Thursday, May 7, 2009
In Our Opinion...
Fourth Amendment: Alive And Well Once More
“The Right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Such is the guarantee embodied in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution for those who choose to live in these United States.
Unfortunately, for many years, prior to two weeks ago, the Constitutional promise held out by the Fourth Amendment had been eroded, particularly in the context of automobile operation, to the point where routine traffic stops, with, or without, infraction, or justification had become an automatic “pretext” for warrantless searches, as far back as 1981, when the United States Supreme Court found: “When a policeman has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an automobile, he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile.”
That ruling, which grew out of a case that involved the discovery of a quantity of cocaine in a jacket pocket, would ultimately impact Fourth Amendment guarantees far beyond anything intended by the High Court whose concerns ran to the limited issue of protecting the safety of arresting officers from possible weapons within reach of arrested vehicle occupants, and/or hidden evidence of a crime.
However, as a practical matter, in the nearly three decades since the Court’s ruling, arrested suspects have invariably been handcuffed and/or locked up prior to such vehicular scrutiny. In short, the overwhelming number of vehicle searches had been conducted without connection to their Constitutional justification.
Under the revised rules, as of two weeks ago, “Police may search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant’s arrest only when the arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search.” Of course, a search may still be conducted if police are looking for evidence of the crime that led to the arrest.
The opinion, authored by Justice Stevens, for the 5-4 majority, declared, “A rule that gives police the power to conduct such a search whenever an individual is caught committing a traffic offense creates a serious and recurring threat to the privacy of countless individuals.”
Justice Anton Scalia pleasantly surprised many when, in his concurring opinion, he labeled so-called routine car searches “plainly Unconstitutional”, referring to the Court’s prior safety concerns for arresting officers as a “charade”, noting that police can always restrain arrestees.
We are particularly pleased with the High Court’s apparent turn-around on the vital issues of privacy and personal security, and while it represents a restoration of rights with respect to one Amendment in the Bill of Rights, still it is a very fundamental package of guarantees, and would seem to suggest possible further restorations of freedoms wrongfully curtailed under
Our Readers Respond..
Unionized County Employee Chastises Union Heads
T.J. Mallon and McKillop, both Union Presidents, were called by District Attorney Janet DiFiore to attend the rally on April 30; they both attended. Yet, on April 28, when the Courthouse was unsafe and unhealthy for all employees and the public because of the heat, both President T.J. Mallon, Court Employees Association and McKillop, President of Court Officers Union, said they could not help their court
employees. They didn’t have the time, yet they both found the time today, April 30, to assist Janet DiFiore in front of the
We thought it was against Court rules to campaign in the Westchester County Courthouse, yet several union members represented by T.J. Mallon’s union were seen with Janet DiFiore signs right after the rally.
Concerned Union Member
Reader Expresses Urgent Need To Audit Federal Reserve
We need your assistance in getting the word out to the public, your readers, that we need to audit the federal reserve. What they may not know is that in addition to our $11 trillion national debt Congress, the Treasury Dept. and the Federal Reserve have put us on the hook for almost $10 trillion in bailouts and loans.
Despite the demand for transparency, the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, recently flat-out said NO to Congress when asked to name which financial institutions have received trillions of dollars in these loans from the Fed.
The Federal Reserve, the unelected central bank of the United States, refused to fully disclose its operations and agreements to Congress, including its deals with foreign central banks and governments.
To end this secrecy and deliver answers to the American people, my hero Congressman Dr. Ron Paul has introduced HR 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. HR 1207 will: Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to perform a complete audit of the fed by the end of 2010; Reveal the details of agreements the Fed has made with foreign central banks and governments; Show which banks and Wall Street firms have received our money from the Fed.
Congressman Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill will bring transparency and accountability to an institution that has reduced the value of our dollar by 95 percent since its creation in 1913.
We count on your unique publication to raise important and very often uncomfortable issues and to bring facts to your readership which will allow them to be armed with the tools to make important decisions and take appropriate action to preserve their civil rights, their livelihoods,
their savings and their legacy to future generations.
Irene Ferrara, Armonk
The Taxpayers’ Stimulus Plan (Main Street Takes Control)
The current movement to eliminate County Government is a long overdue and a natural response from taxpayers seeking to cut down on government waste and mismanagement. This movement is not personal, but rather an effort to bring to the attention of our elected leaders to act more honestly in their fiduciary responsibilities and stewardship of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.
The elimination of redundant government agencies is one way to help stimulate the economy. Just a casual review of basic economics will make manifest how politicians waste taxpayers’ dollars by maintaining redundant inefficient agencies and governments.
The marginal benefits the taxpayers receive from the County Government are far less the marginal costs collected via taxes collected. In simple terms the costs paid for these services is far less than the benefits received.
The dollars saved by the elimination of the County Government would result in lower taxes and/or using these tax dollars to cover budget shortfalls currently experienced by a number of Westchester County municipalities.
White Plains is a good example; with its massive shortfall in its budget, the City will need to cut back on services and jobs. This is not the way to stimulate the economy. With the County Government eliminated, the savings can be passed on to the local governments to maintain their current level of services and not having to place a hold on hiring or eliminating positions.
Also, from the perspective of basic economics, for every tax dollar collected by government, the taxpayer has one less dollar to spend. This is not the way to promote a healthy local economy. Economically speaking, this concept is referred to as the production possibility curve. In layman’s terms, guns or butter? In this case of the need for a County Government, it simply means taxes or personal spending/savings.
When taxpayers are forced to finance an excessive tax burden they have less income available for consumer spending; which is one of the reasons we are in this current recession.
If one has doubts about the marginal benefits of maintaining a county government, one must simply look across the border to the State of Connecticut which has eliminated county governments years ago.
Dr. Richard Cirulli,
Re: Paul Cote
I have been following the case of Paul Cote and I find it a very troubling case. Mr. Cote, a veteran corrections officer coming to the aid of his colleague, was indicted and convicted of severely injuring a prisoner both officers were trying to subdue. Though there were two officers involved, it is strange that only Mr. Cote was indicted and convicted.
After serving a prison sentence, losing his job, benefits and pension, Mr. Cote is indicted and convicted again in Federal Court, but an experienced and respected judge, the late Charles L. Brieant, granted Mr. Cote a Judgment of Acquittal.
Now I read Mr. Cote is convicted a third time for the same case and was remanded to prison awaiting sentencing in May. After reading the articles and letters about this case, I know that the truth will eventually come out and Mr. Cote will be vindicated.
Truth and justice always prevail. I hope it will be sooner, rather than later, for Paul Cote and his family.
Larry Bibb, Mount Vernon
Re: Paul Cote
I have been keeping up with the letters about the correction officer (Paul Cote) who was put behind bars for a situation that happened while going to the aid of a fellow employee. It is a very interesting yet sad story, and your coverage has been very informative.
Thank you for it.
I have a friend whose husband was wrongly convicted some years ago and served time for a crime he did not commit. When DNA came into play, he was proven innocent. The conviction ruined his life, his career, caused serious emotional issues for his son and as a result split up
his family. I am not sure, from all that I have read, that the prosecutor in this case, investigated this to the fullest. If this was investigated
to the fullest, the judge who recently passed away would not have made the decision to strike out the jury conviction.
I read that Cote will be sentenced sometime in May. I hope this new judge Cote will be standing before does the right thing. I
don’t know this man, like some of the others who have written, but I know he deserves to be protected by the law with a full investigation
of the situation. I don’t believe this was done, since I don’t think it was proven that Cote caused the inmate’s death. Like my friend, I believe
this was a political conviction. Very sad!
I might add that I was quite touched by the post sent in by the Catholic priest. I hope to read something positive for Cote when you
cover the sentencing.
We Need Initiative And Referendum Legislation
Citizens need a direct vote on critical issues if they are to deal with the problems of State finances, corruption, special interest groups, and the public authorities that control the politicians. One solution offered is Initiative and Legislation Referendum legislation often spoken about by Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, along with some types of ballot proposals that could be decided by the voters.
I have been writing about Initiative and Referendum legislation for 31 years; but now I believe people might just be angry enough to fight for it. I’m about to read a book on tax protests during the Depression, which failed because of no political organization and New Deal propaganda.
I got the 2007 Annual Report for Friends of Westchester Parks. However, it doesn’t mention that the Executive Director is Deputy Parks Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor, and that her secretary is a County employee too. Playland is listed as a subsidiary of Friends of Westchester Parks, not owned by the County and taxpayers. Seventeen board members are listed but not their corporate, law firm, or
I have asked the Charities Bureau Chief to investigate my complaints. The Deputy Comptroller For Municipalities should do an audit; but he has claimed that the Charities Bureau has the authority, and so nothing will change.The 2008 report won’t be out until mid-October or after the elections.
After reading Catherine Wilson’s article on Dimentia, I thought she might be interested in knowing that I suggested the CareTrak System in Putnam County to Commissioner D’Aliso, and he wrote back, on January 31, 2003, expressing interest in it for seniors and Alzheimer’s patients. I guess Spano probably forgot to invite me to the press conference when it was introduced.
I read a quote by Voltaire, last week, that could be your motto: “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”
Have a good day.
Charles Roda, Mount Vernon