, knew from the get-go that Officer Ridley was getting the ‘fast shuffle’. When Assistant District Attorneys Patricia
Murphy, Mike Hughes, and Lana Hochheiser, a “Treacherous Trifecta”, appeared lurking in the background at the press conference
at White Plains Police Headquarters just 23 hours after the incident. When she was running for DA three years ago, Janet DiFiore told
the People of Mount Vernon that she came from their city. Apparently, however, that fact didn’t keep her from letting them down, treating
their grievous loss with the same political calculation and expediency, the same self-serving coldness and dispatch so often
imposed upon police officers in Westchester.

Surely, very little instructive or remedial would ever come from such an approach. Nothing would be exposed that might offer even a glimmer of hope to the Black community that the real essence of the problem - the pervasive perception of criminality provoked by the image of a plainly-clothed Black man holding a gun - would even be identified as causal, and effectively dealt with, as the result of DA DiFiore’s control and handling of the investigation into the tragic killing of heroic Mount Vernon Police Officer Christopher Ridley. Nothing short of releasing the videotapes of the tragic incident will satisfy the People of Mount Vernon, indeed, the entire Westchester community, now!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Mt. Vernon Federal Investigations Begin To Bear Fruit

Two Charged By U.S. In Scheme To Defraud City Of Mount Vernon Of More Than $1 Million

MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and MARK J. MERSHON, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging two individuals affiliated with a Westchester carting company with mail fraud and conspiracy for overbilling Mount Vernon by at least an estimated $1.25 million for the removal of construction debris and tree waste from Mount Vernon city property. In approximately November 2001, A & D Carting obtained a contract with the City of Mount Vernon to remove waste from a City storage yard at a price of $397 per 30- cubic yard container removed. To bill Mount Vernon under the contract, A & D Carting was required to submit invoices to Mount Vernon identifying how many 30-cubic-yard containers were removed on particular dates, together with a pre-printed receipt form (which is commonly referred to as a “ticket”) for the removal of each container.

The tickets were supposed to be signed by a Mount Vernon employee at the yard at the time each container was carted away. From 2002 through March 2006, ALBERTO TRANQUILLO III, an owner and operator of A & D carting, and MICHAEL PIZZOLONGO,
who helped manage A & D Carting’s business, defrauded the City of Mount Vernon by submitting tickets and invoices claiming that far more waste had been removed from the yard than had actually been removed, it was charged.

TRANQUILLO and PIZZOLONGO allegedly continued the scheme even after the Westchester Solid Waste Commission denied TRANQUILLO’s companies a carting license. After that denial, A & TWO CHARGED BY U.S. IN SCHEME TO DEFRAUD
CITY OF MOUNT VERNON OF MORE THAN $1 MILLION MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and MARK J. MERSHON, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging two individuals affiliated with a Westchester carting company with mail fraud and conspiracy for overbilling Mount Vernon by at least an estimated $1.25 million for the removal of
construction debris and tree waste from Mount Vernon city property.

In approximately November 2001, A & D Carting obtained a contract with the City of Mount Vernon to remove waste from a City storage yard at a price of $397 per 30-cubic yard container removed. To bill Mount Vernon under the contract, A & D Carting was
required to submit invoices to Mount Vernon identifying how many 30-cubic-yard containers were removed on particular dates, together with a pre-printed receipt form (which is commonly referred to as a “ticket”) for the removal of each container.

The tickets were supposed to be signed by a Mount Vernon employee at the yard at the time each container was carted away. From 2002 through March 2006, ALBERTO TRANQUILLO III, an owner and operator of A & D carting, and MICHAEL PIZZOLONGO,
who helped manage A & D Carting’s business, defrauded the City of Mount Vernon by submitting tickets and invoices claiming that far more waste had been removed from the yard than had actually been removed, it was charged.

TRANQUILLO and PIZZOLONGO allegedly continued the scheme even after the Westchester Solid Waste Commission denied
TRANQUILLO’s companies a carting license. After that denial, A & D Carting was sold to United Waste Services, but even after this sale, which took place in December, 2003, TRANQUILLO’s companies continued to use trucks they owned to service the Mount Vernon
contract, and TRANQUILLO AND PIZZOLONGO continued to overbill Mount Vernon by submitting tickets and invoices vastly overstating the amount of waste removed.

The Indictment charges that, through this scheme, TRANQUILLO and PIZZOLONGO caused more than $1.25 million in losses to the City of Mount Vernon. Indeed, in 2002 – the Two Charged By U.S. In Scheme To Defraud City Of Mount Vernon Of More Than $1 Million first full year of the contract between A & D Carting and Mount Vernon – Mount Vernon paid companies controlled by TRANQUILLO $385,000, or approximately four times what Mount Vernon had paid for the removal of such waste the previous year. Mount Vernon’spayouts under the contract rose each subsequent year, peaking at approximately $856,000 in 2005. In that same year, records reflect that A & D Carting paid a dump to dispose of only 3,270 cubic yards of tree waste even though A & D claimed in its bills to Mount Vernon that it had collected 24,630 cubic yards of such waste from Mount Vernon.


The Grand Jury charges:


1. At all times relevant to the Indictment, ALBERT TRANQUILLO III, a/k/a “Allie Boy,” the defendant, together with his now deceased father, Albert Tranquillo, Jr. (collectively, the “Tranquillos”), controlled carting contracts with the City of Mount Vernon through several
companies they owned and operated, including A & D Carting Corporation (“A & D Carting”) and Trancamp. At all times relevant to the Indictment, MICHAEL PIZZOLONGO, the defendant, assisted the Tranquillos in managing the contracts with Mount Vernon.

2. At all times relevant to the Indictment, the City of Mount Vernon collected debris from businesses and residences and temporarily stored that debris at a waste yard located at 10550 South Columbus Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York (the “yard”). The debris
included trees, branches and stumps as well as concrete and other construction debris. Mount Vernon contracted with private carting companies to remove the debris from the yard and appropriately dispose of it.

3. On or about November 30, 2001, the Tranquillos – through A & D Carting – were awarded a contract by the City of Mount Vernon to collect debris from the yard and dispose of it. Pursuant to the contract, the Tranquillos were paid $397 for each 30 cubic yard container of debris removed from the yard. To bill Mount Vernon under the contract, the Tranquillos were required to submit invoices to Mount Vernon identifying how many 30 cubic yard containers were removed from the yard on particular dates, together with a pre-printed receipt form (which is commonly referred to as a “ticket”) for the removal of each 30 cubic yard container of waste. The tickets were supposed to be signed by a Mount Vernon employee at the yard at the time each container was carted away.

4. ALBERT TRANQUILLO III, a/k/a “Allie Boy,” and MICHAEL PIZZOLONGO, the defendants, participated in an overbilling scheme from in or about 2002 until in or about March 2006 to defraud the City of Mount Vernon involving the submission of tickets and invoices claiming that far more waste had been removed from the yard than had actually been removed.

MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that the former Commissioner of the Mount Vernon Department of Planning and Community Development and Executive Director of the Mount Vernon Department of Planning and Urban Renewal Agency, CONSTANCE G. POST, and WAYNE CHARLES were indicted today by a federal grand jury in White Plains on mail fraud charges. According to the Indictment, POST and CHARLES secretly agreed that CHARLES would receive the following:

(1) lucrative City contracts totaling more than $1 million, with CHARLES’s involvement in those contracts remaining hidden;

(2) a loan which would not be required to be repaid and which was not entered into the books and records of
Mount Vernon; and

(3) payment of architectural and other services benefiting properties in which CHARLES had an interest. According to the Indictment: CHARLES and POST secretly agreed that POST would benefit financially from CHARLES’s business dealings with the City of Mount Vernon and POST steered a series of contracts to CHARLES, while representing to the board of Mount Vernon’s Urban Renewal Agency that it was contracting with a company that was engaged in the business of providing computer services. CHARLES, however, had no prior experience in the industry. In addition, POST arranged for Mount Vernon to provide CHARLES with a loan that was not entered into the books and records of Mount Vernon until after POST was approached by federal investigators in 2005.

According to the Indictment, only after POST was approached by federal investigators did CHARLES make his first and only series of repayments, totaling approximately $7,500. In addition, POST authorized the payment of approximately $40,000 to pay for architectural and other services to benefit properties in which CHARLES had an interest, while not disclosing her personal and financial
relationship with CHARLES as described in the Indictment.

The Indictment also alleges that CHARLES and POST acted to cover-up their conduct: CHARLES lied to federal investigators in 2006, falsely stating that he had no involvement in the contracts that POST had steered to him. Throughout the relevant time period POST failed to disclose to Mount Vernon and HUD her personal and financial relationship with CHARLES, failed to file annual fi-nancial disclosure statements that she was required to file as Commissioner and Executive Director, and failed to enforce Mount Vernon’s loan provisions against CHARLES.

According to the Indictment, POST and CHARLES traveled together, secretly agreed to engage in financial transactions, and in 2004, CHARLES made a $30,000 payment to POST. POST, 58, of Mount Vernon, New York, and CHARLES, 55, of New York City, are scheduled to appear for arraignment in United States Magistrate Court in White Plains on March 26, 2008.

Mr. GARCIA said that the Indictment was the product of a joint investigation by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He said the investigation is continuing. Assistant United States Attorneys CYNTHIA K. DUNNE and PERRY A. CARBONE are in charge of the prosecution.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bullet Lead Analysis: A Junk Science That Has Helped To Convict Thousands

By Jeff Deskovic


Bullet Lead Analysis is a junk science that has been used to convict thousands of people. It has been de-fined by expert William Tobin as “a nuclear technology that measures the composition of bullet lead by quantifying the percentages of other metals associated with lead bullets, chiefly antimony, arsenic and copper.” It has been used in thousands of criminal investigations, and offered as “scientific evidence” in many hundreds, probably thousands, of cases over the past few decades. The National Research Council of the National Academies casts grave doubt on the extrapolation of trace metal analyses for the purpose of stating, under oath, the likelihood that a fragment of a bullet found at a crime scene “matched” other bullets found in the possession of a criminal defendant. Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis is now completely discredited as probative evidence of guilt in American courtrooms.

Fraud Exposure and Institutionalized Silence and Complicity

An investigative report by CBS News’ 60 Minutes and the Washington Post revealed that thousands of convictions nationwide may have
been secured based on false FBI testimony about the ability to “match” bullets used in one crime to a small number of other bullets manufactured at the same time. As a result of the investigative report, the FBI admitted that its agents may have provided misleading testimony in thousands of cases. The FBI knew, as far back as at least 1991, that Bullet Lead Analysis was junk science. Yet they kept using it, and allowing their agents to testify as expert witnesses, in evidence used to convict defendants.

Reporter John Solomon, in an article in The Washington Post, reported the following chronology: In the 1980’s the FBI began routinely testing in cases using Bullet Lead Analysis to link bullet fragments to defendants. Over the next quarter century, the Bureau performed bullet
lead analysis in more than 2500 cases; In 1991 the FBI conducted its first sub-stantial study on the reliability of Bullet Lead Analysis, which raised two red flags: The study found that the lead composition of bullets in the same box didn’t always match. Furthermore, it found that two bullets made at two different times and from different batches of lead unexpectedly matched. Nonetheless, FBI witness’s continued to suggest to juries that bullets could be matched to suspect’s boxes.

In 1995-96 the FBI switches its bullet lead analysis from Neutron Activation Analysis to inductively coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry
to increase the precision of its measurements. It also doubled the standard deviation of error for concluding when bullets match from one standard deviation to two standard deviations, thus increasing the chances of matching them.

In September of 2001 retired FBI Chief Metallurgist, William Tobin, and Livemore Labs scientist William Randich completed a study challenging the scientific underpinnings of the FBI’s Bullet Lead Analysis testimonies in courts across the nation. The study began appearing in court cases launched by defendants like Michael Behn in New Jersey who is challenging convictions based upon Bullet Lead Analysis.

In the Spring of 2002 FBI bullet lead examiner Kathleen Lundy admitted she gave false testimony in a Kentucky murder case. She was eventually prosecuted and convicted, and the murder conviction of the defendant involved was reversed. In the Fall of 2002, confronted with Tobin’s study and increasing legal challenges, the FBI lab asked the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council to create
a panel of experts to study the scientific underpinnings of the Bureau’s Lead Bullet Analysis.

In 2004, the National Academy of Science issued its report stating that while the lead analysis measurements the FBI had conducted in its lab were accurate and reliable, bureau examiners had been overstating the significance of those findings to jurors. It specifically cited problematic testimonies by several FBI examiners and urged that the FBI stop telling jurors it can match bullets to suspects’ boxes. It also recommended several changes to the statistical analysis the FBI uses to link bullets to defendants.

In March of 2005, the New Jersey Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Michael Behn, one of the first cases to use Tobin’s challenges
to the lead bullet science as a basis for reversing a conviction. In the Spring of 2005 FBI lab personnel discussed by email the problems
with continuing to practice Bullet Lead Analysis in light of the National Academy of Science’s report. The lab’s chemistry chief also told the lab director that if the FBI used the new statistical method recommended by NAS, numerous prior matches of bullets would actually be reversed. In September of 2005 the FBI lab announced it was ending Bullet Lead Analysis, citing the concerns raised by the National Academy of Sciences. It sent a letter to law enforcement nationwide and the Defense Lawyer’s Lobby stating that, despite those concerns,
the Bureau’s lab “still firmly supports the scientific foundation of Bullet Lead Analysis.

In Nov. of 2006, the FBI introduced an affidavit seeking to uphold the murder conviction of James Kulbicki based on Bullet Lead Analysis.
The affidavit uses the figure that one bullet likely matches about 1.3 million others, a statistic that predates the National Academy of Science’s study and was far more favorable to prosecutors than the figures the Academy urged the FBI to use.

The Fallout

As a result of the exposure, the FBI agreed to take concrete steps, in consultation with independent experts, to identify potential wrongful
convictions resulting from Bullet Lead Analysis and to prevent misleading testimony in future cases. The Innocence Network and the
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released a statement declaring that, “We are forming a Joint Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis Task Force to ensure that convictions resulting from discredited FBI bullet analysis are properly reviewed.” A statement released by e Innocence Network declared, “ The Joint CBLA Task Force formed by the Innocence Network and the NACDL will assist the FBI in reviewing closed cases and serve as a resource for defense counsel and for defendants who may have been wrongfully convicted based on
erroneous or misleading FBI testimony.”

While the Task Force will work with the FBI, the Innocence Network and NACDL said the FBI should notify defendants and defense attorneys (beyond only notifying prosecutors) in individual cases where CBLA testimony contributed to convictions. The Task Force will vet and respond to cases as the FBI releases them and will ensure that attorneys handling the cases have access to legal and forensic expertise to weigh the impact of false or misleading CBLA testimony.

The Joint CBLA Task Force will also monitor the FBI’s compliance with its own newly announced commitments to review old cases and
prevent misleading testimony in future cases. “ The Task Force will be comprised of legal and scientific experts who will review trial transcripts, scientific reports and related materials in cases in order to independently weigh the likely impact of the discredited testimony on the jury’s verdict,” said NACDL President Carmen Hernandez. “Our team of experts will work with staff from the Department of Justice to help make sure no case is neglected.”

The CBLA Task Force will also assist defense and post-conviction counsel in assessing the impact of the discredited testimony on the trial
and verdict. “Our organizations bring a particular expertise in deconstructing post-conviction cases to determine whether unreliable forensic evidence merits vacating convictions or seeking other remedies. We know that FBI Bullet Lead Analysis played a role in thousands of convictions nationwide, and once the FBI releases full details of these cases, we will have a sense of how many cases should be reopened,”
said Theresa Newman, Co-President of the Innocence Network, an association of nearly 40 organizations that handle post-conviction innocence cases. “The FBI’s plan to deal with this serious and deeply troubling problem is good, but long overdue,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “ is should have happened in 2004, when the scientific community made it clear that Bullet Lead Analysis is not reliable.

A serious review of old cases is critical because innocent people – such as Lee Wayne Hunt in North Carolina – may well have been convicted based on discredited, unreliable FBI analysis.” ’In 1986, Hunt was convicted of murdering two people in North Carolina, and sentenced to two life sentences. The evidence against Hunt consisted of a fellow jail inmate who said he heard Hunt describe details of the killings, and from a man who said he drove Hunt and two others to the victim’s home. The jailhouse informant had his sentence reduced in return for his testimony, a second informant, Gene Williford, who prosecutors didn’t charge in the Matthews’ murders, gave him immunity
in a slew of unrelated drug and weapons charges, along with the Bullet Lead Analysis testimony.

An FBI agent had testified that bullets taken from the victims’ bodies “most likely” came from a box of bullets tied to the defendants. This
testimony had the effect of seeming to corroborate the snitch’s testimony. Hunt offered alibi evidence and testimony by himself and several of his friends that one of the other men, Jerry Cashwell, who was convicted in a separate trial, admitted committing the murders alone.

Hunt was nonetheless convicted. After Cashwell’s suicide in prison, his lawyer, Staples Hughes, came forward and revealed that early on in the proceedings in this case, Cashwell had admitted to his lawyers that he had committed the murders alone, and that he had provided details. The lawyer had not come forward because of the attorney/client privilege. However, now that Cashwell had died and he wanted to see the wrongful incarceration of Hunt ended, the attorney came forward. At a hearing on January 8, 2007, in Cumberland County Superior Court, the Prosecution in Hunt’s case stipulated to the unreliability of the Prosecution’s “expert” witness.

Earlier this year, Hunt’s new lawyers unsuccessfully attempted to present all of this evidence of innocence to North Carolina Superior Court Judge Jack Thompson. When Hughes got on the stand to offer his testimony of Hunt’s innocence, Judge Thompson’s reaction first to warn
Hughes that he would report Hughes to the North Carolina State Bar for violating Cashwell’s attorney/client privilege. Hunt also had subpoenaed West to the hearing, but when the Prosecution stated that they might charge West with perjury if he testi-fied about Hunt’s innocence, West also refused to testify. Judge Thompson later issued an order dismissing the FBI’s discredited lead bullet analysis evidence as irrelevant, and held that he could not even consider Hughes’ testimony about Cashwell’s admissions.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals refused to even review Judge Thompson’s decision. It is unclear at this point whether Hunt will ever be granted another opportunity to have a trial at which the junk science could be debunked.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Northern Westchester Bureau Chief
Catherine Wilson

Analyzing the 2008 Tax Rebate Program

Two significant events occurred this Valentine’s eve, February 13th in Washington D.C. In town to attend a financial meeting, Governor Spitzer rendezvoused with “Kristen” at the Mayflower Hotel while, down the block, Congress and the Bush Administration were negotiating their own arrangements for a different kind of stimulation – the passage of the “Economic Stimulus Act of 2008”. Both acts will take time for their full impact to be revealed. Both acts are drawing comments from pundits and late-night talk shows. But local residents have some control over how one of those acts will personally impact them – the rebate checks they will receive, starting this May, courtesy of the Economic Stimulus Bill.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, most single individuals will receive a $600 rebate while married couples can expect $1,200. But individuals who paid less in taxes in 2007 than these amounts, and high income taxpayers, may receive reduced or no rebates. However, to be eligible for a rebate check, individuals must file a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service, even if their income levels and tax status do not usually require them to do so. On its web site,, the Internal Revenue Service explains how to obtain the rebate checks and
offers assistance to filers:

• Individuals and families must have at least $3,000 of income from any combination of earned income, Social Security retirement or disability benefits, certain Railroad retirement benefits, or disability compensation, disability pension, or survivor benefits paid by Veterans Affairs. The minimum economic stimulus payment is $300 for individuals and $600 for married couples.

• Once people file a tax return, they don’t need to do anything more. The IRS will do the rest. The IRS will begin issuing payments starting in May.

• Individuals who normally do not file a tax return but must do so this year in order to receive their 2008 economic stimulus payment can now use the IRS Free File program to help them file returns for 2007. Free File is available to 97 million taxpayers who earn $54,000 or less.
(source: Fact Sheet 2008-16).

The Guardian interviewed several local tax and economic experts as to the potential individual and national outcomes of this stimulus program. Larchmont resident, Julian Block, a nationally-syndicated tax columnist, advises Guardian readers to be aware, “If the major source of your income is disability checks, Social Security, Veteran’s benefits, Railroad retirement programs, or a modest pension, you will have to file a 1040 form to get your rebate”. The Internal Revenue Service recommends that such individuals write the words “Stimulus Payment” across the top of the form they file. Block also reminded local taxpayers, “In order to claim a child as an exemption, you need a social security number for him. So you will also need this number to obtain a rebate for your child”.

The stimulus package has already attracted scam artists who are preying on low-income individuals and seniors who need these rebate checks the most. Fake emails reportedly from the Internal Revenue Service instruct unwary recipients to provide their social security number in response to verify or obtain their rebates. “The IRS would never send out emails asking for your social security numbers. Such emails are scams,” Block warned. Another concern of local residents is that they will have to pay taxes in 2008 on the money received from this program. The Internal Revenue Service web site clearly answers this question: “The stimulus payment will not reduce your refund
or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2008 return”. Block did point out, however, “If you lose out on the rebate this year, you will retroactively qualify next year if you meet the requirements”. Not everyone will be receiving these rebate checks. Anyone who uses an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), will not receive a stimulus payment.

- The Internal Revenue Service also notes other groups of individuals who will not receive these rebate checks:

• You don’t file a 2007 tax return.

• Your net income tax liability is zero and your qualifying income is less than $3,000. To determine your qualifying income, add together your wages, net self-employment income, nontaxable combat pay, Social Security benefits, certain Railroad Retirement benefits and certain veterans’ benefits.

• You can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. For example, this would include a child or student who can be claimed on a parent’s return.

• You do not have a valid Social Security Number.

• You are a nonresident alien.

• You file Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ, Form 1040PR or Form 1040SS for 2007.

In contrast, taxpayers who usually do not pay any federal income taxes, such as low income individuals and retirees, could qualify for
these checks. Block believes that this stimulus package “could have been more effective in targeting more individuals in lower income

Professor Ronald Filante, Associate Professor of Finance at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in Pleasantville, concurs
with that assessment. Professor Filante notes that “people at the lower end of the economic spectrum are compromised by their debts and so many of those individuals pay high interest rates on those debts” but adds that those lower-income individuals will now have an opportunity to address some of their financial problems.”

Professor Filante advises them to use the rebate checks to “pay off that portion of their debt which has the highest interest rates. That rate of return on this money will exceed any return they can get elsewhere”. In comparison, Filante believes that any spending by higher-income groups is immaterial: “the richer you are, the less it matters what you do with this money”.

Filante disagrees with the economic basis behind the stimulus package – to give Americans money to spend to stimulate the slowing economy. “Spending is nice but saving is better” Filante points out. Professor Filante believes that in the short term the rebate program will worsen our federal deficit. “A deficit is a transfer of responsibility from us to future generations,” Professor Filante warns.

“Voters need to back politicians who will address both the cyclical problems (economic slowdowns and upswings) and systemic crises (social security system) that we face. With each year that goes by, it only worsens the problems”. Traditionally, the federal government’s approach to business and economics has been ‘laissez-faire’ (hand’s off ). That changed during the Great Depression when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought advice from economists such as John Maynard Keynes on what the federal government’s involvement should be.

According to Wikipedia, Keynes “advocated interventionist government policy, by which the government would use scale and monetary
measures to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions, depressions and booms. He is one of the fathers of modern theoretical macroeconomics”. Keynes’ book, The General theory of Employment, Interest, and Money is regarded as the most influential social treatise of the 20th century. It changed the way the world looked at the economy and the role of governments in society.

Taking Keynes’ advice, FDR initiated massive government projects and federal employment programs. Keynes, the author of The End to Laissez-Faire, famously remarked at the time: “If we don’t do anything, things will sort themselves out in the long run. But this ‘long run’ is a misleading guide to current a airs. In the long run, we are all dead!” Professor Filante’s warnings echo this sentiment – that we cannot afford to wait ‘for the long run’ for current economic problems to be solved.

Professor Michael Ulinski, Professor of International Business and Accounting for the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in Pleasantville, agrees with Filante’s recommendations: “People should concentrate on paying off old debts,” Ulinski notes. “Debt reduction is good for our economy if it encourages people to continue. If the tax rebates can be used to teach individual financial responsibility, to that extent, the rebates would be good.” Ulinski recommends that families should use their rebates as a teaching tool for their children by using these funds for savings and investments. Professor Ulinski also compared the current stimulus program to the previous tax rebates issued in 2001. “The 2001 rebates did stimulate the economy since they were spent,” Ulinski notes, “but current indications are individuals expect to use the new rebates to pay o their bills”. Ulinski continued “looking at the stock market and nothing else, the (2001) program appeared to
help. But consumer confidence also helps – optimism is important. So the psychological impact of the rebates can
fuel the economy”.

Professor Ulinski advises our readers to arm themselves with information about how to obtain their rebates. He suggests contacting the Internal Revenue Service at 1- 800-829-3676 or the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) at 1-888-227-7669 for assistance. Professor Ulinski praised Pace University’s emphasis on “training students who are suited for careers but are also learning how to learn so they will remain open to new and continued ideas” and advised our readers to adopt the same approach by learning how to handle their own finances. “The AICPA web site ( has areas to instruct individuals on ‘how to use money smartly’ and how to save ‘rainy day money’. These are valuable lessons for all individuals to learn,” Ulinski notes.

Looking at the stimulus program from a national perspective, Professor Farhad Ameen, the Chair of Business and Public Policy at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, acknowledges it will have some impact but believes this will take “a few months”. Professor Ameen was disappointed that “certain provisions that the Democrats wanted, such as extending unemployment benefits and increasing
access to food stamps” were not incorporated into the program since he believes that “the quickest way to achieve stimulus is to give money to people who need it the most – the unemployed and the poor. They are the most likely to spend it locally since they will use this money on essentials like food, clothing, and shelter, whereas higher income groups will put these checks into a college fund or other investments and not spend it”.

Professor Ameen noted “fiscal policy in the past meant government stimulated the economy by spending money to employ people for projects as during the Depression. But ‘tax and spend’ became a political issue so now we have ‘monetary policy’, where our economic decisions are dictated by the Federal Reserve, rather than ‘fiscal policy’ where these decisions are made by our government. But the fiscal policy approach would allow our government to target the current stimulus money to where it should be spent – like on our infrastructure”.

Contrary to how individuals may manage their personal funds, Ameen notes that “when we are in a recession, that is exactly when we want government to ‘borrow and spend’. We need the government to make up the shortfall from lower tax dollars”. In contrast, when the economy is experiencing an economic boom, Ameen advises “that is precisely when the government should save funds”. While the Federal Reserve has been managing the economic slowdown by lowering interest rates, Ameen notes “one of the reasons our interest rates are so low is because foreign nations are willing to lend us money by buying our Treasury bills. We are borrowing from the rest of the world and a growing percentage of our debts are held by foreign governments like China”.

However, Ameen acknowledges that “it is in the foreign governments’ interests to buy US Treasury bonds since they are safe. They also offer those nations political advantages”. Japan is likewise currently experiencing an economic slowdown. Ameen notes that, in contrast to the US rebate program, “Japan is doing fiscal spending on its infrastructure, building bridges, to get money into people’s hands. Japan kept lowering interest rates but it didn’t help. You can only lower interest rates so far – you cannot go below zero. At some point you need a fiscal stimulus. You literally need what economists refer to as a ‘helicopter drop of money’ into the economy”. But a ‘helicopter drop’ may not do the trick since, as Ameen warns: “people make decisions on a lifetime of expected earnings, not on one check. It’s what economists refer to as the ‘permanent income hypothesis’. One rebate check may do little to stimulate spending in an individual whose lifetime earnings have never allowed for discretionary spending before”.

In contrast to his peers, Professor Surenda Kaushik, Professor of Finance for the Lubin School of Business at Pace University’s Graduate Center in White Plains, noted that the stimulus program “will help ‘slow down’ the ‘slowdown’ since the amount of the program is significant. It is over $160 billion, which is 1% of our nation’s GDP”. “Gross Domestic Product” measures a nation’s economy and represents total investments, consumption, and government spending.

Professor Kaushik is an expert on money and capital markets and noted that “money has a ‘multiplier’ effect. Assume the rebates will all be spent within 3 to 4 months. That’s the first round of spending. Then the recipients of that spending, like the store owners, will then spend that money. is stimulus program could trigger possibly two or more rounds of spending. This could essentially stop the slowdown so we could have a recovery”.

Kaushik isn’t concerned about those individuals who may not spend their rebate checks. “Americans typically don’t save. But even if some individuals apply these checks to their loans, this is a normal process – credit is the way we live. Sometimes we overdo it as a country and as individuals, but even if some people apply this against their loans, this then frees up that same amount in their credit lines and credit cards so then they can now spend that amount. Paying off loans has a psychological impact of having credit now available that wasn’t before.

Especially in this time of credit crunch, anything that creates a possibility of available credit is good”. However, Professor Kaushik believes that the impact of this program could have been greater. “One thing the government could have done, which they did not do, was to give immediate tax credits to anyone ling tax returns, instead of delaying the process by issuing checks. at would have encouraged individuals
to file their taxes sooner and would have put this money into our economy faster”. Kaushik also believes that the government should have utilized the Treasury Department, instead of the Internal Revenue Service, as the agency to implement this program. “ The Treasury operates in a ‘sending out’ mode, whereas the IRS operates in a ‘receiving mode’ – their objective is to collect money, not to give it out to the taxpayers!” he bemused. Kaushik believes this is why the IRS now needs taxpayers to provide their information so that they can receive their checks, information that the Treasury Department would already have in its system.

While Kaushik is encouraged with the economic stimulus potential of the tax rebate program, he is discouraged by the overall federal tax system and the potentially larger problems it creates. “Individuals with incomes lower than $25,000 pay less than 2% of the total income taxes collected in our country” Kaushik noted “Whereas, individuals with incomes between $100,000 and $500,000 pay over 38% of all
taxes”. This skewed tax burden, Kaushik feels, could eventually lead to a resurgence of the “no taxation without representation” sentiments, but in reverse – those paying the bulk of the federal taxes may feel that they are entitled to a greater say in government over those who pay little or nothing. “ e current attitude towards illegal immigrants and access to government benefits could extend to citizens,” Kaushik warns.
Like most financial issues, the ‘taxes’ to our economy are complicated and the impact of those taxes, hotly debated.

While the economic slowdown may indeed be slowed by these rebates, we have other looming economic and tax concerns as our local experts warned. Many of them recommended that our politicians and political candidates rethink their economic and political policies and ask what we really need to ‘change’ as a nation to resolve these problems.

Northern Westchester Round-Up

Bedford: The Bedford Central School District proposed a $118 million budget for the 2008-2009 school year. The proposed budget would increase property taxes by 10.7 percent. e district expects the school population to increase by over 100 students in the next school year.

Briarcliff Manor: Village Officials are planning a $17.3 million water project to access the Catskill water supply. The town expects the plan, which is still in the initial bidding process, to be completed in late 2009 or early 2010.

Mount Kisco: George Bubaris, the former Mt. Kisco police officer accused of causing the death of illegal immigrant, Rene Perez, has hired a new attorney to represent him. e new lawyer, Andrew Quinn, has indicated that his client will not accept a plea arrangement from the
District Attorney’s office.

North Salem: School board officials agreed to shorten the suspension of a student accused of possessing marijuana. The father of the
unidentified student had requested the help of school officials to deal with his son’s drug possession. The school had initially responded with a nine-week suspension for the student.
Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Our Opinion...

If Only He Had Listened To The “Better Angels”

While it is true that the pages of this newspaper have been used on several occasions to disseminate mostly negative information about Eliot Spitzer, at times detailing activities and relationships with certain individuals - Jeanine Pirro, Jack Gaffney, Mike Cherkasky, Larry Schwartz, and others - that suggested that, both in his capacity as State Attorney General and as Governor, he was someone other than who he would have had us believe he was; nevertheless, We will resist the temptation to shout, “We told you so.” Instead, We mourn the precious opportunity he frittered away.

Elected by a plurality of nearly 70 percent in 2006, a record statement of confidence in any candidate for governor in New York State history, Spitzer had barely defeated Dennis Vacco for Attorney General by little more than 22,000 votes eight years earlier. Perhaps, not so coincidentally, those 22,000 votes were his margin of victory here in Westchester, a fact that Larry Schwartz and Andy Spano never let him forget. Once in the Governor’s Mansion he named Schwartz to his transition team. Despite his cozy relationship with Jeanine Pirro and his unwillingness to investigate the formal allegations brought by former Yonkers mayor, Republican John Spencer, against her, contained in a 14-page document prepared by corporate counsel; and, despite his failures with respect to Tony Castro’s bid to become Westchester District Attorney in 2005, We still held out hope that Eliot would rise to the occasion and be the mensch, as governor, everyone expected him to be. The cover of our January 11, 2007 edition showed him at the podium, the only one on the platform at his New Years’ Day inauguration not wearing an overcoat, accompanied by a headline asking, “Will He Deliver?”

The son of wealthy real estate-owning parents, a graduate of Princeton, and Harvard Law School, Eliot Spitzer’s work history, prior to election as governor, had been mostly as a prosecutor, first, for six years, in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office under DA Robert Morgenthau following a brief stint as law clerk to Federal Judge Robert W. Sweet. Then, following six years in private practice, between 1992- 98, he returned to public employment as State Attorney General. In that capacity, he took on several high-profile prosecutions, standing up for the interests of ordinary citizens against major corporations, Wall Street brokerages and investment
firms, and the insurance industry, most prominent amongst them.

Following 12 years of George Pataki’s administration, a governorship marked by the appointment of many individuals who ultimately stole from, and mismanaged, one state agency after another; not to mention legislative paralysis between the Republican-dominated State Senate and the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, Albany had become nationally recognized as the nation’s most dysfunctional state government. And, so it was that Eliot Spitzer, a man who had appeared to have done so much good as Attorney General, and who promised, “Everything changes from Day One,” was elected governor in a landslide.

Sincerely hopeful that he would deliver on his promise of “Government That Places Peoples’ Interest First, Openness and Integrity First,” We presented a short list of vital issues in that January 11, 2007 edition that We wished the new governor would effectively deal with. That list included public school financing, reform of the Uni-fied Court System, Medicaid and health insurance reform, and affordable housing.
Looking ahead, We suggested, “Citizens must bear in mind that, as Attorney General, Mr. Spitzer carried the Big Stick of possible prosecution, which was, no doubt, very persuasive in furthering the interests of the People. As governor, he will need to employ far more persuasion and far less intimidation.” Somehow, Eliot Spitzer never quite made that transition from prosecutor to chief executive. Nor was he able to follow his own Inaugural Day directive, “We must listen to the better angels of our nature.”

Our Readers Respond.

A Pataki Scandal?

Dear Editor:

Some time ago an article appeared in your newspaper about former Governor Pataki and the corruption in his administration.
It is no surprise since Governor Pataki’s administration has been reputed to be one of the most corrupt in recent New York

Just the other day, a front page article appeared in The New York Times concerning Pataki’s Virginia campaign fund where
some $2 million was spent on questionable expenditures. The corrupt practices of this individual began before he went to Albany as the Governor. In this regard, I call your attention to an article that appeared in The New York Times on August 18, 1994 entitled Pataki Attacked Over Arrangements For His Father’s Care. This article appeared during his campaign for governor. His opponent suggested that a certain real estate conveyance took unfair advantage of a state-funded nursing home. However, it overlooked the possible unethical and illegal conduct of two lawyers involved in that conveyance.

The article indicated that the nursing home had a general rule that it could claim assets owned up to one year before a person entered the home. In this case, George Pataki’s father entered the nursing home in August of 1993. However, a deed of the father’s real property shows that it was conveyed in January 1992, eighteen months before the senior Pataki entered the nursing home. If the conveyance was actually made at that time, the real property would be legitimately out of the reach of the nursing home. However, the article questioned when the actual transfer was made since the deed was later recorded when the senior Pataki was entering the nursing home. At that time, he was 82 years of age and suffering from dementia.

The transaction is suspect because a lawyer would not normally wait eighteen months to record a deed, particularly when
the transaction involved family property. Since the deed was dated and notarized by Michael Finnegan, George Pataki’s law partner
and campaign counsel, it could be assumed that he prepared the document as well.

George Pataki was subsequently elected Governor and Michael Finnegan was appointed counsel to the governor. James A. Burns, a member of the board of the nursing home in 1993 when the senior Pataki took residence, was appointed by the Governor to an $89,000 a year job as Director of the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control. This appointment was reported in The New York Times on May 2, 1995.

Based on these facts and simple logic, there is every indication that the deed was actually prepared and executed at the time
that it was recorded. However, it was pre-dated in order to remove the asset of the senior Pataki from the reach of the nursing
home. If that was the case, George Pataki and Michael Finnegan, as attorneys, participated in a fraud upon the nursing home and
Michael Finnegan swore to facts that were untruthful as notary public.

As I’m sure you are aware, attorneys are held to a high standard of ethical conduct even when they are not acting in their capacity as attorneys or representing a client. The conduct of these two attorneys certainly bears investigating. Since there is no statute of limitations for attorney misconduct, this investigation would still be timely.

As we all know, the powerful in society as well as our elected officials very often escape scrutiny and sanction for their deeds simply because of who they are and the positions that they hold. Fortunately, there is the free press that exposes corruption through their diligent screening of circumstances and events. I will leave it to you to see that justice is served in this instance. This letter is written anonymously in order to prevent retaliation by the individuals involved.

An Interested And Concerned Citizen

Polvere Fan Poses Question

Dear Editor:

I read Fred Polvere’s column every week and think he usually “tells it like it is”. But I’m mystified by his recent statement: “Following the Spanish Civil War, an American major was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for using ‘torture by water’ on a suspected insurgent.”

The Spanish Civil War ran from July 1936 to March 1939; in this case, the “insurgents” were the pro-Fascist rebels led by General Francisco Franco, who eventually overthrew Spain’s legitimate republican government with the help of weapons and “volunteers” sent by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. For its part, the Soviet Union sent some weapons and “volunteers” in an unsuccessful effort to help the losing side. Every government went along with the polite fiction that the war was a struggle only among Spaniards, but everyone also knew that the so called “volunteers” from Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union were members of their respective armed forces acting under orders.

Thousands of genuine volunteers also came from many countries (including the United States) to fight in the war; most of them fought for the republicans. None of them had the official support of their home governments. Since the US was not officially involved in the war---and at the time was determined to avoid getting involved in Europe’s problems---I don’t see how a serving officer of the United States Armed Forces could have become involved in an incident of torture. Who was he? Who was the “insurgent” he was convicted of torturing? Was he tried by a United States court-martial, or by a Spanish one?

Can someone clarify?

Al Raymond, Crugers

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