Thursday, May 29, 2008
Court Decision Only The Beginning
Of What Is Needed In Harrison
Last Tuesday, May 20, Harrison Police Officer Ralph Tancredi, under suspension for several months, as the result of retaliatory charges lodged by Chief David Hall and Captain Anthony Marraccini, appeared before State Supreme Court Justice Sam Walker in Westchester
County Court, having been falsely charged by the Westchester District Attorney with Harassment and Domestic Violence. Those allegations stemmed from an incident involving his former girlfriend, Sofia Saenz, and another male who, had in fact, menaced and threatened Tancredi with a baseball bat.
It was understood that this court appearance would either result in the dismissal of the charges brought by the DA’s Office or the commencement of a trial, depending upon Ms. Saenz’ willingness to testify for the Prosecution. Some months earlier, Saenz had retained the same attorney as Of-ficer Tancredi, Jonathan Lovett, bringing charges in Federal Court against the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, and Assistant District Attorney Barbara Egenhauser, alleging Harassment and Attempted Subornation of Perjury in their effort to get her to testify falsely against Officer Tancredi.
The case had become one of the more obvious examples of the injustice typically meted out to rank and file police officers by the
Westchester District Attorney, beholden as she is to the top brass in many of the 44 police departments across the County for their inappropriate outspoken endorsements and substantial financial campaign contributions. Harrison Police Chief Hall had led a rally for Janet DiFiore at the Polish Center in Yonkers just days before the election of 2005, and Captain Marraccini contributed $3,000 to her campaign.
When Officer Tancredi, then President of the Harrison PBA, and several members, went to the District Attorney and filed a complaint regarding Chief Hall’s theft and forgery of a check written to the PBA in the amount of $2,500, the complaint was ignored, as was their complaint over Hall’s, and Marraccini’s, installation of audio and video recording equipment in the locker room at Harrison Police Headquarters. Yet, the full resources of the DA’s Office were put to work, aiding and abetting the retaliatory, bogus charges levelled
against Tancredi by those same high-ranking offenders.
DiFiore’s subordinate, ADA Barbara Egenhauser, would stop at nothing, not even Subornation of Perjury, in the effort to hurt Tancredi.
Present in the Court last Tuesday, with Tancredi, were PBA Attorney Gustav Vila and White Plains Civil Rights Attorney Jonathan Lovett. Sofia Saenz, accompanied by her mother, was present, as well as Attorney Pam Howard, of My Sister’s Place, who had been assigned by the Judge several weeks earlier to inform Saenz of her rights and options, and to report her intentions with regard to her willingness to testify
as a Prosecution witness, to the Court. Judge Walker opened the session, inquiring if the Defense was ready, and was answered, “Ready.”
He then turned to ADA Egenhauser, who responded, “Ready, Your Honor, with an Application.” Having appointed Attorney Howard to represent Sofia Saenz, Walker stated, “Ms. Howard, please come forward.” Howard, after stepping forward and identifying herself, told the Judge, “I can assure the Court she wishes to assert her Fifth Amendment rights. I can state that unequivocally. She unequivocally intends to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights.” On the heels of that statement, Walker turned to ADA Egenhauser, asking, “Would you accept Ms. Howard’s representation?” Egenhauser responded, “I accept Ms. Howard’s statement, but I would prefer, in the interest of justice, if Ms. Saenz were sworn in and speaks for herself.”
At that point, Walker called Sofia Saenz forward, and she was sworn in. Walker asked, “Ms. Saenz, is it your intention to take the Fifth Amendment if questioned in this matter?”
Saenz: “Yes, Your Honor.”
Egenhauser: “I would say Ms. Saenz is essential to going forward with this case, both as a witness and as a complainant. The People
would not oppose a dismissal of the charges by the Court.”
Judge Walker then announced, “All charges are dismissed against Mr. Tancredi. The proceedings are sealed and bail is exonerated.”
Upon leaving the courtroom, Officer Tancredi, noticed about ten Harrison police officers who had been summoned to Court by the DA’s Office to testify in the event the trial had gone forward. Walking over to them, he made a point of saying ‘hello’ and shaking the hand of each and every officer in an obvious gesture of comaraderie.
At a later press conference, when asked, “How do you feel about the outcome?” Tancredi summarized his feelings, saying, “I feel happy
today, especially as a police officer, particularly for my brother and sister officers who have also been subjected to harassment.”
PBA Attorney Gustav Vila expressed similar sentiments, stating, “We are moving toward progress in Harrison, not only for police officers,
but for the citizens. Imagine if they could do this to one of their own?” However, Sofia Saenz expressed her ongoing concerns, stating, “I
just want to say I’m extremely afraid of what they may do to me; the police and District Attorney, for not testifying as they wanted me to.”
Attorney Jonathan Lovett explained the positive implications of the dismissal, by Judge Walker, with respect to Officer Tancredi’s action against Hall and Marraccini in Federal Court, as well as Sofia Saenz’ Federal Court action against the District Attorney’s Office and the Harrison Police, and also with respect to the actions by the Harrison Police Benevolent Association regarding the $2,500 misappropriated
check by Hall, and the installation of audio and video recording devices in the locker room at Police Headquarters.
The Guardian has described Harrison as a town under siege by its police department, a department essentially controlled by Captain Anthony Marraccini, who manipulates and abuses the human and material resources of the department in furtherance of his numerous,
conflicting enterprises and unlawful activities. Chief Hall, who lately has taken to whining about his “35 years of public service,” is,
in effect, little more than a willing front man for Marriccini.
Clearly, the dismissal of the bogus case against Officer Tancredi represents a serious blow to Marraccini, and those, including Hall, who are under his influence and control. However, the recent failure by the Town Board, and particularly Supervisor Joan Walsh, to accept
and assert their vested authority as Police Commissioners, particularly in light of the long history and extent of Marraccini’s unlawful, often
violent, activities demands intervention by the FBI.