Thursday, February 19, 2009
In Our Opinion...
“We Must Deal With Wrongful Convictions”
We witness, with increasing frequency, and alarm, a very troubling pattern of behavior in the realm of criminal justice broadly referred
to as prosecutorial misconduct. And, while it would seem to come with the territory in New York’s State Courts these days; a system grown putrid
and ripe with corruption at every level, where Supreme Court judgeship are bought and compromised routinely without apology, the real sin lies
in the spread of infection to our federal system.
No democratic society can long endure in the absence of a reliable and fair court system. As William Pitt declared: “Where Law Ends, Tyranny
Begins.” Yet, one cannot deny the growing number of cases in both State and Federal Court that involved prosecutorial misconduct, a direct and
deliberate strategy calculated to advantage prosecutors while intentionally trampling the Constitutional rights of the accused.
One cannot overemphasize the catastrophic damage done mindlessly by jaded, self-righteous, self-serving prosecutors, long ago disinterested in
achieving justice, bent on winning at any cost. Not only do they destroy the lives of actual innocents, and their families, targets of opportunity, but, as significantly, they undermine the confidence of all of society that, in fact, we live under the Rule Of Law, and remedy is available in our courts.
When an innocent individual has fallen prey to the evil of prosecutorial misconduct in state court, and relief is unavailable within that offending
system, such victim must find justice and rescue in the Federal Court. However, what is one to do who is twice violated by a tag-team of malicious,
cruel prosecutors, first state, and then federal? Such has been the intolerable and unjustifiable torture visited upon former Westchester
County Corrections Officer Paul Cote, his loved ones, and the People of Westchester.
Those who know Paul, and who are aware of the politically motivated lie first promulgated by Jeanine Pirro and her high-ranking cronies in the
County Department Of Corrections, then cultivated by former ADA Robert Neary, now a judge three times forced down our throats; and, secondly, exhumed and rescuscitated more than five years later, beyond the Statute of Limitations, by Assistant United States Attorney Cynthia Dunne, are very angry and disillusioned. They have been to court and witnessed the preposterous, intelligence-insulting fabrication that moved the late, great Judge Charles L. Brieant presiding over the misguided trial, to do what few judges have ever had the courage to do, reverse the conviction of a sitting jury, as, “inconsistent with the evidence presented.”
They have written to The Guardian in numbers greater than we have seen on any other subject in more than two and half years of publication. Their letters share a common disillusionment with the Federal Court, with the very notion that prosecutors Cynthia Dunne, and her former boss, Michael Garcia, would lower not only themselves, but the very dignity of the Federal Courts to the political proposition of First Amendment retaliation, and further, publicly boast about it. Those writers ask, “What alternate universe is this?”
We believe it is cases such as Paul Cote’s that exemplify why we need meaningful federal legislation to curtail the prosecutorial misconduct President Obama was talking about when he proclaimed twice, in major speeches during his campaign, “We must deal with wrongful convictions.” Clearly, Judge Brieant shared that very sentiment when he vacated Paul Cote’s.
Our Readers Respond....
Re: Paul Cote
Regarding the recent articles “First Amendment Retaliation…” and “…Correction Officer Remanded To Jail…”, it is beyond my comprehension how any reasonable person who is familiar with all the information concerning the case of Paul Cote, veteran Corrections Officer, can come to any conclusion other than the fact that he was framed for something he did not do.
How ironic it is that by supporting fellow officer Roca’s civil rights grievance against Captain Polewaski for using an ethnic slur, that Cote, himself, would have his own civil rights violated, due to the retaliatory efforts of Capt. Polewaski and others? How ironic is it that by coming to the assistance of fellow officer Reimer, who was being assaulted by inmate Teodorovic, that Cote would be the one accused of violating Teodorovic’s civil rights when he used approved methods of force, and the actual cause of the brain trauma leading to Teodorovic’s death can be attributed to Reimer’s slamming his head on the concrete floor? Further, how ironic is it that because Officer Cote at one time approached his former union leader, Joseph Spano, and engaged him in conversation regarding stalled contract negotiations, that down the road Spano, as Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, would add his own retaliatory efforts to those of Capt. Polewaski, leading to a classic frameup of Cote?
The good and fair, late Judge Charles Brieant saw through this fraud of justice and, after Cote had served his time for 2nd Degree Assault, expressed his belief that Cote was not guilty of any civil rights violation by his Judgment of Acquittal after the jury verdict. But, aided and abetted by Spano, Polewaski, and the government’s chief witness, Reimer himself, the over-zealous former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, succeeded through his oral
argument in obtaining a guilty verdict against Cote on appeal. It was not enough for them that this good and decent officer had already lost his job, benefits, pension and career, but they are now trying to extract their final pound of flesh with Judge Karas ordering Cote remanded to jail as he awaits sentencing for his so-called “civil rights violation” against inmate Teodorovic.
Now that Cote has filed his own civil rights lawsuit against Spano, Polewaski, Reimer, and others, one can only hope that the truth will ultimately be recognized and that it will be upheld that if anyone’s civil rights were violated throughout this whole fiasco, it was the civil rights of Paul Cote.
May Judge Karas carefully read all the details involved with the case against Mr. Cote, leading up to this pending sentencing, and may he remember the words of the esteemed Judge Brieant, that Paul Cote’s original conviction was “inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial.” May justice prevail!
Angela Cuccinello, Bronx
Re: Paul Cote
I want to commend you on your articles concerning Paul Cote. I have known Paul all my life and can honestly say he is an upright citizen, always ready to help his fellow man.
For the past nine years he has been wrongfully accused of a crime too hard to believe. Where is the justice in the case? A father of two children, a loving husband and man of character who went to the aid of his partner who had already subdued the inmate by slamming him to the ground which
caused the injury.
If Judge Brieant saw this, why can’t Cynthia Dunne stop persecuting him? His life has been shattered to no avail. How can his partner, namely Reimer, live with himself knowing what damage he did to Paul and his family?
Please keep the articles coming in his defense.
John Brauer, Rye
Re: Paul Cote
After reading your articles in The Westchester Guardian on the case of former County Corrections Officer Paul Cote, I felt compelled to write a few words in response to the article of January 8, 2009.
First of all, thank you so much, Mr. Blassberg, for your excellent summary of the events leading to the unjust conviction of Mr. Cote and his most recent incarceration following the overturning of the late Honorable Judge Brieant’s Judgment of Acquittal. I have followed this case since 2000; have done research on this case quite extensively, and I am absolutely certain the facts you state in your article are accurate and that Paul Cote was framed, and did NOT deliver the injury that resulted in the ultimate death of inmate Teodorovic from brain trauma. I pray that there will be a happy ending to this story; the truth will eventually surface; Mr. Cote will get his life back with his family and his convictions will finally be determined to have been “inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial” as Judge Brieant once stated. True justice will be served. I know Mr. Paul Cote to be an honorable, upright and highly moral man who loves his family and his God.
His character is unblemished. I am an avid reader of your weekly publication and always look forward to your articles for they are thought-provoking, factual, and get to the truth. I have not found this to be the case with other local and metropolitan newspapers. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! I support your work.
Frank P. Caparelli
Adjunct Professor of Mathematics
Iona College, New Rochelle
Re: Paul Cote
I was at the White Plains Courthouse hearing on January 6th in which was it was to be determined if Officer Paul Cote would be remanded to jail or not before his sentencing. I, like others in attendance, were taken aback, to say the least, when Judge Karas ruled to keep Mr. Cote “locked up” until May, despite every person in the court room knowing he was absolutely no threat to anyone, and certainly wouldn’t flee.
There were long discussions between Judge Karas and the lawyers for both sides concerning previous rulings about excessive violence, and the application of said precedent(s) to this case. From all appearances, tone of voice, and attitude, it seemed to all that the Honorable Judge Karas was
very much leaning in favor of Office Cote. However, as we now know, the ruling went against him. The Judge actually apologized to Paul before
stating that he was “constrained” by law to remand him to jail until the sentencing in May.
I won’t rehash the series of unjust sentences so blatantly perpetrated in county and federal courts; they have already been detailed in this publication. However, just one case of this type of injustice is too many!
When you consider the anguish, the heartache, and the agonizing pain of seeing someone close to you incarcerated, you realize how deathly important it is for our court system to be free of prejudice, bias and, most of all, free of outside coercion for independent agendas. Look in the eyes
of your loved ones and we need say no more.
In the case of Officer Paul Cote, the inconsistencies, the one-sidedness of testimony and decisions, the almost outright lies, and the determination of certain parties to single him out as a scapegoat for punishment has now become apparent even to the casual observer.
This, combined with Judge Brieant’s ruling of “inconsistent with the evidence”, will hopefully appeal to the logic and humanity of Judge Karas
on May 8th when we hope to hear the best possible verdict which will include words to the effect of “limit your sentence to time served.”
We appeal to all who value justice to right all the wrongs that have led to this point by imploring you to support this cause; this could be the case they look to in the future as the one that began to turn the system in the right direction.
Frank Naccarato, Eastchester