The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg
Civic Leader Hauls DiFiore
And D’Amato Into Court
Claims Retaliatory First Amendment Violations
Last Wednesday, December 3rd, civil rights attorney Jonathan Lovett, of White Plains, filed a federal lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 against former United States Senator from New York, Alphonse D’Amato, individually, and Janet DiFiore, individually, and in her capacity as District Attorney for the County of Westchester, New York, on behalf of his client, Giulio Cavallo, Chairman of the Westchester Independence Party.
The suit seeks a sum of $10 million each from D’Amato and DiFiore, for a total of $20 million in punitive damages, plus an award of compensatory damages in the amount of $20 million, sought jointly, and severally, against D’Amato and DiFiore, for a total of $40 million.
The suit describes D’Amato as, “a disgraced, retired United States Senator,” who is politically connected to Defendant DiFiore directly, and
through her husband, Dennis Glazer, “a wealthy New York City-based attorney with long-term deep, and extensive, connections to D’Amato.”
The suit alleges that in 2005, when DiFiore ran for Westchester District Attorney, Glazer personally threatened Plaintiff Cavallo by Coercion
in the Second Degree, on DiFiore’s behalf, that if he failed to secure the Independence Party’s endorsement for her, indicating that he, Glazer,
would use his wealth and political connections to “take control of the Independence Party, and remove Cavallo as its chairman.”
It is further alleged that out of fear induced by both Glazer and DiFiore, Cavallo did secure the Independence Party endorsement for DiFiore directly resulting in her election, and that she was sworn in, as such, on January 1, 2006. The suit refers to an issue of The Westchester Guardian,
in March 2007, in which an article pertaining to DiFiore, and regarding Glazer’s conduct, in corruptly securing from Plaintiff Cavallo the Independence Party’s endorsement, appeared.
Subsequently, Plaintiff Cavallo, on August 28, 2008, published an article in The Westchester Guardian newspaper, accompanied by the headline,
“Civic Leader Declares DA DiFiore A Failure,” in which he expressed his opinion that DiFiore, “has been largely ineffective in combatting crime,”
and described her administration as a “disappointment.”
The suit further alleges that Di-Fiore and her spouse Glazer, “as a consequence of a federal civil rights action, brought by Guardian publisher Sam Zherka against DiFiore because of her threats in her capacity as DA to go after Zherka and his family, became aware of Cavallo’s willingness to testify that DiFiore had told him that she was going to ‘fix Zherka’, and that, as a consequence, DiFiore and Glazer “entered into an agreement to enlist the active participation of D’Amato and other Republican political operatives to threaten and intimidate Plaintiff with a view toward silencing him.”
Interviewed last Friday, December 5th at his attorney, Jonathan Lovett’s, office, Cavallo explained that on October 16th he was attending
a luncheon with Nassau County officials and the State Chairman of the Independence Party, Frank McKay, at the Oheka Castle Restaurant
in Huntington, Long Island.
Cavallo said, “To my surprise, I was informed that Al D’Amato had come to the luncheon and that he wanted to sit next to me.” Cavallo explained that once D’Amato sat down next to him the former Senator subjected him to more than two hours of threats from Janet DiFiore and her spouse, Dennis Glazer.
This reporter asked, “How do you feel about DA Janet DiFiore?”
Cavallo responded, “I feel fear and intimidation.”
Three-State, Multiple Bank Robber, Gets 92 Months
Judge Tells Poughkeepsie Man, “You And I Are The Same Age,”
Reminds Him Of His Responsibility To Be There For His 16-Year-Old Daughter
United States District Court, White Plains
Judge Kenneth M. Karas Presiding
Last Tuesday afternoon, December 2nd, Frank Surico, 44, of Poughkeepsie, appeared before Judge Kenneth M. Karas for sentencing, having pleaded guilty to five counts of Bank Robbery, filed in the Southern District of New York, and one count, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in July 2008. Showing no partiality for one bank over another, he robbed the Webster Bank in Brookfield, Connecticut, of $2,800; the Citizen’s Bank in New Windsor, New York, of $3,264; the Fairfield County Bank in Danbury, Connecticut of $5,300; the Catskill-Hudson Bank, in
Middletown, New York, of $5,365; the Citizen’s Bank in Matamoras, Pennsylvania, of $6,756; and, attempted to rob the Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union in Middletown, New York.
His method of operation involved no weapon or threat of violence. He would merely put a plastic bag on the counter before a teller, and announce that it was a robbery, demanding that the teller put money in the bag, whereupon he would then walk out.
Other than The Guardian, the only other press present for the sentencing was staff writer Oliver Mackson of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, who had graduated from high school with Surico and had written an article about Surico’s history, and his conduct on Graduation
Day some 26 years earlier. Mackson was curious whether Surico would recognize him upon entering the courtroom from the holding area.
However, the Defendant showed no glint of recognition as he entered the room, accompanied by a federal marshal, looking toward the spectators gallery. In his account, Mackson recalled how the Defendant at graduation had held up his diploma. As it turned out, Mackson’s article had unintended significance in the proceedings, as it served to document the fact that Surico was, indeed, a high school graduate, an issue that his attorney, Michael K. Burke, of Burke, Miele, and Golden, LLP of Goshen, New York repeatedly stressed to the Court was apparently not clarified in his client’s probation report. Burke would explain that high school graduation would be determinative of where his client would be designated to serve his time and “what programs he would be admitted to by the Bureau of Prisons.”
Judge Karas acknowledged the Times Herald-Record article, copies of which Attorney Burke produced for him, declaring, “I will take judicial
notice of his walking off the stage holding his diploma. I’m happy to attach the article to his papers.” Karas added, “I’m happy to give him credit for time served back to March 4.”
Attorney Burke, moving in a different direction, then stated, “My client has a long history of substance abuse, starting with alcohol as a youth, then cocaine, and finally heroin. Not in any way to justify his behavior, but in none of these robberies did he threaten violence or use violence. In Middletown, when he handed the plastic bag to the teller and she threw it out, he just walked out. He was not violent.” Burke then advanced his case, telling Judge Karas, “I would hope he could be treated other than as a violent criminal so that he could be eligible to enter a 500-hour treatment procedure and shave one year off his sentence.”
Judge Karas then injected, “Technically, the record is correct.” Burke went on, “He is a 44-year-old man. He has a 16-yearold daugher whom he,
his mother, and father, raised.” At that point the Prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney Anna M. Skotko, spoke up to the Court, declaring,
“He isn’t over-classi-fied. Congress classified Bank Robbery as a violent crime. The Government’s position is that the conditions are properly
At that point, Judge Karas offered the Defendant an opportunity to speak. Surico accepted and said, “I would like to apologize to all of the tellers. I didn’t mean to frighten them. I made a wrong turn; I made some bad decisions. I harbor no ill will. Under no condition would I ever have hurt anyone.” Judge Karas then began, “The Court’s starting point is what the guidelines have to say. There’s a guideline for each offense.” He went on to acknowledge Surico’s criminal history and its impact on the sentence, adding points for one aspect or another. He concluded that the guidelines called for 92 to 115 months, and then declared, “So that’s the math.”
Karas went on, “This is yet another sad case of someone who got involved in substance abuse. Mr. Surico has a lengthy criminal history, but not a history of violence or hurting people. He has a daughter.” Then the Judge became more stern, declaring, “Bank Robbery is a serious crime and, even though Mr. Surico didn’t use a gun, still people can be hurt by a reaction to the crime. What Mr. Surico did was a very serious crime. I think the criminal history category wasn’t overstated. I do think Mr. Surico needs to learn his lesson, which I don’t believe he has.”
Karas then opined, “All too often I see people who are engaged in the use of drugs. But, he made choices, not once, but many times. If Mr.
Surico had brandished a gun, his guidelines would be 140 to 175 months. It is the judgement of this Court that he serve 92 months followed by three years supervised release.”