Thursday, November 6, 2008
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg
Serious Doubt Cast Upon Charges Leveled By Chief
Hall Against Harrison Police Officer Tancredi
Issues Of Retaliation And Procedural Deficiency Halt Disciplinary Hearing
Last Wednesday morning, October 29th, the long-anticipated disciplinary hearing into the alleged misconduct of Harrison Town Police Officer Ralph Tancredi finally got underway. Well, almost. Tony Castro, appointed Special Prosecutor by the Harrison Town Board several months ago for the proffering of charges by Harrison Police Chief David Hall against Officers Ralph Tancredi and Stephen Heisler,
offered opening remarks detailing incidents in the Harrison community, while off-duty, in civilian garb by Ralph Tancredi, on June 2, 5 and 15, 2007, allegedly involving Tancredi in “verbally and physically abusive behavior,” with his then-former girlfriend Sofia Saenz as well as identified, and unspecified patrons of My Place, a bar in Harrison. Castro concluded by stating that Chief Hall, in bringing the charges, was seeking Officer Tancredi’s dismissal from the Department.
Before getting underway, appointed Hearing Officer, Mount Pleasant Town Justice Robert Ponzini, asked Defense attorney for Officer Tancredi, Jonathan Lovett, “Is it your client’s desire to have a public hearing?”
Mr. Lovett responded in the affirmative.
Following Mr. Castro’s presentation of charges, Attorney Lovett came out swinging. He declared, “Guess what’s missing? There’s no date, no time, no year. It’s un-Constitutionally vague, legally deficient.” Glancing toward the Prosecutor’s table, Lovett said, “Those charges are going to come back to haunt Chief Hall.” He went on, “This case is being presented under the 1936 Police Act. There must be an affirmative showing. This police department has more leaks than the Titanic.”
Lovett then went on to explain, “No person who prefers the charges may hear the case.” He then cited the state law, word and verse, that is, as he put it, “A flat-out bar to hearing officers preferring the charges.” He explained that Section 5711(Q) in the State Code was, “special legislation dealing with employment of police in villages as opposed to towns.”
He further declared that, under State law, Local Law 6 of 2008 was, “a complete nullity,” because it, “neglected the need for a referendum.” He then postulated, “Even if there wasn’t such a prohibition, you have two state laws which specifically prohibit what the Town/Village Board did here in appointing a hearing officer.” He concluded, “Six ways from Sunday this whole proceeding is a nullity.”
Lovett then proceeded to broaden the scope of his procedural and subject matter objections, citing England v Louisiana Board Of Medical Examiners 365 U.S. 411, and declaring, “Both acts are First Amendment retaliatory. In any event, there is no jurisdiction.” He then launched an attack upon the integrity and credibility of the Harrison Police Department, citing instance after instance of criminal conduct by high-ranking officers, including Complainant Chief Hall which, he asserted, went “unreported and unpunished.” Mr. Castro twice objected to Lovett’s allegations, and was granted a “continuing objection” by Hearing Of-ficer Ponzini, even as Lovett continued to inform him.
Attorney Lovett next proceeded to turn the language contained in the charges leveled against his client, Officer Tancredi, by Police Chief Hall with respect to the need for “police officers to set a high example, morally, in the community against Hall,” declaring, with regard to those officers who are presently facing charges in Federal Court for various violations of local citizens’ civil rights, “They are the symbols of moral authority.”
Getting more specific, Lovett cited the police and prosecutors’ misconduct with respect to Sofia Saenz, now married to Tancredi, and seated in the courtroom between her mother and her mother-in-law. Lovett told Ponzini, “Sofia Saenz was taken against her will and interrogated for hours while falsely imprisoned.”
Ponzini proceeded to give Special Prosecutor Castro the opportunity to counter Jonathan Lovett’s objections. Castro went on to register his own objections. Ponzini then stated, “Mr. Lovett has brought up several issues, some of which I already have an opinion on.” He then indicated that some issues needed clarification before the proceedings could go forward; “the issues in particular connected to the fact that Harrison is both a town and a village.”
He therefore wisely adjourned the proceedings until November 12, at which time he indicated that he expected to have received papers from
each side explaining their respective positions with regard to the procedural and jurisdictional objections raised by Mr. Lovett.
It should be noted that there were some 15 members of the Harrison Police Department PBA, of which Officer Tancredi was President until earlier this year, present at the hearing.
Samuel Israel Pleading
Postponed One More Time
United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York
300 Quarropas Street, White Plains
Judge Kenneth M. Karas Presiding
Last Tuesday, October 28th, Samuel Israel III appeared in Federal District Court, White Plains, scheduled to plead to a single count of Escape, having faked a suicide from the Bear Mountain Bridge on June 9, 2008, then turning himself in to authorities in Massachusetts several weeks later. Having twice previously attempted to plead guilty to the single charge, which, conceivably, could tack another ten
years on to the 20 years he is already facing, in a $450 million investment swindle scheme, Israel, who reportedly had completed his
methadone detoxification program, according to Dr. Gail Bailey-Wallace, Medical Director of the Westchester County Jail, and accordingly diagnosed as “fully functioning and competent to enter a plea,” nevertheless, came to Court apparently with some medical and psychiatric
issues still unresolved.
Tuesday’s session, which had originally been scheduled as a pleading, in fact, as predicted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Krissoff , in her October 15, 2008 correspondence to Judge Karas, turned into a status conference. Barry Bohrer, lead attorney for
Defendant Israel, when recognized by the Judge, opened with, “Your Honor, we have been in discussion with the Government. If we might meet in sidebar, as we did last time, it might be more efficient.” Judge Karas, characteristically light-spirited, responded, “I’m all for
During the sidebar, which lasted five or six minutes, Israel, who remained seated at the Defense table, as he had on prior occasions, this time turned to the FBI agent seated at the Prosecution table, and made some brief, indistinguishable remarks. Returning from sidebar, Mr. Bohrer addressed the Court, “Your Honor, we have made application seeking that Mr. Israel be sent to the Federal Medical Facility in Butler, North
Carolina.” Assistant United States Attorney Krissoff immediately followed with, “The Government joins that application in light of
our understanding of Mr. Israel’s condition.”
Judge Karas then acknowledged the Court’s desire to deal with Mr. Israel “fairly, properly, and efficiently,” and granted the Defense application. Karas, in granting the application, cited Federal Rule of Procedure 3161 (h)(1)(A), indicating that he was doing so, “Firstly,
to determine the physical and mental capacity of the Defendant, and, secondly, in the interest of Justice.” Karas then stated, “We should put this over to the end of February to take care of any issues. So let’s say February 27, at 2pm.”