Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg
DA’s Continued Harassment Of Harrison Police Officer Ralph Tancredi
Westchester Supreme Court, White Plains Judge Sam Walker Presiding
Last Wednesday, April 2, the continuing saga of rank and file police officer harassment continued to play out in Judge Sam Walker’s Court.
Ten-year veteran of the Harrison Police Department, former President of the PBA, Officer Ralph Tancredi, was before Walker in a pretrial hearing involving retaliatory charges of Domestic Violence And Assault, brought by the Westchester District Attorney’s Office on a complaint originated by Harrison Town Police Chief Dave Hall and Captain Anthony Marraccini. Tancredi, as President, together with a dozen members of the PBA, had gone to the Westchester District Attorney early last year to file a complaint against Chief Hall, for which they had strong evidence that he had confiscated, forged, and converted a $2500 check that had been forwarded to the PBA by a local
country club following a fundraising event. They also lodged a complaint regarding the unlawful, secret installation of audio and video monitoring equipment in their locker room at Police Headquarters.
District Attorney DiFiore flatly refused to investigate the claims, compelling Tancredi and the other PBA members to file suit in Federal District Court, White Plains. That filing brought retaliatory criminal charges against Officer Tancredi and intra-departmental disciplinary
proceedings against him, and against another Harrison Officer, Stephen Heisler.
Officer Tancredi was accompanied in Judge Walker’s Court by PBA Attorney Gustavo L. Vila, and Attorney Jonathan Lovett, of White Plains. The District Attorney’s Office was represented by Assistant District Attorneys Audrey Stone and Barbara Egenhauser, who was apparently reinstated to the case after Mr. Lovett removed her from a suit charging that she had engaged in attempted Subornation Of Perjury from Tancredi’s former girlfriend, Sophia Saenz, who was also represented by Lovett.
Walker had ruled that Attorney Lovett could not represent Saenz while representing Officer Tancredi, and, ostensibly for her own protection, had instructed Lovett to put her in contact with an attorney, either from the Women’s Justice Center at Pace Law School, My Sister’s Place, or the Northern Westchester Women’s Shelter, three organizations in Westchester routinely involved in issues of domestic violence. Judge Walker opened the proceedings inquiring of Jonathan Lovett if he had, as yet, referred Ms. Saenz to one of the agencies for consultation. Lovett indicated that he hadn’t, but would be doing so.
Walker then inquired of Vila and Lovett if they were also intending to see Judge Colangelo, as scheduled, to handle other pretrial proceedings.
When told that they were, Walker smiled and responded, “Everything can be done by myself.” He then summoned Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors before him, for a conference. coming out of conference, Walker announced, “We’re going to come back here April 16 at 9:30am.” Then, as has been his practice, he called upon Assistant DA Egenhauser, stating, “Okay, Ms. Egenhauser, you had a motion.” Whereupon Egenhauser raised the issue of Sophia Saenz’s whereabouts. Attorney Lovett responded, assuring the Court that he had been in communication with her a day earlier. Judge Walker then made a point of putting on the record that Mr. Lovett would be putting Ms. Saenz in touch with an attorney from one of the three agencies he had suggested.
At that point, Attorneys Lovett and Vila expressed to the Court their unwillingness to waive a 30.30 Motion. Vila went further, insisting that the clock, with regard to the bringing of that motion, began running with Officer Tancredi’s arrest in Harrison.
It is important to understand that the Westchester District Attorney, Janet DiFiore, has been wasting taxpayer’s money and judicial resources in her pursuit of trumped-up charges against Officer Tancredi. To DiFiore’s dismay, Sophia Saenz has been unwilling to play along with the retaliatory scheme of Harrison Police Chief David Hall and Captain Marraccini, aided in their misconduct by the full resources of the District Attorney’s Office.
In situation after situation, Janet DiFiore has been willing to sacrifice rank and file police officers, regardless of guilt or innocence, in favor of
higher-ups. George Bubaris, former Mount Kisco Police Officer, the sole individual charged with responsibility in the death of homeless immigrant Rene Perez, is a good example of her policy and practice. However, in Officer Tancredi’s case, DiFiore’s attachment and obligation to Chief Hall and Captain Marraccini is particularly strong given the central role Hall played in promoting her candidacy, together with former Dobbs Ferry Police Chief George Longworth, particularly at the Polish Center Rally of police brass in Yonkers just prior to Election
Day 2005, and Captain Marraccini’s hefty $3,000 contribution to her campaign.
Nevertheless, Ms. Saenz has repeatedly refused to falsely testify against Officer Tancredi, despite extreme pressure brought by Assistant DA Barbara Egenhauser, under orders from DiFiore to get her to do so. Further, Ms. Saenz has insisted that she did not, and does not, wish an Order of Protection against her friend, and former boyfriend, Officer Tancredi, despite the District Attorney’s insistence that one be maintained.
In light of the fact that Saenz is not likely to yield to further attempts to get her to falsely testify against Tancredi, the time is fast approaching when Judge Walker will be compelled to dismiss the charges.
The real question is, “How long will the People of Westchester tolerate the Abuse Of Process, and the waste of taxpayer dollars, by a District Attorney who describes herself as ‘The Ultimate Prosecutorial Authority In The County.’”