Thursday, February 5, 2009
In Our Opinion...
For Joe Bruno, It’s All About
Whose Bull Is Being Gored
For 12 years Joe Bruno was one of the most powerful people in New York State Government, Republican Number Two behind Governor George Pataki, for most of that time. As Majority Leader of the Republican-controlled State Senate, a conservative Republican, by any measure, he could be relied upon to bury progressive social legislation year after year.
A former prize fighter, he remains energetic and feisty at 79. So it was that advocates and legislators opposed to the death penalty, but in favor of legislation to help curb prosecutorial misconduct, knew that each year progressive legislation that would come out of the Assembly would die a certain death, either in committee, or on the floor of Joe’s Senate.
Interestingly, though he liked to come off holier-than-thou and tough on crime, most political realists were well aware of the fact that he was a player, a go-to guy. Here in Westchester, in the State’s longest-disputed election, the contest for the 35th District State Senate seat, then occupied by Nick Spano for 18 years, in 2004, Bruno played a major role in the final stages of a massive election fraud that turned a 355-vote victory by Andrea Stewart-Cousins into a cynical 18-vote victory by Nick.
After three months of manipulation by such notables as Nassau Supreme Court Justice Republican Ira Warshawsky, Appellate Division Judge Robert Spalzino, also a Republican, and Nick’s personal attorney, not to mention Republican Westchester Commissioner Carolee Sunderland, Anthony Mangone, Nicky’s vunderkindt and Reggie Lafayette, the so-called Democratic Election Commissioner; enter Jeanine Pirro, by cellphone to Mangone from Albany, “Anthony, don’t talk. I saw Joe Bruno and he got a judge to put a stay on counting the ballots until tomorrow.”
One more day was all they needed to pull it off.
Then there was Joe’s son’s lobbying firm, representing millions of dollars of business by corporations wishing to do business with state agencies. Business was good, as good as one would expect it to be when your father is one of the “Three Men In A Room.” And, not so strangely in the immoral political climate of New York State, and its two closest neighbors, Connecticut and New Jersey, the music played on, unchallenged, uninvestigated, for years. Even Eliot Spitzer who would, as governor, ultimately harass Bruno over such relative triflings as his unauthorized
use of State-owned aircraft, saw nothing inappropriate in Bruno & Son while serving as State Attorney General.
It took the Feds, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the FBI to open an investigation into Joe Bruno’s ‘consulting’ businesses’ activities while in office that government prosecutors allege netted him some $3.5 million in “consulting fees” over an 11-year period, as detailed in an eight-count, 35-page indictment handed up Friday, Jan. 23.
Facing 20 years and a $250,000 fine on each count, if convicted, Mr. Bruno’s response to the charges was, “After being hounded for three years, I am being indicted on a prosecutorial sleight-of-hand, because after years of effort, they cannot find one example of criminal activity or illegal intent.” Sounds an awful lot like Joe is crying “prosecutorial misconduct” now that it’s his bull that’s being gored.
Our Readers Respond...
Re: Paul Cote
I have been a lifelong resident of Mount Vernon, and have dedicated my life to serving my community as a public school educator for over three decades. As Principal of the Lincoln Elementary School for 29 years, my school has been recognized by the national media as a school where absolutely no child is left behind and all students receive an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. In fact, The New York Times described Lincoln as “a school that defied assumptions about race and income (www.georgealbano.com).
Mr. Paul Cote was a resident of Mount Vernon for many years, and whenever I would see him in the community, he would always go out of his way to greet me and congratulate me on what we were doing for the young people of our inner city, diverse community. Not only has he always expressed a keen interest in education, but he would always brag about his beautiful family and tell me how proud he was of his mother, who has taught at my school for over 40 years. Mrs. Cote (Paul’s mother) is an outstanding, compassionate educator, and a wonderful caring mother and grandmother. She raised her son Paul without the benefit of a father, since he was a teenager and did a wonderful job. Paul is a devoted father, husband, and son who is respected by all who knew him.
I read your first page story, “Ugly Retaliatory Injustice”, on January 8, 2009 about the Paul Cote’s situation. Thank God for your newspaper and thank God for the late Judge Charles L. Brieant.
It is obvious to anyone who is familiar with Mr. Cote’s case that there is certainly reasonable doubt concerning the charges against him. Not only was Paul going to the aid of a fellow officer, but he followed all approved methods for restraining an out-of-control inmate (one with psychiatric issues) who punched an officer in the face. Mr. Cote was raised by his beautiful mother to never look the other way, to help his fellow men, and correct an injustice when he saw one. Because of his involvement in defending another fellow officer (who is Hispanic) and was discriminated against and referred to as a “wetback rookie” by his superiors and because he challenged the union for other injustices, Mr. Cote has been the victim of retaliatory action by his superiors. Inmate Teodorovic not only had a violent outbreak but was bear-hugged and violently thrown on the concrete cell-block floor by (6’2”, 270-lb) officer Mark Reimer, whom Officer Cote went to help. Officer Reimer, to protect himself from prosecution, was granted immunity and testified against Paul who came to his assistance.
Officer Cote was convicted of Second Degree Assault, sentenced to three months in jail, lost his job, his benefits, his pension, and his career. His family was devastated, but Paul held his head up and tried to move on with his life. The late Judge Charles L. Brieant told the United States
Attorney who tried Mr. Cote five years later on “violating the civil rights” of the inmate that if the U.S. Attorney’s case failed, he would not
be said. Well, it did fail and, on April 4, 2007, Justice Brieant granted Mr. Cote a Judgment of Acquittal. Since the death of Judge Brieant, the U.S. Attorney found a loophole to not retry Paul but to make an oral argument to overturn Judge Brieant’s decision. Paul now faces another jail sentence. What an injustice!
In closing, I want you to know the Paul Cote I know is a perfect gentleman, a wonderful, caring father, husband and son, and a community-
minded individual. He and his family already suffered enough. With all the injustices in America, political corruption running rampant, the criminal justice system giving a pass to those taking part in pre-meditated major crimes, why is the U.S. Attorney hell-bent on crucifying the Cote family?
Enough is enough. Give Paul Cote a break!
George C. Albano,
Re: Paul Cote
Approximately two weeks ago I picked up your newspaper at the Key Food Grocery Store in Pleasantville. The photograph on the cover
of ex-Correction Officer Paul Cote caught my eye. I have been following the Cote case since its inception and have even attended all the
hearings and trials put forth by the Westchester DA and federal government against Mr. Cote. So, to say I am familiar with this case is a gross
understatement. Your latest article regarding “Ugly Retaliatory Injustice” couldn’t be more accurate in my humble opinion. It is obvious that there have been political and personal agendas put forth by various ‘dignitaries’ against former Correction Officer Cote. This case is a travesty on two
fronts: the loss of the life of inmate Zoran Teodorovic, and the convictions that Paul Cote has endured. It is amazing that personal vendettas
and plain old ‘politics’ can cause the imprisonment of an innocent man.
It’s a shame that Mr. Cote has lost faith in the judicial process, a process that all of us Americans count on to be untainted and reliable. The Honorable Judge Charles Brieant even agreed that Federal Civil Rights charges should not have even been brought up against Cote. He even told Federal Prosecutor Cynthia Dunne that, “If your case fails, I will not be sad.” I suppose when a jury hears an itemized ‘list’ that government feeds them, that they have no choice but to return a guilty verdict. However, in my opinion, there are many more things than meets the eye in this particular case. It begins with personal agendas against Mr. Cote from employees at the Westchester County Jail and ends with the federal government and their political agenda.
I am happy that you expose such injustices in your articles and I hope and pray that Mr. Paul Cote will not be imprisoned much longer. After
all, the late Judge Brieant had already acquitted him!
I realize a lawsuit has been recently filed on Mr. Cote’s behalf against the various Defendants who have wronged him, and I certainly hope he can salvage the remainder of his life with a successful case against them.
Thanks, Mr. Blassberg, for your service to the community.
Re: Paul Cote
I am writing in response to your article of January 8, 2009, “First Amendment Retaliation That Contaminated State And Federal Prosecutions.”
As a parent of a police officer, I understand the need for force in restraining belligerent offenders. One person, if in physically and emotionally
belligerent state, may need to employ several officers to restrain them. Clearly in your article, Correction Officer Reimer was not able
to restrain Mr. Teodorovic by himself and Officer Cote, as should be, came to the aid of a fellow officer.
I do not understand why Mr. Cote is being implicated in what seems to be clearly a matter of two officers responding to a physically belligerent inmate. Why, if there was a matter of undue force, is Officer Reimer not being held responsible? Clearly, an injury would have occurred when Officer Reimer fell on top of Mr. Teodorovic causing his head to hit the concrete floor. Your article leads to much questioning of this entire situation, that I as a layperson see, and I would think members of the judicial system would as well. I can only hope your article will bring the light to others and end this travesty of justice.
Karen L. Molinaro,
Re: Paul Cote
As the country has a new president and with the hope for a more united and brighter future for our country Paul M. Cote awaits an unfair
prison sentence, an uncertain future for himself, as well as for his family, and has to again face a sentencing for which he has already spent three months in jail. Although the late Judge Charles L. Brieant had granted Mr. Cote a judgment of Acquittal (April 2007) and against the almost overwhelming proof that he is a scapegoat and is innocent of everything, but doing his job, the United States Attorney for the Southern
District of New York has taken the unusual step of having this judgment overturned.
Mr. Cote has been punished for over eight years with his and his family’s lives totally disrupted. When will this vendetta end? Justice is being
subverted and an innocent man and his family face ruin. Is this the United States or the old Communist Russia? The scales of justice cry out for
what is right and fair, but will anyone listen? An innocent man’s life hangs in the balance.
Re: Paul Cote
Your articles, written in regard to the Paul Cote case, have been very informative. They had shed some light on a statement made by Michael J. Garcia in reference to this case.While self-congratulating himself on the outcome of the Appellate Court’s reversal of the Honorable Judge Charles L. Brieant’s decision, he lauded his win as his finest hour as United States District Attorney. It would seem that his power to prosecute international terrorists should be of much greater importance to him. It would also seem that his protection of big government, Governor
Spitzer should come to mind as his most powerful and influential experience.
Not prosecuting the governor for spending public tax dollars to engage in interstate prostitution was a slap in the face to the hardworking
taxpayer, and an abuse of his authority. He seemed to slip quickly and quietly out the back door. Will he now use his acquired influence and connections to make the Big Bucks defending ‘white collar crime’?
The Paul Cote case appears to be another channel Michael J. Garcia may have used his influence to control. Judge Brieant hit the bullseye
with his decision which was published in its entirety in the New York Law Journal. The following quote from the Judge’s decision expresses
his major concern for the defendant while establishing his hawk-eye view of underlying corruption within the case: “In this case in which much of
the testimony was patently incredible and defied physical realities portrayed in the photographs, support is lent for a new trial, based on real
concern that an innocent person may have been convicted.” According to the Appellate Court’s decision, even Dr. Benzil (renown neurosurgeon),
the prosecutor’s main medical witness, agreed with Judge Brieant. To quote from the Appellate decision, “…we note that Benzil testified that
the photographs did not fully comport with her medical assessment of Teodorovic at the time she examined him.” In fact, the Appellate
Court’s decision, when presented in its entirety, reads like a hastily manufactured blanket, designed to hide the bounty of knowledge with which
Judge Brieant infused his decision.
There appears to be no factual attack by the Appellate Court. In its clouded reversal of Judge Brieant’s decision, did the Appellate Court simply supply Michael J. Garcia with his demand? Are there any behind-the-scenes manipulations such as the designation of Jane A. Restani, Chief Judge of the United States Court of International Trade, sitting by designation, on this criminal case?
Two facts are certain, Michael J. Garcia used his power to shield the former governor and tip out the back door.
The Honorable Judge Charles L. Brieant departed this life with resounding praise, national accolades, and a legacy filled with devotion to
Thank you, The Westchester Guardian, for your courage and commitment to integrity in journalism.
Re: Paul Cote
I have been following your marvelous courage of the Paul Cote story. I have family in Westchester who share the paper and I always enjoy
your fine articles. I want to comment on your January 15th story about Mr. Cote. It saddens me to see this man sitting in jail while waiting to be sentenced, when he has shown no evident threat to the community. Obviously, the late Judge Brieant did not think he was a threat to the community when he overturned the jury decision. Not so long ago I read of a case in Vermont where the judge only gave a six-week sentence to a man who raped a child, with a previous record of sexual offenses. This man spent no time in jail before sentencing and was, as far as I’m concerned, a definite threat to the community.
I know we cannot compare cases but I feel as though Mr. Cote is not being treated fairly. My heart goes out to his family. I can only imagine
how they must feel, and I want them to know there are folks out here thinking about them and keeping them in prayer. I hope Judge Karas
does the right thing. I really like The Guardian and your reporting.
Re: Paul Cote
I am writing to comment on your article dated January 15, 2009 entitled, “Framed Former County Correction Officer Remanded To Jail,
Awaiting Sentencing”. Although some of the legal jargon was not totally clear to me, it seems that Mr. Cote’s incarceration while awaiting sentencing is surely unnecessary. The fact that Judge Karas apologized to Mr. Cote when telling him that he had to remand him until his sentencing date leads me to believe that he may feel the same.
It saddens me to see these injustices happening to a decent, hardworking citizen. Hard-core criminals seem to find a way to walk the streets and cause harm to innocent people and someone like Mr. Cote is sitting in jail awaiting sentencing for something he has been unjustly accused of.
It is my sincere hope that when Judge Karas is ready to make his decision, he comes to the same conclusion as the late Judge Charles L.
Brieant so that this terrible nightmare will finally come to an end for Mr. Cote and his family.
Re: Paul Cote
I have read your most recent article, as well as your previous ones, on the case of Correction Officer Mr. Paul Cote. The coverage and background
information you have provided are very enlightening. I hope you will continue to provide us with information on this case, and I hope we can eventually learn what is behind this apparent vendetta the Correction Department and prosecution seem to have on Mr. Cote.
Re: Paul Cote
As the sentencing of Corrections Officer Paul Cote draws near, we urge you to shine a journalistic light on the real aspects of the case. Officer Cote’s situation has nothing to do with justice being served and everything to do with political ambition.
Fair-minded people would agree that Judge Karas should sentence Of-ficer Cote to time served. This man is no menace to society. In fact, he has
served society for many years in his role as a model corrections officer.
Only In Chappaqua
I do not know enough about the bond process to get upset or even nasty, I just have questions that need answering. The Town of New Castle officials are patting themselves on the back again, probably because only they believe themselves worthy of the pats; looking good by waiting and getting a few fractions off an interest rate seems like a bit of smoke to hide where’s the money going. Some of it to pay for work already done and some for work to be done. Do we the public get to approve by vote this bond?
The fine print in the article, meaning the list of particulars, shows a lot of smaller categories like road improvements that are really part of
another category like hamlet sidewalk plan. I’m thinking partitioned to hide the real costs and also to evade public outcry at the amounts
spent with no real impact on the need for more retail establishments or small scale retail mix. A new police station plans. What! Paying for
train station restoration work done two years ago. What! Have we not paid our bills or did we and now we are paying ourselves back and if so
how much do we really owe and is it in 2008 dollars.
This replenishing going on is new money getting ready to be spent. What is the impact on our tax bill. Please help and find out what is really going on here in Chappaqua. I have no confidence in any reply I may get from the administration. I don’t like wool in my eyes.