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.

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