Thursday, May 31, 2007


As it turned out, the Commonwealth had one more witness before resting its case in the matter of Commonwealth vs. Thomas Barrett. The afternoon session of the second day of this jury trial started off with testimony from a Lieutenant with the Chester County Sheriff's Office, who testified that he performed a records check on the defendant to verify if he had a valid permit to carry a firearm in Pennsylvania. He testified that a search of both county and state databases relating to firearms turned up negative. He also added that while Barrett did have a vaild firearm permit from Arizona, he did not have a valid permit in Pennsylvania; the reason given during testimony was that Arizona does not have a reciprical agreement with Pennsylvania regarding the honoring of firearms permits.

After the Commonwealth rested its case, two stipulations were read to the jury. The first was that both sides agreed to the PSP Lima Regional Lab reports that indicated the suspected controlled substances contained 3.7 grams of cocaine and 4 grams of marijuana. The second stipulation related to the DUI charges, in which both sides stipulated that the test results of the blood work inidcated (1) that the defendant recently used both marijuana and cocaine, (2) that both substances in the defendant's system combined to cause an impairment in his motor skills, and (3) that the defendant was unfit to operate a motor vehicle.

The defense's first witness was Sgt. Douglas O'Connor of PSP Embreeville barracks, who is the Mobile Video Recorder (MVR) custodian for the station. He testified that as of April 2006, all marked PSP patrol cars assigned to the Embreeville barracks were equipped with MVR, and that all but three of the units were "hot wired", meaning the system would've been activated once the ignition was turned on, including the car used by the troopers during the traffic stop at the center of the case. He had testified that there was no record of any MVR problems with that particular car on the night of the traffic stop and that at the time there was no specific directives regarding notification of maintenance issues with MVR's. Sgt. O'Connor also testified that there had been some mechanicial issues with the newer MVRs that were recently installed, including less than favorable audio quality with the wireless microphones and problems with at least 30 to 40 hard drives over the past year or so. He also pointed out that when properly functioning, the hard drives could save recorded incidents for up to 60 days.

Under cross-examination, however, Sgt. O'Connor noted that the defense had not made a request for a video copy of the traffic stop.

Emily Micco, the defendant's sister, was the next defense witness. She had testified that early in 2006, she had noticed that Barrett was disinterested in family functions and had started to lose weight. He had spent a month at a rehab center in Berks County and had seemed to pull himself together after he left the rehab center. However, in the time leading up to his arrest, he had missed a family barbeque and had not been doing well that week. It was apparent to her that he was using cocaine, she testified. She had also pointed out that the tinted windows were installed in the car after she sold the car to the defendant about 3 to 4 years ago. Under a brief cross-examination, she noted that the defendant did admit to her that he had been using cocaine at the time, but he had never discussed any marijuana use with her.

Finally, the defendant took the stand to wrap up the defense's case. During his testimony, Barrett admitted at the time of his arrest, he was "actively addicted" to cocaine and that since his arrest he had been clean and sober, attributing his sobriety to his attending NA and AA meetings. He did admit to owning the firearm in question and had purchased and properly licensed when living in Arizona while attending college.

On the day in question, April 30, 2006, Barrett testified that he had went to a shooting range in Delaware County earlier in the day after attending to some business with a client regarding a graphic design contract. When he left the shooting gallery, Barrett then went to the Thirsty Camel Saloon in West Goshen, and bought two baggies of cocaine and one bag of marijuana for $130.00. He then went into West Chester to visit a friend who was in the process of moving from his apartment. He admitted that he was using cocaine and smoking some marijuana over the course of the day.

When he left the friend's house, Barrett said that he was given a marijuana "bud" from his friend and stuck it in his pants pocket; he had the rest of his drugs in a sunglass case which he then placed in the center console of his car. He had then got into his car and drove to his parent's house in West Goshen. As he turned right onto Hannum Avenue off of Wayne Street, he observed the PSP cruiser heading eastbound; he had noticed the car in his rear view mirror because it's arrow-stick lightbar was activated. At that point, the troopers pulled him over.

Barrett admitted that he was "not in the best of shape at the time" of the traffic stop. He had testified that after Tpr. Cessna had informed him that his license was suspended, Barrett said he had presented a letter from PennDOT indicated that his license had been restored as of March 22, 2006. He had, however, testified that Tpr. Cessna could not have possibly seen the gun in the way the trooper had testified it was displayed, based on pictures that he and his defense counsel had taken earlier this week.

Despite Tpr. Cessna's testimony that he claimed that Barrett was delivering the drugs for a friend in Downingtown, the defendant insisted that the cocaine and marijuana was for his personal use and that he was planning to binge on the drugs that night.

During cross examination, Barrett had disputed Tpr. Cessna's version of the pat-down search, in which the trooper claimed that the defendant had pulled the marijuana bag out of his pocket; Barrett testified that the trooper reached into his pant pocket and pulled the suspected drugs out of his pocket. He further admitted that his drug use that night had affected his perception compared to his demeanor in court today. The Commonwealth continued to dispute Barrett's claims about the positioning of the weapon. The cross examination wrapped up when he admitted that he had put the marijuana bag he had gotten from his friend as opposed to putting it with the rest of his drug stash because he "didn't give it a second thought."

After a brief re-direct with no follow up from the Commonwealth, the defense rested it's case. Court then recessed for the day, with closing arguements scheduled to begin at 10:00, and jury instructions to be given about an hour later. Deliberations should start sometime around noon tomorrow. (Note: I will be at 15-1-04 for the weekly Criminal Day, so I will probably miss the morning session; if a verdict is returned tomorrow afternoon, I'll make every effort to post it here.)

Barring last minute changes from the Commonweatlh, Barrett faces the following counts:

Firearms Not to be Carried Without A License
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Possession of a Controlled Substance (cocaine)
Possession of Marijuana
Driving Under the Influence/1st offense (filed under four separate categories - Substantially Imparied Ability (generic charge), Generally Impaired or Incapable of Driving Safely, Controlled Substance/Schedule II or III, Controlled Substance/Metabolite)
Careless Driving
Driving While Operating Privileges Suspended/Revoked
Improper Sunscreening (tinting)

Based on the past two days, the one charge where Barrett seems most likely to be acquitted of is the Possession with Intent to Distribute. His version of why he had the drugs in his possession appeared far more credible than the Commonwealth's initial version as filed in the criminal complaint. The general possession charges and the weapons charge seems to hinge on whether or not the jury believes that the trooper's search was proper. There had been some previous attempts to supress this evidence at earlier hearings, however Judge Riley rejected the defense's motions. The DUI charge seems a little stronger, since both sides have stipulated to the drug testing results from the hospital on the night of the traffic stop.

All I can say is that the defendant's family is probably going to endure more stress tomorrow than on any other day in their collective lives.


Some people just don't learn...

At around 02:30 early Sunday morning, while on routine patrol, Ofc. Gerry DiNunzio pulled over a vehicle on the 50 block of East Miner Street, for what appeared to be a minor traffic infraction. It later became a DUI arrest after the suspect allegedly failed a series of field sobriety tests. The suspect, Bradley N. Russo, 23, of Collegeville, Montgomery County, was cited for DUI, Failure to Use Headlights, Careless Driving, and Possession of Drug Paraphanalia; he's scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 13 in front of Judge Knapp (15-1-04, CR-0000179-07). The kicker is that at the time of the arrest, Russo was out on $2,500 unsecured bail on drug possession and sales charges and was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on those charges in front of Judge Bruno this coming Tuesday (15-1-01, CR-0000073-07).

It's been said before, but it bears repeating. Some people just don't get it...
Our Readers Respond...

On Vines and Lines

Dear Editor,

1. Lila D’Adolf ’s letter (May 17 issue) calls for a program to remove the runaway vines which are choking the trees on the Saw Mill River Parkway. She should be notified that there is such a program. I remember reading several years ago, after a motorist had been killed by a falling branch caused by vines killing trees, that the Dept. of Highways had begun a program to clear vines from the parkway wooded areas. Since then I have occasionally seen crews removing vines. But I would imagine that lately, with the crazy storms having killed, damaged and downed many trees, that other priorities may have pushed this program to the back burner. And the sheer size of the task is in any case daunting.

2. Your paper with its investigative attitude is great. I am glad to see advertisers supporting you in increasing numbers, showing that business people, who might be expected to “go along to get along” and might not want office-holders marking them down for retribution, are not afraid to support a publication dedicated to exposing the widespread rot in public affairs in Westchester. It is a nice partial antidote to the feeling one gets now in this country, watching the Constitution slowly being destroyed while the public is busy lapping up American Idol and its ilk. Thanks, and keep it up.

Charles Zigmund, Pleasantville

Help Youth By Getting Involved

Dear Editor:

As a lifelong resident of Mount Vernon, I would like to point out some facts that were not mentioned in your article. First, the youth of Mount Vernon today have less available to them than the preceding generations. Old-time merchants used to employ young people after school in their businesses whereas today that isn’t the case. Mount Vernon has fewer businesses than it did years ago, car dealerships, factories, supermarkets and the like. Malcolm X once stated to the people of Harlem, New York, “Don’t shop where you can’t work.” This boycott
led to jobs being created for the community.

Secondly, concerning the Hip Hop Museum, if being the case that Mayor Davis failed the youth to have it built, there are alternatives. One being asking rappers such as P Diddy and Henry O, both formerly of Mount Vernon, to contribute funds to having it built. Also people in the community can raise money to create it. Look to Memphis, Tenn. To the Civil Rights Museum or to Cleveland, Ohio, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Thirdly, concerning youth violence, look to Newark, New Jersey which was shown on Channel 9 (WOR) in the broadcast Scared Straight. The City of Newark, with permission of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, took troubled youth, or young people in general, to state prisons to see what prison life is like. By them interacting with prisoners many of them will have second thoughts about gang life.

Here we have seen how this growing menace can be curtailed without so much taxpayer expense but by everyone getting involved; namely the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Education, and finally the City of Mount Vernon by extending recreation, Police Athletic League and various programs.

Please don’t give up on these young people, plenty of successful people came from Mount Vernon; Dick Clark, Lynn Brown, P Diddy, Henry O, Denzel Washington, Allan Funt (Candid Camera). These young people need to be shown that they can be one of the aforementioned people too.

Dennis Fishbein, Mount Vernon

Re: “Youthful Violence Taking Over Mount Vernon?” 10th May 2007

Dear Editor:

It is disturbing, indeed, when one hears, as I did last night, of a student and his father being assaulted at Longfellow School (apparently the student was resisting induction into a gang). Disturbing, too, are the incidents noted in your article. I am little surprised, then, when I find that, of all the parents of my acquaintance, not a single one plans to send their children to Mount Vernon High School, where they have the dubious distinction of the lowest SAT scores in the County (Westchester Magazine, April 2007, pages 82-83).

So, what is the solution? I think we first have to look to the home, where children receive their first instruction.
It is of no benefit to a child if their parent(s) are missing in action, AWOL, or somewhere “upstate.” A child requires a parent, preferably parents, who are interested in and dedicated to expanding the horizons of their children through their example of hard work, good character, and way of living.

Education, or the lack thereof, has long-reaching effects on the lives of our children, their future prospects for
gainful employment, and their contribution to the next generation. It should, therefore, be a primary concern of each and every parent to see to it that their child(ren) receive the very best education that they can access.

Unfortunately, for many parents in Mount Vernon, this will mean seeking out a private or parochial school for their child to attend, or else paying tuition for an out of-district placement; or, simply, moving.

Why should parents want to invest 500K in a home, pay enormous property taxes, and, on top of that, pay for
school fees and transportation to a private institution because they do not feel they can reliably count on the safety of their child during school hours?

As regards another matter, I have long wondered why there is no (to my knowledge) trades and technical high
school in Mount Vernon. In Yonkers, NY, where I attended high school (more years ago than I care to count) there were, at that time, four high schools, three of which were on an “academic” or college-bound track, and one which was a trades and technical high school.

I should think that, by the time a student is 12 or 13 it would be possible to discern, through standardized testing
and other measures, such as grades and teacher observations, where abilities and inclinations lie, their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

I would suggest, then, that there be some division made between those students who are college-bound and
those who have demonstrated no obvious inclination towards, or talent, in academic subjects (a few of whom who will, undoubtedly, through sheer boredom, jealousy, or perversity of spirit, deliberately disrupt the efforts of those students who do have college in their sights). Given the salaries many skilled tradesmen (and women) can command, this would seem, to me, to be an attractive option. Established businesses, already part of the community, might offer these young people apprenticeships or internships which might well lead to employment after graduation.

The business and occupation of young men and women should be to educate themselves, to be an active participant in forming their futures through their experiences both in school and in the community. How can
this be accomplished, on either an academic or technical track, if they have to be concerned for their physical safety?

Those misguided young people who do disrupt the education of others, or who threaten the safety of staff or other students, should be dealt with swiftly and firmly. There should be no tolerance of anti-social behavior in or out of the classroom, in the guise of being “sensitive” or “correct” or in order to conceal or downplay chaotic conditions.

How many children have to be assaulted or die before a hard line is taken with these hard cases who are not
working towards college or an honest trade but towards an orange jumpsuit and leg-irons, to live at our expense in another State-run institution?

MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick,
Mount Vernon

Rose Wallace Hardy Celebrates 100th Birthday!

Mrs. Rose Wallace Hardy celebrated her 100th birthday last Friday afternoon, May 25th, at the Westchester Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing in Mount Vernon.

One of eight children, she was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she lived until her family relocated to Manhattan. Her family was extremely musical, which fostered her love of dancing. Three of her brothers were professional musicians, working with Duke Ellington, the Savoy Sultans (the house band for NYC’s Savoy Ballroom), and the Jimmy Lundsford Band. Her sister Dorothy, who currently lives in The Bronx is her only living sibling.

She was married to her first husband, Ernest Wallace, for 36 years, until his death in 1968. She also survived her second husband, Sylvester Hardy, to whom she was married for 23 years.

Mrs. Wallace was employed as a home health aide. A devout Baptist, she loves to knit, to read and to do puzzles. Mrs. Wallace has been a doting aunt to her many nieces and nephews, who are threw the birthday party for her.

Editor’s Note: The staff of the Westchester Guardian take this opportunity to wish Mrs. Rose Wallace Hardy a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY and many happy returns.

Reader Takes Issue with Columnist Polvere

Dear Editor:

Someone once said, “But hushed be every thought that springs from out the bitterness of things.” It seems column after column George W. Bush is everpresent on the mind of Fred Polvere. In his latest of Thursday, May 17, “America At War: Fact, Fiction, Bush”, Polvere concludes with these words, “No amount of spin will prevent George W. Bush from being seen as the most incompetent and immoral president in the history of the United States.” It appears Mr. Polvere is a prognosticator.

He knows what the future holds and can say with certainty that Mr. Bush is destined for the scrapheap of history. While the nation is at war, and men and women of the military are in harm’s way, distraught and disillusioned liberals like Polvere, still smarting from the 2000 election, have maligned, wished harm, and accused this resident of lies and deceit, high crimes and misdemeanors, and yes even having foreknowledge and possibly involvement
in the September 11 attack.

Mr. Polvere and those who think like him are capable of cruel and malicious behavior. Their unrestrained and
inflammatory rhetoric goes well beyond the bounds of decency and good taste.

Their unnatural hatred of this President is disturbing, and gives credence to the existence of what is now referred
to as Bush Derangement Syndrome. It is also, I believe, a manifestation of a deep bias toward certain ideologies and beliefs. Love him or hate him, agree or disagree, George W. Bush is the President of the United States, and deserves some measure of respect.

Bob Pascarella
The Bronx
In Our Opinion...

There Was Nothing Good About The Mission of Monica Goodling

This nation’s, democratically elected, representative form of government has worked over more than two centuries, essentially predicated on a two-party system. And, while those two parties, were not always known as the Republicans and Democrats, the philosophies separating them, for the most part, have defined the bright line between wealthy, and working class, Americans. Put quite simply, Republicans believe that if Big Business is prospering, everyone will be doing well. Democrats, on the other hand, have always held that if farmers and laborers were prospering the nation’s businesses would also prosper.

Come national election time Americans have traditionally laid aside other concerns, and, depending upon the state of the economy, whether we were at war or peace, or some other compelling issue, have gotten involved, many passionately, in the process and debate. Until very recently, both sides however could always find common ground in the Constitutional separation of Church and State. Apparently, not so, the Bush Administration.

In both houses of Congress investigations into the firings of eight United States Attorneys, and the planned firing of many more, have peeled back the cover on one of the uglier political operations instituted under the oppressive regime of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and George W. Bush. Former United States Attorney, and Deputy Attorney General, James Comey testified two weeks ago before the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing the bald-faced attempt in 2004 by then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card to fraudulently get Attorney General John Ashcroft, laying seriously ill in a Washington hospital, to sign off on the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping activities.

Now, last week, Monica Goodling, only after receiving a grant of immunity from prosecution, after two months of resistance, finally came forward to testify before a House Committee also investigating the firings. Goodling, admitted, “I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account.”

Goodling, 33 was the Justice Department’s White House liaison. Ms. Goodling, generally perceived as a tough Conservative, had gone to work at the Justice Department in 2002, having previously worked for the Republican
National Committee as an “opposition researcher,” one whose job it was to gather dirt on the opponent. Although a lawyer, Goodling had absolutely no prosecutorial experience. Nevertheless she quickly moved into a position of power over who would be hired, and promoted, throughout the Justice Department.

Despite the grant of immunity, Ms. Goodling had many memory lapses regarding issues she was particularly uncomfortable about. We find one thing, however, that she did admit, particularly disturbing. Her admission that she weighed the hiring and promotional prospects of Justice Department applicants, and employees, against their political affiliations is the more significant, and alarming, given the fact that Goodling is an avowed Christian Fundamentalist whose probings were not merely into politics but into religious beliefs. She is a disciple of the Religious Right, a movement that persists in wrapping political philosophy with religion, and whose corruptive, covert activities apparently reached far deeper into the workings of government, under the Bush Administration, than mere “Faith Based Initiatives.”

We would encourage Congress to take this investigation wherever it leads. Each and every individual involved, from Alberto Gonzales on down, must be purged from the Department of Justice, if the confidence of the American People is to be restored, and the agency’s name is to be regarded as anything more
than an oxymoron.
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Guardian Fights Back, Going After Municipalities That Violate First Amendment

Several weeks ago The Westchester Guardian, through its parent corporation, The Guardian News, Inc., began to file civil actions against numerous villages, towns, and cities throughout Westchester County, charging each with various acts, including, but not limited to, their adoption, interpretation, and enforcement of local code provisions governing “Newsracks” on public property in violation of The Guardian’s rights as guaranteed
by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. At this point ten such federal complaints have been filed, the first of which was commenced on April 7, against
the Village of Tuckahoe, and several individuals involved in the administration of that village government.

Complaints have also been filed against the Villages of Bronxville, Pelham, Croton-On-Hudson, Larchmont, Briarcliff Manor, and Dobbs Ferry, as well as the Towns of North Salem and Greenburgh, and the City
of Yonkers. Additional actions are contemplated against numerous other municipalities currently violating the law.
The Westchester Guardian, a weekly newspaper, made its debut appearance August 10, 2006. Circulated throughout Westchester County in some 300 distinctive blue distribution boxes, as well as in newsracks in more than 700 professional offices, supermarkets, stationeries, delis, convenience stores, restaurants and other establishments, its readership has more than doubled while faithful to its mission to serve “The People’s Right To Know.”




MICHAEL J. MARTINO, individually,
LUIGI MARCOCCIA, individually,
TONY E. SAYEGH, Jr., individually, 07 Civ. ( )
STEVEN A. ECKLOND, individually,
JOHN FITZPATRICK, individually,
ROBERT MASCIANICA, individually,
JOHN D. CAVALLARO, individually,
and the VILLAGE OF TUCKAHOE, Jury Trial Demanded
New York,


Plaintiff THE GUARDIAN NEWS, INC., by its attorneys Lovett & Gould, LLP, for its complaint respectfully states:


1. This is an action for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, proximately resulting from the Defendants’ adoption, interpretation, and enforcement of a local code provision governing “Newsracks” in violation of Plaintiff’s rights as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Port Chester Voting Rights Trial In Federal Court
United States Federal District Court, White Plains - Judge Stephen C. Robinson Presiding

Monday morning, May 21st, the Voting Rights suit brought by the Justice Department through its Civil Rights Division, against the Village of Port Chester for alleged violations in their “at-large election” of village trustees, began in Federal District Court, White Plains.

The Government has contended for some time that the at-large system, as employed by the Village over many years, has effectively prevented the election of any trustee preferred by the Latino population.

The trial is intended to resolve the consolidated claims against the Village of Port Chester, not only of
the Justice Department, represented by the United States Attorney’s Of-fice, but also of Cesar Ruiz, candidate
for trustee in 2001. Mr. Ruiz is represented by attorneys Randolph Mc Laughlin, and Debra Cohen.

The government’s first witness was Dr. Lisa Handley, an election consultant for more than twenty years, and a
recognized expert in racially polarized voting patterns. Dr. Handley was asked to analyze the results in the Village’s recent mayoral election to determine if her prior analysis of voting patterns would change. Handley had analyzed sixteen prior Port Chester elections, and had determined that the candidates preferred by Hispanic voters had been defeated in twelve of the contests.

The government attorney asked, “Have you reached a conclusion?” Dr. Handley responded, “Whites ‘lock-vote’ to defeat Hispanic candidates.” Asked what method she used to draw her conclusions, she indicated that she had analyzed “homogeneous precincts and Spanish-surname registrations.” She declared, “There were special circumstances in the 2007 race for mayor.” She explained there was no Hispanic candidate, and that while
Hispanics voted mostly for Democrat Dennis Pilla, White voters divided between Pilla and his Republican opponent. Additionally, she asserted that because there had been a lot of publicity for the upcoming trial, and the
fact that there was no trustee election, added to the special circumstances.

Judge Robinson broke in, “Let me ask a big picture election question. This election is bad for your thesis, wouldn’t you say?” Handley wasn’t prepared to quite concede the point. The Government offered into evidence the Supplemental Report of Dr. Ronald Gatti, indicating “This is the report commissioned by Defendant
Village of Port Chester.” Mr. Anthony Piscionere, lead attorney for the Village, asked by Judge Robinson if
he had any objection, responded, “I’m in no position to oppose a report we ordered.”

The Government then turned to Dr. Handley and asked, “Do you agree with Dr. Gatti’s conclusion that
Regression Analysis is acceptable for predictive purposes?” Dr. Handley’s response, “Virtually
everyone voted for a candidate,” was quickly ridiculed by Robinson.

The Judge loudly declared, “virtually is a weasel word.” Handley went on to discuss the village election of 2001 in which Cesar Ruiz, a Latino, had run for trustee. She described the voting pattern of Hispanics as having been “single-shot voting.” She explained, “Many Hispanics cast only one vote, when they could have cast two, voting only for Ruiz.”

Attorney McLaughlin, representing Mr. Ruiz, then cross-examined Handley, asking, “Is there any difference between elections that are head-tohead, as opposed to multiple-candidate at-large elections?” Then attempting
to narrow, and clarify his inquiry, McLaughlin asked, “Would it be easier to defeat an Hispanic candidate in a head-to-head, or multiple choice?” Handley responded, “Head-to-head.”
The Advocate:

Statement From United States Attorney Michael J. Garcia Vindicates The Guardian’s Position On Perez Investigation

Two weeks ago The Guardian, in an editorial entitled FBI Must Step Into Perez Case, declared, “In fact, because it is strongly suspected that the injuries sustained by Perez which led to his death only hours later, might very well have been inflicted by police officers acting under Color of Law; and, given the civil rights implications of such suspicions, it is imperative that the FBI get involved and conduct the investigation as early as possible.”

Beginning around May fourteenth, and for several days thereafter, there had been a number of statements from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office indicating that office had called upon United States Attorney Michael J. Garcia, and the FBI to aid in the investigation into the death by homicide of Rene Perez, a homeless, undocumented, Latino found near death, on the side of the road in Bedford, less than one hour after contact with officers from the Mount Kisco Police Department, late in the evening of April 28. Those statements obviously created some confusion in the media given the obvious civil rights implications attached to the widely held suspicion that Mr. Perez might have been the victim of police brutality, or at the very least, criminal negligence
at the hands of police.

On May 18th, responding to numerous media inquiries, the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York released the following statement:

United States Attorney
Southern District of New York

(914) 993-1900, (212) 637-2600


"We have received media inquiries seeking to clarify the extent of the federal role in the on-going investigation
being conducted by state and local authorities into the death of Rene Perez.

"On May 8, 2007, the FBI opened a civil rights investigation into this matter. Thereafter, the Westchester
County District Attorney asked the United States Attorney's Office and the FBI to join the state investigation.

"At the present time, state and federal authorities are not conducting a joint investigation. State authorities will
continue their homicide investigation. Federal authorities will continue to actively monitor the progress of the state
investigation and to offer assistance as requested. Federal authorities will be reviewing the evidence, including evidence amassed in the state investigation, to determine whether a violation of federal civil rights laws has occurred.

"During the pendency of the state and local investigation, the FBI will remain available to receive information from the public regarding this matter. Anyone with information regarding the circumstances leading to the death of
Rene Perez may contact the FBI at (212) 384-5000. Spanish speaking agents will be available to receive such calls," stated MICHAEL J. GARCIA, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
United States Attorney - Southern District of New York
Mount Vernon Police Announce Two Arrests In Reginald Rogers Killing

In morning press conferences, held last Monday and Tuesday in the Mayor’s conference room, the arrests of Robert Lewis 18, of 425 North Terrace Avenue, Mt. Vernon, on Saturday evening May 19th, and Enric Devers 17, of 347 Huguenot Street, New Rochelle, Monday evening, May 21st, each charged with Second Degree Murder, in the killing April 28th of Reginald Rogers 20, outside his home on East Fourth Street, Mt. Vernon, were announced.

At Monday’s press conference Mayor Ernest Davis acknowledged, “There have been four homicides since the
first of the year.” Declaring, “ This is a sad day, but a good day in many respects,” the Mayor went on to say, “I want to congratulate Police Commissioner Chong and his dedicated staff, his patrol officers, and detectives,
for their excellent work.

Stepping up to the podium, Commissioner Chong told the media and City officials assembled, “I want to thank the community for calling us with tips.”

He went on to state, “We believe it was nothing more than male bravado, gang nonsense; we’ve arrested
one person and the investigation is still ongoing.”

He then fielded questions. The Guardian inquired, “Has ballistics testing revealed that the semi-automatic .380 found on Robert Lewis at the time of his arrest was the only weapon involved, or might there have been others?”

The Commissioner turned the microphone over to Commander of Detectives Angelo Fusillo, at his side, who responded, “There was more than one weapon involved.”

Tuesday morning, following the overnight arrest of Devers, Commissioner Chong told The Guardian, “With this second arrest the investigation is completed. There were no other individuals who fired shots at Reginald
Rogers.” He further informed us, like Lewis, Devers also had a Davis Industries .380 semi-automatic.

If brought to trial, and convicted of Second Degree Murder, each youth will face up to 25-Years-to-Life in prison.


Day 2 of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Thomas Barrett commenced shortly after 10:00 this morning. Trooper John Holbert of PSP/Embreeville was the 2nd and final Commonwealth witness called to the stand. For the most part, Tpr. Holbert reiterated the previous day's testimony of his partner for the evening, Tpr. Jerry Cessna. The troopers had left the barracks shortly after 22:30 and were en route to their assigned post on the US 202 corridor. They had cleared a previous traffic stop on Strasburg Road in East Bradford prior to pulling over Barrett's vehicle at Downingtown Pike and Ashbridge Street, also in the township.

Tpr. Holbert did add, however, that while he had no recollection that the defendant had presented proof of his license restoration, PennDOT records had indicated that his license was suspended period of 1 year effective April 24, 2006 - 6 days prior to the date of the traffic stop. This was less than a month after his license had been restored following a failure to respond to an unrelated traffic offense.

Under cross examination, defense counsel again attempted to poke holes in the Commonwealth's case, showing Tpr. Holbert the same photos shown to Tpr. Cessna the previous day and also raising questions about where the trooper's car was in relation to the defendant's car at the time the stop was initiated. It appeared that the defense was attempting to lay a foundation down for Barrett's potential testimony. Tpr. Holbert was asked about the "arrow-stick" light bar being activated while they were travelling eastbound on Hannum Avenue towards their assigned patrol post.

Tpr. Holbert had also stated that neither he, nor Tpr. Cessna had accused Barrett of being a "drug dealer" during the time that the defendant was being questioned. The trooper had also testified that, in his opinion, the verbal statements made by Barrett at the time of the arrest and the written statement given while at the Embreeville barracks were inconsistent at the time.

Under re-direct, Tpr. Holbert testified that, in pictures that were taken by the defense at the Harrisburg impound lot, in his recollection, the defendant was sitting further back during the traffic stop compared to when the photos were taken by the defense.

After a brief re-cross, the Commonwealth rested it's case. The defendant is scheduled to testify during the afternoon session, which is scheduled to start at approximately 13:30. Jury deliberations could begin as early as today, depending on the time when closing arguments are given.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

FROM COURTROOM #6 - 5/30/07

A jury trial involving drugs and guns highlighted a long day at Common Pleas Courtroom #6 yesterday. While a few of the cases involved incidents that occured in West Chester, this particular incident involved troopers from the State Police at Embreeville on a traffic stop that originated in West Chester. More on that case shortly...

Elsewhere on the docket today, Common Pleas Court Judge Howard Riley, Jr. sentenced a 20-year-old WCU student to Chester County Prison as part of a plea agreement relating to a drug case on campus. John Blystone, 20, of Wallingford, Delaware County, admitted that on January 18, he sold 5 pills of Hydrocordone to an undercover WCPD officer for $20.00 cash while in Tyson Hall on the WCU North Campus. Blystone faced a mandatory 2 year minimum jail term in state prison as the drug deal took place within a school zone, however, as part of the deal, the DA's office agreed to waive the mandatory sentence.

Additionally, Blystone had been placed on Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) in Delaware County following drug charges in 2005 following a drug possession arrest in Media (CP-23-CR-2302-2005). It appears, according to available court records, that ARD was successfully completed (though the files haven't been updated at the AOPC web site).

Adding insult to injury, Blystone admitted to Judge Riley during the hearing that he had smoked marijuana within the past 30 days. When Blystone pointed out his grade point average, which on the surface seemed impressive, Judge Riley responded, "I don't know how you got a 3.0, because you're not acting real smart." That would be the understatement of the year...

Blystone was sentenced to a county prison term of 6 to 23 months, followed by a combined 3 years probation thereafter, plus 75 hours community service, plus fines and court costs on one count of Possession with Intent to Sell or Distribute and one count of Conspiracy. Judge Riley advised Blystone that this was "his last break" and that future run-ins with the law would likely land him in state prison. (CP-15-CR-0001015-2007)

A co-defendant in the case, Jordan Mohl, 19, of Lebanon, is scheduled for trial in front of Judge Anthony Sarcione next month (CP-15-CR-0000998-2007 & CP-15-CR-0000999-2007).

In other matters before the court, 3 DUI cases were adjudicated, with 1 defendant being granted acceptance into ARD relating to an incident in London Grove, and 2 others pleading guilty to DUI in cases that were initiated in West Chester. Another defendant facing DUI charges from an incident in Coatesville failed to appear in court; as a result, Judge Riley issued a bench warrant for Pedro Flores Vazquez, 31, of Coatesville.

The jury trial of Commonwealth vs. Thomas Moran Barrett (CP-15-CR-0002559-2006) commenced. In direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Michelle Frei, Trooper Jerry Cessna testified that, on the night of April 30, 2006, he was on patrol heading towards the borough when he was at the intersection of Strasburg Road and Hannum Avenue. Trooper Cessna testified that he was about to turn eastbound onto Hannum when he observed a red Volkswagen Jetta, driven by the defendant, heading westbound on Hannum towards Downingtown. Trooper Cessna then initiated a traffic stop on Downingtown Pike in East Bradford Township, citing an illegal window tint on the side and rear windows of Barrett's vehicle. He had also noted that Barrett was allegedly travelling at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone, however he ultimately was not cited for speeding.

During the course of the traffic stop, Trooper Cessna testified that a review of Barrett's driving record indicated that his license had been under suspension. Shortly thereafter, he had administered field sobriety tests to Barrett, as testified to later, had passed. The tests were administered after the trooper observed what he suspected was marijuana related debris on the floorboard of the car. During a pat down search of the defendant, Trooper Cessna stated that he found a small amount of marijuana in the pocket of the suspect's pants. At that point, Barrett was placed under arrest.

During an inventory search of the vehicle, Trooper Cessna testified that he had observed what he suspected was the barrel of a firearm protruding from underneath the driver's seat of the car. The gun, a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic firearm, was loaded, containing 7 bullets. Barrett claimed that he had legally purchased the gun while residing in Arizona, however admitted that he didn't have a valid permit to carry the gun in Pennsylvania. Barrett allegedly told the trooper that he had the gun in his car after shooting at a target range a couple of days earlier.

Continuing the search, Trooper Cessna testified that he found two small baggies containing suspected cocaine and a sandwich bag containing marijuana in the center console of the car.

During the interview, Trooper Cessna alleged that Barrett said that he was delivering the drugs from a suspect in West Chester to a friend in Downingtown, though the suspect didn't go into further detail. After a nearly 30 minute wait for the tow truck, Barrett was transported to Chester County Hospital for bloodwork related to a DUI investigation. The vehicle was then towed to the State Police barracks for processing. A couple days later, the interior and exterior of the vehicle was photographed using a Poloroid camera.

In cross examination by defense counsel Joseph P. Green, Jr., Trooper Cessna admitted that at the time of the traffic stop, his patrol car was not equipped with a dash-board video camera. Green then continued to hammer away at virtually all aspects of the Commonwealth's case, starting with the allegation of Barrett's license suspension. The defense then showed a letter from PennDOT indicating that Barrett's license has been restored apporximately a month prior to the traffic stop.

Green then addressed the battalion of tests administered by the trooper - or, more notably, the lack thereof. Under cross, Trooper Cessna admitted that Barrett's BAC was well below the legal limit and that he had passed the other field sobriety test that was administered. In the initial complaint filed with the court, the trooper alleged that he had detected a moderate odor of alcohol on Barrett's breath. The trooper then testified that at the time he had completed the sobriety tests, he was unaware of the presence of cocaine in the vehicle.

In regards to statements made while in custody, Green pointed out that while Barrett allegedly made statements alleging that he was delivering the drugs for a friend, Barrett made no such assertions in his written statement. Green presented his client's written statement to police, which read in part, "I am not a drug dealer. I do not sell drugs." It was a point that Green had repeated on more than one occasion.

Green also attacked the method of which the troopers processed the vehicle - both during the traffic stop and at the station - noting that it had not been processed until two days after the traffic stop and that there were no photographs taken of the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Trooper Cessna claimed that it was State Police policy that prevented a camera to be made available at the time of the traffic stop. Green also presented recent photographs that were taken of the vehicle at the Attorney General's impound lot in Harrisburg. The vehicle had been cleaned out between the time of processing and the day the photos were taken in Harrisburg, the trooper explained, in order to make the car's appearance acceptable once it was taken in for forfeiture proceedings.

It still didn't address Green's issues about the discovery of the drugs and the gun in the vehicle. The defense continued to claim that the discovery of said items were unlawful based on State Police policy. Green alleged that the officer, in fact, did not have probable cause to search the vehicle, given that the evidence appeared to inidcate that the officer didn't really have sufficient probable cause to search based solely on the DUI arrest. It should be noted that these issues were raised in a previous suppression hearing and that Judge Riley had sided with the Commonwealth.

After Trooper Cessna's testimony, court wrapped up for the day, with testimony from a second trooper on the scene and from the defendant expected. Deliberations could begin as early as this afternoon, depending on the pace of the rest of the trial.

From the sounds of it, the Commonwealth's case against Barrett as far as the DUI charges go are weak, at best. And, there seems to be quite a bit of doubt regarding the inventory search and subsequent discovery of the firearm and the drugs. If the Commonwealth is going to get a conviction on any of these charges, then to say they have their work cut out for them might be an understatment. And, the State Police's policy in certain areas, particularly the immediate availability of a camera as part of an inventory search or any other type of search, is starting to come back to bite the Commonwealth. From my personal standpoint, the Commonwealth should certainly be thankful that I'm not sitting on that jury...

In any case, the trial is scheduled to resume at 10:00 in Courtroom #6. Other trial matters are expected to be heard prior to the resumption of the jury trial...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

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Friday, May 25, 2007


For those who thought that WCPD would be less busy once the University's spring semester concluded, think again...

Last night had the makings of a relatively quite night in the borough, however several incidents in all corners of town threw cold water on that theory. WCPD reportedly made at least 4 DUI arrests and no fewer than 8 Public Drunkeness arrests as the bars were letting out. Apparently, the DUI's weren't just limited to West Chester as reports of at least 5 additional DUI arrests amongst Birmingham, West Goshen, and West Whiteland kept the ER at Chester County Hospital (where blood is drawn from drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol are taken after being arrested) very busy. As of yet, the suspected DUI cases have yet to be filed in the respective District Courts (or, if they've been filed, have yet to be posted publicly on the AOPC web site).

For those keeping track, as of this posting (and based on available records as of Thursday afternoon), there have been 78 DUI cases filed by WCPD in the three district courts - 31 in Judge Bruno's court (not counting 2 DUI cases filed there by WCU Police), 44 in Judge Knapp's court, and 3 in Judge Arnold's court (from East Bradford). When the additional cases are confirmed, this will likely boost the totals towards what could be yet another record number of DUI arrests.

Thus far, Squad 2 - which was in service last night - has logged 22 DUI arrests in the three courts as of the most recent review of court data (and not including potential cases that have been filed but not publically posted). Two officers within this particular squad - P/O Jeffrey Gallo and P/O Rey Melendez - have made 7 DUI arrests each so far this year. However, P/O William Viebahn - presently assigned to Squad 1 - has logged 9 DUI arrests this year.

And the word is that WCPD officers are not neccesarily specifically setting up checkpoints or staging at particular hot spots (and this, to be fair, is mainly because of the high volume of bar and neighborhood complaints that are called in on busy nights). It tends to be more of a reflection on the stupidity of most of these motorists and restaurant/bar patrons who don't exactly have a good handle on alcohol.

Still, 78 DUI arrests within the first five months (presumably with more to follow by the time the holiday weekend reaches its end - there are, after all, 6 days remaining in the month of May) is one impressive statistic...


Two hearings, three no-show defendants, a pair of arraignments, and a 20 minute power outage marked a long day at this week's criminal day at 15-1-04. Of course, it would happen the day before the Memorial Day holiday, so go figure...

The day began almost routinely, as the first matter was a continuance of a simple assault case to next week's list, followed by two agreement related charge reduction hearings - a drug related case and a misdemeantor harassment case were withdrawn to summary charges after the defendants in those cases completed a court-ordered agreement. Then, the wheels of justice came of an unceremonious - and rather unplanned - halt...

At 09:35, the power went out in the District Court building - and pretty much the entire east end of West Chester and portions of West Goshen. The cause of the power failure was an accident at Market St and Westtown Road in West Goshen, when a vehicle ran into a utility pole, causing a transformer to fail, thus putting an entire neighborhood into darkness. After nearly 25 minutes, the power was restored to the neighborhood and to the courtroom and court resumed. During the blackout, a DUI defendant waived his preliminary hearing, and the waiver hearing was held at the window as opposed to the courtroom. It had to be very interesting to see defendants, lawyers, and at least half-a-dozen WCPD officers milling around in the lobby of the District Court wondering if their respective business would be conducted today.

As for the accident, it appeared that the driver of the vehicle was flown to a trauma center; as court was resuming, PennStar #2 was seen landing at the nearby Goodwill Fire Company station at Union & Bolmar. As of this posting, the driver's condition is unknown...

Meanwhile, back in court, one of defendant's in last summer's shooting at Barnard and Adams had his preliminary hearing. Willam Shockley, 18, of Coatesville, who was arraigned last week, appeared in court to answer to charges of Carrying a Firearm Without a Permit, Reckless Endangerment, and Possession of Marijuana. The Commonwealth's witness testified that he and about 20 other people were in the 300 block of East Barnard Street shortly after midnight on May 29, 2006. The witness testified that he and the other subjects got word that there would be a fight involving youths from West Chester and youths from Coatesville. During the incident, the witness testified that at least 1 gun shot was heard and that he saw Shockley fire his weapon after being fired upon first. When the shots rang out, the witness testified, the people who were expecting a fight fled the scene. It should be noted that the witness could be described as, shall we say, reluctant...

Det. Cpl. Scott Whiteside then took the stand. He testified that he interviewed the defendant shortly after being arrested following a high-speed pursuit between West Chester and Coatesville. Cpl. Whiteside stated that he found what was suspected to be a small amount of marijuana on the defendant's person after being taken into custody. He also alleged that the defendant had fired his weapon while in Coatesville and that there was no permit on file for the defendant to carry a firearm.

The matter was held for Common Pleas Court; Shockley remains free on 10 percent of $10,000 bail and remains on electronic home monitoring while out on bail. The defense had argued that Shockley should be permitted to attend his senior prom at Coatesville Area Senior High School, despite being on home monitoring. The court agreed, and Shockley is getting an opportunity that those who weren't able to attend their respective senior prom's (okay, me) never got to experience. Oh, to be 18 again and staring down more than just a weekend visit at CCP. (15-1-04, CR-0000147-07)

The next case was a waiver of a preliminary hearing involving a defendant who turned himself in last week. Stephen Gensel returned to Judge Knapp's court, only this time, it wasn't quite as voluntary. Unlike last week, when Gensel appeared voluntarily, today, he was led in front of the judge in handcuffs after he was held on a detainer for a parole violation. Gensel waived his preliminary hearing on drug possession charges and was commited back to Chester County Prison on the detainer. (15-1-04, CR-0000156-07)

Last June, Gensel pled guilty to two counts of Forgery following an incident in East Goshen and was on probation at the time of his arraignment last week. (15-2-05, CR-0000067-06; CP-15-CR-0001933-2006) Gensel was also scheduled to go to trial on drug possesion and retail theft charges following an incident in West Goshen late last year. (15-2-03, CR-0000004-07; CP-15-CR-0000923-2007)

After a continuance on an assault case, two defendants made appearances in front of Judge Knapp for their preliminary arraigments:

In the first arraignment, Jason Paul Hayes, 26, of Morgantown, Berks County, was arraigned on 2 counts of Simple Assault and one count of Harrassment in a case filed by P/O Michael Cotter (who fire buffs will recognize as Assistant Chief of the Goodwill Fire Company) in an incident early this morning. Hayes is free after posting 10 percent of $1,500 and is scheduled to appear before Senior Judge Welsh on Thursday for a preliminary hearing. (15-2-03, CR-0000178-07)

In the second arraignment, a 42-year-old Downingtown woman was charged with Burglary, Criminal Tresspass, 2 counts of Simple Assault, two counts of Disorderly Conduct, and one count of Criminal Mischief in connection with an incident early this morning in Downingtown. Heather H. Brown is alleged to have broken into her ex-boyfriend's house in the Norwood House section of Downingtown and fighting with the victim. According to radio transmissions relating to the incident, Police Radio advised that Brown had broken into the property and that she was being restrained by at least one of the occupants of the house. She was released after posting 10 percent of $2,500 bail and is scheduled to appear in front of Judge Arnold next Monday in Downingtown District Court. (15-2-06, CR-0000222-07)

Once those two matters were addressed, two suspects charged with breaking into a vehicle and leading WCPD on a pursuit last week took different approaches to their respective preliminary hearings.

Jose Sanchez-Garcia, 28, of West Grove, waived his preliminary hearing for his part in the theft and pursuit on May 16. He faces charges of Theft by Unlawful Taking, Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Unlawful Taking, Recieving Stolen Property, Theft from a Motor Vehicle, Conspiracy to Commit Theft From a Motor Vehicle, Reckless Endangerment, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude an Officer, Driving Without a License, Driving at a Safe Speed, Careless Driving, 2 counts of Failure to Stop at a Red Signal, and Tresspass by Motor Vehicle. Charges of Reckless Driving and Stop Sign violations were withdrawn. He remains free on $7,500 bail. (15-1-01, CR-0000163-07) His co-defendant, however, went forth with his preliminary hearing...

During his preliminary hearing, Jose Gonzalez Vega, 22, of Avondale, stood accused of breaking into a vehicle that was parked behind a property on the 200 block of East Market Street. The victim testified that he had parked his car the previous night, only to find that the windows had been smashed out, all four of his tires were flattened, and several items were missing. A CD reciever valued at $300, a pair of amplifiers valued at nearly $900, and a pair of speakers were missing from his vehicle. He did not, however, witness the actual incident.

Following the victim's testimony, P/O Harry O'Neill testified that he had cleared from a domestic related incident in the East End at around 23:56 on the night of May 15. While on patrol on the 100 block of Cedar Alley, he had obsvered 3 subjects running down the 200 block of Cedar Alley towards Railroad Alley. P/O O'Neill identified Gonzalez-Vega as the subject who was about 20 yards behind the other two suspects and carrying a large white item. The three subjects then allegedly got into a green SUV which then began to go southbound on Railroad Alley. P/O O'Neill testified that he had to swerve out of the way to avoid being struck by the fleeing SUV.

At that point, the SUV then made a u-turn before going eastbound on Market St. P/O Rey Melendez and P/O Jason Malicki then entered attempted to stop the vehicle before taking off on the officers. The SUV then continued out of the borough on Market Street before turning onto Westtown Road, jumping the median, heading north on Garfield Avenue, then east on Lincoln Avenue before stopping and coming to rest against a large trailer at Lasko Industries on the 800 block of Lincoln in West Goshen. The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Sanchez Garcia, was found hiding in a stairwell in a nearby building and taken into custody. Gonzalez Vega and a 3rd actor, who has yet to be charged, then allegedly fled into nearby woods. Officers from West Goshen and Westtown-East Goshen Police, along with a K-9 unit from West Whiteland, searched for Gonzaez-Vega and the 3rd suspect before finally locating the defendant about 30 yards into the woods, laying in some brush.

P/O O'Neill then testified that he was able to apply a monetary value on one of the items after doing some research on the internet. He also testified that a large blue vinyl CD carrying case containing between 40-50 compact discs was also recovered from the green SUV.

Gonzalez-Vega was held on all counts pending, including Theft by Unlawful Taking, Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Unlawful Taking, Recieving Stolen Property, Theft From a Motor Vehicle, and Conspiracy to Commit Theft From a Motor Vehicle. A count of Criminal Mischief was also added. Gonzalez-Vega is now free after posting $5,000 bail. (15-1-04, CR-0000162-07)

In the final hearing of the day, Leobarda Estrada, 47, of West Chester, had been charged with Indecent Assault, Public Drunkeness, Harassment, and Disorderly Conduct after a May 12 incident on the 100 block of East Gay Street. In an agreement with the District Attorney's office, Estrada saw the Indecent Assault and Harassment charges withdrawn and pled guilty to one count of Harassment and one count of Disorderly Conduct. He was sentenced to time served in Chester County Prison (where he is being held pending the outcome of an INS detainer) in lieu of $731.00 in fines and court costs. (15-1-04, CR-0000158-07)

Before the session ended, the District Attorney's office requested and recieved 3 bench warrants to be issued against defendants who failed to appear for their preliminary hearings:

Peter Arrington Hyatt, 25, of Chadds Ford, was scheduled for an arraignment and preliminary hearing on charges of DUI and Causing an Accident Resulting in Damage to an Unattended Vehicle or Property following an accident on March 23 in a case filed by P/O Stuart Smith. Hyatt had failed to respond when his case was called and, in the Commonwealth's opinion, was given sufficient time to respond to be arraigned. Having failed to appear or respond, Judge Knapp issued a warrant for Hyatt's arrest. (15-1-04, CR-0000109-07)

Jason Robert Buddenhagen, 23, of West Chester, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment and preliminary hearing on DUI and Illegal Turn charges following a traffic stop initiated by P/O Thomas Flick on March 28. Buddenhagen had failed to respond when his case was called and had no attorney represented to argue on his behalf when the case was called. Judge Knapp then issued a warrant for Buddenhagen's arrest after he failed to respond or appear for his hearing. (15-1-04, CR-0000116-07)

Michael Fairell, 24, of Philadelphia, was scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on a single charge of Carrying a Firearm Without a License relating to an incident that occured on April 8 and was filed by P/O A. J. McCarthy. Fairell had been free after posting $10,000 bail on April 21. After failing to appear when his case was called or repsonding after sufficient time, Judge Knapp issued a bench warrant for his arrest, thus revoking his bail. (15-1-04, CR-0000122-07).

To recap, of the 18 cases listed on today's docket, 2 cases were held for trial following preliminary hearings, 3 defendants waived their preliminary hearings and had their cases moved to Common Pleas Court, 7 cases were continued to later dates, 3 cases were withdrawn in lieu of guilty pleas to summary charges, and 3 bench warrants were issued. And, the court lost all electricity for nearly 20 minutes.

Tentatively, next week's docket is expected to have nearly 2 dozen cases, but as can often be the case, some cases can be continued prior to the listing on Friday morning, plus new cases can be scheduled in for first listings prior to Friday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why We Should Not Bring The Death Penalty Back In New York.

Part 2

By Jeffrey Deskovic

Appellate Review Is Inadequate To Protect The Innocent.

In many of the wrongful coniction cases, including mine, the person eventually cleared often has had their appeals exhausted. Guess what happens to those who have been sentenced to death whose appeals have run out? The sentence is carried out. As an illustration of how inadequate appellate review is to stop miscarriages of justice, let us recount the following New Yorkers who were wrongfully imprisoned whose convictions the appellate process failed to remedy, starting with those convicted of murder: Roy Brown, 15 years for murder, Dennis Halstead,
16 years for murder, John Kogut, 17 years for murder, Kerry Kotler, 10.5 years for murder, Douglas Warney,
9 years for murder.

Those convicted of charges other than murder: Scott Fapiano, 21 years; Alan Newton, 21 years; Anthony
Capozzi, 20 years; Kharey Wise, 11.5 years; Victor Ortiz, 11 years; Michael Mercer, 10.5 years; Terry Chalmers, of Westchester, 7 years; Charles Dabbs, of Westchester, 7 years; Antron McCray, 6 years;
Kevin Richardson, 5.5 years; Yusef Salaam, 5.5 years; Raymond Santana, 5 years. By the way, the last
four mentioned, along with Kharey Wise, were convicted amid the hype surrounding a brutal rape, referred
to by the media as The Central Park Jogger case, akin to the type of hype which surrounds cop killings.

Doubtlessly the atmosphere played a role in their convictions, as it would in any crime which generateshysteria and outrage, again much as occurs in a cop killing case. The prospect of an innocent person being executed is no mere theoretical possibility. Consider the following excerpt from capital cases, which I borrow from a pamphlet of the magazine Justice Denied: “Hours before Freddie Lee Wright was executed in March 2000, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Johnstone vainly protested ‘…his petition recites persuasive facts that support the conclusion that he is innocent and that his conviction results from lack of a fair trial…the likelihood
[is] that we are sending an innocent man to his death.’”

Let’s look at the lessons of innocence and the death penalty in states that have the death penalty. Consider that Ray Krone was twice wrongfully convicted of murder before being cleared, and spent 4 years on death row. Consider that Earl Washington came within 9 days of being executed. Consider that Ron Williamson came within
5. Nicholas Yarris was nearly executed because at the end he gave up and actually got permission from a judge to give up what was left of his appeals, in effect volunteering to die. Consider the other exonerees who were on death row: Kirk Bloodsworth, Charles Fain, Ronald Jones, Ryan Mathews, and Robert Miller. Consider Frank Smith, who actually died on death row while still undergoing the appeals process, before being post-humously
cleared by DNA.

Consider too how frighteningly close in New York itself, in the short time that the death penalty statute was on the books, we came to senthetencing an innocent person to death, when Douglas Warney, of Rochester, was wrongfully charged and convicted of murder. Prosecutors tried to indict him for first degree murder so that they could seek the death penalty.

But the grand jury only indicted him for second degree murder. I would like to point out that often the circumstance which leads to one murder case being classified as a death penalty case, is being convicted
of another felony along with the murder. Often being convicted of a rape with a murder serves as a basis to classify a murder as a death penalty eligible. If I was eighteen years old as opposed to sixteen, I have no
doubt that I would have been sentenced to death. I was charged with a brutal crime, and there was a lot
of outrage and public pressure. My appeals ran out in 1999. I was not cleared until 2006. There would have
been no 2006 for Jeffrey Deskovic.

Then think about two things which are even more frightening: DNA evidence is only available in 10% of all serious felony cases, and there are nowhere near the legal resources needed in order to work oncases of innocence. The Innocence Project alone receives hundreds of letters each month requesting assistance, and already has a huge pile of cases waiting for representation. Similar organizations also have a tremendous backlog. For those two reasons it is impossible to tell for certain just how many innocent people there are in prison. Against this backdrop, when a person is sentenced to death, there is the added pressure of working against the clock. That is a recipe for disaster.

In any brutal or heinous crime, there is an emotional environment of anger, outrage, and public pressure on the police to solve the crime. When a police officer is killed, that is even more true, with the added feature that the police are now emotionally involved because a colleague was killed, thus setting the stage for mistakes to be made. I believe that life is bestowed by God and should not be taken, including that of law enforcement officers. I am against all murders, whether by street violence, or statesanctioned execution, carrying out the death penalty. I do not believe that the life of a person who chooses a career in the private sector is less valuable than that of a law enforcement officer. Therefore one crime should not carry the death penalty while another does not.

It has been proven through studies and statistics, that African-Americans are disproportionately sentenced to death. If someone who is white is convicted of the same type of crime as a African-American, the African-American is more likely to receive the death penalty. Similarly, an African-American convicted of killing a white man is more likely to be sentenced to death than a White killing a Black.

There is an element of classism also. You will never find a rich person or one with political connections on death row. The reason is that they can afford the best lawyers, helping them to either avoid being arrested in the first place, or to beat the rap. As if those two factors are not enough, I don’t believe that there is a judge alive who will sentence a rich man to death.

Then there are also geographic disparities, wherein what part of the state that one lives in makes it more
likely that one will receive the death penalty. Thus it is arbitrary who receives the death penalty and who
does not. There are moral problems with the existence of death rows. The prisoners are kept in their cells twenty
three hours a day, with the uncertainty of whether they will be executed hanging over their head, often for eight, or nine years, or even decades at a time. That is cruel and inhumane, and certainly enough to make anyone insane. Yet considering how flawed the system is, it is unavoidable since many are cleared after their appeals
have run out, thereby making a speeding up of the process unthinkable.

Thus the whole idea of having a death penalty becomes unworkable in practice. Additionally, there have
been botched executions, in which the condemned suffer.

There are a variety of myths surrounding the death penalty. One of them is that is gives closure to victims families. I have spoken with a woman, Marie Verzulli, whose family member was murdered, who related to me that in the course of her giving lectures against the death penalty, she had spoken to many murder victim family members who said that after the death penalty had been carried out that they had not received any closure. In fact, some
of them who had been public about wanting the murderer to be executed felt badly afterwards, that they had lowered themselves down to the murderers level. Many of them felt also that their pain was kept alive by the inevitable media attention that happens whenever the accused appeals were heard. And yet, the appeals could never be done away with because of the errors in the system. Were it not for the death penalty, the cases would not receive that type of attention.

Another myth is that it serves as a deterrent. There is no evidence which proves that it deters anybody from committing a similar crime. Those who murder in cold blood, after carefully premeditating it, do not believe that they will get caught, so it does not hinder them. Those who murder in the heat of the moment, are consumed with emotion and are not thinking about the consequences either. Thus neither type of murderer is deterred. Still another myth is that the death penalty is necessary to protect society. Prison has served thus far to protect society against two of the most notorious murderers, Charles Manson and David Berkowitz.

Yet another myth is that the death penalty is a cheaper option than imprisonment. According to a news
story out of Texas, entitled “Executions Cost Texas Millions”, reporters determined that it cost Texas two
point three million dollars more per case than a non-death penalty case. In New York, from 1995-2004, when we had the death penalty on the books, we spent $200 million dollars specifi-cally because of the statute’s existence, and executed nobody. Those resources could be better spent on social programs, such as education.

The death penalty does a disservice to us all. It drains financial resources, which could be better spent in other areas. It puts victim families through more agony. The process itself is inhumane, leaving the condemned unsure of whether he will be killed or not. But perhaps the most important one is that innocent people will be executed. The justice system, as it exists today, is much too flawed for us to have a penalty as irreversible as death. At least with
wrongful incarceration, we can free the innocent. With death, there is nothing that we can do. A wrongful conviction can happen to anyone, at anytime. If we have a death penalty, that means that not only are all of us
at risk of being wrongfully convicted, but we are also at risk at being executed as the penalty.

Thus it is for our own individual protection, along with that of our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, other family members, and friends, that we must not have a reinstatement of the death penalty. It is not about being soft on crime, and we must make our state and federal legislators understand that.

Last week Gov. Spitzer announced his intention to expand the DNA databank, by mandating that those who had been incarcerated for misdemeanors also be required to give DNA samples. I wholeheartedly endorse this latest
legislative initiative by Gov. Spitzer, as I have been actively advocating for laws that will protect the innocent, prevent and overturn wrongful convictions, and make it easier to bring justice to those cases wherein a wrongful conviction has occurred.

Expansion of the DNA Databank means that there will be more samples on file, so that when someone who is innocent receives a DNA test in which crime scene evidence is run through that databank, there will be more samples to check it against. In my case, for example, when DNA was run through the system, it matched someone else whose sample was in the system, thus simultaneously showing his guilt and my innocence.

Had Steven Cunningham only committed a misdemeanor and not a felony, his sample would not have been in the databank, I would still be in prison serving a life sentence. Expanding the databank pool increases the odds that
matches will be found when the innocent request DNA Testing of crime scene materials.

On the other side of the coin, opponents have raised objections, citing privacy issues, and worries as to whether insurance companies and employers will gain access to this information and decline medical coverage and employment opportunities.

With respect to insurance companies and employers, it has not happened yet that anyone has been denied employment or coverage based upon genetic predisposition. There is no reason to think that anyone will, because
those places do not have access to that information. However, to be on the safe side, legislation should be enacted to make it illegal for that information to be accessed either by insurance companies or employers.

With respect to privacy, it is my position and hopefully the position of most reasonable individuals, that when the competing interests of privacy and establishing innocence are weighed out, innocence, and the right to not be imprisoned for crimes one has not committed, certainly must trump any privacy concerns. To hold otherwise is to
say that it is okay for the innocent to sometimes remain in prison, because the DNA pool is not large enough to have potentially included the actual perpetrator of the crime for which they were wrongfully convicted.

I salute Gov. Spitzer for his proactive decision, indicating his concern for innocents caught in the web of the criminal justice system, and the recognition that the innocent are sometimes found guilty.

Janet Difiore.

DA DiFiore Visits Mt. Kisco Seeks Help From Latino Community.

Last Wednesday night, in the wake of a severe thunder and wind storm, which took down trees and power lines in the Mt. Kisco area, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore, nevertheless, made an appearance at a gathering at Mt. Kisco Village Hall before some one hundred, mostly Latino, concerned citizens, there to protest the unsolved recent death of Rene Perez and two other Latinos strangled to death in the area in 2003 and 2004.

Introduced to the crowd by Fernando Mateo, founder of Hispanics Across America, DiFiore, surrounded by Mateo, DA Investigator Glover, and several Guardian Angels, declared, “I have come for a single purpose, to let the people know my office is handling the investigation into the death of Rene Perez.”

DiFiore went on to make an appeal to those gathered, as well as to the community at large, to come forward with any information that might be helpful in determining the exact circumstances leading up to Rene Perez’
death in the early morning hours of April 29. The DA attempted to ease any concerns on the part of undocumented individuals who might fear deportation or other repercussions for coming forward
with information.

Members of the District Attorney’s Office distributed a flyer, in both English and Spanish, displaying a picture of Rene Perez and offering a confi-dential hotline number, 914.995.6247, in the effort to draw out informants.
Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

As a result of the failure of her office to respond to my repeated requests for a meeting, I have sent the following open letter to Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore:

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore
Westchester County Courthouse
111 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
White Plains, New York 10601

May 16, 2007

An Open Letter to District Attorney Janet DiFiore

In the past four months, I have called your office 15 times in an effort to arrange a meeting with you to discuss the Oscar Nedd murder case. All these calls were met with your staff indicating they would get back to me, which they never did. Do these people think this is a game or are they instructed to do this?

Oscar Nedd was a human being who was murdered in White Plains in 1975. His family grieves every day and asks what your office is doing to bring his killer, Joe Fluellen, to justice by putting this case before a Grand Jury. This case cannot be shoved under the rug like the one his killer Joe Fluellen used to carry his body in. Your office is bound by law to see that justice is carried out and, to date, you have failed to do so.

I know that Peter Vivano, the former head of the White Plains Police Detective Division, worked for your office for a brief time. I also know that he poisoned your mind on the facts in this case.

The same Peter Vivano who told the reporter with the Star Ledger that the tiny bit of blood found in Nedd’s room was animal blood when, in fact, there was so much blood in that room the head of Westchester County Forensics said no one could survive with the loss of that amount of blood without a transfusion. He also said it
was human blood, Type AB.

I think you are a step above the former DA, Jeanine Pirro, who should be in jail for what she has done while in office. Just because Oscar Nedd is Black, and the White Plains Police have lost or destroyed evidence is no reason to turn your back on this case. The Nedd family deserves the same justice you would give to a White family who lived in Westchester who lost a loved one to a vicious killer.

Joe Fluellen, who has a 393-page criminal file with the Warner Robbins Police Dept. is due to be released in 2011 or sooner. As indicated in the Las Crucas report he is a hardened criminal and will continue with his life of crime once released.

I ask that you put this case before a Grand Jury and give the Nedd family the justice they deserve

Yours Truly,

Austin Avery

The Westchester Guardian
The Journal News
News 12, Cablevision

More on Judges Demand For Enhanced Pay

Dear Editor:

Katherine Wilson’s intrepid May 10 letter in response, The Truth About Most Judges, sums up judicial accountability with interesting, in fact, alarming, mathematical equations. Delineated perks of one hundred thousand dollars and counting, underscore the missing items behind this ‘dire digit need’ of Judith Kaye and fellow robed members. But Ms. Wilson’s letter teaches a far greater lesson and exposes a much plainer truth than this hidden index of judicial benefits, or its unsuspected costs to taxpayers. The numbers just don’t add up.
Judges who want pay for a job they don’t do rob the public of priceless con-fidence and trust in a system of justice.

No matter how you figure it, disuse of due process and case law does not meet the bottom line. According to Webster’s Third New International Unabridged Dictionary, the obscure meaning of Bank is “the bench or seat on which the judges of a court of law sit.” Strange isn’t it? To bank on the public confidence in the judiciary, the judges would have to do an honest day’s work; listen to the litigants’ testimony, read the motion papers, know the rules and the laws, and most especially, apply them. Ms. Wilson’s intimations of the behind the-scenes work desks of Westchester’s judiciary can well explain the large number of appeals crowding the Appellate calendar.

The findings of fact, and conclusions of law, rarely comport with courtroom testimony, the expert reports, even oftentimes, the causes of action. How could they? If the writers of the decisions, orders and judgments are
not present in the courtroom, are not in full view and earshot, how can the writers discern what circumstances and facts particular to a case to consider?

Matrimonial attorneys, Marilyn S. Faust and Charna L. Fuchs, decried in their January 1999 article in Women’s
News, the war that is the matrimonial court where “the laws are not applied consistently and the results vary widely from county to county, within the same courthouse and even in different matters before the same judge.”

Should they, the law clerks, do this task anyway? And, if so, for what, then, are the many judges asking the desired enhanced pay?

One year before Judith Kaye was sworn into the office of Chief Judge, in 1993, the Milonas Commission studied
attorney practice after New York State’s Better Business Bureau received many complaints about attorneys’ abusive practices in matrimonial matters.

The result was a report filed by the Committee which established standards for attorney matrimonial practice, especially with regard to retainers. The retainers had to spell out the terms of the exchange and be agreed upon, signed by both parties, sealed, and delivered to the court clerk for filing. This was to protect the public from attorneys who bilk clients of fair representation and fees.

Judith Kaye, as Chief Judge, appointed Sondra Miller, Associate Justice, Appellate Division, 2nd Department, in July 2005, to head a thirty two-member Commission, composed of eight lawyers, thirteen judges, one doctor, and one Certified Public Accountant, to again access the Matrimonial Parts in New York State.

The Commission issued a report recommending sweeping changes: The selection and education of justices that sit on this Part; the rules and laws applicable to Matrimonial litigation; the regulation of law guardians, and the administration of the legal process.

To quote the Commission: “The issues presented in matrimonial and related matters are numerous and diverse,
requiring the Judge to be knowledgeable about statutory and case law relevant to matrimonial proceedings,
as well as areas of tax, bankruptcy law, the appraisal of commercial assets, realty, enhanced earnings and professional license valuations, among other things. Therefore, the timely, accurate, and just disposition of these
cases depends, to a large degree, on the knowledge, character, temperament, professional aptitude and experience of the judge before whom the matter is presented. The public’s confidence in and respect for the court hinges on the proper selection and retention of judges for these Parts.”

If judges do indeed surrender their stipulated obligations to law clerks, fail to meet their contract with the
public, depart from the accepted, promulgated practice of the Bench, should they be rewarded and receive a raise?

A Pro Se Litigant Who Is Still
Dealing With The System

Erosion of Civil Liberties in America

Dear Editor:

I had to respond after reading the letter of May 17th by an anonymous civil servant whose calls to the federal
corruption hot line went unanswered.

A multi-year civil service employee, I also called the hot line, left a message for a call-back, including my
name, address, phone number. No one returned the call.

In the past, I have reported government corruption to the New York State Commission of Investigation (no response), The New York State Attorney General’s White Plains office -Deborah Scalise, Deputy Attorney General for Public Advocacy returned my substantial packet of documentation stating in effect that I should file my complaint with public officials, the very ones I was accusing of corruption. Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro – Michael Hughes-Assistant District Attorney, Public Integrity Bureau suggested
I contact the Westchester County attorney’s office with my concerns-the same attorneys would be defending the
county officials being charged.

Three weeks ago I traveled to Alexandria, Virginia to meet with attorneys at The Institute for Justice, a nationwide public interest law firm that pursues cutting-edge litigation in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by government.

They recently defended Brody v. Village of Port Chester to stop abuse of eminent domain. This trip was to discuss the many county projects that run afoul of a “public benefits doctrine” in the law, which raises questions about whether residents of one part of the county can legally be made to pay for a piece of equipment, service or other investment that will only serve taxpayers in a different area.

The Institute for Justice was most accommodating and helpful, but a very interesting comment by one of the attorneys was, “That the New York State Court System is the worst in which to receive justice or fair trials.”

Unfortunately we no longer have government by and for the People or a separation of powers. For an eye-opening view of how we are being deceived by our government, watch the award-winning Aaron Russo film at, a startling examination exposing the systemic erosion of civil liberties in America.

Anthony Futia
North White Plains

The Truth About Mt. Vernon City Gov’t

Dear Editor:

As a Mount Vernon resident and a former City employee, I want to thank you for bringing to light the truth about
the corrupt Ernie Davis Administration.

The Mayor is corrupt but he is protected from being indicted because of political connections with the likes of Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Elliot Engle who are more interested in him fooling Mount Vernon residents into voting for them than in the good and welfare of Mount Vernonites. It is a shame and a disgrace! Politicians like Eliot Spitzer, when he was Attorney General and now under the new Westchester DA Janet DiFiore would not investigate Davis even though he is stealing the city blind and passing money through insiders and friends. He is crooked! I read in the papers that money is missing from the urban renewal agency and the federal government does not seem to be investigating this. Ask yourself, “Why not?”

I used to work for the City. The corruption is so thick it is unbelievable. Serapher Conn Helevi is the Democratic
Party chairwoman in Mount Vernon. She endorsed the Mayor for reelection because he made her the City Marshall – she gets a payoff. She and her family also run a moving business where she charges tenants for moving them after she evicts them from their apartments as City Marshall – she gets another payoff. The Mayor gave her a no-bid contract to boot cars when people don’t pay parking tickets – she gets another payoff. Her daughter works for the Mount Vernon Recreation Department – she gets another payoff. Her son, who is Deputy City Marshall and also has a no-show job with the county planning department in the Section 8
program – she gets two more payoffs.

As the Mount Vernon Democratic Party Chairwoman she gave herself the nomination for the seat as county legislator to replace Clinton Young – she gets still another payoff. She plans on holding onto all these positions because the words ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘integrity’ don’t mean anything to her.

A Concerned resident
In Our Opinion...

It’s Time Westchester Law Enforcement Enters The 21st Century

Notwithstanding Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, who certainly will concur in the recommendation We now make, if for no other reason than to tremendously expand his sphere of influence, the Rene Perez tragedy, for all of the lessons that will surely emerge from it, from its inception, has made yet another cogent argument for a long-needed Westchester Countywide Police Department.

Clearly the ‘border-dumping’ practice employed by both the Bedford Town, and Mount Kisco Village, Police Departments on the evening of April 28th, that appears, at the very least, to have directly contributed to Rene Perez’ death, would immediately be obviated once the 42 city, town, and village police departments that currently carve up the jurisdiction, collectively known as Westchester County, would be consolidated into one countywide police force.

The patchwork of departments, not including the State Police, and the County Police, that now divide the policing of just under one million Westchester residents, is archaic and duplicative to say the least. Additionally, there are “too many Chiefs, and not enough Indians.” No reasonable individual would argue that there wouldn’t be considerable savings to taxpayers with the elimination of multiple-duplication. Nassau County, some seven miles across Long Island Sound, with 1.3 million residents as compared with Westchester’s just under one million, employs approximately 2,700 County Police Officers working from eight precincts. And, while it is true that some 19 village police departments have continued to function, for the most part, all major felonies, and all major emergencies are responded to by the Nassau County Police.

Without question, if all active personnel in all of the police departments in Westchester County were brought under the command of one countywide department, and the County was divided into eight, or possibly ten, precincts, there would immediately be more officers on the street, more on the roads, and in places of public
accommodation and transportation. Emergency equipment, as well as high technology, would be more readily accessible in all parts of the County, and together with manpower, would be more effectively and efficiently deployed than can presently be accomplished.

As importantly, under one command, one standard of training, and performance, the level of professionalism and excellence with which police officers everywhere in the County would deal with citizens would naturally rise, and
the kind of cronyism and local politics presently so pervasive in most existing local departments would be curtailed and ultimately eliminated. Additionally, the District Attorney’s Office would be held to an equal standard across the board, and the chances of bullying one police department or another, as Jeanine Pirro did for twelve years, would be virtually eliminated. There would be fewer Jeffrey Deskovic, Anthony DiSimone, Jing Kelly, and Richard DiGuglielmo cases, fewer malicious prosecutions, as prosecutors would be held to a higher, more uniform, standard as well.

Yes, for every good reason it’s time law enforcement in Westchester County steps into the Twenty-First Century. The residents and taxpayers deserve both the Constitutional, and financial benefits that will accrue. Perhaps the County Legislature will be willing to establish a committee to explore the potential feasibility,
and benefits of such a consolidation in the near future. Surely, an information campaign, and a referendum placed before County residents, might be constructive. In any event, the whole process is likely to take some time, and the likelihood that Larry Schwartz might still be controlling the reins of County government is very remote, indeed.
The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Here’s To You, Jim Comey

When push came to shove, unlike Alberto Gonzales and just about everyone else connected to the Bush Administration, his loyalty to the Constitution and Rule of Law, came before his loyalty to the President and before his own political ambition.

At a time when public sentiment regarding the integrity of politicians, and the judiciary, in this country is at an all-time low, and the media has been more complicit than constructive, last Tuesday’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by former Deputy United States Attorney General, James Comey was anything but a
“tiresome saga,” as characterized by The Journal News. In fact, for all but the most superficial and cynical observers, Mr. Comey’s revealing account of events little more than three years ago, at the highest levels of Executive power in Washington, was a moment of reassurance that Constitutional guarantees still matter, and that
the ends will not justify the means after all.

If The Journal News finds that message “so tiresome” perhaps it’s because they have long ago abandoned the prime mandate of a Free Press, serving the People’s Right to Know, and have themselves been complicit in their failure over the years to expose the wrongful and unlawful workings of Westchester County Government and the State Courts against the interests of their readers. Of course, what should one expect from a publication whose publisher and president for many years, Gary Sherlock, was a business partner of Al Pirro, spouse of former DA Jeanine Pirro. But, I digress.

I must admit that I was not a Jim Comey fan when he had just come up from a ten-year stint as a United States Attorney in Richmond, Virginia, to assume the same position for the Southern District of New York, perhaps the most prestigious of all jurisdictions. It was 2001, and Pirro was running for re-election as Westchester DA,
despite her husband’s conviction, just months earlier, for 38 felony counts of Federal Income Tax Fraud, in connection with ten years of their joint tax returns. When asked if he would be able to trust and work with her, I felt Comey was too quick to respond affirmatively, in effect negating an otherwise legitimate campaign issue.

Upon reflection I’ve come to realize he wasn’t the only United States Attorney who DA Pirro manipulated, a fact that has now come back to bite her where the sun doesn’t shine.

What is important to appreciate about Yonkers native Jim Comey is the fact that when push came to shove, unlike Alberto Gonzales, and just about everyone else closely connected to the Bush Administration, his loyalty to the Constitution and the Rule of Law came before his loyalty to the President, and before his own political ambition. When put to the kind of test he could never have imagined being put to, Jim Comey did the right thing, standing up against the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping, without proper oversight, and
in violation of fundamental Constitutional guarantees. Despite the prevailing “War On Terror” mentality still clearly ruling the day more than three years ago, Jim Comey had the courage, the conviction of his beliefs, and the rare integrity not to abandon his position, even at great personal risk.

Jim Comey’s courage under fire was rare, and as admirable as that of any defender of our freedom has ever been; a fact that in the months and years that lay ahead we will all, no doubt, come to realize. Here’s to you Jim Comey. May you inspire the same from others who follow your path.