Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wayne Simoes/Yonkers Police/Irma Marquez.

The Advocate

Richard Blassberg

What Were Those Jurors Thinking About?

Last Wednesday afternoon, May 27, the jury in the federal criminal trial of Wayne Simoes, Yonkers Police Officer, brought in a verdict declaring the 39-year old, nine-year veteran of the force, “Not Guilty”, within minutes of their self-imposed 4 pm deadline. Earlier, at 1 pm, they had sent out a note to Judge Karas asking, “To be willful, does the person need to have a bad or evil purpose?” After reading the note aloud in the presence of Defense attorneys and Government prosecutors, but out of the presence of the jurors, the Judge, almost spontaneously, responded, “Yes”.

There then ensued a long conversation between Karas, Defense Attorney Andrew Quinn, and Prosecutors, principally Assistant United States Attorney Torrance, assisted at one point by Cynthia Dunne, who significantly prefaced her remarks to the Judge with an apology for speaking despite having apparently promised she would not be throughout the trial. In sum and substance, Quinn would argue repeatedly that a simple “yes” answer would do just fine while Dunne kept insisting, through Torrance, that there was a need for qualification of the affirmative response. Quinn, at one point, declared, and the Judge agreed, “A bad or evil purpose is what separates this procedure from a 1983 [Civil Rights] suit, a criminal from a civil suit.”

Karas bolstered the comparison by saying, “That’s what distinguishes a 242 [federal criminal statute] from a 1983,” further stating, “An evil act isn’t necessarily a crime. Merely saying ‘yes’ is not helpful.” Quinn, however, came back, “Most respectfully, I believe a simple ‘yes’ is best.” The fact was the jury was stumbling over the notion that in order to find Wayne Simoes guilty, they would need to find that he intended the outcome, and this jury, this middle-class, sheltered jury, could not grapple with that conclusion. Never mind what horrible damage was done to Irma Marquez’ face, head and neck as she was deliberately swung like a rag doll, face-first, to the tile floor; this jury’s sympathies were with a rogue, mindless cop with an abundance of testosterone, and not with his victim.

Therein lies the significance of the very real role that Janet DiFiore played in the whole, horrible affair. By not only failing to prosecute the
rogue cop, the perpetrator, Wayne Simoes, as any honest, uncorrupted DA would have, but instead prosecuting his victim, Irma Marquez, on bogus, trumped-up charges of Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing Governmental Administration, Janet DiFiore insured the fact that Simoes would not be tried for Assault, or Reckless Endangerment, or any other offense which he would’ve been convicted of. As a result, once the
videotape repeatedly aired, the United States Attorney’s Office was virtually compelled to step in and charge Simoes with the federal charge of Denying Marquez Her Civil Rights By Use Of Excessive Force. That would require “proof of intent,” in order to obtain a conviction.

In reality, when the jurors sent out their request for clarification, they were signalling their difficulty in accepting their assignment. They were unwilling, for the most part, to acknowledge that a policeman, someone they wanted to believe was really motivated to protect them and even someone so unlike them, Irma Marquez, could possibly have purposely used such force, driving her face and head from more than seven feet in the air, to the hard tile floor, then, immediately jumping on her unconscious body to handcuff her without hesitating a second to examine
what damage had been done to her face and head.

So unwilling was this jury to think about a victim who had been out drinking in a bar in the poor side of the city, that they never stopped to ask, “If he didn’t intend to hurt her, why in Hell did he bodyslam her? And, if he didn’t intend to bodyslam her, why lift her two feet off the ground, putting her head seven feet in the air? Was he intending to slowly slide her back on her feet?”

Then there was the issue of the rogue cop’s ‘cheering squad’. Of course, his wife and parents and, perhaps, some of his buddies at work were to be legitimately expected to come to Court and support him. However, what began on the first day of trial, with about 12 Yonkers police officers, grew daily until, by Wednesday, some 37 officers, including PBA President Eddie Armour, a well-known henchman of, and apologist for, DA Janet DiFiore, filled not only the Defendant’s side of the spectator’s gallery, but much of the other side as well. These officers were clearly intimidating to the jurors. Their message went far beyond mere moral support. Theirs was a You v. Us mentality and, clearly, one of approval of what their pal had done.

There is a big difference between the kind of crowd that will come out for a wrongfully-prosecuted cop, and one that will support a rogue who got caught on tape. Simoes’ fan club was basically telling the world, “We would have done the same.” And, given the number of individuals that we are aware of, who have been subjected to Yonkers police brutality, scores and scores of them; men, women and children; witnessing some three dozen of them clapping their hands vigorously for a cop who bodyslammed a 120-lb, five-foot tall woman, and who got away with it, was no surprise at all!

The real issue now involves just what this acquittal means. There are many unanswered questions. Some enlightened observers are questioning whether the United States Attorney, in assigning two second-string prosecutors, Skotko and Torrance, to the trial, while keeping their female gladiator, Cynthia Dunne, confined to the role of advisor throughout the trial, was really serious about getting a conviction or just faking it. After all, here they had what should have been an easy conviction of someone who the world could plainly see intended to render
the little woman unconscious and helpless; someone who was damned guilty; so guilty that several police officers, including a captain, who is
now a deputy chief, committed perjury under oath at a state trial of the victim, and before Internal Affairs in their effort to cover him up.

Yet, that same United States Attorney’s Office has kept the same Cynthia Dunne working hard at harassing, trying, and wrongfully convicting an innocent former County Correction Officer, Paul Cote, in another bodyslam case where the videotape, and other Brady material, if not withheld by Dunne, would have proven Defendant Cote’s innocence and the guilt of John Mark Reimer, the Government’s key, lying, witness. Clearly, the Government’s sincerity is in question.

Along these same lines, how is it that the FBI, after years of investigating numerous documented cases of Yonkers police brutality, and the Justice Department for whom the information has been gathered, have so far failed to prosecute even a small fraction of them, and only stepped into the Simoes case because of its strong public exposure and the absurdity of DA DiFiore’s prosecution of such an obviously innocent and egregiously injured victim?

The sad reality is that the Federal Government, because of the unethical and wrongful social relationship between former United States Attorney Michael Garcia and DA DiFiore, has thus far let down the People of Westchester, particularly those in Yonkers; innocent men, women and children who have been, and continue to be, harassed and brutalized by a stubborn contingent of rogue cops whose activities we can only guess will now be stepped up and embrazoned by the outcome of the Simoes case.

In conclusion, Yonkers Police Officer Wayne Simoes did not slip, nor accidentally drop Irma Marquez, as his Defense attorney, Andrew
Quinn, attempted to sell as alternate excuses for the outcome of his violent behavior. If that had been the case, what was he intending to do with her if he didn’t slip? He intended to do exactly what he started out to do when he grabbed her and elevated her to where her head came crashing down from some seven feet above the floor in an arc the force and velocity of which made her hair fly out as though she were sitting in an open convertible at 70 mph.

Defense counsel never offered any reasonable explanation of what Wayne Simoes was intending to do with Irma Marquez if he didn’t “slip” or she didn’t “fall”. Any pretense that Simoes hadn’t intended to bodyslam her was negated by his immediate occupation with handcuffing her upon her collision with the tile floor, that Deputy Chief Geiss testified, “sounded like the loudest slap he had ever heard, and at the same
time, like a bowling ball falling from the second floor.” No matter, this officer, who will claim for the rest of his life that he never meant to do what he did, never meant to hurt her, went right to the business of handcuffing her.

Truth be told, now that a police brutality as obvious and brazen as the one perpetrated against Irma Marquez has gone unpunished, the People of Yonkers can expect even more than they have already suffered with, so long as Janet DiFiore is the District Attorney.

In Our Opinion/Our Readers Respond.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In Our Opinion...

Sotomayor: Is It Form Over Substance?

The nomination of Second Circuit Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, though widely-expected, nevertheless, was an action that brought great delight and pride to the Latino community last week, particularly to the Puerto Rican community of New York. After all, she was the first Hispanic ever nominated to the High Court, and only the third woman, following Sandra Day
O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who she would join if confirmed.

We are very mindful of the historic moment that President Obama has brought to conception, as well as the altogether fitting and reinforcing significance of the unique nomination with respect to the inclusiveness promised by the new Chief Executive. And, while we applaud his bold and swift response to the early opportunity to diversify the nation’s highest tribunal in order to more closely reflect our present demographic, we would hope that gender and ethnicity were secondary considerations in the presence of judicial temperament and record.

It is not unrealistic to expect of a president of Mr. Obama’s mandate and intellect, a careful and comprehensive vetting of any offering for elevation to the Supreme Court. We contemplate no skeletons in Justice Sotomayor’s closet. At this early stage of the confirmation process, we are most concerned that her philosophy and her judicial record and temperament will be thoroughly scrutinized and reconciled. Her appointment, or her rejection, must not be determined by form, but rather by substance.

Neither should the popularity and persona of her designator compensate for an otherwise deficient or innapropriate designee. Justice Sotomayor must survive the process all who have gone before her have had to survive. In the final analysis, she will sink or float based upon the package she presents to the Senate of the United States, barring any as-yet unrevealed action or decision that might be deemed sufficiently egregious and unacceptable; enough to be a torpedo.

We have been both pleased and distressed by some of Justice Sotomayor’s judicial activities with respect to Westchester cases over recent years. Last year, she inspired our ire in what we described as her “misguided” surrender to pressure from then-United States Attorney Michael J. Garcia who, in a personal first, argued the Government’s appeal of United States District Court Judge Charles L. Brieant’s overturning of the conviction
of former Westchester County Correction Officer Paul Cote for an incident that resulted in an ultimately fatal injury to a belligerent inmate.

Judge Brieant, who had conducted both the pre-trial hearings, and the trial, in vacating Cote’s conviction and conferring a directed acquittal, in effect found that the jury had arrived at a verdict inconsistent with the evidence presented. He was in the courtroom, and fully in a position to evaluate the reliability and credibility of the witnesses.

He knew only too well what a dirty case the Government was putting on, and was completely aware of the political and criminal objectives woven into the unconvincing original State Court case seven years earlier under District Attorney Jeanine Pirro. He had told Assistant United States Attorney Cynthia Dunne, in our presence, in a pre-trial hearing, “If your case fails, I will not be sad.”

We were saddened when, a year later, Sotomayor and two other distaff judges yielded to, and fell into lockstep with, then-United States Attorney Michael Garcia, totally disrespecting, and trashing, that great jurist’s courageous act in defense of Justice. Mr. Garcia would later boast of his accomplishment, in another weekly publication. He had succeeded in knowingly restoring a totally bogus prosecution and conviction of an innocent public servant, Paul Cote, who had come to the aid of the fellow correction officer whose violent, reckless body slamming response to a belligerent inmate who had punched him in the face would result in the inmate’s death some 14 months later from head trauma. That individual, John Mark Reimer, who caused the death, of course, was elevated to sergeant and was the Government’s key witness.

On the other side of the ledger, with respect to Justice Sotomayor, in Feb. 2007, in the Anthony DiSimone case; a case that, for 15 years, continues to illustrate the worst in prosecutorial misconduct, We were present in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals when Judge Sotomayor, one member of a three-judge panel, fully grasping the essence of Double Jeopardy inherent in Janet DiFiore’s handling of DiSimone, said to Assistant DA Valerie Livingston of the Appeals Bureau, “You’re really not going to retry this case, are you? Isn’t that Double Jeopardy?”

When Livingston, who had been making several misrepresentations to the Court, responded that the District Attorney wanted to retry Mr. DiSimone “under the old law of Depraved Indifference Murder”, Sotomayor came right back with, “Your language is very sloppy. You are going to have to release the Defendant and then re-arrest him for something else.” DiSimone was then immediately released from prison by the panel on a writ of habeus corpus, without bail, and with a clean record.

Our Readers Respond....

Young Reader Expresses Her Feelings About Her Uncle Paul Cote

Dear Editor:

My name is Gabriella Wilkinson. A tragic thing happened when my uncle, Paul Cote, was taken away. Many years before this incident, my mother was stricken with cancer. This was very sad, too, because I was only five years old. My dad had to constantly take my mom to the hospital so my Uncle Paulie stepped up and took care of me. This was when I became close to the family.

I really did appreciate all of the help, even though I was only five. He did a lot for me, my mom and my dad. I truly love him dearly, and it breaks my heart to see my own uncle in jail for something everyone well knows he didn’t do.

I don’t think it was right or even legal. Telling the truth and being honest will get you far in life, and lying will just hurt you in the long run. So I was very happy to hear that his sentencing day is on June 1, his birthday. My mom is stating that this is like a new birth. I just know he’ll finally get out. I mean, how can he not?

I would stay up real late looking at and reading the paper with my dad. I’ve learned a lot about the case. Overall, the things I’ve learned, the most important thing I’ve noticed was that my Uncle Paulie didn’t do wrong and shouldn’t have to stay any longer.

So, in conclusion, I would like to see my uncle outside, at his own home again. So please let him out to live his life again, taking care of his family. He is not the animal the prosecutor portrayed him as. He is actually a teddy bear.

Gabriella Wilkinson

Mt. Vernon School Board Candidate Tells All

Dear Editor:

On Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at approximately 4:00am, two Mount Vernon School Board Candidates, myself and Mrs. Brenda Silvera-Milligan,
who are running mates, were out in the Fleetwood neighborhood distributing flyers for the upcoming School Board Trustee Campaign in Mount Vernon. While distributing these flyers on Fleetwood Avenue, Ms. Milligan noticed that someone was removing the flyers and posters we
had placed on the cars. She immediately notified me by cell phone to join her. We then followed the individual to attempt to identify who
it was. It was Ms. Carol Ben Reuben, an incumbent for position as School Board Trustee.

Mrs. Milligan and I followed Mrs. Ben Reuben and noted that she met up with another individual who was identified as Mrs. Lynne Frazer-
McBride, also an incumbent for position as School Board Trustee. Mrs. Milligan and myself approached the individuals and asked them why
they were removing the flyers. At first, they pretended that they did not hear me. I repeated the question but Mrs. McBride & Mrs. Ben Reuben
continued to remove flyers.

I then said to them again, “Why are you removing our flyers? You know we once voted for you.” Mrs. Ben Reuben replied, “Yeah and we once respected you!” I then asked, “What do you mean? What have I done or said to you?” Mrs. McBride said to me, “You’re prostituting your children! Ask your children, ask the people from Riverside. Even the white people say you are prostituting your children!” Once again, I asked,
“What do you mean? What does that mean I’m prostituting my children?”

I called the News 12 Breaking Hotline telephone number to report what had taken place. and also my husband, Mr. Herman R. Crump, Sr. who joined Mrs. Milligan and myself. I later witnessed Mrs. Ben Reuben & Mrs. McBride rip down one of our campaign flyers at the Longfellow Elementary School!

My husband shouted to them, “You better not rip down another one of my flyers again!” Mrs. Ben Rueben & Mrs. McBride jumped in their car and sped off!

Brenda Crump

Feiner On Red Light Cameras And Other things

Dear Editor:

In April of this year the New York State Legislature approved red light cameras to be installed at intersections in Yonkers, Nassau & Suffolk Counties. Cars that run red lights will receive tickets if caught on camera. Unfortunately, this new law only applies to a handful of communities in the state.

There is no reason why the state should be limiting these cameras to only a few cities in New York State. Poor motorist behavior in Greenburgh, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon or Bedford should be treated no differently than bad driving in Yonkers, NYC, Nassau & Suffolk Counties (cities that
can install red light cameras).

Every locality in New York State should be granted permission to install these red light safety cameras. Safety is important all over! Running red lights has caused 850 deaths and thousands of injuries each year. If red light cameras save one life it is worth it. I urge the New York State Legislature to adopt a law that will treat every locality in New York State the same when it comes down to public safety.

At Wednesday night’s new resident reception held at the Greenburgh Library, about a dozen residents stopped by at the Abbott House table and expressed interest in becoming mentors to foster care children. Town Clerk Judith Beville, Town Councilwoman Sonja Brown, Town Attorney
Tim Lewis and I have also expressed a desire to serve as foster care mentors. The requirement: only 2 hours a week of mentoring to a child. These two hours could make a world of a difference to a young person. If you are interested in signing up please contact Jack Toone, mentor and volunteer coordinator at or call 591 7300 x 3090. Town Clerk Judith Beville’s parents took in about a 100 foster care children during their lives.

The Town Board approved a new law that will enable the Chief of Police to impound vehicles against which three or more parking summonses
have been issued but not paid. A significant number of owners are persistent violators. Some have out of state registration of vehicles, transfer ownership and re-register vehicles and are able to evade existing enforcement measures. This new law will enable the police to enforce parking orders in the case of vehicle owners who fail to timely respond to summonses issued for violations. The police indicated that they will use this law against the more significant violators.

Paul Feiner, Greenburgh Town Supervisor

People Of Mount Vernon Must Know, Part 2

Dear Editor:

First and foremost, let me say thank you for printing my last letter in your April 30, 2009 edition. Your paper, by far, is the true meaning of the people’s paper, you bring the facts to the people. It is mind-boggling that day in and day out Commissioner Horton continues to steal from us all.

We, the taxpayers of Mount Vernon, ask where is “the” Inspector General? Why is this man (Mr. Harry Stokes) not investigating Mr. Horton
for all the illegal activities: 1. Doing work in his neighborhood with DPW workers on city time and city payroll, (blocks and blocks of sidewalks, streets, trees, and so on); 2. Shakedowns of city residents and business owners, even as far as Con Edison. Let’s ask them what Commissioner Horton does to them. Why doesn’t “the” Inspector General look into Mr. Horton carrying hand guns in city hall and all over the city? Gee, how
did this convicted felon get a gun permit to begin with? is man does not only have one gun but carries two guns at all times. Mr. Inspector General, ‘Mr. Independent Inspector General’, we want to know why you have not done anything about this? I am sure the F.B.I. would love to hear what is
going on here. We need HELP!!!

As I mentioned in my earlier letter, has Mr. Horton figured out what day of the week it is yet? This man is a danger to our city. Oh, yeah, I forgot for a minute he is Junior’s very good friend. After all, Mayor Young and Horton went to Italy together, even though Horton did not have enough time on the books to take two weeks off to travel with Junior. Add that to our tax bill. We need HELP!!!

Why doesn’t “the” Inspector General investigate Mayor Young, and his willingness to sell our city to cover up the incompetence, arrogance and ignorance of his chief of staff (Mayor Robinson). Mr. Inspector General, this is our money that is being thrown away, but what do you care, you do not pay taxes in Mount Vernon. Where do you live, Somers? Maybe if you went to work more often you would have the time to see what we are losing, but yet, again, you are in Junior’s pocket also. We need HELP!!!

People of Mount Vernon, wake up, you must know. Add all this corruption to our tax bill. “Mr. Independent Inspector General”, we want to know why is it that you are not doing anything about our Building Commissioner, Ralph Tedesco?

Why is he exempt from all city codes? Is it because he is the Building Commissioner or is he as corrupt as Junior? Why can he do what he pleases
on his property (Devonia Avenue), no questions asked? Why can he shake people down and no questions asked? We need HELP!!!

There is a lot more to follow but this is enough for now, for my fellow taxpaying citizens of Mount Vernon to digest and spread to everyone they
know! Please talk to anyone and everyone in our city; let them know what is happening to ALL of us.

Al Passino

The Court Report.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik
Indicted In False Statements Case In District Of Columbia

LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BERNARD KERIK, a former New York City Police Commissioner and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, was indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia on charges of making false statements to White House officials during his vetting for the position of Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security. According to the Indictment: KERIK, in 1999 and 2000--when he was the New York City Commissioner of Corrections and then the City’s Police Commissioner--spoke to City regulators on behalf of contractors who were seeking one or more permits to do business in and with the City. The contractors then spent more than $255,000 renovating KERIK’s apartment in Riverdale, New York. Thereafter, in 2004, when KERIK was under consideration by the White House for the
position of Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, KERIK gave false and misleading answers to questions by White House officials about his relationship with the contractors.

In particular, and among other things, the Indictment alleges that KERIK falsely denied that there was any possible concern the President should have about KERIK’s relationship with the contractors, and that as a public official he had had any financial dealings with individuals seeking to do business with the City; and that KERIK sent an e-mail to a White House official containing false and misleading statements concerning the renovations to the apartment in Riverdale.

Charges similar to those in today’s indictment were initially brought as part of an indictment returned in the Southern District of New York in November 2007 but were dismissed from that indictment because the crimes are alleged to have occurred in the District of Columbia and not in the Southern District of New York.

If convicted, KERIK faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000 on each of the two false statement charges in the Indictment.

Mr. DASSIN praised the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service for their
efforts during the investigation, and thanked the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for its assistance in the transfer of this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys ELLIOTT B. JACOBSON and MICHAEL S. BOSWORTH are in charge of the prosecution and have been designated as Special Assistant United States Attorneys in the District of Columbia for the purpose of prosecuting this Indictment.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Catherine Wilson.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Nothern Westchester

Paving Over Our County’s Heritage

Our region is currently celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River. But for thousands of years before Hudson ever sailed into the New York Harbor, Native American tribes such as the Mohawks and Mohicans lived in the Hudson River Valley. Evidence of their villages and burial grounds dating between 1,000 and 6,000 years ago have been uncovered in Westchester County at Croton Point Park. Sadly, that evidence is being bulldozed and cemented over by the County construction crews as you read this.

The Guardian spoke at length to a group of concerned local residents about their battle with the County to preserve the Native Americans heritage at this site. One local expert on this issue, Bob (named changed to protect his identity) discussed the events leading up to the construction project Paving Over Our County’s Heritage at Croton Point. He said, “The current construction is for a sea wall. The initial plans for this project called for an inspection of the area which confirmed and documented the already-known pre-historic site. Previous development and construction work done at the park in the 1970’s had uncovered this site”.

When the historical significance of the Croton Point site was confirmed in 2005, a Phase II archeological investigation was recommended. Calling for this investigation meant the County was now obligated to inform the New York State Historical Preservation Office of the initial
findings and that the site would then be considered for placement on the state and national historical registers. That status would give the Croton Point settlement and burial grounds the protection and dignity they deserve. Any future development or construction at this park would then be subject to oversight by SHPO and all construction permits would have to be approved by their office to assure that the historical artifacts would not be affected.

Unfortunately for the Native Americans, the County did not pursue a Phase II review of Croton Point nor did they ever seek any historical preservation status for the settlement area and burial grounds. Instead, the County opted to circumvent proper channels for their current construction project and have proceeded without the proper authorizations and permits from the SHPO. The County is even ignoring proper
Federal construction reviews for this sea wall project.

According to a recent notice to the Westchester County Department of Parks Commissioner Joseph Stout from the Army Corps of Engineers, obtained by the Guardian, any “in-water construction activities located below the mean high tide line and associated discharge of
fill material into waters of the United States proposed at Croton Point Park as detailed in your DA permit application dated November 9, 2007, could be accomplished under the nationwide permit program, provided that the work was completed in accordance with the general and special conditions of the nationwide permit program.

It has been brought to the attention of this office that historic artifacts were discovered during the construction operations at Croton Point Park. It appears that your agency had previous knowledge, as indicated on the submitted New York State Coastal Zone Management Program form, that the proposed activity could reasonably be anticipated to affect or be located in, on, or adjacent to, historical resources listed on the national or
state Register of Historical Places. The continuation of work after the discovery of such cultural resources….. constitutes a violation of the
general conditions of the nationwide permit program, and thus non-compliance with the project’s authorization”.

The Army Corps of Engineers in this letter issued a “cease and desist” notice to Westchester County: “Therefore, the Westchester County
Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation is hereby directed to immediately cease from performing further work in the discovery area”. The Corps notified the County Parks Department that “failure to comply with the provisions of this directive will result in further enforcement action by this office, including the possibility of substantial civil and criminal penalties”. (all emphasis added). The original planners involved
with this project correctly followed up with the County on their recommendations.

According to the Guardian’s source, Dave DeLuca of the County Parks Department admitted that the Phase II request was never submitted to SHPO and that he “never read or ‘forgot’ the recommendations in the original Phase I report”. Cynthia Blakemore of SHPO confirmed that the
Phase II report was finally sent to the State in 2009 at the request of SHPO. This report recommends a “data recovery” at the site meaning
the area has to be examined for artifacts and other historical remains. According to Blakemore “the site needs to be examined to determine if it is of historical significance. In order for this site to be nominated to be placed on the State Registry of Historical Places, it first has to be determined ‘why is it significant’? And the owner has to be on board.” Since the owner here is Westchester County, the County has to agree that the site has historical significance. Given that the County is circumventing permit procedures to advance its construction plans at this site, it would appear that the County is placing development over historical significance. According to the Guardian’s sources, the state process would also provide an opportunity to identify the extent of the historical site, what the significance of the site is, and how to redesign any undertakings at the site
or recover the artifacts from the site if a redesign is not possible. Any visitor to Croton Point can see the historical significance for themselves.

Scattered along Teller’s Walk are artifacts from the early inhabitants such as shell remnants of a shell midden. Shell middens are a heap of clam, oyster, mussel or other shells used in campsites. These middens are found near coastlines and major rivers, and generally date to prehistoric
times. A preliminary investigation of the shell middens at Croton Point dates them as being between 1,000 and 6,000 years old. According to local investigators, there is also evidence of a campsite at Croton Point, a village, and even a fort. Local and state archeologists are eager to investigate
this site thoroughly to determine its archeological and historical significance. As one local resident asked “why can’t we have a preservation
site for cultures”?

Other Native American sites in New York have fared far better than Croton Point. In 1998, Native American human remains were found during on a construction site of the American Rock Salt Company’s mine project in Groveland, Livingston County. The Commissioner of Parks at that time, Bernadette Castro, noted, “Representatives from American Rock Salt have properly notified both DEC and State Parks and with these findings, work at the site where the remains were found has been halted and the area protected.”

According to their press release issued upon the notice of these findings “the State parks provided the oversight for the archeological investigation and worked with the mine company to ensure proper treatment of the findings”. Castro assured that the parks department along with the DEC
would determine the appropriate treatment of the remains in consultation with Native American leaders. Castor vowed, “We are committed to working with representatives of the Native American community and the other parties involved to sensitively address the issues raised by this discovery”. Even though the initial discovery appeared to be an isolated find, the mine restricted its construction to other areas of the mine and
established a monitoring protocol to ensure that any future unanticipated discoveries were adequately addressed as construction proceeded.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a permit for the American Rock Salt mine in Livingston County which contained “extensive conditions to protect archeological, historic and cultural resources. These conditions include avoidance of construction at the
southern end of the project, establishment of set-aside areas along Route 63 and requirements for archeological resource investigations t the mine site under professional oversight of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The permit requires the use of State Parks protocols to notify Native American representatives in the event human remains are identified on the mine property. American Rock Salt is in full compliance
with these permit conditions.”

The NYS DEC did issue permits to Westchester County to proceed with this construction, but if these permits circumvented the historical preservation reviews, those permits would now be invalid. Local residents protesting the ongoing work at this site have been shown the DEC permits as so-called proof of the County’s authority to proceed with the construction. Local residents involved with this issue were not able to confirm that the DEC permits were ever forwarded to SHPO, or if the DEC contacted the representatives of local Native American tribes as mandated by Federal preservation laws.

In its submitted $7.3 million budget for the sea wall project [Croton Point Sea Walls Restoration Project #RCP09] to the County Board of Legislators, the County Parks Department promised, “An in-depth archeological study will be a part of the initial study work preceding design,” thus acknowledging the archeological significance of this site. Yet, only an initial study was performed. The in-depth follow-up that was recommended was never done.

So why did the County even acknowledge that Croton Point had archeological significance if they had no intention of following up on the recommendations of their requested report? According to the County budget for this project, it was to be funded entirely by issuing bonds. Could it be that the County knew if they applied for Federal grants for this project, they would be subject to the guidelines of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act? According to the federal guidelines, in any undertaking that affects an historic site, any plans should involve the public
and any other interested parties; in this case, representatives from the Mohawk Tribal Council.

Local residents investigating Croton Point have found evidence of burial areas at the bluff by the entrance to the park. Some burial remains were recovered during previous construction at this park and those remains were initially forwarded to the Museum of Natural History. The Museum turned the remains over to representatives of local Native American tribes for reburial. While those remains were at least correctly identified it
raises the question as to why those individuals could not be left undisturbed in their ancestral lands?

Why did we have to dig up someone’s ancestor just because County residents wanted a ball field? If the County of Westchester does not honor the remains of the dead, how can we expect to be treated by future generations? Imagine having your remains dug up and transferred to a foreign location far away from your loved ones and the area that you loved just because a future generation wants a parking lot? Is this the respect the true
founding families of our area deserve?

Calls to the County Commissioner of Parks, Joseph Stout, on this issue went unanswered by press time. Contacting the descendents of those original tribes proved to be a daunting task. There are no local tribal councils for the Mohawk or Mohican nations. The closest representatives
for the Mohican and Oneida tribes are in Wisconsin which is where they were located to during the government’s early 19th century’s ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans. New York State also abolished their office of Native Americans; there are no representatives for Native Americans at the state or federal government levels. In contrast, Canada has a National Aboriginal Branch in their Federal government and even acknowledges a National Aboriginal Day, June 21, the day of native summer solstice celebrations, in honor of their native peoples.

Despite the Army Corps of Engineers’ “cease and desist” order, the work at Croton Point is not only proceeding but workers at the site confirmed to several local residents that they have sped up the project to be completed in time for the Clearwater Festival at the park in June. However, Thomas Staudter, the Communications Director for the Clearwater Organization, told the Guardian, “We have not asked the County to speed
up any construction work on our behalf. All we need is a safe environment for our participants to enjoy the festival and we can work around whatever work the County may be doing at Croton Point”.

The sea wall project is not the only work planned by the County for Croton Point. In the County’s capital budget, several additional projects are identified:

• A $3.8 million picnic area planned for 2010;

• A $1.7 million RV and tent camping grounds planned for 2010 and 2011; and,

• $2.5 million of general projects is also planned for 2010 and 2011 including improvements to the wine cellars.

Do Westchester County residents really want more picnic tables, camp sites, and a wine cellar at the expense of our Native American cultures? The Guardian intends to follow up its coverage of the current construction at Croton Point and any future projects as well.

Jeff Deskovic.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jeff Deskovic

A Glimpse Into The Suffering Of Families Of The Wrongfully Convicted

As with many walks of life, people who have similar interests or move in the same circles inevitably meet up with others who are interested
in the same topics, and also acquire much of the same information. Of course, I am heavily into the anti-wrongful conviction movement,
and, as such, have come across many exonerees and family members of exonerees. I would like to think of myself as a people person, and enjoy talking to new people. So throughout my journey during the two years and eight months that I have been free, I have learned much about the way that wrongful convictions affect family members on a level deeper than I realized when I myself was wrongfully incarcerated.

I understood some aspects, sure, but there were many things I wasn’t aware of; and, at times my own suffering was so great that although I
was aware of some of the ways that my family suffered, I was unable to focus on it. Then, of course, there were many things that I was shielded from. I suspect that my experience in this is not atypical.

However, by being freed I have learned much about this aspect, and the thrust of this article will be sharing some of what I have learned.
I will also draw from what I have learned from the experiences of my family and also from conversations with other exonerees and their family members. Because the conversations occurred while socializing and not while conducting an interview, I will respect everybody’s privacy and not reveal their names. At the same time, this article, while intended to shed light on an oft-misunderstood subject, This by no means an exhaustative treatment.

Come with me into a nightmare scenario, for purposes of better understanding the conditions in which you as a mother or father, have had
your innocent son convicted of a murder.

When your son is wrongfully convicted, the experience of seeing him remanded into custody is both emotional and traumatic. Thoughts
of what he might be thinking or experiencing, not just physically but also emotionally, fill your head. The inability to help or to do anything
about it, in the immediate here and now, causes a feeling of helplessness in you. Safety for your son is a primary concern. There are some
people incarcerated, a er all, who are both guilty and dangerous. What do you tell your other children when they ask for their brother?

Going to his sentencing hearing is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you want to show support for your loved one and also to know what sentence will be pronounced. On the other hand it will be traumatic to hear a long prison sentence pronounced. Thoughts of what life will be like during the next 15, 20, and 25 years without your son go through your head.

Throughout The Incarceration

While your son is incarcerated, his safety will constantly be on your mind. While you may at times get respite from this, the best that it gets is that the worries have simply gone to the back of your mind; it will never leave. You dread a phone call from the prison reporting something
having happened to him. Any news you see regarding the prison on television will immediately trigger concern as to whether he is okay.

Similarly, each time he is transferred will raise new safety concerns. His incarceration will impact upon your other children. They will
miss your son, and now have an awful secret to try to hide from their school friends. The other kids at school, if they find out, could wind
up saying cruel things, teasing, or even trying to physically harm him.

When making new friends, it can be a source of shame, and so you hide this from them and hope they never find out. It feels as though you are leading a double life.

On some weekends, when you are best able to make the long travel to visit him; because the Department of Corrections frequently houses
prisoners far away from home during the first part of their sentence, you may have to beg off various invitations for social outings in order
to make the trip. But you will have to lie about what your plans are for that weekend. Sometimes you wonder whether you have lost touch with reality, or whether this is really happening.

Once in a while, though you believe in him, a stray thought may lead you to wonder if he really is innocent, though globally you know he is. Accompanying that stray thought is the question,“Where did I go wrong in raising him”. Visiting him is an elaborate process in and of itself. Firstly, it will require a long drive, typically three hours and often more. Gassing up the car to make the trip back and forth will make things expensive. Rounding out costs is that fact that you know that the food in there is so bad, so you shop for him, and you also want to leave him money.

But at times you will get frustrated when you learn, that because of some mindless rule, he can’t have certain food items. At times, if the
trip is too far to make in one day or return the same day, you will have to pay for a hotel room.

Getting into the prison will sometimes require standing on lines which are deliberately made longer by processing visitors slowly. At other
times you will be subjected to being talked to roughly, and if you are a woman the guards may hit on you. If this is how they talk to you, you
wonder how they treat him. Sometimes you will have on a bra which has metal, which will cause the metal detector to go off, which, in turn,
will lengthen the process.

Once you are actually in the visiting room, it may take 45 minutes to several hours before your son enters the room. You ask, “What took
you so long”, and are told that they just now called him. Occasionally he arrives around the count time, and so for some mindless reason they
will not let him in the room until after the count clears. Why they can’t take a count of the prisoners in the visiting room after admitting him
escapes you.

Often your conversation will revolve around different things to be done in connection with legal appeals and attempts to regain freedom. Much of this is foreign to you, and seems to be beyond your understanding, yet you will try to learn about it. Since you are his main connection to the outside, you also become his secretary, having to make various phone calls, look things up, and perform various tasks. The
changes he undergoes inside of him go largely unnoticed, because of this focus on this dominating theme. Later, once he is released, you
will discover the ways in which he has changed, and in some ways how his personality has been changed as a result of different after effects of his traumatic experience.

When it is time to go, depending on which guard is working at the visiting desk, the last point at which a visitor may leave will vary. Sometimes you will be stuck on a long line that can be as much as an hour and a half. It will break your heart to leave and not be able to take him with you, yet you have to fight yourself so that you don’t show it. The issue of visitation is divisive as you become resentful that other extended family members don’t visit him, or that they visit rarely.

Month after month, you will see the same people in the visiting room. You watch as visitors and prisoners alike age, and sometimes acquire
health problems. When their visitors stop seeing them, suddenly you cease to see the familiar faces of other prisoners in the visiting room.
You will hear the hardship tales of others on the way out and in the parking lot, and you will learn about the others’ cases. You wonder if they are innocent also, or if they are guilty. Sometimes you cease seeing the familiar faces who you made pleasant small talk with because their relative has been transferred. But you have no way of knowing that. You just cease seeing them.

When your son calls collect, you discover that the calls are more expensive. Yet you don’t want to tell him not to call, especially when you
can’t get up there to see him, so you have no choice but to bear the cost. Sometimes the money you send gets there after the commissary sheets have been printed, so your son must shop for hygienic items, stationary related products, and a few food items with however much money he has after working for two weeks at varying pay grades of 16¢, 22¢, 25¢, 32¢, 38¢ an hour.

Over the years, you learn about many prison rules, such as how many photocopied pages he can have in a letter (five) and what colors he is not allowed to wear. You learn that in order to be able to call you or others he will have to first place you on a calling list. After obtaining his GED, you learn that there is no college in prison for him to continue to pursue his education, and that the vocational classes offer obsolete material with some of the instructors merely there for the paycheck.

As the years go by, you are aware of the many milestones and rites of passage that he is missing. He misses births, deaths, marriages, holidays, and family gatherings. Your missing him is amplified on such occasions. You wonder whether he will ever get out, and whether you will have any grandchildren by him. You are aware of how big a part of your world is beyond your control, instead in the grasp of the legal
system. You wonder why it is that the appeals process is not as expeditious as it can be. You place your hopes in the next appellate proceeding, and you tell your son to be optimistic, that things will turn out okay. The let-down that occurs when the appeal is rubber stamp denied, despite what you, in your limited understanding, perceive to be good issues, is very hard to take.

However, you can’t show its affect because you have to encourage your son to remain optimistic and to hold on; and, that can’t happen if you go to pieces. The process begins again, and repeats, over and over again, at least five times until his appeals run out. The next problem is
that once that has happened, he will no longer be provided with an attorney, and you have no money to hire one. You need an investigator as well, to try to find new evidence, but like the attorney, you need one to work for free. But you quickly learn that it is very hard to find anyone to take a case pro-bono. You are aware of his reaching out to different law firms, organizations, people and places, but nothing seems to avail. Year after year goes by.

He’s going to the Parole Board. You begin to hope again. Maybe he can regain his freedom that way. But the Parole Board doesn’t want
to let even meritorious applicants go if they have been convicted of a violent crime, especially when they maintain their innocence and don’t
express remorse and take responsibility. Despite staying out of trouble, he is turned down. You wonder how long you will remain in the grip of the system, and if it will ever end. You think about whether you will ever see him free. You may even wonder about your own mortality, and whether, if it does happen, you will ever live to see it. Who will be there for him if he is still imprisoned once you pass away?
Sadly, the story ends there for many people who are wrongfully convicted. But let’s assume that your son is one of the lucky ones.

Somehow, years later, he winds up with representation. New evidence is uncovered, and he is proven innocent. You are happy, and he is vindicated. In hindsight, many people now see all of the red flags regarding his conviction. You wonder why that didn’t carry the day way back when. Why did he have to lose all of those years?

He leaves prison a free man, and you discover that his personality has changed, and all the after-effects of the experience begin to manifest
themselves. There are many skills he must relearn, and many he must learn for the first time. He must get used to his freedom, having choices,
learning new technology. He has lost contact with many friends. He is released with nothing.

If he’s an exoneree, he can sue, and he does, but it is a long procedure. He doesn’t have anything, and still needs to be supported. He is frequently passed over for jobs he interviews for that would provide gainful employment. Who will give him his first break to get him started?

Why is nothing given to him by the state to help him get on his feet? There are some who are afraid of him, since he spent all of that time in
prison though he was innocent. That fact affects his ability to meet women and find a partner.

As the discovery process of the lawsuit progresses, you learn more and more. You realize that some foul play has been involved. How could
this ever happen? You wonder why laws are not changed to prevent others from undergoing the same experience.

About Me