Thursday, March 26, 2009

Janet Difiore and Tony Castro.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

The Meaning Of News12’s DA Voter Poll
Good Ole Honest Abe Had It Right

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “You can fool some of the People all of the time, and all of the People some of the time; but you can’t fool all of the People all of the time.”

Hats off, as they would say in Honest Abe’s time, to News12 for, once again, running a Question Of The Day poll that clearly revealed the preferences of Westchester’s voters with respect to who should be the next district attorney of their county. Granted, it is not a purely scientific pole. However, 999 participants, essentially voting in privacy, and taking the time and trouble to do so, surely represents a meaningful sample and a profound commentary, particularly on the performance of the incumbent DA.

The Question Of The Day asked, “At this point, who would you vote for as Westchester DA?”

Th e results were as follows:

Janet DiFiore (D): 183, 18%
Tony Castro (D): 546, 55%
Dan Schorr (R): 270 27%

There is no other way to interpret these results than to recognize that more than 80 percent of Westchester residents reject the person
who currently occupies the District Attorney’s Office, and would prefer either Democrat Tony Castro or Republican Dan Schorr. Despite the power, exposure, and advantages of holding the Office for more than three years, Janet DiFiore is the choice of fewer than 1 out of 5 potential voters.

Let’s be fair in our analysis. Leaving personality and other factors aside, this outcome is a referendum on Janet DiFiore’s performance
in office. The People clearly understand that law and order, the administration of criminal justice, and safety of families, not to mention
the morale and reputation and activity of many of the County’s police agencies have all suffered terribly under Janet DiFiore. She has brought out the worst in people and the People know it.

You simply can not run a DA’s Office the way she has; prosecuting victims of rogue, violent, cops and get away with it. You can not
view a videotape such as the one in the Irma Marquez incident and then not only fail to deal with the offending officer, but also proceed
to prosecute the innocent, falsely charged, severely injured civilian victim. And, the real problem is that Marquez is but one of dozens
of such cases, over the last three years, on DiFiore’s watch.

So much for the negative implications of the poll. With respect to the two individuals, viewers and potential voters do prefer, we must
firstly congratulate Dan Schorr, a newcomer to the world of district attorney elections, for his showing of 27 percent. Dan, a former
assistant DA, has been running unofficially for the better part of a year now and has conducted a clean, constructive campaign. Running as a
Republican, he understands the uphill battle that party registrations pose for him in Westchester. We wish him well, and look forward to following his activities.

Then, there is Tony Castro, whose first campaign in 2001 against Jeanine Pirro, we had the privilege of directing. He went from somebody hardly anybody knew in August, despite the tragic events of September 11, to coming within fewer than six points of winning. As Mike Edelman once confessed with candor in the privacy of an elevator in the County Courthouse, “With two more weeks Tony might have won.”

Tony Castro’s performance in the News12 poll was remarkable given that he officially announced his candidacy at 11am on the day it was conducted. By capturing 55 percent of the votes, more than three times that of the incumbent, his reputation, his character, and his desireability and experience as a former prosecutor for 14 years in The Bronx, are apparently most appreciated and sought after, more
than ever, following three disastrous years under Janet DiFiore’s mismanagement of the District Attorney’s Office.

For the past eight years, Castro has been engaged in law practice here in Westchester, mostly criminal defense. He has gotten a good look at criminal justice in our County, and surrounding counties, from both sides, Prosecution and Defense, for more than 22 years. He is well-liked and highly respected by judges and prosecutors all over the downstate area; and, in fact, supervised many of today’s top assistant DA's throughout the 9th Judicial District.

Castro’s popularity in the courts is unquestionably a reflection of his decency and fundamental honesty and fairness in all of his dealings; characteristics the People of Westchester realize, perhaps more than ever, are required from their next district attorney.

Tony Castro.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Our Opinion...

Tony Castro For DA: It Can’t Happen Too Soon!

We were very pleased that Tony Castro, a man who, in the last election for Westchester DA, was nominated by acclamation of nearly 1,000 Democrats at the party convention at the County Center, announced last Thursday, March 19th, that he will be running for District Attorney once again. His decision was most unselfish in light of the fact that Reggie LaFayette, Party Chair, and several party “insiders” had attempted to persuade him to accept a nomination for judge; of course, by way of perpetuating the counterfeit Democrat, Janet DiFiore’s, grip on the Office.

In announcing his candidacy, Castro said he had been considering the run for several months. In fact, more than 250 friends and supporters from all political persuasions, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Working Family and the Independence Party, a coalition of concerned leaders including several party chairs, had attended a fundraising event organized by Friends Of Tony Castro back on October 23rd of last year. The event had raised over $100,000.

Castro told reporters that he realized he had to run for District Attorney when one of his supporters, a Democratic district leader in Mount Vernon, Sam Rivers, was threatened with bodily harm by a spokesman for Janet DiFiore and her supporters for having introduced Tony to several of his Democratic constituents. A reporter questioned Castro about a statement released by Party Chairman LaFayette to the effect that the Executive Committee had indicated their support for the present incumbents. Castro responded, as pertained to DA DiFiore, “Their support
was premature.”

We would tend to agree with Castro given the fact that the announcement came weeks before he entered the race. Furthermore, the Executive Committee consisting of a tiny fraction of the County’s Democratic Committeepersons, and less than a drop in the bucket of all registered Democrats, are clearly not rank-and-file, and, for the most part, have ties, financial and otherwise, to the Spano Administration which has been promoting Janet DiFiore for their own nefarious reasons from before the last election.

We are pleased with Tony Castro’s decision because it means that, at last, Westchester may have a real public servant, not a politician, for District Attorney. We are confident that Tony Castro will restore law and order; put an end to prosecutorial misconduct, and work tirelessly, and cooperatively, with police departments throughout the County to restore their reputation and productivity and that of the District Attorney’s Office, as well as public respect for law enforcement.

Once again, News12 must be recognized for performing a true public service last Thursday by making their Question Of The Day, “At this point, who would you vote for as Westchester DA?” The results were not surprising to us.

• Janet DiFiore (D): 18%
• Tony Castro (D): 55%
• Dan Shorr (R): 27%

The results speak for themselves. The People of Westchester will not be fooled by a counterfeit again, nor will she steal another election.

Our Readers Respond....

A Missive From An Appreciative Reader

Dear Editor:

Thank you for the open format, honesty and diverse topics your paper brings to the public. Each week’s issue is entertaining and informative. The World Traveler transports the readers through the culture, landscape, and color of our Earth’s travel destinations. Shelley Ackerman relates an impressively accurate reading of the heavens in her weekly horoscopes for Shimmering Stars. Dr. Maria Munoz Kantha’s sensitive wisdom provides accessible solutions for difficult relationship issues and good advice for creating family accord. Her column has been missed in
recent issues, for Vicki Mayfield’s writing style and humor added light-hearted views on serious social issues.

No contributing writer, however, has offered more to The Westchester Guardian than Jeffrey Deskovic. Mr. Deskovic writes with determination, tempered by modest strength, while exposing the many corrupt and heinous practices of the judicial system in this country. Mr. Deskovic reveals an inner spirit and core value that distinguished him from the average man, for most men crack and fall when they experience such desolation. His mother would be very proud of her son.

The judicial policies of this country have long promoted self-serving interest rather than the well-being of its citizens. The Westchester Guardian presents the full spectrum of judicial activity in news coverage, exposing the tyrannical years of Jeanine Pirro, Garcia’s abuse of power and the issue of wrongful convictions.

The occasional light-giving powers also show themselves in your pages, mainly through the legacy of Judge Charles Brieant. The honorable judge stood as a rare pillar of integrity within the Federal Judicial System. The divisions made in the New York Federal Court became law and set a national precedence. Policy-makers often come under influence of fraudulence, bribery and exploitation.

Perhaps that is why Judge Brieant was quoted in the New York Times as referring to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals as the “Second Circus.”
Judge Brieant’s magnificent decision to overturn the jury verdict in the Paul Cote case was a rare move and a noble deed. The prosecutors corner, under the direction of Garcia and Dunne, has attacked the Judge’s decision with relentless ferocity. The “Second Circus” has followed suit.

The Cote case fell from the hands of the fair and just Judge Brieant after his recent death. Judge Karas has inherited the volatile responsibility to decide the fate of Officer Cote (and his family). Judge Karas will need the wisdom of King Solomon and the strength of Excalibur to follow in
Judge Brieant’s footsteps, and balance the scales of justice.

Keep up the good work. Freedom of the Press is a precious right and privilege.

Lily Rock

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor,

I have been following the Paul Cote story for years now. What seems very interesting to me is that this case still lingers on. It raises the question could there be any other motives in the continued prosecution/percussion of this man who has already been punished by society for what many think was never a crime?

I ask the question, is it now time to appoint an independent investigator to look into the motives, methods and goals of further legal action
against a man who has lost so much and paid such a price already? And at what financial burden to the taxpayers will this continued persecution
of a man who has already served his time be? I believe these are the questions that need to be answered.

Francine Uomoleale-Mauro East Northport, NY

Reader Questions New Rochelle IDAs

Dear Editor:

Residents should be aware of the second annual report on Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) by the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. He promises greater “transparency and accountability to measure the value of IDAs.” The report states the City of New Rochelle had nearly $57 million in projects, and their rank in cost per job is the third highest in the state at $26,077 per job created for an estimated 310 jobs. This cost per job is about six times higher than the state average of $4,527 and many more times the state median cost per job of $1,288.

DiNapoli’s report states that job figures are “based upon estimates made by the IDAs and often are not verified.” Improvements have been made to address some issues. For example, IDAs will not be able to revise employment goal data. IDAs will now be able to recoup benefits given if the project does not create the promised number of jobs and maintain its retention goals. Amounts of PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) actually
paid and how much the developer had agreed to pay will be required to determine if the terms of the financial agreement are being met.

IDAs must now also report “estimated salary” for all jobs, whether newly created or retained. Here in New Rochelle the IDA benefits for the expansion of New Roc to add two new retailers may be suitable for reevaluation based on the latest improvements in IDA procedures. Residents
have lost the use of an ice skating rink but see no retail construction taking place. In these troubling financial times why hasn’t this IDA
made all the projects which were granted benefits accountable? I urge the New Rochelle IDA to make this information public.

Peggy Godfrey,
New Rochelle

Reader Bemoans County’s Waste Of Money

Dear Editor:

Hello. My name is Joshua Askew. I came to the first meeting on abolishing county government. I was quoted in the Journal News saying that social services was the biggest hustle to taxpayers. That statement has caused me a lot of trouble.

The County is now is retaliating against me for that statement. I have always seen county government as a big waste of tax dollars and I have been advocating against it on my own in the City of Mount Vernon with no help from anyone. If you want abolish county government, you have to start with the DSS. If not, you are wasting a lot of time. Your tax dollars are used to pay for the making of an underclass.

There are a lot of so called nonprofit organizations that would not survive if our tax dollars did not pay for them. If you do not believe what I am saying, go to the City of Mount Vernon and ask the people that are on Welfare how they are being treated. Ask them to show you their yearly budget sheets and you will see the thousands of dollars being spent, more money than most of us make in a year and they have no control over that money.

It’s the biggest hustle ever; the DSS is the problem and there is no oversight on how they spend your money. It is the County’s, and a lot
other of people’s, cash cow.

Joshua Askew
Mount Vernon N.Y

Flood Mitigation Relief

Dear Editor:

The different Village of Mamaroneck neighborhood associations who are committed to seeking action on flood mitigation since the last disastrous 2007 flood are enthusiastic and optimistic to the positive news of Federal and State funds now available to the Village of Mamaroneck to take immediate action.

It is through our dedicated public Servants, Assemblyman George Latimer, who has helped secure a New York State Economic Development Corporation $1.2 million dollar Capital Projects grant, of which $400,000 is earmarked for the Village of Mamaroneck for flood mitigation and
Congresswoman Nita Lowey who announced community funding totaling $8,286,367, including $500,000 for sewer improvements to mitigate flooding in the Village of Mamaroneck.

While we are all awaiting the conclusion of the Army Corps of Engineers to finish their investigations, which at best will be available in 2012, and realistically closer to 2016, it is now the time for the Village officials to act expeditiously to secure and implement programs that are well known and previously identified to be executed in order to give relief to future flooding conditions.

Our community is certainly thankful for the follow up to promises made two years ago by many politicians and at least our Assemblyman and Congresswoman have come through for the Village. It helps restore the confidence of the residents that something will finally happen.

Norman S. Rosenblum

David Chong and Janet Difiore.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Parents File Suit In Federal Court On
Behalf Of Children Brutalized By
Mount Vernon And Yonkers Police

Last Wednesday, March 18, Civil Rights Attorney Jonathan Lovett, accompanied by parents of three boys, all African-American, ages 12, 13 and 13, as well as the 12-year-old himself, held a press conference on the Mount Vernon City Hall Plaza opposite Police Headquarters to announce the filing of a $6 million federal lawsuit.

The suit filed specifically against 14-year-veteran Mount Vernon Police Sergeant Michael Marcucilli and several unnamed police officers from both the Mount Vernon and Yonkers Police Departments, as well as each of those cities, alleges violations of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and 42 U.S.C. Section 1985, carried out against each of the three boys as well as the mother of one of the boys.

With respect to the three young boys, the complaint charges that on February 28, 2009, Sergeant Marcucilli and Mount Vernon and Yonkers
police officers, including a K-9 handler and his dog, responded to an alarm at the A.B. Davis Middle School on Gramatan Ave., Mount Vernon. Having arrived at the scene, the complaint further alleges that they observed the three young boys and “agreed to collectively beat and/or otherwise physically abuse and verbally intimidate them because of their race and/or skin color.”

Specifically, the complaint alleges one boy, the 12-year-old, was shouted to with, “Where are you going, nigger?”, was punched several times in the face, and ordered, “Shut up, nigger” when he told the officer beating him and pushing his face into the dirt, “I’m only 12 years old.
Why are you doing this to me?” It is further alleged that he was handcuffed behind and struck repeatedly with a metal baton on the left side of his head, causing a serious injury to his left ear requiring 19 stitches and more than two hours of surgery to stop the bleeding.

The boy’s father declared, “You are not going to beat my son like a piece of meat.” Demanding the badges of the officers involved, he said, “Nobody deserves to be beaten like that. This is unacceptable.”

The boy’s mother explained to reporters how the police lied to her about how he was injured, trying to say that her son had fallen down
stairs. She told of telephone harassment from the Mount Vernon Police and of their coming around her house to intimidate her and her family. The mother of a second boy, a Mount Vernon schoolteacher, was, herself, the target of harassment and police brutality by the same Sergeant Marcucilli several weeks before the incident involving the three boys.

Following a bogus traffic stop, she reportedly was pulled from her car and beaten with a metal baton, inflicting serious bruises to her leg.
Her 13-year-old son was choked by his sweatshirt from behind for “an extended period of time, placing him in fear that he might suffer an asthma attack and die,” and causing a serious welt on his neck. Police lied about the nature of his injury as well.

The third boy, also 13 years old, was bitten and repeatedly mauled by the police dog called in with his handler from the Yonkers Police Department K-9 Unit, “while he was on the ground helpless.” At the same moment, he was beaten with a baton and told, “Get your fat black ass up.” Attorney Jonathan Lovett told the media and press, “Juries in federal court are smart, and they know racism when they see it.” Asked about the District Attorney, Janet DiFiore, and her statement that she was going to investigate the incident, Lovett declared, “For her to claim that she is going to investigate is ludicrous, given that my clients are charged with felonies. She ought to dismiss all of the charges against these children.”

Damon K. Jones, executive director of the Westchester chapter of the National Black Police Association told reporters, “This is normal
activity in the Westchester community.” He called for the resignation of DA Janet Difiore and Police Commissioner David Chong.

Reverend W. Franklyn Richardson expressed his outrage at what had been done to the three young boys and one of their mothers, declaring,
with respect to the police officers involved, “Call us nigger, beat up our children; and, we pay you?”

Asked by this reporter if he intended to go to the district attorney about the incident, Richardson responded that he had already spoken with DiFiore the day before. Apparently he took little comfort from what she may have said as he was still very angry and outraged. Richardson concluded his remarks, predicting and threatening, “The People will march in the streets over racist police brutality.”

Mount Vernon Mayor Young And
Police Commissioner Chong Offer No
Comfort, No Assurances To Outraged Citizens

Immediately following the press conference held by the parents of three young African-American boys savaged and racially attacked by a combined task force of Mount Vernon and Yonkers police, Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton I. Young and Police Commissioner David Chong held a press conference of their own in the Mayor’s Chambers.

Mayor Young got off on the wrong foot, declaring, “If the purpose of bringing a lawsuit is to divide this City, that will not be accomplished.” He then attempted to appear to be on the right side of the issue, saying, “Even the mere allegation of excessive force is troubling to me.”

Young then made an effort to reassure the media and, in turn, the citizens of the Mount Vernon community that the Mount Vernon Police Department’s Internal Investigation Unit, and the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, would produce the truth and see to it that any
wrongdoers were dealt with.

Police Commissioner Chong followed the Mayor, also attempting to calm the outrage and the anger brought on by the racial and violent character of the excessive punishment meted out by his police officers acting in concert with Yonkers police officers, in a scenario very reminiscent of Selma, Alabama in the early 60s. Given the description of what had been done to three young boys, all that was missing
were the pressure hoses. Chong also emphasized that the DA’s Office was investigating.

When the Mayor once again spoke, he attempted to urge the children and their parents to cooperate with the District Attorney. At that point, this reporter asked the Mayor, “How can you and Commissioner Chong expect people to feel confident about the District Attorney’s
involvement in light of her repeated history of prosecuting victims of police brutality as in the Irma Marquez and Rui Florim cases, and many others not so well known?”

The Mayor could not respond directly, and instead, indicated that he preferred to concentrate on “the elements of the Mount Vernon case.”

Jeff Deskovic.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jeff Deskovic.

What A Second Look Program
Should Look Like

As I have written previously, and will doubtless reiterate in the future, District Attorneys and prosecutors wield a great deal of power. Their actual mandate is to seek justice. That involves not simply winning convictions, but also helping to free the wrongfully convicted as well as preventing further wrongful convictions.

There have been, of course, many shameful instances in which prosecutors have prevented DNA tests and/or fought against claims of innocence despite compelling evidence, in an all-out effort to uphold all convictions, wrongful or otherwise, no matter what. Similarly, have been numerous instances of praiseworthy behavior, as when prosecutors have agreed to a reversal of charges based upon evidence of innocence that has been brought forward, or have agreed to DNA testing.

However, as positive as those instances are, having a Second Look Program within the district attorney’s office, one which will pro-actively go through old cases searching for wrongful convictions, is indefinitely better. ere are many reasons why this is true. One of them is the fact that
often poor defendants who cannot afford private attorneys do not get adequate investigation.

Additionally, once a defendant’s appeal has been turned down by the Court Of Appeals, which routinely does not agree to hear meritorious cases, the State is no longer obligated to provide free representation.

Although the federal courts are able to appoint counsel for the poor, they often do not do so. Hence the need for the reviewing of cases even without prompting from a defense attorney. Some months ago in this newspaper I wrote a two-part series entitled “We Need Second Look Programs In e Prosecutor’s Office”. I will now examine how I believe such a program could and should operate. Before getting into the details, I
think it would be instructive to look at the program that Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins has pioneered, and which he has named the “Conviction Integrity Unit.”

In order to create the unit, Watkins first had to obtain funding. He went before the Dallas County Commissioners seeking it. Two of the five members opposed Watkins, arguing that the unit would place the District Attorney’s Office in the role of defense counsel, and that the oversight was not necessary.

In a 3-2 vote, Watkins got some funding, but not all that he had asked for. The funding was only enough to enable him to hire two attorneys, one investigator, and one secretary. To make up for the lack of funding, he collaborated with The Texas Innocence Project, and has law student interns, working with paid staff, reviewing cases. They are currently reviewing more than 400 cases in which his predecessor denied prior testing.

There are eight cases awaiting test results. Under Watkins’ watch, five people have thus far been cleared based upon DNA.

I present those cases:

• Charles Chatman was cleared on Jan. 3, 2007 after serving 27 years for Rape. He was convicted when he was 20 years old, and is now 47. e cause
of his wrongful conviction was misidentification having been picked out of a photo array.

After earlier tests proved inconclusive, Chatman recently agreed to Y-STR testing, an advanced form of DNA testing that can determine a profile from a small sample. The risk was that this final test could have consumed the last of the biological evidence in the case. However, it proved to be the right decision as the profile proved that another man committed the rape for which Chatman was serving a 99-year sentence.

• Larry Fuller served 19½ years out of a 50 year sentence for Sexual Assault based on a misidentification. Initially the victim stated that she could not identify her assailant because the room was barely lit and the crime took place about an hour before sunrise. A week after the crime the police, nonetheless, asked her to make an identification.

After viewing one photo array she said that Fuller, “looks like the guy,” but that she could not be sure. After being shown a second array she then said that she was sure it was him. Additionally, a serological test was performed on semen collected from a rape kit. Fuller was serologically included in that he was a non-secretor, and the blood type of the rape kit fluid matched the victim’s own blood type. Therefore, serological testing did not exclude Fuller, but it also did not identify him as the perpetrator.

At trial, however, a prosecutor inaccurately summed up the scientific testimony by saying it placed Mr. Fuller among 20 percent of the male population that could have committed the crime. Mr. Fuller first contacted the Innocence Project in the mid-1990s. A 2003 DNA test was inconclusive, but a 2006 test ruled him out as the assailant, and he was released.

• Greg Wallis served 17 years out of 50 years for Burglary of a Habitation with the Intent To Commit Sexual Assault. The victim gave a description to police but, without any leads, the crime went unsolved.

After four months police circulated a flier about the attack in a local jail. An inmate told the Irving police that Gregory Wallis had a tattoo similar to the description given by the victim. The victim subsequently chose Wallis out of a photo array. Wallis and his wife testified that they were together at the time of the crime, but he was convicted anyway. A 2005 DNA test could not entirely rule out Mr. Wallis as the rapist. A second
test in 2006 proved that Mr. Wallis was not responsible for the attack.

• Andrew Gossett served 7 years out of 50 years in prison in the 1999 Sexual Assault of a Dallas woman. He came under suspicion based on his matching the general description given; followed by an erroneous pointing out of him in a photo array. He had been seeking DNA testing in 2001, but the then-District Attorney prevented him. In 2006, with Watkins in office, tests showed that he was innocent.

• James Giles was convicted of Aggravated Rape. He served 10 years in prison, and 14 years on parole as a registered sex offender. The female victim identified a photo of him. A month after the crime, a Crime Stoppers tip led police to include James Curtis Giles in a lineup, and the victim identified him as one of the three rapists.

Neither a male victim, nor another eyewitness, identified James Curtis Giles in a lineup or at trial. James Curtis Giles, at 29, was a decade older than the description of the perpetrators, and he had two prominent gold teeth which the victim also didn’t mention. His alibi was that he had
eaten dinner with his wife and afterwards went home and went to bed early.

Documents now show that evidence indicating the identity of the actual perpetrators, including a man named James Earl Giles, was available to prosecutors before trial and was withheld from defense attorneys for James Curtis Giles. In 1984, one of the attackers, Stanley Bryant, pled guilty. He said he committed the crime with a man named “James” and a man named “Michael.” The next year, Bryant signed an affidavit that James
Curtis Giles was not the “James” who participated in this crime.

While in prison, James Curtis Giles met a man who lived near the victims and had called Crime Stoppers during the investigation of the crime and told them that one of the perpetrators was named “James Giles.” The informant said he had learned that a different person, James Earl Giles, was the alleged attacker. Since 1991, both the informant and James Curtis Giles have said that the wrong James Giles was convicted of this rape.

James Curtis Giles served 10 years of his sentence before he was paroled in 2001. Some Thoughts Regarding A Second Look Program. Clearly, the approach DA Watkins utilizes works well. The everyday nuts and bolts of it, however, are not known. Also unspecified is how the program operates in non-DNA cases. Lacking those details and therefore having to reinvent the wheel somewhat, I will share some thoughts regarding ways
in which a Second Look Program might actually work.

Firstly, everybody who works in that program would first have to be thoroughly educated as to the many causes of wrongful convictions. It is essential to insure the fact that in reviewing cases, they would know exactly what to look for. The book Actual Innocence, by Jim Dwyer, which
lists the many different causes of wrongful convictions along with at least one example for each, would be required reading. I would require a written test featuring essay questions about each possible cause together with at least one case as an example.

Personnel would need to be familiar with false confessions, misidentifications, junk science, incentivized witnessing, inept defense attorneys, and prosecutorial misconduct of all kinds. It goes without saying, although I will say it here, that anybody who had previously been involved in prosecutorial misconduct, or a deliberate ‘looking the other way’ while it went on, would not be allowed to work in the project.

In terms of funding, the district attorney would need to go to appropriate governing bodies in their jurisdiction, either the county legislature or state legislature, and lobby for money to hire full time staff, as DA Watkins did. Additionally, unnecessary personnel in other departments would be removed and those salaries appropriated for project staff.

Beyond that, further personnel could be obtained through a variety of ways without increasing costs, including partnering with an innocence project and/or law school. The law school option is desireable because it would attract students by offering the experience as an internship, preferably a paid one. As with every other division within a District Attorney’s office, there would of course be a supervisor responsible for overseeing the unit, who should receive, at a minimum, weekly progress reports so as to hold everybody accountable. The supervisors,
themselves, should have to explain what was going on.

Additionally, anybody working in the unit must be free to go to the district attorney, themselves, with any issue about the unit, so as to avoid the kind of blind obedience to authority even when ordered to do something unethical as has often gone on in district attorneys’ offices.

Catherine Wilson.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester

A Cynical Gathering in Yonkers

On Wednesday, March 18th, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo held a community meeting in Yonkers for local residents to discuss their concerns. Such community outreach efforts help our leaders hear what is on the minds of their constituents. That is, if those leaders actually attend the outreach meetings that they set up. As it was, on March 18th, Andrew Cuomo was nowhere to be found in Yonkers!

The excuse proffered by the Deputy staff was that “Andrew Cuomo is working on the AIG bonus issue and is heavily involved, right now, in trying to get that money back. And that’s the truth!”, a statement that brought the loud applause intended from the two-hundred plus members of the audience.The plethora of news cameras at the rear of the auditorium capturing the event however, could not notice that
the local politicians had been savvy enough to provide a full audience by inviting several local high schools to attend. Given that the event was held in the middle of a work day, and the relative youth of those attending, the politicians had skillfully seen to it that there would not be too many individuals attending who would ask probing questions of the representatives on hand.

Indeed, since the representatives present included Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, and Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone, it would be difficult for a wary citizen, fearful of retribution, to step forward with complaints of either the County or Yonkers government. The purposely full audience also removed any hope of privacy that such a citizen would desire. The community “outreach” session in Yonkers, therefore, appeared to this reporter’s observations to be really just another media opportunity for the politicians involved.

During the introductory remarks, the deputy staff denoted the various responsibilities of the Attorney General’s Office, among them, “To fight corporate fraud and abuse,” and, “To fight for the little guys”. The applauding youthful audience did not pick up on the fact that had the AG’s Office been doing their job all along, they would have caught the corruption of Madoff and AIG long before now and would
not be currently faced with the embarrassing task of begging for the taxpayers’ money back!

No one on the AG’s staff mentioned the legislative loopholes that were put into place by New York State in September of last year to initiate the bailout of AIG. In an interview with Fox Business News last September, Gov. Paterson explained the actions of the State’s Insurance Department: “Because its (AIG) headquarters is in New York City, it comes under the regulation in our State Insurance Department. So our Superintendent of Insurance authorized that AIG could borrow from its subsidiary corporations and could access their own assets and use them as collateral to create liquidity cash which is what they actually need. And they can do that to the tune of twenty billion dollars.

Secondarily, it opened the door by regulation and by law so now the federal government can put a deal together for some of the other private investment banks. They want someone to put up $580 billion dollars and that’s a prohibitive number but if it can be done, then perhaps AIG can be rescued”.

In other words, New York State was the legislative body that set up the mechanism for the AIG rescue package to begin with! So where
was Andrew Cuomo and his staff last September? Why didn’t they make sure that the initial funds borrowed by AIG could not be used for staff bonuses? Any funds issued by banks or governments can be earmarked for specific uses; governments and corporations restrict the grants they give to nonprofits for limited uses and banks earmark loans they make to individuals and businesses; a car loan may only be used to buy a car, a mortgage may only be used for a house, etc. So why didn’t Andrew Cuomo demand that any funds issued to AIG through New York State legislation or government bailouts could only be used for certain limited business activities?

Why didn’t he earmark the taxpayers’ funds and specifically prohibit their use for executive bonuses? Why didn’t he ward off this debacle when he had the opportunity last September? As State Attorney General, Cuomo had the authority and responsibility to review any legislative changes affecting the state’s insurance regulations.

So why did Andrew Cuomo allow the legal loophole for AIG to be set up by the New York State insurance commissioner and Albany to begin with? Could it have anything to do with the $547,629 of campaign contributions by AIG to New York State legislators, among them Senator Steward, head of the Insurance Committee in Albany, and Governor Paterson? AIG has shared the wealth over the years with a variety of New York State politicians and political players among them George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, and Nick Spano, ex-New York State Senator from Yonkers. The deputy staff explained to the attendees, “The Attorney General’s staff find fraud and abuse everywhere,” and “We investigate those issues”. They assured the attendees, “We are here to right those wrongs”. But in a session involving labor and Immigration rights, the AG’s staff had no answers at all for several issues the Guardian posed to them.

First and foremost among the concerns of local residents are the extraordinarily high county, local, and school taxes they pay. Several
districts are facing double-digit increases in their school taxes for the 2009/2010 school year. However, when questioning those increases,
the residents are told that up to 90% of the expenses in local school budgets are due to contractual expenses, the teachers and union contracts, that cannot be altered, an excuse that now sounds remarkably similar to the one being offered by AIG executives.

They have the taxpayers’ money and are using the law as a weapon to refuse to give it back, even though what they received with that money is over and above what a reasonable individual should expect to receive. Local residents have a right to investigate if their school district contracts have any extraordinary benefits that the unions should now give back in these difficult times.The Guardian asked the AG
staff if they investigated union contracts for possible irregularities and how a taxpayer could obtain a copy of all current and pending contracts. The response from Alphonso David, an AG Deputy Bureau Chief, “There is no area of law that governs the union contracts!”

According to the Attorney General’s office, an office that claims to “fight corruption wherever it is found” and to be on “the side of the little guy”, they do not investigate labor contracts in New York State at all, contracts that now make up almost 90% of some of our local budgets!

The AG’s office conducts no review of these contracts for legal compliance, no audit of these contracts to assure that all monies provided to
the unions by taxpayers are being spent for the purposes for which they were intended, and no investigations of unions for conflicts of
interest and other legal and ethical violations.

David also told the Guardian that there was nowhere in New York State where a concerned citizen could go to even be able to review a union contract. “If the local municipality refuses to give this to you under a FOIL request”, David said, “There is nothing we can do”. The only suggestion David had for local residents was “To talk to your legislators to have them change the law and provide access.”

In this budget season, the Guardian is therefore asking all school districts to provide copies of all contractual agreements affecting their budgets, union, food service, suppliers, etc., along with line-by-line financial analyses of what each item in the contract costs the local taxpayers so they can vote on what can be eliminated or amended.

No taxpayer should be asked to make what amounts to a blind vote in this economy. As our current President has said, “It’s time for open government”. The taxpayers deserve full access to the opened books and all contractual obligations of their school districts, their towns, and our County government. And the Attorney General’s office should be prepared to back up that access with legal force.At the Attorney General’s event, the Guardian approached Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano and inquired what cutbacks and union concessions
the County government was making to alleviate the economic stress on local residents. Spano sidestepped the issue by answering, “All I am doing is making sure that you get lower taxes; I cut millions out of last year’s budget”. When this reporter reminded Spano that that savings
was primarily the result of shifting expenditures into future years he simply responded, “There was no shifting. We’re the only AAA County in the entire state”.

When we pressed the point and asked “Why should ablebodied individuals be allowed to retire at age 55 on full pensions at taxpayers’ expense?” Spano acknowledged, “This has to come from the state”. However, he argued, “The workers have agreed not to get a raise next year,” not noting that the contractual raises are only 3% to 4% of their base salaries compared to the 12% to 15%, or more, annual contributions to their pensions. Taxpayer groups have calculated that shifting government employees from taxpayer-subsidized pensions to
a personally funded 401K plan would save billions in New York State alone, yet no politician has been brave enough so far to demand
such a change.

When this reporter pressed the issue of union concessions with Spano he responded, “You set me up!” Spano insisted that “we [County government] are not your problem. It’s not the County taxes that are the problem”. This reporter noted that most residents could not afford local taxes to begin with and now that they are trying to recover their lost retirement savings they need a reduction on those taxes. Spano responded, “I hear your frustration. But these are issues for Albany. I asked for givebacks and I got it. We are the only County in the state that got a reduction in healthcare costs.”

This reporter noted that many local residents pay for their own health costs in full. “Why should they then be expected to also subsidize
the health insurance of not only the government workers but also their spouses and children as well? They don’t work for the government and they’re not our families so why are we paying for them?” Spano acknowledged the frustration this reporter expressed on behalf of the many local residents the Guardian has spoken to on this issue. However, he noted “this is out of my hands”.

Andrew Cuomo’s session in Yonkers did reveal several things, however:

1. No one in the AG’s office fights corporate corruption until after the fact, and even then, only when the cameras are rolling; there are no upfront audits and investigations;

2. No one investigates union contracts at all, or conducts audits of the billions being spent by New York State unions; the unions are
not being held accountable at all;

3. Taxpayers have zero rights to obtain, audit, or review any of the local, school district, County, or State contracts affecting their
budgets and tax dollars or be provided with information of pending contracts or contracts being offered to unions and suppliers;

4. County government deflects all questions on contractual issues to the State and the State deflects them back saying “it’s not our job”;

5. The AG’s office spent hundreds o tax dollars on printed materials hat almost no one touched, materials that are all available on
he websites so they did not need o be printed out at all;

6. The political players know how to make an auditorium look good for the cameras and how to manipulate he makeup of the attendees

There was one bright point at this session. The AG’s office, unlike the New York State Courts, at least had the good manners to provide coffee and refreshments for the attendees, correctly sensing that sitting through several hours of political discussions required significant doses of caffeine! But even that gesture served to highlight the current economic difficulties some of our local residents are facing. At the end
of the event, an elderly woman approached the AG’s staff to beg permission to take home one unopened container of milk. Sadly, she fell in her attempt to approach the staff.

When this reporter came to her aid and heard her plea, I cleared the entire table of leftovers for her. But anyone who could really aid her in her plight was no longer around; once the cameras left, the politicians and their staffs beat a hasty retreat. They never saw the impact of our economy unfolding on our residents in their own backyard. They never witnessed the degradation of an elegant elderly woman being
reduced to begging for permission to take home a lousy $1 container of milk. Our leaders were probably in too much of a hurry to get to
the $200 dinners at their next fund raising event, undoubtedly paid for and hosted by the next round of AIG wannabes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Westchester Guardian/The Advocate.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

It’s Judicial Harassment; Nothing Less
Prosecutors And Judges Have Access To Unlimited Resources, Our Tax Dollars,
With Which To Harass Us Into Pleading Guilt Despite Our Innocence

As one who is fully familiar with the Louis Balancio case, the role of former District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and her former Chief Assistant,
ADA Clement Patti, as well as ADA Steven Bender, still drawing two hefty paychecks a month in that office, and, as one who attended
each and every hearing before the United States District Court in White Plains, as well as the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals,
and, as one who has read hundreds of pages of motions and transcripts, even including secretly recorded conversations by Pirro, Patti and Bender, with the former head of the United States Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division, Mark Pomerantz, in late December 1997, I am now compelled to conclude that State Supreme Court Justice Lester B. Adler has shamelessly allowed himself to become a major player in a cruelly calculated judicial harassment.

His willingness to participate in that scheme and thus perpetuate the lie that was confabulated, and given birth to when Pirro, against the
overwhelming weight of evidence to the contrary; evidence that included a confession by the actual killer of Louis Balancio, Nick Djonovic, and statements from some 20 individuals present, all exculpatory to Anthony DiSimone, unfortunately, will come to define Judge Adler.

Obviously, it is too much to expect of this State Supreme Court Judge, sitting in the Westchester Courthouse, to follow through and purge that edifice of the stain recognized within it, when Judge Calabresi, sitting in the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, declared,
of the Westchester District Attorney’s handling of Anthony DiSimone, “In 12 years on this Court I have never seen such a Brady violation.”

And, obviously, it is too much to expect that the same State Supreme Court Justice Lester B. Adler would not want to exhume the more than
11-year-old indictment which took four grand juries to finally garner, given the mutually acknowledged prosecutorial misconduct that fathered its wretched hide. For, truth be told, Judge Adler, for whom there is every good reason to expect that he has done his homework, surely must know that the sperm that was used to conceive the indictment, The Big Lie, so very essential for political reasons to Mrs. Pirro, came from one Darren Mazzarella, a creature who, together with his brother Nick, was locked up on federal murder charges involving two killings unrelated to the Balancio killing, which occurred in the early morning hours of February 4, 1994.

Surely, Judge Adler knows that the i ndictment was not only the product of extreme prosecutorial misconduct; Brady violations, witness
coercion, including false prosecutions of those who would not participate in the Big Lie, but also, and most importantly, the deal struck
by Pirro with Darren Mazzarella, who she had previously indicted for Balancio’s murder, and who, in fact, had held him down, allowing Djonovic to stab him 13 times without mercy.

Why would any self-respecting State Supreme Court Justice choose to join such a malicious and cruel conspiracy to perpetuate such a lie,
cruel to both the DiSimone and Balancio families?

It is one thing that a socio-pathic district attorney, the likes of Jeanine Pirro, could set in motion such a colossal lie in furtherance of her need
to demonstrate that her husband’s connections to the Mob should not have disqualified her for Lieutenant Governor. It’s another that Janet Di-Fiore, for the first 16 months of her reign, continued to keep concealed more than 376 pages, 52 boxes, and miles of secretly recorded audio tape, all exculpatory to Anthony DiSimone while, at the same time, sending ADA Valerie Livingston into United States District Court, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, to bald-facedly lie to Judge Charles L. Brieant and a three-judge panel under Judge Calabresi.

To Janet’s way of reasoning, it was more important to protect Steven Bender and others still in her Office from exposure, not to mention
police, medical examiners, former judges, and others who also played a role in the horrific choreographed injustice, than it was to free a man
who she knew to be innocent, and who had already done seven years hard-time in Greenhaven Prison.

Never mind her propoganda about a “Second-Look Program.” Her treatment of Anthony DiSimone, and her continued deception of the Balancios, is the real Janet DiFiore. Why, then, would Supreme Court Justice Lester B. Adler fail to do the right thing, even given some of his
past, politically-motivated, severe sentences of a clearly innocent, but railroaded, brain-damaged defendant, and a middle-aged, homeless Navy veteran for a self-defense manslaughter, given a murder sentence? Why, indeed, would he now be breathing life into a corrupted indictment based upon the grand jury testimony of one despicable felon who, together with his brother, was already in federal custody for two other murders, and who, as the principal prosecution witness at the trial of Anthony DiSimone, could not tell the jury that he saw him do anything to Louis Balancio?

What is so special about Darren Mazzarella that a judge should take his word over the word of some 20 other witnesses, including friends of
Louis Balancio, all of whom would not implicate DiSimone, refusing to lie for Pirro, most of whom were harassed and even charged with bogus crimes for their refusal. Perhaps it is Mazzarella’s prior experience with murder that makes him so special.

Just what is it, after all, that keeps Les Adler from doing the right thing? Has he fallen under the influence of newly-minted Democratic DA Janet DiFiore, who can’t afford the reversal of still another high-profile, bad Pirro conviction? Has he forgotten how Janet lied about her experience as an Assistant DA under Carl Vergari and Jeanine Pirro when she was running as a Republican against him for County
Court, claiming that she had prosecuted 2,000 cases when, in fact, she had tried a total of 12, all misdemeanors?

One can speculate about any number of political and personal motivations that may be in play at a time when the integrity of the administrative judge is under continued scrutiny, and his very close friend, the DA, who, having forsaken the Republican Party, which stuck by her through thick and thin in four election bids, is now using the power of her Office to keep intelligent, free-thinking Democrats, blindly towing the mark for her re-election. Perhaps doing the right thing doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in the corrupt Hell of the Westchester
County Courthouse where judges are assigned cases and told how they are supposed to be decided.

Ugly politics and powerplays aside, how can Judge Adler want to endorse a document such as the indictment of Anthony DiSimone, conceived as it was only after four tries? It was the product of a self-promoting, tyrannical prosecutor and a self-dealing, murderous felon who will now have to violate his plea deal with the federal government and come out of the Witness Protection Program to, once again, give
his untruthful and unconvincing testimony against Anthony DiSimone, or else face perjury charges.

No, there can be no question that the action taken recently against Anthony DiSimone, and against the most fundamental principles
of justice and fair play by Les Adler, represent his predetermined obedience to the wishes and dictates of a corrupt district attorney
without the moral authority to be overseeing an office with such power over the lives and liberty of nearly one million Westchester residents.

Anthony DiSimone was acquitted of Intentional Murder following a jury trial in 2000, a very important fact. Despite all of the mountain of
exculpatory evidence kept hidden from his defense attorney and, consequently, from the jurors, they simply could not buy the Prosecution’s
story. If they had, they would surely have found a man who they believed stabbed another man 13 times to death, guilty of Intentional Murder.

The jury acquitted DiSimone, and he can never be tried for intentionally murdering Louis Balancio again because of the Constitutional prohibition against double-jeopardy. However, in 2000, a devious prosecutor such as Jeanine Pirro could still avail herself of a charge that included both Intentional Murder and Depraved Mind Murder, a practice no longer permissible. There is no way under Case Law,
from the state’s highest court, since March of 2004, that anyone charged with repeatedly stabbing someone in a one-on-one confrontation, even three or four stabs, not to mention 13, can lawfully be charged with Depraved Indifference Murder.

In short, it wasn’t Justice or Truth that DA Pirro was seeking in 1997, and it surely isn’t Justice or Truth that motivates Janet DiFiore now. There’s a reason why 72 attorneys and investigators have left her Office in her first three years, and why the Office is in “freefall”. As with everything she has manipulated and forced into being, Janet DiFiore has not yet learned the meaning of the phrase, “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Her installation into the DA’s Office was one such wish, and she is way over her head. Bringing Anthony DiSimone to trial for the Balancio killing, will be a suicide mission for Janet, and she knows it. What she is, in fact, engaged in, with the culpable assistance of Les Adler, is a “full court press,” a judicial harassment intended to force DiSimone to agree to a guilty plea of some lesser strength.

However, she is miscalculating or not bothering to consider, the determination of DiSimone and his family to get the truth out once and
for all, and their recognition that a new trial may be the only way to finally accomplish that.

Westchester Guardian/In Our Opinion/Our Readers Respond.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Our Opinion...

The Not-So-Wonderful World Of Westchester

We have long been well aware of the very special place County Executive Andy Spano occupies in the heart of Janine Rose, News Director of Cablevision’s News12 Westchester, not merely because of the exclusive franchise granted to them by his Office, for many years a virtual monopoly, but also for Spano’s $22.5 million no-bid, five-year contract awarded to Lightpath, Cablevision’s wholly-owned subsidiary, in March of 2000, for what is a failed communications system.

It was inevitable that somewhere along the way Ms. Rose, veteran of 30 years of “news management” would mess up and somehow manage to unintentionally embarrass King Andrew. However, two weeks ago, she managed to do it, double-barrelled, and did she ever hear about it. The movement to abolish, or drastically reduce, County Government, inspired to new levels of taxpayer passion toward the end of last year by numerous instances of insensitivity on the part of both the County Executive and his puppet, rubber-stamp, bought-and-paid-for Legislature,
had been further energized by the impact of the current failing economy with its rising unemployment and unceasingly higher taxes.

In the forefront of the anti-tax movement was Sam Zherka, publisher of The Westchester Guardian. And, in fact, he was running a commercial featuring himself and David Spano, the 50-year-old son of Andrew Spano, together promoting the upcoming April 25th Westchester Tea Party, a massive demonstration by County homeowners, business people, advocates, and residents concerned about bloated, out-of-control County Government.

On Wednesday, March 4, obviously unaware of the strength of public sentiment for the abolishment of County Government, News12, unintentionally added insult to the County Executive’s “injury” by making the abolishment of County Government The Question Of The Day with a viewer call-in poll, the final result of which, when announced Thursday morning, revealed that no fewer than 60% of those responding
would do away with County Government. That outcome was obviously more than Andy could handle. He and his chief propagandist, Susan Tolchin, went swiftly into ‘victim mode’, all but making his son, David, out to be the black sheep of the family with no right, at age 50, to have his own opinion, or to express it.

Janine Rose got the message, and sprung into action Thursday afternoon, making the Newsmakers weekend program a 30-minute defamatory attack exercise against publisher Zherka and civil rights attorney Jonathan Lovett. She was obviously desperate to make amends with Andy, and so with the clearly choreographed assistance of so-called Republican political commentator Mike Edelman, who came to the task without clean hands, and Lawrence Otis Graham, a Democrat who would do well to acquaint himself fully with the unlawful antics of Andy, Larry, Kenny, Reggie, Arnie, and all of the double-dealing insiders of his own party, all of whom have been taking for granted, and selling out, rank-and-file Democrats, honest,
hardworking, real people, for years, putting across Nick Spano against Andrea Stewart Cousins, and Janet DiFiore against Tony Castro.

The series of events over a few days, if nothing else, was an excellent reminder to Westchester taxpayers of just how incestuously engaged with each other News12 and the County Executive’s Office truly are. Anyone needing a further reminder need only look around and see that every County vehicle carries at least two placards advertising Cablevision. And, if still not convinced, next time you’re in White Plains, take a moment to go by the County Office Building, on the Court Street side, and see four County Police Cars, unoccupied and tied up 24/7, because the
system we paid 22.5 million of our tax dollars for, does not work.

Our Readers Respond....

Reader Expresses Appreciation Of Deskovic Column

Dear Editor:

I read the article written by Jeff Deskovic this week on “wrongful convictions” and I was wondering if there is a general calendar that lists when and where these forums are held. I would have loved to have been there as well as some of my friends. We always hear about these things after the fact. The public needs to know what’s “really” going on. Potential jurors need to know what’s “really” going on. Everyone is affected, directly or indirectly. I love your paper and find Jeff Deskovic’s articles informative, enlightening, direct, painful at times but always honest.

He is a talented writer. Again, thank you for your wonderful paper and I hope you can help with my request.

Julia Agosto

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to your article dated 1/8/09, entitled “First Amendment Retaliation That Contaminated State And Federal Prosecutions.”
Sadly, I feel that your article reminded me of the many grave injustices done unto others in order to benefit those who feel that they are entitled to gain at the expense of others. This is the case of Paul Cote. Paul Cote followed protocol regarding the unfortunate incident that he was involved
in. Since then he has been made an example for reasons that we may never really know. He has been tormented every day, knowing that his justified actions, several years ago, brought him and his family nothing but pair, despair and sorrow. It is my firm belief that Paul Cote, along with his own family, has paid the price for what “they” say Paul should be paying for. It saddens my heart to know that living in a country with vast opportunities and rights for every human being, that framing a person such as Paul Cote, is tolerated. How can this be? Why is it allowed? In my opinion, it is being done simply because it can be. As stated earlier, the entire Cote family has suffered tremendous loss. The biggest loss, aside from the obvious, is the loss of the system that was designed by our forefathers to protect, serve and defend the rights of the People.

Paul Cote served his time that never should have been bestowed upon him in the first place. I strongly feel that a human being will never truly recover from a situation that Paul Cote has been forced into. What he has endured, and been in turmoil over for years, needs to stop now. Mr. Cote should be allowed to live a free life in society where he can begin to put his life back together again.

Louise, A Weekly Reader, The Bronx

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

I have been reading your articles on the former Corrections Officer Paul Cote. When Cote stepped up to the plate to assist a co-worker who was being assaulted, I believe he was doing what he thought was right, and what he was trained to do. What does he get for coming to the rescue of his fellow officer, he gets “thrown under the bus” by the officer he aided, by his own department and “the powers that be”. I cannot believe that Cote lost everything he worked so hard for in life. He lost so much for trying to help in a crisis. I cannot believe that this man had to serve time, and is facing more time.

While discussing this with my husband, my teenage son popped up and said something that turned my head. He said, “Mom, this only proves that its better we don’t come to anyone’s aid. This teaches me not to get involved, not to help anyone and never trust the police or the politicians.”

What kind of message is this case sending to our children and our community? My son and I sat down for a long talk about the importance of getting involved. In today’s lifestyle it seems to be all about “me,” and not “us and we”. No one seems to care about the next guy anymore. And
the local politicians, who are supposed to be serving us, the people, and working in our behalf, are really all about themselves and their careers.

This story saddens me greatly. I will do my part when the next election comes around. I have enjoyed your coverage of the story, and I do hope I will open the paper and read a positive end to the story.

Christine, a very concerned citizen.

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to your recent article from Jan. 8, 2009 concerning the treatment and the federal prosecution of a former Westchester County Corrections Officer, Paul Cote. There remains many disturbing questions surrounding this prosecution. The most confusing question
is how did the officer who started the altercation with the inmate get immunity from prosecution and why? There seems to be a very large quid pro quo in this case leading to the ruination of Paul Cote’s professional and personal life.

Mr. Cote came to the aid of another officer who was being severely beaten by the said inmate, using department approved physical force; the inmate was subdued. Somehow it was determined that Paul’s particular blows led to the later demise of this inmate even though he was hospitalized for over a year after the incident. I find it ludicrous that this family has been bankrupted by legal costs on top of shattering a loving family.
Society never seems to remember that inmates are criminals who are incarcerated for a reason, but yet they seem to have no guilt in these cases.

Susan Lombardi, Thornwood

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

Having followed Mr. Paul Cote’s case from the beginning, I find it hard to believe that the late Judge Brieant was the only one that found a flaw in this case. Judge Brieant acquitted Mr. Cote, and still the system disregards Judge Brieant’s decision. I agree with your published statements that there was, indeed, many inconsistencies with regard to the medical evidence and interviews of witnesses. This started with District Attorney Pirro giving Officer Reimer immunity, if he would testify against a man who came to his aid. Perhaps an investigation of the DA’s tactics in order to obtain a conviction is in order.

Will all corrections officers, police officers, and law enforcement personnel have to think twice about helping a fellow officer in need? Is that what we’ve come to?

I was there on January 6, 2009 at the hearing concerning remanding for Mr. Cote. Judge Karas was apologetic in his words because he did not want to place Mr. Cote in jail. Mr. Cote and his family have suffered emotionally, physically and financially, as you well know. I can only hope this injustice is rectified very soon.

Thank you for your compassionate and dedicated service to the community.

Suzanne Roccuzzo,
Mount Vernon

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

I am writing on behalf of Paul Cote and his family. It is incomprehensible to believe that Mr. Cote, who has already served a sentence and has been acquitted, would be remanded to jail before his sentencing in May. He is a devoted father and husband and should be with his family during these months.

Why is it Mr. Cote, alone, is being charged with these offenses? It appears quite strange that only one person has to suffer the consequences when there are two involved in the incident. This leads one to wonder exactly what else is at the bottom of this whole situation. How could so many intelligent people in the judicial system not see the inequity? Was Judge Brieant the only one who saw through this charade?

Congratulations to the late Judge Brieant for realizing Mr. Cote is an innocent man and acquitting him. Mr. Cote has suffered enough. He has paid an overwhelming price for his injustice with the loss of his job, his pension and all his benefits.

This case should be closed and then the judicial system should apprehend the real criminals out there in society.

Jo-Anne Anderson, Yonkers

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

Although Michael J. Garcia, United States Attorney for the Southern District, has overturned the late Judge Charles L. Brieant’s judgment of acquittal, I am hoping for a fair and just ending for this case against Mr. Paul Cote. Here’s why: Maybe, just maybe, Judge Kenneth M. Karas is another wise jurist as was Judge Brieant.

Judge Brieant figured it out. Mr. Cote was railroaded. From my reading of The Guardian’s articles I believe this case is a travesty of justice. Judge Karas has given me some hope in his dedication that he is willing to read all the briefs and the entire trial transcripts to be fair to Mr. Cote. Also, he apologized for having to incarcerate him until sentencing.

Let’s hope that Judge Karas, at the time of sentencing, will utter the words, “Time served.” This isn’t justice for Cote, but at least it would put an end to the nightmare he has found himself in.

Raymond Gorshoff,
Hopewell Junction

Re: Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

First Amendment Retaliation That Contaminated State and Federal Prosecution. It seems to me prosecutorial misconduct has and is running
rampant in the U.S. Criminal Justice System. With so many wrongful convictions being exposed, Jeffrey Deskovic and Richard DiGuglielmo, to name a few, and now former Corrections Officer Paul Cote, I ask what is causing “man’s inhumanity to man” and “who is using the U.S. Constitution as an outdoor floor mat?”

Is it those who want political gain and advancement, or is it those who are misusing power, or is it both? Your January 8, 2009 article leads me to the conclusion that someone had to be the scapegoat and fall guy in a situation which occurred on Oct. 10, 2000 at the County Jail.

Why is one individual totally responsible when, in point of fact, the first correction officer [Reimer], who took the out-of-control inmate down violently, “rides into the sunset on his white horse?” This is absolutely a tragic judicial error on protecting someone’s political advancement and the one who is responsible for the horrific injury. I understand the late Judge Charles Brieant, he being “the encyclopedic of the American Constitution” overturned the jury’s verdict “as inconsistent with the evidence presented at the trial.”

The Appellate Court, in their returning of the conviction, demonstrates another travesty of justice. Why? Was it their inability to step up to the plate as the late Judge Charles Brieant who presided at the trial saw the injustice done to Correction Officer Cote, or was it a giant political move on the Appellate Court’s side?

I feel now that the Honorable Kenneth Karas, in his expertise, will be able to examine and find the truth in a shameful travesty of justice and will follow the observations, thoughts and teachings of the late Judge Charles Brieant who interpreted the U.S. Constitution as our forefathers meant it to be defended and executed. Certainly, the encyclopedic of the Constitution [Judge Brieant] exercised and defended justice and righteousness,
and the Honorable Judge Karas will do the same.

Thank you, Mr. Blassberg, for your weekly publication and for your endearing goal to “tell and expose the truth”. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

Bertha Irizarry,

Westchester Guardian/The Court Report.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Court Report
By Rcihard Blassberg

Mount Vernon Police Call In Yonkers K-9
Squad To Help Punish 3 Young Boys
12-Year-Old’s Ear Torn Open By Police Baton; Requiring 19 Stitches

Three boys, whose names we are withholding because of their ages, friends 12, 13 and 14 years old, kids who should have known better; kids
who play Little League baseball, and one of whose dad is a coach, were clearly up to mischief at A.B. Davis Middle School in Mount Vernon, the school two of them attend, Saturday evening, Feb. 28. They were going through the hall and had written on the locker of a friend or two, by their own admission. Their activity set off an alarm which sent a six-man contingent of Mount Vernon police to the school under the supervision of Sergeant Michael Marcucilli, a 14-year veteran of the Department.

By their own account, the Mount Vernon Police arrived on the scene some time after 8pm, and, apparently decided that six armed police officers were not sufficient to handle and bring the situation under control; and so, not having access to their own police dog, they called in the Yonkers Police Department’s K-9 Unit.

What followed next played out like a scene from Selma, Alabama in the early 60s. A combined force of ten police officers, all White, with dogs, attacked the youths. All that was missing were the high-pressure water hoses. The youngest boy, upon seeing the flashlight of police, headed for the door. Once outside he was grabbed, handcuffed behind his back, and pushed face-first into the dirt, with two cops, one of them Sergeant Marcucilli, on his back. He was getting a beating with a metal retractable baton and punched in the face each time he lifted his head to breathe. When he cried out, “I’m 12 years old, why are you doing this?” he was told, “Shut up, nigger.”

He was struck so hard with the baton to his head that it tore open his left ear, causing profuse bleeding that required 19 stitches to repair. He was yelled at and told that he had better not tell anyone what was done to him; that he had better say that he fell down the stairs, or else they would come get him and beat him again.

His two friends, who remained inside the building, fared no better. One 13, the other 14, who was from New Rochelle, were each mauled by
the police dogs turned loose on them for no good reason. Additionally, the boy from New Rochelle was choked repeatedly with his hooded sweatshirt, leaving a large mark on his neck resembling a rope burn.

The fact is the three boys were beaten, bitten, and bleeding so badly that the police were compelled to call for medical units to transport them directly to Mount Vernon Hospital. At the hospital, the police continued to repeat the lie to the boys’ parents that one of them had fallen down stairs and another had nearly gone over a wall attempting to escape them. The 12-year-old, who weighs all of 120 lbs, and is 5 feet 6 inches tall, in addition to his lacerated ear, came away with a broken nose, a black eye, and severely sore ribs. For 10 days he required strong medication for severe headaches and body soreness. His parents, who we met four days after the incident, his mother in particular,
were so fearful from repeated harassing calls and drive-by surveillance of their apartment by the Mount Vernon Police, that they left their home and moved in with relatives in The Bronx. The mother of the oldest boy, from New Rochelle, as it happens, is a teacher in the Mount Vernon school system who, weeks before the incident, had been pulled over in Mount Vernon supposedly for running a stop sign, pulled out of her car after having been issued summonses and beaten and bruised on her leg with a metal baton. Then, as is so often done to cover up unjustifiable police brutality, she was falsely charged with assaulting the cop and with disorderly conduct.


The old expression, “Boys will be boys,” would ordinarily suffice to explain why three youngsters, such as the ones in question in this case, might wander into their school at night and engage in simple mischief. There’s no excuse for their wrongful behavior. However, there was no robbery, no serious vandalism or destruction involved. They were simply engaged in delinquent activity. Nevertheless, their parents should have known where each of them was at 8:30pm on a Saturday night, particularly in the city of Mount Vernon, that has seen so much gang
and youthful violence in recent years.

Having said that, there’s simply no excuse for the police brutality quite literally unleased upon three young boys; no excuse for the racial remarks, the meting out of extreme physical punishment, or the harassment of family members that followed. That was police misconduct of the worst kind, and will very likely be met with both a state and federal court response.

The fact that the three boys were Black, and all of the responding police officers were White, including the Yonkers cops, and that there was
the use of racial slurs accompanying a definite over-reaction and abusive force would seem to call for a thorough investigation by the FBI,
particularly in light of involvement by the Yonkers Police, a department already under federal investigation for police brutality for more than two years.

The officers involved, especially those who punched and beat these youths, need to be tested for anabolic steroids, and, at the very least, must be given comprehensive sensitivity and youth training if they are deemed worthy of retaining. Any notion of an internal investigation is unrealistic and unacceptable, as is involvement by the Westchester District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau under ADA Mike Hughes.

That office has shown us, in case after case, that it is incapable of conducting an unbiased investigation and arriving at a truthful conclusion when police brutality is involved, as demonstrated in the Irma Marquez and Rui Florem and Bostwick cases, to name but a few.

Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Chong’s public response to the release of Sgt. Marcucilli’s name and the names of other police officers
involved, his expressions of displeasure, certainly do not auger well for a just and comprehensive handling and resolution of this shocking incident. What we are witnessing, with increased frequency in several Westchester communities, is the phenomenon of out-of-control, over-reactive, brutal police officers taking the law into their own hands without fear of prosecution by the Westchester District Attorney, Janet DiFiore. Sadly, she has demonstrated, in case after case, particularly in cases out of Yonkers and Mount Vernon; her incredible unwillingness to protect innocent civilians from the unlawful actions of rogue cops. By her failure to discharge her sworn duty, she encourages police brutality.

Westchester Guardian/Catherine Wilson.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester

Retaliatory Court Harassment

In the February 12, and February 26, 2009 editions of The Guardian, this reporter revealed incredible abuses in the court system by a convicted felon who was manipulating the trust fund of an Asperger’s Syndrome child. The convicted felon in question was ex-New York State Senator, Joseph Pisani. As a long-term legislator, Pisani was influential in the political careers of many prominent Republican leaders, including Al
and Jeanine Pirro. Pisani was removed from office and disbarred when he was convicted of mail fraud and embezzlement. In the Guardian articles, we asked for a response from the Court. Last week we received the Court’s response.

On March 3, this reporter was served with a 200+ page motion from a member of the White Plains Courthouse. The attorney selected to issue
this payback to me is actually my ex-husband, Ray Powers, the legal assistant to Judge Nick Colabella in White Plains Supreme Court.
Colabella is a life-long Republican player who was aided in his early search for political power by Pisani.

This reporter was well aware that my revelation of Pisani’s latest abuses might trigger a retaliatory reaction from the Court, possibly from Colabella. However, even I could not imagine that they would stoop so low as to attack my children and to use their father as the messenger.

The Court’s response is sadly indicative of a pattern of abusive, harassing, and arrogant behavior in our legal system. To attempt to manipulate me into backing off on my whistle-blowing of the corruption in the Court, my ex was used to compose a motion that seeks to free him of his college cost obligations for our children. This motion was craftily and manipulatively conceived and clearly took considerable time and effort to compose,
possibly on taxpayers’ time and on taxpayers’ equipment to boot.

Some background on this motion: In his current position, Ray earns a base income of $130,000 with approximately another $60,000 in annual benefits. Ray receives heavily subsidized health and dental insurance, free eyeglasses annually, over six weeks paid vacation, paid sick and personal
time, and twelve annual holidays among his benefits. He will also receive a $76,000 annual pension and retirement health benefits that are completely subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

In today’s economy, these benefits are unheard of for those of us who either work for small business or are self-employed. I earn a fraction
of Ray’s income and must finance my health, dental, life, and disability insurance and my retirement myself out of that income.

When benefit costs are factored in, our comparative net incomes are 90 percent vs. 10 percent. Yet the judges in our local courts have consistently ruled that Ray, their co-worker, need only pay 60% of our children’s education costs, while I must struggle to come up with 40 percent. A commission contracted by the New York State Unified Court System in 2004 found that those with money, power, and influence in our court system are routinely able to manipulate the system to their advantage, and local attorneys who work on or finance judicial campaigns
are routinely rewarded with favorable decisions by those judges.

The commission referred to this preferential treatment as “system abuse”. Not content to be paying only a mere $6K a year at present for
our son’s $49K Syracuse university costs (Ray’s contribution was also “capped” at a maximum annual amount to boot), Ray is now seeking to deduct his college costs contribution from his child support payments. Apart from the immorality of trying to escape his financial obligations for his own child, the timing of this motion is extremely suspect. Ray has been paying these costs since last August. Why wait to file this motion
until now, two weeks after my articles appeared? Clearly this is payback. But the timing also reveals how attorneys manipulate and deliberately overpower their opposition.

Ray visited our son in mid-February in Syracuse and discussed his housing plans on campus for next year. In that discussion, our son revealed
that if he took a Resident Assistant (RA) job at one of the dorms, his room and board would be free but needed to do so immediately since the due date was imminent. His father, however, agreed with our son to simply double up on roommates to keep his costs down and forego the RA application. Why is this significant? Because in typical dirty lawyer tactics, Ray then waited to serve me with this motion until two days after the
due date for the RA applications had passed. So if his motion is successful and I am forced to pay the full cost of our son’s college education,
I have no way to try to reduce those costs for next year since it is too late to submit an RA application.

Our son may have to drop out of Syracuse completely as a result. Given the far-reaching political influence of Ray’s boss, Judge Colabella, whose friends and golfing buddies include George Pataki and Donald Trump, and the obvious determination of the Court to pay me back for daring to reveal their corruption and abuses, it is clear that they will punish my children, and jeopardize their futures to boot, to force me to back off on
my investigations of their corruption and abuses. After all, Pisani, the surrogate judge, Scarpino, and the administrative judge, Nicolai, were the individuals who stood idly by and risked the life of an innocent Asperger’s Syndrome child.

If they clearly don’t even care about the health and safety of a handicapped child, why would they care about an able-bodied child’s college education? What hope do my children, or anyone else’s, have for justice with such individuals at the realm?

Employing dirty pool tactics, like deliberately stalling until after critical due dates are passed to punish and victimize opponents, are far too commonplace by both the attorneys and judges in our legal system. Litigants and defendants are routinely pressured, harassed, and manipulated to surrender their rights, sign unfavorable agreements, or simply acquiesce to the abuse. With a minimum of effort this week, the Guardian quickly uncovered other examples of these dirty tactics. One woman wrote to us of her experiences in local Family Court. She wrote: “My attorney took a retainer, and assured me that he will fight for my best interests and convinced me that I will do very well in the divorce proceedings. I mistakenly
trusted him. Months later I discovered that I was not kept informed, court documents have been drawn up by the opposing attorney on my behalf, my court dates were cancelled and postponed because he was unprepared or had taken other clients’ cases.

And when I appeared in court for a court date, three or four other clients were also there so that he was representing all of us and charging us all for the same time. When I questioned him, I was told that if I didn’t agree to the way he was representing me he will no longer represent me and I should find another attorney even though he now had my retainer plus other monies and I had no more money to hire someone else.

Ultimately my attorney only wanted to take the easy way out and simply agree on my behalf with whatever the opposition wanted for his client as long as the opposing attorney did all the work. All my attorney had to do was coerce and intimidate me into agreeing and if I didn’t he threatened that I would ‘get nothing’ until I ‘cooperated’ which was what happened. My attorney simply did not inform me of critical court dates and basically told the opposing attorney to draw up whatever agreements he wanted. However, my attorney gave the ‘illusion’ that I had a say by
asking me to draw up my own documents the way I wanted, asking for what I wanted - the only problem was all my input although submitted
was ignored yet I was billed. In addition, in court the ‘judge’ who was handling my case, represented herself as a judge but unbeknownst to me at the time she was actually a mediator who treated me as a disgruntled wife, threatened what she would do to me if I went to trial and sided with the opposing attorney while my attorney sat silent. This case was my nightmare for two years and I was becoming physically ill from the stress. I
finally gave up just to end this.”

Another story from an attorney: Lawyer husband and Judge went to law school together but Judge does not recuse himself. Grants custody to alcoholic husband which Appellate Division reverses and remands for determination on visitation. Judge before recusing himself, in retaliation, appoints known horrific Forensic Jennifer Flynn Campbell (another judge’s daughter). Campbell tells new judge that custody should be with father (despite Appellate Division ruling) and children are shipped off to notorious boot camp in the hills of Texas for deprogramming on Parental alienation and mom and siblings given no access, visit or calls, or knowledge of 7 and 9 year old girls. is Rachel’s Foundation has history of lawsuits and criminality - brought up to Campbell at trial, judge aware - none the less Judge permits.....AS ABUSIVE ALCOHOLIC FATHER (PUNCHED
HIS 14 AND 16 YEAR OLD BOYS) regularly practices in that part AND he and this new judge are on same AA or NA meetings....

These tactics are not limited to Westchester County courts. Local attorneys submitted their tales of horrors from surrounding courts: “Suffolk County Judge and ‘conjoined counsel’ demand that mother sign ‘temporary’ stipulation giving father residential custody despite clear evidence that under father’s care 2 young daughters, 6 and 4, were subject to physical violence resulting in father’s removal from house.

Harassed, this mother believing she would ‘lose custody’ altogether and it would be temporary after a hearing....hearing then was declared a mistrial so ‘temporary’ now turns out to be permanent without any finding at all...” “Nassau County Judge signing an Order that says parties ‘stipulated
to grounds’ which Judge tried to force by our member refused..but he issued order anyway saying they stipulated..this we have proof of.”

“Same Nassau County Judge called police witness who was due to testify and told him not to come to court (tampering with witness)... Cop calls litigant, litigant calls me, she taped cop saying Judge called, transcribes tape, following day confronts judge who recuses himself.”

“Nassau County Supreme Court Judge forces litigant to not testify to her husbands’ battery since she got scared after he beat her up and he said if you go forward we’ll lose everything and she dropped charges. Later when she tried bringing it up in court, Judge threatened to jail her if he now
testified to beating.”

Of course, women are not the only victims of such judicial manipulation. Men are also abused by our court system, however, less frequently. One father reports: “More Long Island: I had given my attorney 14 names, witnesses to support my quest for custody. He brought none. I gave the Law
Guardian a binder of evidence, witnesses, photos, etc, along with a check for $5,000, and it was clear from things he said to me that he never looked at the binder. I argued for nearly two hours in the hallway with my attorney telling me to face reality, men don’t get custody, before relenting and agreeing. The Judge, McGuirk, gave me the standard rundown, ‘Were you pressured?’ etc., and I agreed to the custody arrangement. I felt like a prisoner who had been tortured and finally signed a false confession.

His coercion to sign his house over to his wife or the judge threatened him with jail. His case was particularly egregious because the wife is an escort and the house is still being used for her escort business with his kids there!!!!”

Unfortunately, the Courts do not seem to learn from their prior bad behavior, even in my case. My ex kept a list of Judge Colabella’s kickback appointments to local political bosses and contributors on our home computer, out of sight of State audits. When the FBI conducted their investigation of the corruption in the White Plains courts, I gave them a copy of this kickback list.

The Court found an extremely creative way to punish me in retaliation. Ray had been successful in getting the Court to make me cosign a $75,000 equity line with him on our house to “pay expenses”. We split those funds in cash and split the monthly payments for over a year with no problem. But after I went to the FBI, the Court then ruled that “since I was still living in the house, I should pay the equity line”. In full.

It would be bad enough that I was court-ordered to finance Ray’s personal expenses except I had evidence of what he so desperately needed the money for when he asked for this loan. Ray had used his $37,500 share of this equity line to pay o his credit card debts, charges that included $800 Bed & Breakfast weekends, membership fees, $150 dinners at local romantic inns, and liquor store charges, all incurred on his personal credit card while we were still married. And no, none of this was spent on me.

So, to retaliate against me for daring to reveal the millions of dollars of annual kickback appointments in our local Courts to the FBI, I was court-ordered to finance Ray’s adultery! I have actually been court-ordered to cut a check monthly to finance my ex-spouse’s philandering!

And since the loan to pay his credit card charges for his adultery expenses is against my house, if I don’t pay these bills, I will lose mine and my childrens’ home! But the Court did not learn from their prior abuse of me. That court order did not stop me from revealing their abuses, indeed it
was the catalyst that inspired me to start an entirely new career of investigative reporter and crusader against abuse and corruption wherever it is found. As one attorney told the Court after that decision “all you did was turn her into a fighter”. Back then, the Court lashed out at me in retaliation.

But now they are attacking my children. It’s one thing to make “Mama Bear” mad. But when you attack “Mama Bear’s cubs”…….. Our Westchester Courts should hang their heads for this shamelessly manipulative response to the Guardian’s exposure of their abuses and their use of
innocent children to do so. All the Court’s response did here was to prove the Guardian’s initial reporting of the abuses and manipulation of victims before our local Courts.

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