Saturday, June 30, 2007


And now, a few more cases from the Court of Common Pleas with the highlight of the week being guilty pleas from 8 Mexican nationals involved in a Christmas Day melee on Hannum Avenue. But first, a few other cases from Courtroom #3, presided over by Judge James MacElree...

Nicholas Frederick Custer, 24, of West Chester, pled guilty to Indecent Assault and Corrupting the Morals of a Minor after he admitted to, while 21 years old, having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl and impregnating her. Charges of Statutory Rape were withdrawn at the District Court level. The plea agreement was reached after discussions with police and the victim's family, who, from the sounds of things, appeared to be in favor of the deal. Custer was sentenced to 3 years probation, 75 hours of community service, and was ordered to undergo a sex offenders evaluation, submit a DNA sample, and not have any unsupervised contact with minors. (CP-15-CR-0001070-2007)

Betty Jane Hall, 54, of Coatesville pled guilty to one count of Terroristic Threats relating to a domestic dispute at the Forest Manor apartments on Downingtown Pike. On December 23, 2006 at around 13:25, WCPD units responded to the report of a domestic between Hall and her boyfriend. During the incident, according to the criminal complaint filed by Sgt. Martin Deighan, the victim reported that Hall pulled a gun on him during the domestic. The victim alleged that she removed the gun from the coffee table and that she had pointed it at him, at which point he called 9-1-1. Hall admitted to police that she had a gun in her vehicle, but was not loaded at the time. The gun, a .22 caliber revolver, was recovered from Hall's vehicle. Hall was sentenced to time served to 23 months in Chester County Prison, with the balance of the sentence to be served on probation, and was ordered to attend anger mangement classes. (CP-15-CR-0000028-2007)

Lamae Elizabeth Achenbach, 27, of West Chester, pled guilty to one count of Criminal Mischief (2nd degree misdemeanor) and one count of Disorderly Conduct after an incident at the Union Court apartments. On December 23, 2006 at around 13:53, WCPD units responded to the report of a disturbance at Union Court. Upon arrival, according to the criminal complaint filed by P/O Jason O'Neill, Achenbach broke out both windows of the victim's car. A witness asked the defendant to stop, however she ran back to her apartment. Prior to breaking out the windows of the car, which belonged to the reporting party's girlfriend; Achenbach threatened to "f**k her up" when she was unable to enter the reporting party's apartment. She was sentenced to 2 years probation (with the 2nd year non-reporting pending complaince with the terms of probation) and ordered to pay $330.00 in restitution. (CP-15-CR-0000273-2007)

And finally, in the incident that was the first to be reported on this blog, the 8 subjects who were involved in the infamous Christmas Day rumble on the West Side were sentenced to probation and ordered to leave the country for their involvement in the incident.

On Christmas morning, at around 08:30, P/O A.J. McCarthy and P/O Gerry DiNunzio responded to the 300 block of Hannum Avenue for a reports of shots fired. Upon arrival, the officers checked the surrounding area and found shell casings and and bullets near the rear porch steps at 348 Hannum. When the officers attempted to enter the residence, they observed Manuel Ochoa, Rigoberto Ochoa, and Ricardo Ochoa assaulting Irineo Ochoa Mena. Once the property was secured, all eight of the male subjects were interviewed and were very uncooperative with police. The officers ultimately found a silver .22 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in the bedroom of one of the subjects, Lucino Mena Ochoa. The weapon was found under a bed in that particular bedroom. After the recovery of the weapon, the defendants still refused to cooperate with police and all claimed to know nothing about the gun or anything else that happened, further claiming that no one had fired a gun or heard any gun shots. All defendants pled guilty on the following counts:

Irineo Ochoa Mena, 27 (CP-15-CR-0000478-2007), Pedro Mena Ochoa, 41 (CP-15-CR-0000481-2007), Genaro Veldez, 23 (CP-15-CR-0000448-2007), and Santiago Salgado Ochoa, 21 (CP-15-CR-0000446-2007), each pled guilty to Obstructing the Adminsitration of Law or Other Governmental Function and were each sentenced to 1 year probation and 100 hours of community service.

Manuel Ochoa, 19 (CP-15-CR-0000465-2007), Rigoberto Ochoa, 32 (CP-15-CR-0000456-2007), and Ricardo Ochoa, 34 (CP-15-CR-0000445-2007), each pled guilty to Simple Assault, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, and Obstruction and were each sentenced to a total of 3 years probation and ordered to perform 200 hours community service.

Lucino Mena Ochoa, 23, pled guilty to Possession of an Instrument of Crime and Obstruction and was sentenced to 2 years probation and 150 hours community service. (CP-15-CR-0000480-2007)

All eight defendants admitted they were residing in the United States illegally. As such, Judge MacElree informed them that they must not only comply with state laws while on probation but also with federal laws - including the immigration laws. He ordered them to report to both the Adult Probation Office and to INS that they were residing in the U.S. illegally and were given 7 days to be in compliance with the terms of their respective probations.

And, finally, a defendant failed to appear for his scheduled trial on drug charges and was hit with a bench warrant. William Pressley, 43, of Philadelphia, allegedly sold 20 Hydrocordone pills to undercover detectives at Fuggett Park, which is located behind the Borough Hall, on November 27, 2006 ar around 17:04. Pressley was arrested and committed to CCP on $5,000 bail when arraigned by Judge John Anthony at Devon District Court. Inexplicably, at his preliminary hearing on December 1 in front of Judge Knapp, his bail was reduced to 10 percent of $1,000 despite residing in Philadelphia and having few, if any, roots in Chester County. In any case, it's a moot point now as Judge MacElree issued a bench warrant for Pressley's arrest after he didn't appear for his trial on Wednesday. (CP-15-CR-0005046-2006)

And thus ends another summary of Common Pleas Court happenings. Next week, with the 4th of July falling in the middle of the week, is expected to be pretty slow, but I'm sure there'll be something that's blogworthy that will show up here...

Friday, June 29, 2007


Four hearings and three bench warrants highlighted a 16 case docket at 15-1-04's Criminal Day, presided over by Parkesburg District Judge Nancy Gill, who apparently doesn't have the same flair for punctuality as Valley District Judge Grover Koon, who cleared nearly as many cases last week in under an hour. Today's criminal day took nearly 4 hours to complete, which is not a particularly efficent way to run a court, especially from the perspective of officers waiting to adjudicate their respective cases and get back out on patrol or from witnesses who have to take time out of their busy schedules to address these cases because of criminals and their alleged actions. In any case...

The first hearing of the day was Commonwealth vs. Matthew Michael Rothhaar (15-1-04, CR-0000093-07), who faced charges relating to two separate hit-and-run accidents while driving under the influence of drugs. At around 20:00 on March 1, a witness testified that Rothhaar, 25, of West Chester, struck a parked vehicle at South High and Union streets, then followed the defendant through the east end before striking a second vehicle at Market andAdams streets. While the witness followed the striking vehicle, Rothhaar alledegly ran several stop signs before striking a second car at Market and Adams.

After the second accident, the defendant allegedly fled from the scene on foot before being arrested at the fenceline to the rear of the TD BankNorth building. Upon arrival, Ofc. Jeffrey Gallo testified that he asked what substance the defendant was on. In a search incident to arrest, Ofc. Gallo spotted a syringe and an unmarked pill bottle in plain view containing several pills, which were found to be a controlled substance after testing by the State Police Lima labs. The lab report from the defendant's blood work determined that Rothhaar was under the influence of cocaine, marijuana, Zanax, and morphine at the time of the accidents.

Rothhaar was held for trial on charges of Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance, Accident Involving Damage to an Attended Vehicle, two counts of Accident Involving Damage to an Unattended Vehicle, three drug-related charges, two stop sign violations, and Careless Driving. He remains free on $5,000 unsecured bail...

The second hearing was actually a hearing in absentia, as the defendant had failed to appear for court for the second week in a row. Donald Williams, 22, of Philadelphia, failed to appear for his preliminary hearing last week and saw his bail re-set at 10 percent of $5,000, which he was somehow able to post. Again, Williams failed to appear in District Court, and with due notice given last week by Judge Koon, was tried in absentia. During the hearing, Ofc. A.J. McCarthy testified that he responded to the report of a suspicious vehicle on the 100 block of East Gay Street on April 8 at around 01:15.

Upon arrival, Ofc. McCarthy and back-up officers ordered the four occupants out of the vehicle and placed them under arrest. During a search of the car, officers recovered a firearm, though it's not known who was ultimately charged with possessing the gun. When Williams was taken out of the patrol car, 3 small ziplock baggies containing what was later determined to be a total of 2 grams of marijuana was found in the back seat of the patrol car; the items were sent to the PSP Lima labs for testing. Williams was held for trial on one count of Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana and one count of Possession of Drug Paraphanalia and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest (15-1-04, CR-0000123-07)...

Next was the matter of Commonwealth vs. Michelle Adderton (15-1-04, CR00000187-07). Adderton was charged with interfering with an arrest of an assault suspect on June 2. At around 01:15, Ofc. Greg Cugino was en route to the 100 block of East Gay Street to assist WCPD and West Goshen officers on a foot pursuit of a suspect wanted for an assault, which resulted in the victim being taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center. The actor in that case was apprehended in the Miller's Welding parking lot at Matlack and Market Streets.

Ofc. Cugino testified that Adderton, 36, of West Chester, was using vulgar language and being loud and disorderly while officers were attempting to handcuff the suspect from the assault. Adderton was told no fewer than 3 times to leave the area or face arrest. Adderton's remarks were loud enough to draw a crowd of at least 25-to-35 people in the area, causing additional concerns for police as they were addressing the arrest of the assault suspect. Adderton was not arrested at the scene out of concerns that it would cause a further disturbance, though she was taken into custody the following weekend.

Adderton was held on charges of Obstructing the Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function and four counts of Disorderly Conduct. She remains free on $2,000 unsecured bail...

The fourth and final hearing of the day was the matter of Commonwealth vs. Charles Faddis (15-1-04, CR-0000200-07). Ofc. Harry O'Neill testified that on Monday at around 14:30, he was on patrol near the YMCA when he had been advised that the defendant was sitting on a park bench on the southwest corner of Chestnut and Walnut streets staring into the YMCA where several children under the age of 12 were in the pool area. In the past, police had recieved complaints about Faddis staring at children and compaints about lewd conduct by the defendant in public park areas (though it should be noted that a check of the AOPC web site shows no known prior criminal cases filed against Faddis in Common Pleas Court).

Ofc. O'Neill then proceeded to question Faddis and at least twice asked him to leave the area. When he refused, Faddis was then placed under arrest, an arrest observed by numerous witnesses, including a Constable. As he was being placed into custody, Faddis allegedly threatened the officer's life, saying that if Faddis wasn't released, then Ofc. O'Neill "would not wake up in the morning." Upon arrival at the station, Lt. Jeff Johnson assisted Ofc. O'Neill in processing Faddis, who twice repeated his threats made in the back of the patrol car, while also threatening to "put a hole in (O'Neill's) head."

Faddis was ultimately held for Common Pleas Court on charges of Terroristic Threats and Disorderly Conduct; charges of Simple Assault were dismissed. Faddis remains at Chester County Prison in lieu of 10 percent of $10,000 bail and is reported to be awaiting a psychiatric evlauation...

Two other defendants failed to appear for their respective hearings and had bench warrant issued against them. Marvin Dion Manley, 41, of West Chester, had been cited for Possession of Drug Paraphanalia on an incident that occured on May 19 (15-1-04, CR-0000172-07). Having failed to appear for his scheduled hearing, Judge Gill issued a warrant for Manley's arrest...

Michael W. Way, 36, of West Chester, was scheduled for a summary trial on charges of Driving Under a Suspended Driver's License (DUI related). Way was pulled over by Ofc. David Hammond on a traffic stop on May 19; a records check determined that Way's license was listed as suspended until 2015 after multiple DUI arrests over the years. By failing to appear, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest (15-1-04, TR-0004091-07)...

The next Criminal Day at 15-1-04 will be July 13...


A crime scene and a fire highlighted a fairly hectic early Friday morning...

At around 01:30, EMS and WCPD detectives were requested to respond to the 50 block of North New Street. EMS units were dispatched for what was described as an "injured person" though details were very minimal.

Not too long after that, WCFD units were dispatched to the Forest Glen Apartments on Downingtown Pike for what was initially reported as a transformer fire. Upon arrival, Capt. Pelna of the First West Chester Fire Co. requested an upgrade to the building response, adding the other two WCFD companies and GFAC. After the situation was placed under control, the building ended up losing power and was ordered evacuated. The American Red Cross was notified to assist with evacuating residents...

Sandwiched in between the two major incidents were the drunken moron calls that are almost typical on a Thursday night. Things then settled down until 3:15, when a report of a possbile burglary in progress on the 400 block of North High Street. One subject was taken into custody, though it was unclear whether or not the subject was attempting to break into the residence or if he was just drunk...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

DNA Expansion Proposal Considered by State Assembly Had Provisions Inconsistent With Justice

Part 2

by Jeffrey Deskovic

Issues Which The Assembly Requested be Addressed

The Assembly wanted to know what the primary causes of wrongful convictions were. I weighed in on this subject. Because I have written

extensively in previous issues of The Guardian, I will not go overly in depth on these points, but instead will summarize:

(Note: All statistics utilized are in reference to DNA-based exonerations, and do not factor in exonerations achieved by other means, such

as discovery of suppressed evidence, and witness recantations, real perpetrators coming forward to confess.)

a) False confessions were responsible for 25% of the wrongful convictions as established by DNA. Videotaping interrogations, while not a cure-all, could help cut down the rate by providing an objective recount of who said, and did what, when, and in what context. This requirement would prevent police from leaving out details that they would rather the world did not know they engaged in, and it would

simultaneously protect police from false claims of coercion.

b) Misidentification caused 75% of all wrongful convictions.

c) Deficient Representation by Public Defenders. The skill level of those who represent the public as opposed to those that the rich can

afford, is like night and day. Additionally, even those who are not worn down and jaded by the system, have built-in handicaps, such as

an uneven economic playing field. Wherein the prosecution has an almost unlimited budget, the public defender has a very limited budget

and often must resort to asking for discretionary funding from a judge, the granting of which is risky. Another problem confronting legal aid

attorneys is the representation of too many cases at once. Stephani Bench, of the New York State Defenders Association, echoed the sentiment that the state of public defense is in shambles, and advocated for a centralized state-wide system which would lend itself to more oversight. As reinforcement, she referenced the Spangenberg Group’s Report, a study commissioned by Chief Judge Judith Kaye, whose findings were that the state of public defense in new York was, indeed, in shambles. Bench advocated for the centralization of public defense, wherein all public defense would be done on a state-wide basis, as part of one big organization, allowing for more oversight and review.

d) Incentivized Witnessing was involved in 25% of the wrongful convictions, wherein people are given a reward for testifying, sometimes

literally in the form of cash, “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of ” a perpetrator of a crime. And then there is the

incentive offered to those in a desperate legal position to make deals to have charges dropped against them or to receive a lighter sentence

for information. Such individuals, when lacking legitimate information, often resort to making up stories consistent with what prosecutors

are looking for.

The Assembly Committee persons asked whether the present procedures for the collection, cataloguing, and preservation of evidence

are sufficient. Alan Newton, who served 21 years for a rape he did not commit, weighed in on this subject, explaining clearly how the present

system is not sufficient, detailing the struggle he endured, in which for 12 of the 21 years he served, the police claimed that they could not

find the evidence, which, when located, proved through DNA that he had been innocent all along.

They asked whether the current compensation statute on the books was sufficient. I explained that it was deficient in two ways:

Firstly, that in order to receive compensation one must litigate, which is a process that takes between 2-7 years, and that the exonerated

are released with simply the clothes on their backs, and that the remedy for this would be to immediately award $15,000 for every year

of wrongful imprisoned in order to cover such basics as cost of housing, cost of living, mental health services, and educational pursuits, and

that this should be in addition to a lawsuit.

Secondly, there is bad case law on the books, which states that if one contributes to their own wrongful conviction, they are entitled to

nothing. For example, it will be the state’s claim that I contributed to my wrongful conviction by falsely confessing, whereas it is my position that I did not contribute because the confession was coerced and involuntary. In any event, it is absurd that anybody should have to overcome such an obstacle in receiving financial compensation, because the idea that someone will purposely get themselves arrested and wrongfully convicted, to then exonerate themselves to then be in a position to sue for compensation, is ridiculous.

Other Noteworthy Things

Discussed At The Hearing Prof. Ben Gershman recounted, both with nostalgia and wistfulness, a time gone by when he worked as a prosecutor, when a defendant was found not guilty, the District Attorney would call a meeting and want to know whether or not the office

had prosecuted an innocent man, because his office had no business prosecuting the innocent, and how far away the system had come from

that. After he said that, I sadly wished that this attitude had been the case in all jurisdictions, never to have fallen out of practice, and that it had been the case during all of the years in which I had fought to establish my innocence during my appeals process, and when I was requesting further DNA testing, with DA Jeanine Pirro fighting tooth and nail against me, which wound up costing me all of those years.

Prof. Gershman also advocated for a internal review program within the District Attorney’s of-fice itself, in which cases would be examined voluntarily, as something wholly apart from litigation, to ensure that only the guilty were in prison. I thought that this was a great idea, and would further shore up the idea that it is not the job of the prosecutor to do everything possible to win a conviction and then doggedly

fight to preserved it, no matter what, but instead to be a true seeker of truth as a court officer, dedicated to protecting the public, of whom

innocent defendants are a part.

Lonnie Soury, of Soury Com-munications, spoke at length of the corruption going on in the Marty Tankleff case, in which Marty is

currently serving a 50 year prison sentence based on a false confession obtained from him under circumstances very similar to mine. And,

how the discovery by a retired police detective, of 25 witnesses, all putting the puzzle together, proved who really committed the murder, as well as a host of improprieties by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, such as previously representing people involved in the Tankleff murder while still prosecuting the case and representing the detective who was found by a commission of investigation to have perjured himself in a prior murder case; still has not proven to be enough for the prosecutor or the courts to either acknowledge that a wrongful conviction occurred or at the very least to grant Marty a new trial.

The topic of having an Office of Wrongful Convictions was also discussed. Its purpose would be to study wrongful convictions, determining

what went wrong, and what lessons might be learned in order to prevent reoccurrence. The discussion centered on whether it should be within the Governor’s cabinet or outside of it. One of the Assemblymen mentioned that the Governor would like it to be within his office. William Hellerstein gave the point of view that the office should be outside of the Governor’s office in order to keep the office objective and free from in-fluence. His point was that that since the Governor has a background of being a prosecutor and attorney general, an in-house office would lend itself to more access and inclination to prosecutors and police than to defense counsel, and that relationships and trust that naturally form over time could impact upon objectivity.

Scott Christianson, Ph.D, author of the book Innocent: Inside New York Wrongful Convictions, which is the only book dedicated specifically to the subject, includes some cases wherein the defendant was still incarcerated at the time but would go on to be cleared after

the book’s publication. He recounted how one of the problems with wrongful convictions and the difficulty of undoing them is the unwillingness of those in power to acknowledge when a miscarriage of justice had taken place. He mentioned how an unnamed official

once bragged about how, in their county, there was a 100% conviction rate, and that there were no wrongful convictions in New York.

All in all, I was pleased that everybody who spoke was against the one-year time limit for the bringing of 440.10 appeals, and that so many

people were concerned enough that they came. I was disappointed, however, that there was not similar universal support for the expansion of the DNA Databank. I had hoped for the expansion of the databank, and the adoption of other changes spoken of and long-championed by The Innocence Project.

I came away with the sense that the one-year time limit, changed on the hearing day to three years, would not pass because the assemblymen

and women realized the lack of wisdom inherent in such a law, and how it ignores the hard-learned lessons of history about such matters,

gleaned on the backs and sufferings of those who had been wrongly convicted and served lengthy prison sentences.

Our Readers Respond...

A Father’s Desperate Plight

Dear Editor:

I’m a parent of two young daughters, 6 and 8, one of whom is in the first grade. Their mother and I are divorced, and she has remarried and
has been granted residential custody. I recently received the following note from my daughter’s first grade teacher:

“Right now I am just trying to get her to stay ‘in this world’ without aliens, nightmares etc. Children are shying away again and she’s not in
a good place. That’s just my thought. If something changes, I’ll let you know.”What would you do if a teacher with over 20 years experience wrote this to you about your child?

What if you were powerless to help your child or the teacher? If the school sent notes home to you saying that your 6-year-old
child was spitting at, and hitting children on the school bus, what would you do?

If you received notice that there was an attempted abduction of your child from a school gym by a man in a black ski mask and your child
struggled to break free, what would you do? If your 6-year-old child came home and said that two first grade boys threatened to cut her throat with a razor blade the following day at recess, what would you do?

If you learned that your ex-spouse and her partner began hitting your child when she was 3 years old child with a wooden spoon as punishment for not coming to the dinner table on time, what would you do? Would you call CPS (Child Protective Services), go to court, call the police? What would you do if your child was subjected to over 20 interviews between the ages of 4 and 6 by just about every agency imaginable, DSS, CPS, doctors, forensic doctors, nurses, detectives, state troopers? Would you put your child into therapy? What if I were to tell you that I had four charges lodged against me by my ex-spouse, all of which were determined to be unfounded?

If you would like the answers to these questions you’ll have to ask the following people in the Westchester Court System: Ken Bunting, James Montagnino, Judge Edlitz, Judge Donovan, Gregory Salant, Rhona Bork, John Ruti, John Rubin, Judge Ratner, Judge Cooney, Judge Leibowitz, Sal Lagonia, Joan Iacono, Harriet Weinberger and others.

For four years my children and I have endured absolute horror at the hands of the Westchester Supreme Court - Matrimonial Part. I have
sat in court and endured Law Guardian Ken Bunting and former Referee James Montagnino making jokes about my children being hit. I have
been coerced, manipulated, and abused. I have watched witness tampering, forgery of court-subpoenaed documents. I have been denied counsel and forced into bankruptcy. I am on the verge of losing my home, the marital home. This is the home my children were born into.
I have spent two years trying to get my children back into therapy that was ordered by the Supreme Court. The accuser, their mother, refuses to bring my children to the therapist. After retaining yet another lawyer, John Rubin, at a cost of over $7,500 merely to fend off more absurd allegations by my ex-spouse, I once again tried to secure therapy for my children before Family Court Judge Edlitz. As a result, another “attorney-only conference” was held and another ludicrous decision with regard to my children’s welfare was generated.

Bill G.

More Kudos

Dear Editor:

Keep up the good work! Joe Pulitzer’s climbing out of the grave and coming over with a prize for the publication’s outstanding value as reporting Justice and its lack thereof.

Richard Gosselin, Jackson Heights

Editor’s Note: Thank you!

The Battle of Mount Vernon

Dear Editor:

Excuses! Excuses! Excuses! That’s all you get from corrupt Ernie Davis and cronies like Joan K. Battle who wrote the latter in the June 14 edition. Hey, Battle, if Ernie Davis isn’t corrupt why is the U.S. District Attorney and the FBI investigating him for taking federal money? Answer that.

Oh, I’m sure you go along with Davis’ excuse that the U.S. District Attorney and the FBI are conducting a political witchhunt. The investigation is the best thing the federal government can do for the people of Mount Vernon to clean out all of the corrupt politicians who enslave and oppress the people with high taxes, high crime, dirty streets, poor schools, no future for the youth. They grab everything for themselves, their families, their cronies – cronyism and nepotism is rampant.

This Battle person said she was an Assistant Property Manager for Levister Towers. I bet she had no experience. She probably got this as a no-show job because she was politically connected to Davis and Serapher Con Halevi. What a disgrace that the poor residents of Levister Towers had to pay high rents for her no-show salary. Her payback? Write a letter for Davis and Con Halevi. No more excuses. They all need to be in handcuffs.

Concerned Resident, Mount Vernon

Reader Responds to Judge Lange’s Column

Dear Editor:

Your paper has been a much-needed breath of fresh air ever since the first issue. I enjoy your features, including the informative articles by retired Judge Kenneth Lange.

But in his otherwise fascinating coverage of the September 21, 1938 hurricane, he states incorrectly that “Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia” on September 22nd. It’s true that most people’s attention was distracted from the hurricane by the threat of a new war in Europe, but September 22nd is significant only because the Munich conference began on that date. It ran for a week, and ended with Britain and France (Czechoslovakia wasn’t even represented!) giving in to Hitler’s threats and recognizing Germany’s “right” to annex Czechoslovakia’s mostly
German-speaking Sudeten border area.

In effect, Czechoslovakia was abandoned, and had to agree to Germany’s occupation of the Sudetenland, which took place on October 1st without armed resistance. By March 15, 1939, Czechoslovakia--- already gravely weakened by the loss of the Sudetenland, the Munich pact’s requirement that she demobilize most of her armed forces, and the desertion of her main allies, Britain and France---was helpless to resist Hitler’s demand that she allow Germany to “protectively” occupy her two western provinces, Bohemia and Moravia.

That occupation took place on March 15th, again with no armed resistance. So I don’t think it can be said that Hitler ever invaded
Czechoslovakia, and in any case not on September 22, 1938.

Al Raymond,

Croton on-Hudson

In Our Opinion...

Anybody Seen George Pataki Lately?

We haven’t heard anything lately from George Pataki. Wasn’t he running for President? We seem to recall an exploratory committee and fundraising effort headquartered in Virginia. And, didn’t he open an office, with great fanfare, in downtown Peekskill sometime back in December? A check with the phone company revealed no number at either location. A Yale graduate, with a law degree from Columbia, George seemed to offer such promise when he moved into the Governor’s Mansion, having defeated three-term Governor Mario Cuomo. He entered with the promise that, unlike Mario, he would only serve two terms. It would be eight years before the People of New York would discover how hollow that commitment was. But, there were harbingers very early on that his performance would fall far short of his rhetoric.

That’s not to suggest that he didn’t keep any of his promises. He brought back the Death Penalty as promised, and eliminated vocational and college education in the penal system. However, he did parole some inmates early; those whose father’s contributed five million dollars. He balanced his budget, as promised, albeit on the backs of the physically and mentally disabled and the elderly infirm. After all, he needed to make cuts somewhere, didn’t he?

In 2002, after he had been governor for two terms, Andrew Cuomo decided to run against him, even though Carl McCall was the Democratic Party’s favorite. Cuomo, taking some bad advice from his campaign director Josh Isay, attacked Pataki for how little he had done in response to the World Trade Center disaster, characterizing the Governor as having, “held Giuliani’s coat.” Perhaps Andy might of fared better had he, instead of pointing to what Pataki hadn’t done, pointed to all the wrong he had done.

George Pataki distinguished himself amongst governors of New York State, by bringing a new dimension -well, maybe not an entirely new dimension - to state government, but clearly, a lot more of it: Corruption. From Day One George made no secret about the kinds of characters he would be appointing to high state office, and giving sweet deals to. For five years, until he was convicted of massive tax fraud in Federal Court, in June 2000; Al Pirro was repeatedly referred to, by Pataki, as his “best friend and fundraiser.”

Pirro, in his capacity as a lobbyist, walked away with numerous sweetheart deals for himself and his clients, as did many other Pataki insiders. At the same time, Pataki had a penchant for appointing some of the most criminal, and scandalous individuals, many of them Peekskill cronies, such as Robert Boyle who, together with Al Pirro, had ripped of the Hudson Valley Hospital Center, and who was forced from office in disgrace over the Javits Center Scandal while he was Chairman of the Port Authority.

Then there was Jack Gaffney, former Supervisor of the Town of Cortlandt, and father-inlaw of Kieran Mahoney, Pataki’s campaign director. Gaffney, appointed to a $138,000- a-year position as Chairman of the State Bridge Authority, first investigated by the State Inspector General, was ultimately indicted and prosecuted, and forced from office by Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams, for some $188,000 in over-charges, charges for personal travel, and false charges for compensatory time.

As time went on the rampant corruption, and blatant failures of the Pataki Administration; the World Trade Center paralysis, the starved up-state economy, the inability to pass a budget on time, and run-away taxes, highest in the nation, came to be viewed as the Pataki Legacy by most New Yorkers. The notion that he could seriously suggest he was seeking higher office, the Presidency, seemed ludicrous, even more so than his ‘comb-over.’ Nevertheless, there were numerous trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, states with early presidential primaries, to “test the waters.”

All that presidential campaign talk has somehow faded to silence. Nobody has seen, much less heard from, George Elmer Pataki in months. Maybe, just maybe, his pollsters discovered that the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and elsewhere decided that, if elected President, he might do for them what he did for New York.

Janet Difiore.

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Pirro-Gate: No One Is Above The Law

As with another power-hungry wrongdoer, who severely abused the authority entrusted by those who elected him, Richard Nixon, tape recording her own misconduct, and that of her co-conspirators, may very well contribute to the ultimate complete exposure and successful prosecution of Jeanine Pirro. And, more importantly, may provide new evidence helpful in the exoneration of numerous victims of her extreme prosecutorial misconduct, and that of many of her assistant DAs, as well as others under her control, operating under the color of law.

The continued existence of tapes that Pirro had ordered destroyed by one of her investigators, was brought to light only recently in connection with the Anthony DiSimone case. DiSimone, who was released from Greenhaven State Prison a few months ago by the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, on a habeas corpus petition, had compelled District Attorney Janet DiFiore to reveal the existence of 376 pages, and 52 boxes of exhibits, all Brady material, exculpatory evidence, clearly pointing to the fact, from the outset, that DiSimone
was not the murderer of Louis Balancio. DA DiFiore was also compelled to reveal to his defense attorneys that there was even “more Brady
material,” a box filled with secretly recorded tapes that, amongst other things, contained conversations between Pirro, her top level deputies Clement Patti, and Steven Bender, in telephone communication with a top level Assistant United States Attorney, with regard to the Balancio murder and prosecution.

It was no coincidence that at least one of those taped conversations occurred on December 18, 1997. In fact, in December of 1997 then-United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, cleverly “leaked” to Al and Jeanine Pirro the fact that they were both under investigation by her office for a massive, joint, ten-year tax fraud scheme. Whether it was merely a precautionary move, in light of the tip, or more likely, an affirmative attempt to entangle White’s Office in her prosecutorial misconduct, for possible later use as a bargaining tool in dealing with the federal prosecution she feared she and Al might soon face, the recently re-elected Westchester DA
wasn’t letting any control opportunity pass her by.

Not unlike Richard Nixon, who had won his second term by a landslide against George Mc Govern, Pirro, in December, 1997, had just been re-elected to a second term by a two-to-one plurality, albeit, in a fixed race. She was entering her fifth year as DA, at the top of her game, the center of the cabal in total control of Westchester, having already sent numerous innocent indi-viduals to prison for crimes that she knew very well they had not committed, including Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo, convicted only weeks earlier for Depraved Indifference Murder, having saved his middle-aged father’s life from a bat-wielding violent assailant with a long criminal record. Emboldened by her conviction of Officer DiGuglielmo as the result of extreme prosecutorial misconduct, she was now convinced that she could not only
“indict a ham sandwich,” but also convict it. Constitutional rights, the Rule of Law, to Pirro, were mere technicalities. Even a confession from the actual killer of Louis Balancio, six days after his brutal stabbing by Albanian youth, Nick Djonovic, in February of 1994, wouldn’t stop her from inventing a scenario more politically useful, to prosecute an Italian, preferably someone, somehow, connected to Organized Crime.

She would not be deterred from her evil mission, not even by more than two dozen witnesses, young men and women who were present inside and outside the bar, the murder scene, who refused to lie for her. She would send many of them to prison on trumped-up charges, as she pursued that someone, amongst the crowd, having been involved in the rumble on the sidewalk outside the “bucket of blood” - the Strike Zone Bar - in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, Central Avenue, Yonkers. One way or another Jeanine Pirro was out to establish that she could prosecute Organized Crime. And, the fact that the Assistant United States Attorney she was tape recording was telling her, and two of her top deputies, that there was significant evidence that Balancio was murdered by Nick Djonovic, who had escaped to Albania, was not going to alter her plans.

We know there are many tapes, and that not all that was recorded by Pirro necessarily involved criminal investigations. Several current, and former, public office holders, including many judges, as well as political operatives such as Giulio Cavallo, Larry Schwartz, Anthony Mangone, and numerous other co-conspirators had routine telephone access to her. They are now experiencing high anxiety knowing that they were taped, and that those tapes have fallen into the hands of federal investigators.

The Feds have good reason to be very upset with former DA Pirro. After all, she swindled the FBI into putting Nick and Darren Mazzarella, two multiple murderers, who were in federal custody, into the Witness Protection Program in exchange for Darren’s perjured testimony against Anthony DiSimone. Hopefully, they will diligently investigate not only her transgressions against them, but also her horrific prosecutorial misconduct against scores of innocent individuals, conduct, compared to which Michael Nifong was a “choirboy.”

It is understandable that Pirro has very likely already been indicted by sealed indictment, and that the Government is in no particular rush to reveal their hand to other possible targets by unsealing it. Still, for those who languish in prison cells, convicted of crimes they did not commit, and for those who have already done their ‘hard time’ and emerged, the announcement of Mrs. Pirro’s indictment cannot come soon enough. They know that 376 pages, and 52 boxes, of withheld and concealed Brady material was not the exception under DA Pirro, but the rule. Pirro and many of her top assistants, much like Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, and crew, simply did not play by the rules.

Given the existence of the Pirro tapes; numerous tapes; in the interest of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office has a clear obligation to turn copies of them over to defense counsel whose clients are engaged in the appeals process, as relevant discovery, if called upon to do so. It is fair to say that Michael Garcia had no idea as to the scope and depth of the corruption and the injustice that would emerge in response to his ‘tip line,’ 1-877-363-4723. However, having secured additional staff, Mr. Garcia, must now proceed full throttle to aggressively apprehend and prosecute all who have committed crime, and, particularly those who have violated the civil rights of innocent individuals
under the color of law.

Jeanine Pirro, and her henchmen, and co-conspirators, must come to understand what Richard Nixon and his pack learned more than thirty years ago. No one is above the law!

Janet Difiore.

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Hendrick Hudson High Seniors Arraigned on Felony Charges
Cortlandt Town Court, Cortlandt Manor
Town Justice Gerald Klein Presiding

Last Monday morning 19 seniors from Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose appeared in Cortlandt Town Court for arraignment before Town Justice Gerald Klein, the result of a ‘senior prank’ that somehow garnered a more harsh reaction from the school administration, and police, than the kids had anticipated. The prank, involved some 67 inexpensive wind-up, butterfly shaped, alarm clocks that were all set to ring at the same time, the previous Monday morning. They had been planted all over the high school, on walls, and in lockers, held in place with duct tape, by students who had gotten into the school late Sunday night, June 10th. Picked up on motion detectors, their activity quickly brought police with bomb sniffing canines to the school. The youngsters, all charged with 240.61 of the Penal Law, Placing A False Bomb or Hazardous Substance, a Felony, were accompanied to court by their attorneys, their parents and other family members, as well as several uncharged schoolmates, who had come to support them.

Despite the large turnout, Justice Klein managed to quickly complete the arraignment proceedings for all but two of the youngsters, who had failed to bring legal representation, and, who required assigned counsel. Following the arraignment, a group of six seniors, young men and women who had come to support their classmates, told The Guardian, “Nobody could have taken the butterfly alarm clocks seriously. They weren’t made up to look like bombs, or anything dangerous. They were just supposed to ring at the same time.”

A mother of one of the charged students, who had just come from the courtroom, seemed to express the sentiments of several parents, declaring, “They’re not punishing the kids; they’re punishing us. We had to go out and hire lawyers, and lose time from work. They’re over-reacting to what they, (the kids) did.”

White Plains Attorney Peter Goodrich, a former Westchester Assistant District Attorney, who represents one of the charged students, told The Guardian, “It was a total over-reaction to have charged these youngsters with a felony once they discovered they were harmless clocks. They knew there was no malicious intent, just a senior prank.”

Proceeding to the high school, The Guardian met with Youth Resource Officer Velez, a New York State Trooper, who indicated that he knew the students. He told us, “They are good kids. They just made a poor decision.”


Most observers are in agreement that the youngsters involved in the Hendrick Hudson High senior prank have been over-charged and dealt
with too severely. Given the fact that there was never any attempt to imply that there were bombs, or any explosive devices, but merely to have the alarm clocks all going off simultaneously on Monday morning, it is apparent that there was really no malicious intent. Furthermore, the fact that those involved voluntarily turned themselves in and, also, that classes were conducted Monday morning, June 11th, without interruption, should have mitigated for a lesser charge.

The students involved will not be allowed to attend their graduation ceremony, a painful consequence in itself. Perhaps a better course of action might have been to couple their absence from their graduation with a mandated forty hours, or so, of community service.

Hopefully, District Attorney Janet DiFiore may be persuaded to reconsider the impact that having been charged with a felony will have upon the future prospects of so many basically decent kids, and will opt for the more constructive, and reasonable, community service approach. Surely, no good purpose can be served by causing so much more in the way of judicial, prosecutorial, and parental resources, to be expended, than has already been, should the District Attorney’s Office persist in its pursuit of felony charges against these youngsters.

After all, had the same prank been attempted just six years ago, prior to 9/11 and, prior to some of the high school and college incidents that
have spawned the hyper-reactive mentality with which many now approach any departure from routine at any public gathering place, these
kids, now facing felony charges, and 1½ to 4 years in prison, would merely be experiencing the embarrassment of having had their senior prank foiled, and the pain of missing graduation.
Lesnick Access Concept Moves Forward With Ridge Hill Task Force Appointment Mary Ann Crotty, Director of Operations & Policy Management Under Former Gov. Mario Cuomo, Hired As Manager

Last Monday, June 18, members of the inter-municipal Ridge Hill Task Force gathered on the southbound shoulder of the Sprain Brook Parkway, just south of Jackson Ave., site of the proposed access ramp to the Ridge Hill development to announce the appointment of Mary
Ann Crotty as Manager. Under the terms of agreement between the Town of Greenburgh, the Villages of Ardsley and Hastings-on-Hudson and the municipal and corporate entities engaged in the development of Ridge Hill Village, a Task Force consisting of representatives of each of the villages, the Town of Greenburgh, the City of Yonkers, and developer Forest City Ratner, were charged with employing a manager to assist with the investigation of a potential Sprain Brook Parkway access as well as the obtaining of the necessary local, state and federal
approvals. Ms. Crotty, with more than 25 years’ experience in the public and private sectors, at one time serving as the New York State Assistant Secretary of Transportation involved with funding, additionally brings a decade of experience with a major engineering rm where she worked on implementation of global transportation projects.

Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick, who has advocated for the Sprain Brook Parkway access right along, expressed his delight with Crotty’s appointment, declaring, “I worked with Mary Ann Crotty on several New York State Transportation Bond Act projects during Governor Cuomo’s administration and, if anyone can identify funding sources, and coordinate among governmental agencies, utilities
and engineers, she can.”

Not too coincidentally, former Governor Mario Cuomo has simultaneously been retained, at no fee, to serve as a Special Advisor to the Task
Force. Mary Jane Shimsky, Task Force member and community activist from the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson, expressed her delight with Cuomo’s involvement, stating, “He would not get involved with the project unless it was important to the region and had a reasonable likelihood of success.”

The project, which has encountered some frustration in negotiations with the County regarding access over County parkland, despite recent disparaging remarks by Larry Schwartz, would nevertheless appear closer to fruition in light of comments by County Executive Andrew Spano, who said, “I look forward to working with Mary Ann Crotty and Governor Cuomo to reach a consensus on a plan that bene ts all citizens of Westchester County.”


Tuesday marked a very slow day at 15-1-01 for the weekly Criminal Day, as no preliminary hearings were held. Of the seven cases listed, two defendants waived their preliminary hearings, two cases were continued, and a fifth defendant with two cases that were close to being reduced to summary charges had his cases automatically waived to Common Pleas Court after failing to appear for his scheduled hearing. A sixth defendant had a bench warrant issued against him after failing to appear for his hearing...

Barry D. Cosby, 27, of Philadelphia, had two cases pending in front of Judge Bruno - in the first case, Cosby was charged with Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphanalia, and Public Drunkeness (15-1-01, CR-0000021-07). In the second case, Cosby was charged with Defiant Trespassing (15-1-01, CR-0000055-07). Both cases were filed by WCU Police. Cosby was initially scheduled for a compliance hearing last month, but, after discussions between his defense attorney and the court, was given a 30 day extension to this past Tuesday. Since he failed to appear, however, the charges were automatically waived to Common Pleas Court.

Another defendant, Jerry Jerome Hubbard, of West Chester, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Possession of Drug Paraphanalia charges on a case filed by P/O Greg Cugino, however he failed to appear for his hearing. As such, a bench warrant was issued (15-1-01, CR-0000146-07).

Also appearing on Tuesday was one Joseph M. Malavolta, 21, of West Chester. Malavolta was arraigned on Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphanalia, and Criminal Use of a Communication Facilty. He is now free after posting 10 percent of $5,000 bail and being placed on electronic home monitoring, and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next week (15-1-01, CR-0000107-07).

And thus wrapped up a slow day at 15-1-01. Though there are several intersting cases scheduled for this morning's Criminal Day at Goshen District Court, there are also several intersting cases slated for Courtroom #3 at Common Pleas Court. As such, time permitting, there won't be a report from the Land of Goshen for this morning's session...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Multiple police agencies were active last night on Goshen Road in West Goshen, though details are very limited as I only caught bits and pieces towards the end of the incident over my scanner. It sounded like there was either a drug raid or standoff in the area, as mention was made of windows being damaged by flash bang grenades. I am more inclinded to believe this was a stand-off, as there was a request over police radio to have the FCC restrict air-space over the scene, which is usually a good indication that it was a standoff. More than likely, details will come out either in today's or tomorrow's paper...

Monday, June 25, 2007


A few cases of note involving local defendants were adjudicated in Common Pleas Court today...

In Judge Sarcione's court, Joseph Stonelake, 53, of East Fallowfield, entered an open guilty plea on charges of DUI in a case relating to an accident in the West Side of the borough. (CP-15-CR-0001004-2007)

On January 26, WCPD responded to a report of a 3 car MVA on the 200 block of West Chestnut Street at around 16:00, in which the defendant's car had rear-ended a second vehicle, which in turn rear-ended a third vehicle. Upon arrival, Ofc. Jeffery Murray detected a strong odor of alcohol from Stonelake's breath and also observed that he was unable to maintain his balance. After failing field sobriety tests, Stonelake was arrested and taken to CCH, where his BAC later came back over .30. Judge Sarcione was amazed that the defendant was able to walk after the incident considering his extrememly high level of intoxication. The defendant was sentenced to the mandatory 72 hour prison term, $1,000 fine, and one year driver suspension. The plea remains open pending restitution to the one victim who was injured. During the plea hearing, Stonelake admitted that he used very poor judgement on that day. Um, duh...

Then, it was over to Courtroom #3 for some real intesting legal drama. Ronald Douglas Thomas, 37, of West Chester, appeared in front of Judge James P. MacElree II in a drug possession and sales case. Thomas was undecided as to whether he would request a non-jury trial or accept a plea, leading to some intense talks between the defendant and his public defender. At the start of the hearing/supposed trial, Thomas set the tone for what would be a very interesting hearing in which he claimed to have no recollection of the incident and requested to suboena an alleged confidential informant, who is presently a guest of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Assistant District Attorney Carlos Barraza indicated that the CI would not be called by the Commonwealth at trial. Thomas claimed that the CI's testimony would differ from that of the investigating officer's testimony.

Thomas' public defender, Stewart Paintin, informed the judge that on two separate occasions, Thomas had walked out of strategy meetings at the prison and contented that his client wasn't exactly assisting in his own defense. This would come into play at the end of the hearing.

After nearly an hour of haggling between Paintin and Thomas, the defendant came to his senses and decided to enter a guilty plea to Possession/Delivery of a Non-controlled Substance after ADA Barraza withdrew charges of Possession With Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphanalia, and Drug Sales within a School Zone. In this case, Thomas admitted that on September 20, 2006 at approximately 19:53, he sold what was suspected to be cocaine for $20.00 at his residence on the 100 block of North New Street to an undercover officer; it was later determined not to be cocaine, hence the adjustment in the charges (CP-15-CR-0003166-2007).

Thomas also pled guilty in a second case relating to an incident on December 30, 2006. On that day, at around 19:12, Ofc. Greg Cugino arrested the defendant on the 200 block of West Washington Street in the area of a reputed crack house. In a search incident to an arrest, discovered a substance that later tested positive for cocaine. In that incident, Thomas was charged with Possesion of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphanalia, and Trespassing charges; the latter two charges were withdrawn (CP-15-CR-0000434-2007). Additionally, because of the guilty plea to a felony count, Thomas is also required to submit a DNA sample to the state-wide database.

As part of the agreement, Thomas was sentenced to 2-to-4 years in state prison with credit for four months already served at CCP for the New Street incident and to 1-to-3 years in state prison with credit for 6 months served in CCP on the Washington Street case, to run concurrent with the first case. The reason for the lengthier time served credit on the second case was that the six months was accrued while awaiting trial on the Washington Street matter. Thomas had been out on bail on the first case when he was arrested on the second case, and his bail in the first case was formally revoked on February 28.

When Thomas had indicated that he was not really happy with his representation, Judge MacElree reminded him that "very few people were happy to be in court or to be sentenced." Thomas then replied that he was "not prepared to go to trial and so I have to take this deal."

After he was sentenced, Thomas stated for the record that he planned to appeal his sentence based upon ineffective counsel, an issue that would be dealt with during the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) process. Judge MacElree then ordered the appointment of conflict counsel, whom will be assigned at a later date...

In seemingly less controversial matters, two drug possession cases were put to bed, so to speak, in Judge Sarcione's court.

Last week, Jordan Mohl, 19, of Lebanon, entered an open guilty plea on two separate cases of Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. Both incidents occured at Tyson Hall on the WCU campus. In the first case, Mohl admitted that on February 7, 2006 at around 20:14 hours, he admitted to selling an undercover officer 2 grams of marijuana for $35.00. (CP-15-CR-0000998-2007) In the second case, Mohl admitted to selling 5 Vicodin pills to an undercover detective on January 18, 2006 at around 21:00. (CP-15-CR-0000999-2007) His co-defendant, John Blystone, was sentenced to 6-to-23 months in CCP by Judge Riley as a co-defendant in the second case (CP-15-CR-0001015-2007). Mohl's sentencing is scheduled for July 18 in front of Judge Sarcione.

Wrapping up the report is the matter of Commonwealth vs. Hector Encarnaction Lopez, 19, of Philadelphia (CP-15-CR-0001553-2007). Lopez entered an open guilty plea to one count of Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. On January 13 at around 19:54, Ofc. A.J. McCarthy initiated a traffic stop in the 400 block of North Everhart Street. At that time, Lopez, a passenger in a vehicle reportedly driven by co-defendant Kristopher Smith (who is scheduled for trial this Wednesday), was found to be in possession of three yellow zip lock bags containing marijuana, a clear hair net containing 12 1-by-1 inch clear zip lock baggies containing powder cocaine, and $269.00 in cash. Lopez was found to have no means of ingestion of the substances; after being read his rights, Lopez admitted that he was possessing the cocaine for the purposes of delivery in exchange for money, according to the criminal complaint filed with the courts. His sentencing date has yet to be determined...

An early review of scheduled cases in front of Judge Bruno for tomorrow's Criminal Day indicate a potentially light docket, with just four cases scheduled to this point, according to a review of records on the AOPC web site. Of course, that usually doesn't mean anything, but it could mark a very short day at 15-1-01 tomorrow, which means potentially more excitement at the big courthouse at High and Market to report on tomorrow...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

GOSHEN CRIMINAL DAY x2 - 6/14/07 & 6/21/07

Now that I've finally caught up with the "priority stuff" (the Criminal Days in the borough and some outstanding Common Pleas Court stuff), it's time to expand the world of this blog by adding Goshen District Court (15-2-03), which covers Thornbury, West Goshen, and Westtown, to the list of Criminal Days that will be covered by this site. Here now is coverage of the past two Criminal Days from Goshen.

On June 14, Flag Day, only one preliminary hearing took place in front of Senior District Judge Susann Welsh, who is presiding over 15-2-03 after the retirement of District Judge J. Peter Winthur, whose seat will be filled at election this November. The lone case to come out of the Flag Day hearing was the Commonwealth vs. Michael Tillman, 39, of West Chester, who was charged with DUI, Accident Involving Damage to an Attended Vehicle, and Careless Driving. (15-2-03, CR-0000130-07)

At the hearing, the victim testified that at 15:07 on April 13, she and two passengers were en route to the Phillies game that night when she was stopped at the traffic light on 202 at Matlack Street. Her car was then rear-ended by a Hummer. The driver of the Hummer then allegedly fled the scene on South Matlack, heading into the borough. Another person called the 9-1-1 center to report the incident, while the victim began to follow the defendant, eventually leading to a nearby apartment complex.

P/O Wesley Holman of the West Goshen Police Department then testified that upon recieving a report of the incident from dispatch, he responded to the parking lot of the West Chester Commons apartment complex at Rosedale and Matlack. He later tracked down the Hummer in question at the South Campus Aparment complex on the WCU campus. P/O Holman saw the vehicle driving about 6-to-8 feet towards him, at which point he parked his patrol car at an angle and ordered the defendant out of his car at gunpoint, assisted by Sgt. Robert Herzog of WCU Police.

Once Tillman was out of his vehicle, P/O Holman observed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and had fallen several times. At that point, Tillman was transported to CCH for blood testing to determine his intoxication level. The tests revealed that Tillman's BAC was .284, four times the legal limit for intoxication.

Based on the evidence presented, Judge Welsh held Tillman for trial on all counts; he remains free on $1,000 unsecured bail.

Of the remaining 9 cases listed, six defendants waived preliminary hearings, one case was withdrawn following compliance with an agreement, and the other two cases were continued...

This past Thursday's Criminal Day at Goshen proved to be more active than the previous week's. Of the 16 cases listed, 3 defendants had preliminary hearings, 2 defendants failed to appear for court, 5 cases were waived to Common Pleas Court, 1 case was withdrawn, and the remaining 5 were continued. All three of the hearings were DUI-related...

The first hearing was the matter of Commonwealth vs. Jeffrey Spano (15-2-03, CR-0000159-07). Spano, 28, of West Chester, faced charges of DUI and speeding stemming from a traffic stop performed by Sgt. William Camlin of the WGPD. Sgt. Camlin testified that he was on a traffic post on the 800 block of West Chester Pike at around 23:52 on May 7 when he observed a white Chevrolet SUV heading eastbound on the Pike travelling 61 mph in a 35 mph zone. Spano was stopped 3 blocks east of Sgt. Camlin's traffic post, where he administered four field sobriety tests and was taken to CCH for blood work. The defendant's BAC was determined to be .15, slightly less than twice the legal limit. The defendant was held for trial on all counts, and remains free on his own recognisance...

In the second hearing, Commonwealth vs. David Kilgore (15-2-03, CR-0000156-07), P/O John Liss of WGPD testified that he was dispatched to the report of a car vs. building MVA on the 100 block of North Five Points with unknown injuries. Upon arrival, P/O Liss saw a Ford Ranger which had struck the "M" building of the apartment complex, with the vehicle running and Kilgore allegedly inside the vehicle. He saw two empty beer cans in the center console of the truck and on the floor of the vehicle, with more beer behind the driver's seat. The defendant allegedly attempted to drive off before he was removed from the truck and placed under arrest. According to a report from the PSP Lima labs, Kilgore's BAC was reported to be .24. P/O Liss testified that he was unable to locate any other occupants or potential victims nearby. Kilgore was held on all charges, and remains free on $5,000 unsecured bail.

The final hearing was towards the end of the session, as the matter of Commonwealth vs. Christopher Harper (15-2-03, CR-0000269-06) was heard. Harper faced charges of DUI, Possession of Drug Paraphanalia, Driving Under a Suspended License, and Careless Driving. During his hearing, P/O Brian Griesser was dispatched to an MVA reported serious on US 202 southbound in the area of the 322 bypass. Upon arrival, P/O Griesser saw a Ford Fusion with moderate damage after striking a dirt embankment. He allegedly saw the defendant behind the wheel of the car, where he was unresponsive upon the officer's arrival.

P/O Griesser then testified that he saw an open cigarette pack containing 2 syringes in plain view, located in the driver's side door. Harper was removed from the vehicle by GFAC and Medic 91 and was transported to CCH. Harper reportedly became more responsive once he was in the ambulance, where he allegedly told the EMS personnel that he was under the influence of cocaine, which was later confirmed by the blood work taken following the accident. It was later determined that the vehicle Harper was allegedly driving was a rental car reported missing, though no charges were reportedly filed in that matter.

Harper was held on all counts; bail in this matter had been set at $500, however Harper is presently serving a 11 1/2-to-23 month jail term at Berks County Prison after pleading guilty to a count of Theft by Unlawful Taking from an incident in Robeson Twp on September 21, 2006 (CP-06-CR-0005004-2006).

Friday, June 22, 2007


A variety of interesting cases marked the week that was in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. A few defendants from cases involving WCPD entered guilty pleas while a familiar name to this blog made an appearance on an unrelated DUI charge...

On Monday, Manuel Duran Boyer, 21, of West Chester, pled guilty to one count of Recieving Stolen Property following an incident on June 30, 2006. The defendant admitted that being in possession of three sports jerseys, valued at $40.00 a piece, which he claimed he bought from a friend of his from Reading. It was later determined that the friend had stolen the items from his cousin; the items were later returned. Judge James P. MacElree II sentenced Boyer to 55 days to 12 months in Chester County Prison, plus the costs of prosecution, and was granted immediate parole based on time served while in custody (CP-15-CR-0004789-2006). Boyer had been at Berks County Prison on an unrelated drug possession case from Reading (CP-06-CR-0004192-2006)...

In Courtroom #2, Stephen Giffing, who is awaiting trial on simple assault charges from a Mother's Day domestic assault, had a hearing on a DUI case in front of Judge Ronald Nagle on Monday. The hearing stemmed from an traffic stop at a DUI checkpoint in West Bradford in the criminal case filed by PSP/Embreeville. During his hearing, Giffing had stated that he applied for the ARD program, and did not seem to understand why he was refused. Assistant DA Mark Conte noted that Giffing had a previous simple assault charge dating back to 1999 (noted in a previous posting on this blog). Since there was a prior criminal conviction within the past 10 years, Conte noted, Giffing was ineligible for ARD. And the fact that Giffing awaits trial for allegedly assaulting his mother certainly didn't help matters much either. Ultimately, Giffing requested a non-jury trial on the DUI case, which was still scheduled to be heard during Judge Nagle's current term as of this past Thursday pending the availability of the arresting officer. (CP-15-CR-0001843-2007)...

In Courtroom #7, Richard Anthony Roessner IV, 19, a WCU student from New Jersey, pled guilty to a first offense DUI in front of Judge Anthony A. Sarcione. On November 17, 2006, P/O David Hammond initiated a traffic stop on the 500 block of East Market Street at around 01:00. P/O Hammond noted that the defendant's eyes were glassy and had detected an odor of alcohol from his breath. After failing a series of field sobriety tests, Roessner was taken to Chester County Hospital for blood work; his BAC was determined to be .10; in Pennsylvania, a person under age 21 is can be charged with DUI if his or her BAC is over .02. Roessner was sentenced to 48 hours to 6 months in Chester County Prison, a mandatory $500 fine, court costs, a suspension of his New Jersey driver's license, $70.00 restitution to the PSP Lima Regional Labs. Roessner is expected to serve his sentence this weekend. Roessner was on juvenile probation for a 2nd degree assault charge in New Jersey, though it's unclear how the DUI charge affects his probation in New Jersey (CP-15-CR-0000524-2007)...

On Tuesday, after a relatively slow day at 15-1-01's Criminal Day, it was back to the Courthouse for some more interesting drama ... well, sort of...

In what was scheduled to be a pre-trial hearing, Peter Thomas Navarro II, 24, of Downingtown, was facing charges of DUI - 1st offense, Resisting Arrest, Threats/Improper Influence in Police Matters, and two counts of Disorderly Conduct.

On December 1, 2006, WCPD units were dispatched to the 50 block of East Prescott Alley after the defendant had been drinking at Kildare's during the evening and had reportedly been causing a disturbance. Navarro had been followed by the reporting party to his vehicle on Prescott Alley. Upon arrival, two officers found the defendant sitting in the driver's seat of his car, however the engine had not been turned on and the keys to the car were not located on the driver at the time. During an attempt to conduct field sobriety tests, Navarro was uncooperative and objected to following through with the tests. Officers then attempted to place Navarro under arrest, however he became combative and resisted arrest.

The Commonwealth withdrew the DUI charges, since the officers couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Navarro was attempting to drive the vehicle. In exchange, Navarro pled guilty to Resisting Arrest and Disorderly Conduct and was sentenced to 2 years probation. In sentencing, Judge Howard F. Riley, Jr. noted that the Commonwealth and the WCPD "showed a lot more courtesy then you showed them" on that night. That's a pretty good understatement (CP-15-CR-0001066-2007)...

Wednesday's miscelaneous list in front of Judge Riley provided more than a few interesting moments. For starters, a man who had served prison time for a string of burglaries across the county appeared for a violation of parole hearing. Robert J. Banks, 46, of Philadelphia, pled guilty to Burglary in 1996 and was sentenced to 2 1/2-to-5 years in state prison plus 5 years probation in connection with 14 burglaries of drug stores in Caln, Downingtown, East Whiteland, Uwchlan, Valley, West Goshen, Westtown, and West Whiteland. In those burglaries, he gained access by breaking a glass window, then proceeded to take multiple cartons of cigarettes, which he would re-sell to stores in Philadelphia. One has to wonder if he thought about selling t-shirts which lists every district court he had hearings in in 1996...

During the hearing, Banks saw his probation violated after allegations of inappropriate communications with the prosecutor in the case (who is now an Assistant U.S. Attorney) and his probation officer. He had also failed to pay $13,201.25 in restitution to the affected stores. Banks was recently committed to Norristown State Hospital for a 60-day term to determine his competency for the purposes of the hearing; he was determined to be competent and sentenced to an additional 2 1/2-to-5 year term in state prison. Banks didn't exactly react too kindly to the judge's decision.

He had complained that he hadn't deserved to be committed to state prison for what he kept claiming was a county sentence, constantly repeating that he was "not going to accept a state bit". He had also claimed that he had committed no criminal offenses since his original charges were adjudicated. As Judge Riley was reviewing Banks' post-sentencing hearing rights, Banks made it very clear that he was not happy with the Public Defender appointed to represent him and indicated he would represent himself in future hearings. He then stated that he wanted a court appointed attorney; Judge Riley then appointed the Public Defender's office to represent him in future hearings. Not so surprsingly, Banks again changed his mind (CP-15-CR-1596-1996 - and 13 other related cases)...

Also on Wednesday, David Paul Ruggieri, Jr., 22, of West Chester, was sentenced on two separate DUI charges which had occured withing days of each other in the last week of 2006. In one case, Ruggieri was sentenced to 6 months probation for the first DUI charge (CP-15-CR-0000592-2007); on the 2nd DUI case, Ruggierie was sentenced to 48 hours in jail, 6 months probation, and 80 hours of community service on a 2nd offense DUI and to 5 days to 23 months in prison, a $300 fine, 50 hours community service, and 1 year probation on charges Fleeing and Eluding a police officer (CP-15-CR-0000592-2007). In all, that's two years probation on top of the jail term for 2 DUI's in less than a week. Genius...

During the afternoon session, a real "winner" appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing. Lamont Roland Boddy, 28, of Caln, appeared for a bail revocation hearing with an underlying charge of Aggravated Assault and Harassment on an incident in Westtown in which he allegedly choked his ex-girlfriend (and mother of his child). While on $2,500 bail on that offense, Boddy was arrested in Caln on Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Firearm (15-4-02, CR-0000134-07); in that matter, bail was set at $15,000 cash, which was posted by his current girlfriend (who is either incredibly loyal, incredibly gullible, completely stupid, or a combination of all three). To make matters worse, Boddy picked up a new set of charges from We-Go on stalking and harassment charges, for which he faces a preliminary hearing on July 12 (15-2-03, CR-0000184-07) and is presently being held on $30,000 cash bail.

Defense counsel argued that the bail agency had no reason to revoke bail and was arguing that the bail condition should be restored. Boddy's attorney (who must really be working overtime just on this particular client) had claimed that Boddy was the real victim in the Caln incident, in which he alleged that people were attempting to break into his residence and that he called the police to protect himself. The Commonwealth argued that Boddy had picked up two new charges since he was released from CCP on bail following the initial case and that two District Court Judges had reiterated the no non-criminal contact provision of the bail agreements, in which they claimed he had violated on the new charges out of 15-2-03. (A preliminary hearing on the Caln case is scheduled for July 9 at Thorndale District Court.)

Judge Riley ruled that the defendant had violated his bail conditions and ordered the defendant re-commited to CCP to await his hearings and trial on the various charges. He also ordered $14,000 of the $15,000 bail posted to be returned to Boddy's girlfriend...

Then, there's the case of Eric Lee Sadler, 39, of Coatesville. Sadler had been declared a fugitive after failing to appear for a preliminary hearing in front of Judge Bruno earlier this year on a Simple Assault case filed by P/O John O'Hare of WCPD (15-1-01, CR-0000076-07; CP-15-CR-0002471-2007). On this day, Sadler answered to a bench warrant for failing to appear for trial on a DUI charge in front of Common Pleas Judge Phyllis Strietel (CP-15-CR-0000499-2007) in March. Sadler claimed during his bench warrant hearing that he was under the impression that all he had to do was pay a fine and have charges reduced to a summary offense at the district court level. Except for the simple fact that it was a DUI charge and not a simple possession of drugs cases, that arguement would've held water. Judge Riley committed Sadler to CCP to await his trial on the DUI charge - scheduled for Judge Stritel's next criminal term on July 16 - and the Simple Assault case out of Judge Bruno's court...

A couple of small, but interesting events marked the afternoon session in Courtroom #6 on Thursday...

David Fraser, 22, of Yeadon, Delaware County, had faced charges of Burglary, Criminal Trespassing, Theft by Unlawful Taking, and Recieving Stolen Property after an incident at Swope Hall on the WCU campus on January 25 in which he and a co-defendant, Jeremy Boyd, 21, of Philadelphia took speakers and a sound system while the building was undergoing renovations. The Commonwealth pointed out that there was a question as to whether or not permission was granted, which was a point raised by defense counsel during the preliminary hearing in Judge Knapp's court in April. In any event, Fraser entered a guilty plea to Disorderly Conduct, and now must pay a $300.00 fine plus costs of prosecution, perform 50 hours of community service, and serve 90 days of probation. (CP-15-CR-0001807-2007)

The weird thing about this is (1) this was a preliminary hearing I covered on the first East Side Criminal Day that I had attended in Judge Knapp's court and (2) Boyd essentially got the same deal, only it was addressed at the District Court level. Why Fraser decided to wait to take the same deal as Boyd did is beyond me, but I guess there are things that we lay-people are not privy to in the criminal justice system. As long as all parties are satisifed that the case now comes to a conclusion, then more power to them...

The final case of interest from Thursday involved a first class low-life who needs a lot of parenting lessons. Nelson Ojeda, 19, of Coatesville, had two cases pending against him for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. The first incident occured on New Year's Eve, in which Ojeda was charged with two counts of Simple Assault, Terroristic Threats, and Harassment; a count of Recklessly Endangering Another Person was dismissed at District Court (CP-15-CR-0000129-2007).

Despite orders from the court not to have any contact with the victim, on March 29, Ojeda again assaulted his girlfriend, causing severe enough injuries to require transport to Brandywine Hospital. He then fled the scene in the victim's car after the assault and was apprehended two days later. Again, he was charged with Simple Assault, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Harassment, and Disorderly Conduct (CP-15-CR-0001567-2007)

While in prison, Ojeda repeatedly made phone contact with the victim, again in violation of the no contact orders imposed by the court. With the facts of the case and the repeated disregard for the protection of his victim, the Commonwealth recommended a 10-to-23 month jail term.

The defendant argued that he had completed an anger management course while in CCP and that he was actively looking to obtain his GED. In and of itself, it was not enough to avoid being returned to jail, though not for as long as the Commonwealth had hoped for.

Judge Riley sentenced Ojeda to CCP for 6-to-23 months, with credit for nearly 2-and-a-half months already served in jail, followed by a total of 3 years probation. This is on top of the "final" Protection from Abuse order that will remain in effect for the next 18 months.

Ojeda may be the father of the child, but this scumbag has a long way to go before he can ever call himself a "dad". Yet, 6 months hardly seems enough for abusing one's girlfriend, much less someone who's carrying your child...

Of course, Ojeda is nothing compared to a real low-life father from New Jersey who wouldn't accept responsibility for beating his wife while passing through Coatesville, and instead fled prior to being sentenced for that case. That story will come later this week (or at time permits)...


At around 22:00 or so last night, WCPD was dispatched to the report of a property damage accident at South Matlack and East Nields Streets. Upon arrival and after investigation, P/O David Hammond and P/O William Viebahn arrested two subjects who were in possession of a small amount of drugs. While it did not appear that the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of drugs (and hence not charged with DUI), it didn't appear to be the smartest move in the world. In any case, they're expected to face drug charges within a matter of weeks, depending on how their cases are processed.

This comes on the heels of last week's hit and run accident on South Walnut, in which the driver struck a parked vehicle, fled the scene, and was later charged with DUI.


A total of 16 cases with only one hearing and a bail revocation marked today's Criminal Day at 15-1-04, which was presided over by Judge Grover Koon of Valley District Court (15-1-05). The remaining cases saw four cases withdrawn in lieu of guilty pleas to lesser charges, five cases continued to later dates, and five cases waived to Common Pleas Court. One of the cases waived for court involved Bryan Willis Spokas, 20, of West Chester, who had his second Distict Court appearance in as many weeks; he had waived drug charges last week in Downingtown District Court (15-2-06, CR-0000163-07). In today's appearance in front of Judge Koon, Spokas waived charges of Possession With Intent to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphanalia, and Possession of a Controlled Substance. (15-1-04, CR-0000155-07).

Most of these cases were cleared within the first hour, which is pretty unusual for a typical East Side Criminal Day. The only judge that I'm aware of who could come close to Judge Koon's efficiency is Judge Arnold in Downingtown. Anyway, of the remaining two cases...

The lone preliminary hearing involved the Commonwealth vs. Maureen P. Griffis, 22, of Philadelphia. Griffis faced two counts of Aggravated Assault (one count filed under "reckless indifference to human life" and on count under "causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon"), one count each of Simple Assault, Possession of an Instrument of Crime, and Terroristic Threats.

At the hearing, the victim testified that at around 17:41 on May 9, the defendant knocked on the door of the alleged victim's friend's apartment on the 500 block of South High Street. He had been at his friend's apartment for about 20 minutes when he heard a knock on the door. When they answered the door, Griffis was allegedly waving a butcher knife in her right hand and yelled at the victim's friend that if he ever came down to her apartment again, she would "slit his f***ing neck." During the arguement, Griffis allegedly had her right arm in a motion going towards the victim's friend's face. The victim and his friend were arguing with Griffis and a female acquaintance for about 15 to 20 seconds before the attack. When the victim attempted to extricate the knife from the defendant, he was cut in the right hand, suffering tendon, artery, and ligament damage to two fingers. After the incident, Griffis' friend allegedly said, "I'm sorry, she's drunk."

During cross-examination, the victim, 19, admitted that he had a few sips of a beer, causing defense counsel David Paul Clark to request that the victim be read his rights, as Clark contended that the victim had just confessed to a criminal offense. The Commonwealth argued that it was a summary offense as opposed to a misdemeanor or felony and the judge moved the hearing along. The victim has also testified that he and his friend were in Griffis' apartment early in the day; Clark attempted to prove that they didn't have permission to be in there, but his arguements were rendered irrelevant for the purposes of the preliminary hearing. Clark also attempted to argue that Griffis' friend was not with the defendant at the time of the incident, though the victim contended that Clark's assertions were false.

After a nearly 40 minute hearing and some spirited and often heated arguements from both sides - probably one of the more intense preliminary hearings to occur in the West Chester area district courts in a while - Judge Koon ordered Griffis held for trial on all counts. She remains free on $10,000 (15-1-04, CR-0000152-07).

That would've marked the end of Criminal Day, however, shortly after 11:00, a 22-year-old Philadelphia man who was scheduled for a hearing and showed up two hours late ended up getting a not so subtle reminder of what happens when you fail to appear for court.

Donald Williams was scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 08:30 this morning on charges of Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphanalia and had been free on 10 percent of $2,500 bail. Williams, however failed to arrive until 10:35, which was right in the middle of the Griffis hearing and when all other cases had been adjudicated. After the hearing concluded, Judge Koon was advised that Williams had arrived; he then requested WCPD to respond to the court to place the defendant under arrest on a bench warrant that has been issued due to Williams' failure to appear for his hearing.

P/O Christopher Craig arrived at 15-1-04 to place the absconder under arrest; P/O Brendan McGeehan, accompanied by Lt. William Morris, then took the defendant into custody and transported his to the police station. Willams appeared visibly upset and was observed crying as he was being placed in the patrol car. P/O McGeehan and Lt. Morris ended up returning to the court a couple minutes later to appear in front of Judge Koon.

During his bail revocation hearing, Williams had admitted that he had arrived late to court and was was unaware that he had to sign in with the desk upon arrival and go directly into the courtroom. He had also noted to the judge that his family's finances weren't exactly in good shape. Judge Koon, however, wasn't buying any of it...

He had told Williams that the $2,500 bail set during the earlier phases of the case was rather lenient, considering he resided in Philadelphia. He also informed Williams that he had some good news and some bad news...

The bad news was that William's $2,500 bail had been revoked and re-set at 10 percent of $5,000. Williams appeared to again be on the verge of tears when told of the new bail...

The good news, Judge Koon noted, that with the help of the warden at Chester County Prison, the police, and the constables, Williams would at least be present for his next hearing, scheduled for next Friday.

Speaking of next Friday, Judge Nancy Gill from Parkesburg District Court is scheduled to preside over Criminal Day. The following Friday (July 6), no cases are scheduled to be heard, meaning that Judge Knapp will return to the Criminal Day bench on July 13.

This weekend, a recap of Goshen District Court's (15-2-03) Criminal Day and some interesting tidbits from Common Pleas Court will be posted...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

We Must Keep Child Protection Laws From Becoming Tools of Family Harrassment

Editor’s Note: In a County and State already heavily encumbered with social legislation, at times apparently intended to protect us from ourselves, it is essential that those entrusted with such authority employ
reasonableness and common sense in sufficient measure if well-meant laws are not to become vehicles of harrassment and wrongful prosecution. Likewise, such legislation must anticipate misuse and contain the necessary preventative safeguards.

Assemblywoman Paulin’s Bill on Child Abuse Passes Assembly and Senate

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin to improve the procedure for reporting child abuse passed both the Senate and the Assembly and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Spitzer.

“This legislation strives to make the process as efficient as possible,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “The person most directly observing the abuse, or its results, is the most able person to report the claim.”

This new bill, if signed into law, will amend the current Social Service Law by requiring teachers and other professionals who interact directly with children to report suspicions of child abuse, mistreatment or neglect, directly to the state agency. After the report has been made, the reporter must inform his or her supervisor and both the reporter and the supervisor will be listed as contacts for the State’s investigation.

In the past, teachers were required to report suspicions to their principals and it was left to the discretion of the principal as to whether or not the State Central Registry was contacted.

“In attending public hearings all over the state I learned that teachers were reporting suspicions of child abuse to their supervisors but the supervisors were not necessarily reporting these incidents to the State Central Registry.” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “With this new legislation teachers who have suspicions of abuse call the State directly; they see something, they report it.”

Additionally, this legislation protects professionals who report a claim under the New York State Labor Law from having retaliatory action taken against them. Also, the bill clarifies the list of professionals who would be responsible to report such claims. It specifies “school officials” to include teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists or social workers, school nurses, and administrators. Other responsible professionals outside the school district include physicians, mental health care providers, police officers, and various care givers.

Dr. Barbara Bernstein, Co-Chair of the Westchester Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, has been a strong supporter for this bill. “Mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect play a powerful role in protecting vulnerable children. By bringing to light situations of abuse, these circumstances can be investigated, and where appropriate, services and protections put into place for children. This task force has advocated for legislation to clarify the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters and we are delighted that this bill does so while also protecting reporters. These changes should ease the process of reporting, which in the long run, will serve our children.”

A New York Mets Fan

A little boy in the Irvington school district just turned seven years old. Most seven-year-olds jump, flip, run and fall, and never worry about the outcome. However, this little boy, although physically able to, has a stress most of
us will never know. The Irvington School District has singled him out. Let me explain. Joey loves the Mets - he knows a great deal about the Mets and can easily hold his own in any conversation about them. Other than his outspoken love for the Mets he is a quiet, shy and playful child.

It all started a few months ago when Joey was playing with me (his mom), and his sisters. I went to grab for him and scratched his face accidentally. A few days later Joey told me that his teacher asked him, as he was getting on the school bus to come home, how he had gotten that scratch. He innocently replied, “Oh, my mom scratched me” and proceeded to get on the bus. Child Protective Services was soon at my home. While I was very upset, I, nevertheless, allowed them full entry and full range in speaking with all my children. I have four children who are all in the Irvington School System.

I went to the school that evening and spoke with the principal, Mr. Joseph Rodriguez. I asked what happened and why the matter was handled so poorly. His explanation was that it was a judgment call on the teacher’s part. I cried, and asked him how someone with little knowledge about my child or my family could determine abuse. It was only the beginning of the school year. They never asked Joey to explain what happened and never asked how it happened. He didn’t lie. I did do it, but purely accidentally. The shocker is that the teacher at the time, Ms. Dempsey, reported to Child Protective Services, “Joey was smacked so hard by his mother that it left open wounds on his face.” The only mark was a scratch the size of a pea, no bruising, no swelling, no welts, just a small scratch.

This was an outright lie and an absurd exaggeration by an inexperienced teacher. When I spoke with Mr. Rodriguez, I explained that I am not comfortable with Joey’s teacher. She accused me of harming my child without any facts to back it up. I wanted Joey out of her class. Mr. Rodriguez, understanding my position, switched Joey the next day to Ms. Warager. After a two month investigation, it was noted that the complaint was “unfounded” and it was dismissed. Time went by, and all through the year Joey would come home and say his
teacher would ask him questions about other scratches or booboos he had. How naive was I to think that the harassment would stop even with a new teacher? It was soon to be his 7th birthday and to no one’s surprise it was going to be a Mets theme. He wore a large Mets tattoo on his face that covered his whole right cheek.
He fussed when I told him he could not go to school with the tattoo. But, because it was his birthday, I gave in and let him wear it one more day. He went to school with it on and the teacher, as well as all of his classmates, could not have missed it. After all, if they can see a small scratch on his face, they simply could not miss this huge Mets tattoo. That day he came home from school and he was asked to wash it off and he did. He used a towel, wet the end and started scrubbing it off. He rubbed so hard he reddened his skin. It looked almost like rug burn on his cheek. When I came home from work, I asked him what happened and he said, “I scrubbed off my tattoo.” My response was “With what, sandpaper”? He said, “No, mom a towel.” I asked if it hurt. He said no and our night went on.

The next day I was at work and I received a phone call from Child Protective Services. They said they needed to come to my home again because of the mark on Joey’s face. Upon receiving this phone call I immediately called to speak with Mr. Rodriguez, the principal. I asked, “How could you do this to my child and my family again?” I was being profiled and harassed. His explanation was “a judgment call.” I asked, “Based on what? When Joey was asked about the mark what did he say?” The principal admitted Joey had told him he washed a tattoo off with a towel. So what was the problem? He also told the teacher the same thing. Are they calling Joey a liar?

Mr. Rodriguez said he didn’t see Joey the day before so he didn’t know if the tattoo was there. I replied, “Well his teacher was there. She saw it. Common sense would prove Joey’s story.” Mr. Rodriguez replied “Well I didn’t question Ms. Warager about that.” This is another example of poor communication and bad judgment on the part of both the teacher and principal. I hung up with him, finished my day of work stressed and upset, and went to pick up Joey.

Joey seemed upset when I picked him up from the after-school program. He said his teacher asked him what happened again and again, and even sent him to the principal’s office so he could see it. He told me he does not like to be sent to the principal’s office. He said he told his teacher that he washed his tattoo off with a towel but she kept asking him over and over. Child Protective Services came again that day and were allowed to go through the entire house, open every door in the home, interview every family member and again the complaint was “unfounded”.

Children and the elderly are often at risk for abuse. I am all for protecting children from harm. However, there are other factors that go into abuse and neglect. The Irvington School District and Principal Joseph Rodriguez
missed a few things. They should be mandated to routinely send inexperienced staff to attend classes on how to identify certain “flags” of child abuse. The school has a psychologist on staff. Why was she not consulted on this matter? She is a professional. Joey was never sent to see her once during the year. If it is suspected that Joey is being abused he should be sent to the psychologist for a professional opinion. This is blatant, unfounded harassment, bad judgment calls, and sheer lies. I would like an investigation that would reveal how many calls are placed by the Irvington School District, Dows Lane specifically, and what the odds are of one family being targeted twice within a few months of each other? Are other families visited when their child appears with bruises or scrapes? I have seen many children at the school with either stitches, casts or a brace. Was CPS called on these children as well?

If this is indeed the school’s policy, then the records will have to show multiple cases of abuse being reported. We cannot believe that Joey is the only 7-year-old child with a cut and scrape on his body. If the policy is to ask the child what happened and, even after the child states he did it, three times, to still report it to officials, there must be multiple records indicating this. How can the teachers decide which child is telling the truth and which child is not? They are only mandated to report, not to make a determination. So, therefore, every bruise should be reported. How do they determine which parents are abusive? Do they go by which parent they see all the time? Maybe they go by who volunteers more. Either way it’s a failing system. Either way people are given power to falsely accuse others and lie outright with no repercussions for their lies.

It’s not like Joey’s scrapes were so ‘out there’ that it should have even been considered suspicious. I believe the teachers are not trained to determine who is - so all injuries should be reported. This can be easily proven. Most importantly, what about little Joey? I watched the other day when he was at bat with his friends. He hit the ball and, while running to first base, fell and scraped his knee. He brushed it off as most 7-year-olds do. The following day it was time for school and when I took out his clothes he became upset. He refused to wear the shorts I had taken out for him. He began to cry and said he did not feel well enough to go to school. Only after a lengthy conversation did I find out he was scared that his teacher would question him and send him to the principal’s office.

He was afraid “they” (CPS) would come back and question him again and ask him if his mom hurts him. Joey said, “Why would a mommy hurt their kid? That’s so dumb. I don’t like them thinking that you hit me. You’re the best mommy.” The very system that was designed to protect children is causing them unnecessary pain and fear. I have requested a meeting with school officials because of the fear they have inflicted on Joey. You would think at the very least the school would be concerned enough to extend a phone call to the family to bridge the gap. At the very least the principal and teachers that saw fit to disrupt an entire family’s life twice would be concerned enough to follow up with a phone call or letter. How the principal and teacher are unable to make the connection that the interaction between school and family is vital to a child’s well-being and success is of great concern to us.

They have succeeded in Joey’s no longer liking school and being afraid to play because he might fall down. He worries about things like, “If I fall down and hurt myself my teacher is going to blame my mommy.”

Do you have a young child or grandchild? Just do a quick look over their bodies and ask yourself how you would like strangers coming into your home at dinner time, interrogating your entire family because inexperienced staff want to be heroes. The school’s actions have proven twice to be dysfunctional, false and not in the best interest of the child.

Natasha Clewell, Irvington