Thursday, December 28, 2006
I’m a resident of Valhalla Grasslands Homeless Shelter. The article that was printed on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 was totally untrue. What should have been printed is that how VOA Staff disrespects and belittle residents. We are housed like as if we were in minimum security.
There are community meetings that are held for the residents (which should be for our benefit). The community
meetings are held for the clients to voice their issues and if the issues sound legit, then the staff member that is holding the meeting always voice that, that issue is not negotiable. Allegedly this facility is suppose to be ran by DSS (Social Services) but there is never no representative from DSS to here our issues, so really what good is the meeting. Other issues is that staff is having sexually relationships with clients and amongst themselves, bathrooms never working properly and the temperature in the clients room is always cold, there is always heat in the lobby where staff works.
VOA staff could come to work with personal issues and the clients would catch the wrath from their personal issues. We wish we could get just a little help or assistance, just a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. The name that the clients was called in that article on Nov. 30, 2006, unscrupulous merchants wasn’t very well appreciated by the residents.
The robbing of the mentally ill SSI residents, also DSS is paying $5,000.00 plus dollars for each individual to reside at the shelter, but DSS will not pay $600.00-$800.00 for an individual to reside in their own apartment. This is nothing but a business. What is really needed is an investigation.
Crying for HELP
Editor’s Note: Apparently ‘Crying for HELP’ misunderstood our reference to “unscrupulous merchants” in our
Nov. 30 issue. We were not referring to the homeless clients residing in the shelter but, rather, to those operators of groceries, delis, and bodegas who were engaged in giving vastly discounted amounts of cash (generally about $90 in exchange for the $155 food stamp allowance), enabling clients to make purchases other than unprepared food.
In Our Opinion...
One can hear the thunderous crash of granite as one-by-one the great, and imposing heads that once adorned Mount Cashmore, overlooking the State Capital, in Albany, come falling down. Guy Velella, Alan Hevesi, Joe Bruno; no telling who will be next. It’s a sad commentary on the politics and the morality of public servants in
New York State that so many icons have yielded to temptation, so many have betrayed the Public Trust for silver and gold. Was it all about image v. reality with these men? After all, we are talking about career public servants with twenty, or more, years on the job, with families and reputations to protect.
Interestingly, the pattern seems repetitious, first denial, followed by admission, and then, often arrogance. Take Velella, a state senator from the 34th District, encompassing part of the North Bronx, and parts of Lower Westchester. Everyone knew for years, before he came tumbling down, that he wasn’t totally on the level. Few, however, could imagine that he would risk his position and his reputation, using his father, a law partner, as a “bagman” for bribes from contractors in the construction industry, not even for $187,000. Fewer still could picture a man of such stature, Republican Number Three in Albany, risking jail, and all of the humiliation that comes with it.
Of course, old stalwart Manhattan DA Henry Morganthau had no problem imagining it, so much so that he reached out of his jurisdiction to do what Bronx DA Robert Johnson apparently lacked either the courage, or the conviction to do. Once indicted, Valella and his elderly dad copped a plea. But the case didn’t end there.
The senator managed to use his residual influence with a City parole agency, shortening his one-year sentence to Riker’s Island to approximately three months. This, after claims of ill health, prostate cancer, failed to shield him. Velella, would show his ugly, privileged attitude, refusing to return to jail, even when ordered to. After months of legal wrangling he finally returned to serve out several more months.
Alan Hevesi, unlike Velella, a man of impeccable reputation, a man whose very career as New York City and State Comptroller, had never been suspect, last week, despite reelection to the State position, announced his intention to step down from office, as part of a plea-bargained agreement with the Albany DA, to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, and repay several hundred thousand dollars for the use of state compensated employees
of his office as chauffeurs and aids to his ailing wife, over several years. For a number of weeks following his successful reelection bid, Hevesi actually floated the theory that his reelection by the voters constituted an acquittal of sorts, or a pardon, citing case histories.
Simultaneous with Hevesi’s collapse, last week, came the announcement from Joe Bruno, leader of the State Senate, that he is, in fact, currently under investigation by the FBI for possible conflicts of interest between his outside business activities and his position as State Senator, and Majority Leader. And, while there have
been rumors and allegations for some time regarding the impropriety of his son’s former lobbying activities, Bruno, until last week had enjoyed more than twelve years, as Majority Leader, with the respect and cooperation of his peers from both sides of the aisle. He was one of the “three men in a room,” increasingly blamed for the dysfunction of State Government, the other two being Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver, and Governor George Pataki, “the man who would be President.”
At week’s end the scope of the federal investigation appeared wider than originally anticipated, with agents looking into certain land deals, and potential undue influence in the awarding of large state grants to a close business associate. Nevertheless, as expected, Bruno was declaring, “There has never been any conflicts in anything I’ve done.” Honestly, what would one expect him to say?
Neighbors, Communities Unite in Common Cause
It’s most encouraging to witness the coming together of neighbors, and whole communities, in Westchester, particularly the River Towns, from Yonkers to Hastings-on-Hudson, to Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, in common cause against the “death notice” issued for Community Hospital by the Berger Commission. Resistance to the Commission’s secretly enacted recommendation moved into high gear last week with the announcement by Jim Foy, President of Saint John’s Riverside Hospital, which owns Community Hospital, that a suit had been filed
in State Supreme Court naming the Berger Commission, State Commissioner of Health Antonia Novello, and Governor George Pataki as Defendants.
The suit, an affirmative response to the threat of impending closure, was brought on behalf of Saint John’s Riverside, and its wholly owned af-filiate Community Hospital, as Plaintiffs. The hospitals contend that Community presents a bare minimum financial burden to the State as fewer than five percent of its patients receive Medicaid.
Further, the suit contends that closing of the Dobbs Ferry facility would cause the loss of some 300 jobs at the
site, and work a huge financial hardship on Saint John’s in its effort to service low-income residents of Yonkers, currently underwritten by profits from the Dobbs Ferry operation.
Driving through Hastings, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, in particular, one was immediately impressed with hundreds of signs calling upon Westchester residents to contact their State representatives to demand that Community Hospital remain open. Residents are justifiably concerned that closure of the hospital would not only cause massive local job losses, but, more urgently, would cause accident and trauma victims to be transported for up to twenty minutes longer to the next nearest hospital emergency room from the River Towns. The suit, which is some twenty-six pages, contends that the Berger Commission’s activities, held in so-called “executive sessions,” were conducted in violation of the State’s Sunshine Laws, for the purpose of avoiding public awareness and scrutiny. Additionally, the suit expounds the theory that removal of Community’s Operating Certificate would constitute a “taking” without the Constitutionally required hearing opportunity.
It is interesting to note that twelve years ago, upon assuming office, Governor George Pataki proceeded to raid funds, and renege on programs that had been designated for elderly, infirm, and mentally handicapped citizens, essentially balancing his budget on their backs. Many of the progressive programs that had been developed over
the years to adequately service those citizens in greatest need of assistance were severely damaged, many ultimately failing for lack of funds.
It would appear that Mr. Pataki would now like to pull going out the door the same stunt he pulled coming in. Hey, George, don’t let the door hit you too hard on your way out!
By Richard Blassberg
Deskovic: Case Not Handled “Righteously”
By Jeffrey Deskovic
Let me start out by thanking The Westchester Guardian for giving me this opportunity to speak directly to the public. Considering that I was released from prison with merely the clothes on my back to start my life over and to reintegrate back into society after 16 years, this opportunity is much needed.
In this my first article I would like to address the issue of whether my case, at all stages, and by all parties involved, was handled in good faith and reasonably; whether it was, in the words of Peekskill Police Chief Tumolo, righteously investigated. Although this issue has been written about previously by other writers in other papers, I wanted the chance to address this issue myself, reasoning that since I had been fighting to establish my innocence for so many years, which necessitated that I know the facts backwards and forwards, so as to be able to lay them out to anyone and everyone who could potentially be of some help to me, I had acquired a familiarity with them which is perhaps unequaled by anyone. Additionally, unlike other writers, I lived it, and was personally affected by it; therefore this perspective could provide some additional insight to readers.
An understandable initial reaction by the average person to the prospect of an exoneree assessing the investigation and prosecution that resulted in his or her wrongful arrest and conviction would be to think that the
writer would engage in an emotional tirade consisting of bashing, rather than a calm, well-reasoned, analysis
which lays out verifiable facts, and easy-to-follow arguments.
That reaction, however, much as one might reasonably expect it, is not what I am going to do. Rather, I
would like to present an objective account utilizing facts which can be verified in the trial testimony given by the
police, and in legal documents which can be accessed in the Westchester County Court House. Additionally,
these facts can also be found in other newspaper stories about me.
In the aftermath of my exoneration, there was a mad dash by both The Peekskill Police and by former District
Attorney Jeanine Pirro, and Judge Colabella to explain their actions in connection with my arrest and conviction,
and the preservation of that conviction up until the point that I was exonerated. When asked by the media to
comment, Peekskill Police Chief Tumolo, then a Lieutenant, who was the officer in charge at the scene in which the coerced, false confession was obtained, proffered the explanation that ‘while it was unfortunate that I had been wrongfully convicted and thus spent approximately 16 years in prison, the case had been “righteously
Pirro attempted to put the responsibility on her predecessor, Carl Vergari, under whom I was originally prosecuted, even though she had opposed me tooth-and-nail during the appeals process, often successfully arguing that my issues, including that of innocence, based upon the DNA, “should not even be considered,” upon several occasions in the appeals process in both State and Federal Appellate Courts.
In one such appeal, when timeliness regarding my filing became an issue, four crucial days separated our respective positions and became a point of contention in the courtroom (Habeas Corpus Petition, Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals), within the context of whether that court should agree to hear my case. Judge Colabella stated, “He got a fair trial.” I will lay out the facts so that readers may decide for themselves what occurred. I would encourage everyone to think objectively and critically, and to push past the sound bytes and the spin to see if the facts support the conclusion. I would ask that, above all, readers consider whatever their mind and heart of hearts tells them.
The circumstances, as testified to by the police, regarding how the coerced false confession was obtained are as follows: The police told Deskovic to come to the police station the next day to take a lie detector test, and he did so. They did so without first informing his mother or asking her permission. In fact, they testified that they knew that his mother did not want them talking to her son. They did this on a school day, which meant that nobody would have realized that he was missing and therefore look for him. They drove him to Brewster, in Putnam County.
The significance of this, as pointed out by Deskovic’s lawyer in the Appellate Division brief, was that he was
in an unfamiliar place and was not able to leave independent of them. He was put in a room and attached
to a polygraph machine. The polygraphist himself was dressed in civilian clothes and pretended to be a civilian,
even though in reality he worked as an investigator for the Putnam County Sheriff ’s office. He testified that
he did not give Deskovic Miranda Warnings, which all police officers are required to do, but simply gave Participatory Warnings, the gist of which is that any incidental opinions that were rendered by the polygraphist
would be turned over to the police. This is different from Miranda Warnings which inform suspects that anything
that they say “can and will be used against you in a court of law” so that if they choose to, they can, in the words
of the case law on the subject, waive those rights “knowingly, willingly, and intelligently,” thus ensuring all of
society’s continual enjoyment of the Fifth Amendment every day, and not merely when the authorities wish to
A question one needs to ask oneself, in considering all of the above, is that even if those warnings were issued, what 16-year-old boy would have understood them? The polygraphist also noted that the 16-year-old took 17-20 minutes in order to read a four-page brochure which purported to explain how polygraph works, and that the manual included such big words as “immunity”, “coercion”, and “duress” (see brief at Appellate Division, p.9).
When asked about the propriety of this by Deskovic’s trial attorney, the polygraphist’s response was “It was not my job to determine the intelligence of Deskovic.” According to police testimony, “Jeffrey was interrogated at times by one, two, and three officers.” There was no attorney present with him despite the fact that he was only 16 years old. Also, according to police testimony, all kinds of psychological tactics were used in order to try to obtain a confession, including “passive and stressful” interrogation, and the game which has come to be known, and decried in the study of interrogations as “Mutt and Jeff ”, in which one officer plays a rough, no-nonsense menacing/threatening type role, and the other one pretends to be friendly and on the suspect’s side. The purpose of this tactic is to create fear in a suspect while simultaneously offering the illusion of someone on their side that they can turn to.
Polygraph tests, as alluded to in an article in Psychology Today, “Guilty Knowledge Test, The Right Way to Use a Lie Detector” by Lykken, often produce false results because they are failed by “frightened, innocent persons.” (March 1975, pp56-60). The polygraphist admitted to eliciting a “lying reaction” to a “non-lying question.” When unable to say Deskovic failed the first test, he administered 2 more, and told him “…you told me within yourself that you did it. I just want you to tell me from your mouth that you did it.” (Brief at the Appellate Division, p.12).
Before the interrogation was all over, Deskovic, according to Detective McIntyre, had “broken down and started to scream and crawl under the polygraph chair and remained in what I would call a fetal position… crying very heavily” (Brief at the Appellate Division, p13) The police testified that Deskovic was with them for 7 ½ hours and that he was not given anything to eat. Over that amount of time, and under those circumstances, anyone would get worn down.
The interrogation, by the way, was neither tape recorded nor recorded on video. It was only at some
point after the false confession was obtained that Deskovic was ever given anything that day, at about
6-7pm (Brief at the Appellate Division, p.45).
The police never attempted to have DNA Tests performed on 2 other individuals that they claimed had been suspects, however briefly.
Under District Attorney Carl Vergari:
Carl Vergari as The Westchester County District Attorney, George Bolen as the Assistant District Attorney
who prosecuted me in court.
• I was prosecuted based on the false confession despite the circumstances under which it was obtained,
which made it highly questionable.
• I had been arrested prior to the completion of the FBI’s DNA Test Results, which were negative. Once those results were in, as well as those of the Hair Comparison Test, which showed that hair found on the victim also did not match me, ADA Bolen would not acknowledge that a mistake had been made. Instead, he opposed the Defense when we attempted to have the indictment dismissed.
Under District Attorney Jeanine Pirro:
• District Attorney Jeanine Pirro continued to single-mindedly oppose all of my appeals, even though I was repeatedly raising the issue of my innocence, based on the DNA and the Hair Comparison Tests, and the manner in which the false confession was obtained. One would think that arguments such as these, based upon uncontradicted facts supplied by the Prosecution’s own experts, would have sent up red flags and given further thought, resulting in a acknowledgement that a mistake had been made and a innocent man was in prison.
• A letter Written To District Attorney Given Short Shrift
Mrs. Pirro, in the course of her failed campaign against Andrew Cuomo for Attorney General, when the issue of my letter to her asking for my DNA evidence to be reviewed came up, implied that no such letter had been sent and that therefore I was lying. Let me state that anyone convicted of a crime which they did not commit for which there was a DNA Test that showed they were innocent, but for which the courts were nonetheless upholding their conviction, and for which they remained incarcerated while more and more years of their life was slipping away, and they became aware that there was now a District Attorney in office other than the one who prosecuted them, who had made a variety of public statements in the newspaper indicating her belief in DNA in the aftermath of the exoneration of Westchester County resident Terry Chalmers, should they not, in only in desperation, write a letter to her? Can anyone doubt that such a letter and response were exchanged?
District Attorney Jeanine Pirro urged the Federal Court to time bar me without even having my issues looked at on the merits.
My attorney asked the court clerk if it was suf-ficient that my Petition be postmarked by a certain date, or if it had to be physically there by the deadline. The clerk incorrectly told my lawyer that it was sufficient that it be postmarked; this resulted in my petition being four days late. Mrs. Pirro’s office urged that my case be dismissed because of this, without even having my issues, including the grounds of innocence, looked at. The Court unfortunately adopted this position.
District Attorney Jeanine Pirro urged the next highest Court to uphold this ruling, even though my lawyer argued that this would result in a miscarriage of justice in light of the DNA evidence; and then she urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to agree to review my case, positions that each of those two Federal courts adopted.
Federal Court Request By Deskovic For DNA Testing Successfully Opposed.
Then, in legal documents filed in the 1999-2000 calendar of the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, my brief contained a request that new, recently developed and more sophisticated DNA protocols be employed on the materials from my case allowing for more sophisticated testing. is, too, was opposed by Pirro, and again the courts sided with her.
What possibly could have been lost by permitting such testing? Steven Cunningham, the real murderer of Angela Correa, had been convicted three and a half years after that crime for which I was convicted, for killing still another woman, Pat Morrisson. Therefore, his DNA was in the DNA Database, and thus had the test been conducted when I requested it, I would have emerged from prison, exonerated, six years sooner than I was.
• Judge Colabella allowed the “confession” to be admitted into evidence, even though, as testified to by the police, it was obtained under highly questionable circumstances.
• Judge Colabella allowed the polygraphist to testify as to charts and opinions, while forbidding the Defense from cross-examining him as to his methods for reaching conclusions, and his terms of employment with the Peekskill Police, which went to the matter of objectivity. Additionally, allowing the polygraphist to testify at all was as prejudicial, as it indirectly allowed the polygraphist to tell the jury that Deskovic failed the test, even though polygraph test results are not allowed into courtrooms because they are not considered reliable. It has been proven that juries cannot put it out of their minds when they are told words to the effect that a defendant failed a polygraph test, despite any verbal admonition by judges that the tests are unreliable and that they are not to
speculate on the results themselves.
• The Judge denied Defense applications to have the charges dismissed based on the grounds that the
evidence was legally insufficient and did not establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
• At the Sentencing, the Judge told me, “maybe you are innocent,” then went on to say that was a matter for the jury to decide, and he agreed with the verdict. He proceeded to sentence me to 15 years to Life, of which I served 16 years before being cleared.
• The Judge allowed a “chewed bottlecap” to be admitted into evidence, supposedly located 70 days
after a police grid search, without insisting that the Prosecution first lay a foundation for it by using Dental
Impressions Testing. This was prejudicial because Detective Levine testified that he had seen me chewing
one on a previous occasion.
• During the trial, the victim’s clothes, including her bra, got thrown out after they had been admitted into evidence, but before the trial was over. The jury asked to see the bra, but it was no longer available. According to my trial attorney, the significance of this is that one of the statements in the false confession was that “I ripped off her bra”, and there are some bras that one cannot rip off, and he had indicated to me that he was relying on this. To provide a further context for how important the bra was, the Prosecution categorized that piece of evidence as it’s “most significant.” To substitute for this, the Judge allowed a photograph in which the bra could “almost” be seen. By law I was entitled to a mistrial, because according to the case Brackley v. Donnell, 53 A.D.2d 849, once evidence has been submitted to the jury and is no longer available to it during deliberations, it becomes “physically impossible to proceed with the trial in conformity with law”.
• The Judge repeatedly made statements on the record which reflected his pro-prosecution bias rather
than being objective. He expressed concern that the Prosecution be protected from an “inordinate burden” or “negative inference” in the Prosecution’s meeting of its obligation to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. (Brief at the Appellate Division, p.68)
Analysis of Additional Comments Made by The Three Peekskill Police Officers
• Police Chief Tumolo, in an article appearing in the Daily News, stated, in commenting on Detective McIntyre who obtained the false, forced confession, “The evidence he developed was so compelling, it was a textbook case.” What evidence?
An unnamed source at the Police Department, opined that, “It’s unfortunate that he did all that time in prison, but I gotta tell ya nothing improper was done.” First off, was this “unnamed source” even there to know? If not, what did he base his statement on? Is it simply more of the same institutional Us vs. Them mentality in which one part of the system simply covers and invents excuses for the other, lest anyone’s colleagues toes be stepped on?
Given the circumstances reviewed above, can anyone objectively conclude that “nothing improper was done”? Can anyone conclude that the false confession was voluntary? Are those tactics described, as testified to by the police, consistent with a voluntarily given confession? As a society of law-abiding citizens, is that the way we want our police departments to behave?
• Former District Attorney Pirro, in an article in the Daily News, stated, “No new evidence was presented to my office when I was the District Attorney,” yet, firstly, the same info was presented to D.A. DiFiore, and she allowed DNA Testing to go forward producing the results which could have been obtained years before. And, secondly, why was there a need to have any new information presented, anyway, given that a DNA Test already showed that the semen found in the victim did not match me, and that hair found on the victim also did not match mine. Why was this not enough, especially with the lack of any reason to believe that the victim, only 15 years old, had engaged in a consensual sexual encounter so as to be able to explain the presence of
the semen which we now know belonged to the real perpetrator, Steven Cunningham?
• Mrs. Pirro’s spokesperson, speaking to the New York Post, stated, “It’s insane to reopen a case, absent
new evidence, merely because a convict says that he is innocent.” My response to that is that in each and every case in which the facts warrant it, a case should be looked at again, because to not do so would be to replicate the type of result that occurred in my case. In light of all the exonerations nationwide which indicate the fallibility of the court system, why would we not want to reexamine cases when we have an objective reason to do so?
Why should we not take all steps that we can? Who really benefits from having an innocent person in prison? In my case in particular, A DNA TEST WAS ON THE RECORD AS HAVING NOT MATCHED THE DEFENDANT. IF THAT IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT A SECOND LOOK AT A CASE, WHAT IS?
More importantly, I would like to point out that each time an innocent person is incarcerated, it leaves society
in danger because it leaves a perpetrator free to commit another crime. In this particular case that perpetrator
did go on to commit another crime, a murder.
Finally, Judge Colabella had said “There was no basis for me to set aside the verdict. It wasn’t unreasonable.”
Given that neither the DNA, nor the Hair Comparison Test, matched me, as well as the circumstances surrounding the false confession, was his conclusion reasonable? The Judge also said “He got a fair trial.” Given all of the above, can anyone honestly say that comment squares with the facts? In closing, I ask, Was the Deskovic Case “righteously investigated” and handled at all stages?
Editor’s Note: The Westchester Guardian, having contacted Peekskill Police Chief Eugene Tumolo, with respect
to the Jeffrey Deskovic case, was told the following by Tumolo:
“ I’ve said all that there is to say about the case. And there is nothing more that can be said.” Attempts to reach former Assistant District Attorney George Bolen went unanswered. However, the Guardian was informed that Mr. Bolen went into retirement a couple of weeks before Jeffrey Deskovic emerged from prison.
The Westchester Guardian, in addition to investigating and reporting the circumstances surrounding this important example of injustice within the criminal justice system of Westchester County, now provides Mr. Deskovic with the opportunity to speak directly to the issues.
16 Years For Rape/Murder DNA Said He Didn’t Commit.This Could Happen To You!
Boy, 16, “Railroaded” Into Prison.
He was raised in Peekskill, NY, attending Assumption School, was an alter boy, and was on the Peekskill High School swim team and basketball team. Never in any trouble, he had a few friends, and enjoyed playing sports in his housing complex, Crossroads Apartments. He was raised by his mother and grandmother. His name: Jeffrey Deskovic.
On an autumn morning in November 1989 Jeffrey was walking to Peekskill High School from his apartment at the Crossroads complex, when he was accosted by two Peekskill City Police Officers, David Levine and Thomas McIntyre. They identified themselves and instructed him to get into their car. Taken to police headquarters he was questioned about the murder of Angela Correa, a girl that he only knew in passing from high school, and was not at all familiar with. Peekskill High School had arranged grief counselors for the students following the announcement of Correa’s murder.
When he arrived at school he told his teacher, Mr. Thompkins, what had transpired. Thompkins, knowing Jeffrey, could not believe he was being questioned about the crime. Thompkins took Jeffrey to school Principal Sheldon Levine’s office. Levine, a cousin of Officer David Levine, also expressed doubt regarding Jeffrey’s possible involvement in the murder, but asked him, all the same, if he had been involved. The young man responded that he had not, after which the school notified his mother. Upon learning of what had transpired, his mother rushed to school to pick him up. She advised him never to speak to the police again.
Jeffrey was transported to Brewster, NY in Putnam County for his polygraph test, administered by an officerfrom the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. Attached to the polygraph machine for most of the time, he was detained for at least 7 ½ hours.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Mrs. Frishman’s comments on ALS have always been a moving target. I will comment only on one aspect of her statements to you. At public meetings she has stated variously that we should have anywhere from a 2-to-7-minute response ttime, even though there are no national standards. Westchester EMS covers an area of approximately 30 square miles in New Castle. From 40 years of driving emergency vehicles, the traffic and road conditions make it impossible to meet these times with one vehicle. Using a mandatory 2-minute response would require pre-positioning of some eight to 10 ambulances, 5 minutes to three to five ambulances and two ambulances for seven minutes. It is only when you allow nine to 10 minutes response can you use one vehicle.
No meaningful discussion of cost-saving can take place until the number of rigs is determined based on a definitive standard. In 40 years of emergency responses I cannot think of a single case where saving two minutes would have made a difference in the outcome. As it is, it is not unusual to have two paramedics provided by Westchester EMS for a serious problem.
We don’t have to go back to the Wild West days and Judge Roy Bean to deal with biased, kangaroo courts. The Westchester Supreme Court is carrying on the tradition.
We, too, have been suffering from severe personal and financial injury because of due process, and equal protection violations, even though our issues are not matrimonial ones. We are on the brink of losing our home any day now because of corruption, abuse by the court, unethical lawyers, the District Attorney’s office headed by Jeanine Pirro and Janet Fiore, and a host of characters, including my sister in law, her purported lover-employer who is the salaried chairman of a non- for- profit museum, and questionable lawyers who, in concert, committed the crimes of fraud, forgery, conspiracy, perjury, identity theft, grand Larceny, misprision, who the DA’s office excused from criminal prosecution. Even the local police wouldn’t do anything about the crimes because they said they had to get orders from the DA’s office first. No wonder Mortgage Fraud is on the rise.
Whose gonna bother the thieves?!
Subsequently, a crass, and unruly judge made up her own facts, and ordered the house sold at auction, though it’s not a foreclosure. It’s time for a shakeup-who oversees the crooked overseersthose in power-the shady judges and law enforcers who could ruin a family’s entire life for a few bucks in their own pockets, or for political favors?
Who told them they are the law rather than the protectors of it? Although every lawyer and other Legal Beagle who knows of our situation said what’s being done to us is totally illegal, and the crooks can’t get away with it, those legal beagles in power the FBI, said they don’t have the budget to pursue crimes that concerns less than a million dollars! Hey people, where are the rights of the everyday working honest man and woman that the
constitution was framed for?
In Our Opinion...
Last Tuesday The Westchester Guardian was present when the “White Sergeant,” a correction officer with the Westchester County Department of Corrections, Sergeant Paul Schartau, appeared at the County Attorney’s Office for a hearing “in accordance with the provisions of Section 75 of the New York State Civil Service Law.”
Mr. Schartau, had sent two letters to The Guardian, detailing circumstances at the County Jail, and what he felt were the underlying, retaliatory, reasons for his disciplinary hearing. The Guardian’s sole purpose in attending
the first of several sessions was to make an independent determination that Paul Schartau would, in fact, be given Due Process.
It was evident Mr. Schartau was not abandoned by either his union, or their legal counsel. Prior to the opening of the formal hearing before Hearing Officer Steven Sledzik, Robert Buckley, President of the SOA, (Superior Officers Association, representing all Correction Officers with rank of sergeant or above), and union attorney Frank Marocco, spoke privately with him at length. Additionally, once in the hearing room, in the presence of Assistant County Attorney James Wenzel, and Hearing Office Sledzik, more than half an hour was spent in
establishing pre-hearing understandings, stipulations, and protocols.
Sergeant Schartau, a sixteen-year veteran of the Department, with nine years to go for retirement, has a great deal riding on the outcome of the hearing. If found guilty of any of the 31 charges contained in the Notice of Charges, dated November 20th, signed by Deputy Commissioner Joseph Miranda, over the printed name of Rocco Pozzi, the Department has informed him, “the penalty or punishment imposed upon you may consist of dismissal from service, demotion in grade and title, suspension without pay for a period not exceeding
two months, a fine not exceeding $100.00, or a reprimand.”
We believe, based on our observations, that Sergeant Schartau would receive a fair hearing. Hearing Officer Sledzik came across as impartial, and very careful not to compromise the rights or interests of any of the parties.
Assistant County Attorney Wenzel, likewise, appeared objective, and professional, in his presentation, and witness examination. Schartau’s attorney, Frank Marocco, very experienced in such matters, impressed us with
his diligence and attention to detail in his protection of his client’s rights.
It was likely that the process would be conducted over several days. Schartau informed The Guardian that he intended to present some thirteen witnesses. The nature of correctional work is stressful, and often a precursor of problems both at, and away from, the job. Naturally, with 720 correction officers employed by the County, there are bound to be any number of fact-finding and disciplinary hearings over time. It is important to know that such procedures are conducted fairly, impartially, and without political, or personal motive.
Have We Taken Leave Of Our Senses Altogether?
Could it be possible that the Westchester County Department of Social Services is actually paying out nearly $44,000 per person, per year, to house single, homeless, individuals in a White Plains shelter known as Open Arms, where drug traffic is widespread, people sleep in dormitory accommodations, and the safety of one’s
person and property are not exactly guaranteed? Several weeks ago The Westchester Guardian exposed the fact that the County Homeless Shelter on the Valhalla Campus was giving $155 per month to homeless residents who were entitled to three meals a day at the shelter, and who had neither the equipment nor the opportunity to store or prepare raw foods, the only food for which food stamp money can be lawfully spent.
Of course, the misappropriation of those funds, nearly $2,000 per resident, per year, was merely the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ as they say. The real issue involved the fact that food stamp money was most often discounted by recipients, seeking cash for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. Within 24 hours of an investigative visit to the Valhalla site by The Guardian, several of the more notorious “druggies” were kicked out of the shelter and sent to Open
Arms and other shelters throughout Westchester. However, the food allowance, and its waste on contraband, is but one small part of the overall squandering of taxpayer funds in the effort to warehouse a segment of the population few people seriously give a damn about.
Consider the fact that the County Of Westchester is willing to pay $3,447 a month to Open Arms, a shelter in downtown White Plains, where actively using, drug addicted, individuals, with ongoing criminal issues have been housed, dormitory-style, for many years. Add that housing allowance to personal spending money, and the food stamp allowance, and we’re shelling out more than $3,600 per month.
For $2,400 a month that same person can be housed in the same city, White Plains, at the Esplanade Hotel, in a lovely studio, or for Have We Taken Leave Of Our Senses Altogether? $3,000 in a one bedroom suite, either one including a complimentary breakfast. And, the hotel suites have refrigerators and stovetops so that the homeless individuals receiving food stamp money can actually spend those funds on raw food that can be stored and prepared and consumed as intended under the law. Imagine, for less money than we are now spending on our single homeless to live in unsafe, crime-ridden environments, they could be housed in clean, civilized, decent environments. And, the Esplanade Hotel is but one example, and not the best at that.
The problem is not so much a matter of the specific options available, nor their relative cost, but rather the philosophical, and social perspective of the society underwriting those options. If a governmental agency can comfortably get away with treating those who are homeless, for whatever reason, as an isolated underclass, many financially absurd, and humanly wasteful choices will likely occur, by way of concealment and expeditiousness.
In the final analysis, too few people really care that for less money the “dregs of society,” as they are most often regarded, could be living in more uplifting, safer, more productive environments. Fewer still, stop to consider the long-term implications, or how society as a whole might benefit from any number of other options.
One such alternative, a winwin-win program that has been successfully employed with homeless individuals and families for many decades, in countries around the world, as well as in the United States, involves foster care sponsorship.
Under such programs the caregivers, the homeless, and the agencies footing the bill, all benefit in both a financial, and rehabilitative sense. Although the details were formally presented to Westchester County Government once, more than twelve years ago, and again, less than three years ago, without any demonstrated interest, perhaps another attempt, in this column in the near future might be appropriate.
Public Enemy #1.
It was only a matter of time before Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, forever lurking in the shadows, would spring out to sink his fangs into, and consume, yet one more morsel of power, now that his longtime co-conspirators Jeanine Pirro, and Nick Spano are history. His latest quest, however, in broad daylight, control of the issuance of pistol permits, pits him against elected County Court Judges, and would appear to signal a new, andmore brazen approach to “absolute control.” Despite his prior best efforts to remain out of sight, Schwartz, most accurately described as an evil control freak, has chosen to go quite public in this latest coupe, apparently believingthat he will appear to be holding the high ground in a County that has become overwhelmingly Democratic, and pro gun control.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Regarding Ms. Camacho’s article in your Nov. 23 edition, Latinos and Higher Education, does she really feel that only Latinos cannot afford extra help for their children? What about the Americans who grew up in this country?
The Latinos have to do what Americans do, take out loans and spend years paying off these loans. All Americans are not wealthy. Latinos should stop feeling sorry for themselves. From what I see they are doing pretty good for themselves at our expense.
In your Thursday November 30th edition, the Opinion column addressed the County Homeless Shelter at Grasslands. This is still America and the “criminal element”, when they meet eligibility criteria, may receive both cash and food stamps. I don’t know where you got the information regarding food stamp and public assistance eligibilty but it is incorrect. Food stamps is a federal program for the purchase of food products only. If there are any retailers changing food stamps to money it is to be investigated by the USDA not the County. Please note this practice is not limited to shelter residents but is found among domiciled recipients as well. Finally most of the individuals at the Grasslands shelter are single and receiving Safety Net Assistance which is a State and County supported program, not federal. Some residents may be in receipt of income from other sources such as Social Security or Unemployment benefits. Are you going to take the heads of those agencies to task as well for money being misused by “a criminal element”? Of course not, if there is rampant drug use as you suggest, it is a criminal matter to be investigated by the police.
Your November 16 article on Kazakhstan/Borat was garbage. Does the author not know how to Google? WT paints a ninecy-nice 5th grade picture of what a corrupt and human rights sewer that is Kazakhstan. That the US and Britain are its biggest investors and the biggest supporters of this dictatorship with aid and weapons should give one a clue; the Kazakhs got a lot of oil, natural gas . . .
Tourists should enjoy other places but need to have a real clue as to where they are. If you want to go to Kazakhstan have a party but also give Human Rights Watch a donation, take a minute to protest anyway you can, visit a dissident and then you can be respected as a tourist and not just another American airhead. And Borat? Making fun of Kazakhs? Oh please. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) himself said the film pointed out how dumb people are in believing ridiculous things about Kazakhstan. His film showed how unbelievably stupid, gullible and bigoted Americans are. Notice what happens when he’s in my town, New York City, everyone he tries to say hello to verbally and violently repulses him and threatens to kick his butt. So who’s dumb, backward and repulsive here? Who’s being made fun of??
In Our Opinion...
We believe Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman is the worst of hypocrites. Last week the New York Law Journal, in an article entitled Perspective, published remarks made by Lippman excerpted from a speech he delivered as the recipient of the Cyrus Vance Tribute from the Fund for Modern Courts on November 29, 2006. Lippman opened stating, “In musing about a subject for today’s remarks, I fixed upon this year’s ballot measures in Oregon, Colorado, and South Dakota, all of which were, in the words of one recent New York Times editorial, aimed at punishing judges for their of-ficial rulings, and making them more captive to prevailing political winds.”
That he should decide upon the Election of Judges as his topic and state “I fixed” upon anything We find almost Freudian, coming as it does from a man who last year “fixed” the race in which he successfully ran for State Supreme Court by cross-endorsing County Court Judge Joseph Alessandro. How stupid does Lippman think voters are? Apparently, very. How corrupt is the selection process for nominating judicial candidates in New York? Apparently, very. Consider the man Judge Lippman decided to throw in with, Joseph Alessandro.
Alessandro, a candidate who the Judicial Committee on Credentials found “Unqualified,” never attended Law School, but managed somehow, to his credit, some thirty years ago, to pass the Bar Exam. Having little more than real estate law experience, and a stint in Traffic Court, he had the nerve to run for County Court, four years ago with numerous signs bearing the slogan, “Experience Counts.”
Having received the Republican and Independence nods, he then entered the Democratic Primary, bumping White Plains City Court Chief Judge, JoAnn Friia. There were serious questions about Alessandro’s residency in Westchester, with evidence that he was merely using his mother’s house in Valhalla for an address, but was actually living in the Morris Park section of the North Bronx. The house would become an issue when Barbara Battista a woman who had loaned Alessandro $260,000, in his first campaign, accepting a lien on the house as collateral, and a position as Treasurer of his campaign committee, brought suit against him for defrauding her out of her funds with a slick real estate transfer transaction.
Lippman, a Democrat, who was concerned last year, as he might not have been concerned this year, with election to the mostly Republican, five-county Ninth Judicial District Supreme Court, knew all about Alessandro’s undesirability, and shady history. Did he really give a damn, so long as he could “cut a deal” that virtually fixed the election so that he could not lose? Not on your life. At one point in his address Lippman stated, “As Chief Administrative Judge I am keenly aware that there is yet another dimension to judicial independence
and accountability, namely our ability to govern ourselves autonomously as an independent branch of government.” Speaking of problems in State Courts, he went on further, “This danger is especially great if we are seen to fall short in effectively managing our affairs, or in meeting the needs of those we serve.”
We would suggest, if Judge Lippman is any example, those who hold office in the State Courts are managing their affairs very badly, cutting deals whenever, and with whomever, they please to further their personal political ambition. Judge Frank Nicolai is but another example. Unwilling to chance running again for the Supreme Court, as a Democrat, following a 14-year stint, he cut deals with those who might have desired his position as Administrative Judge of the Ninth Judicial District, so as to keep that spot even as a County Court Judge, in an inferior court.
As for “meeting the needs of those we serve,” as Lippman put it, one need only speak to those whose misfortune it has been to go through a divorce proceeding in Westchester Supreme, Matrimonial Part. The horror stories are sending litigants to federal authorities in search of relief from forgery, fraud, and outright judicial abuse. But don’t approach award-winning Judge Jonathan Lippman regarding the troubles in our courts. By him everything is Kosher for Passover.
Editor’s Note: The writer, a Sergeant in the Westchester County Department of Corrections, has previously
responded to recent articles regarding problems at the Westchester County Jail. He now offers a detailed accounting which would seem to confirm many of the grievances which 250 fellow Correction officers protested at the County Office Building several weeks ago. The Westchester Guardian, in the interest of fairness, welcomes any reasonable contradictory or supportive responses.
“After the Klan meeting in September with the three Sergeants, I notified numerous Sergeants, Captains
and Wardens about what happened. To my knowledge no paperwork was generated at the time. In November me and an officer had a verbal disagreement. Sgt. Bizzarro heard about it and coerced the officer into filing an EEO complaint against me for sexual harassment. Because of this complaint I was suspended from the Emergency Services Unit and labeled a homosexual.
“There was no investigation from EEO. About two weeks later I was informed by a Warden that I dodged a bullet and that the EEO complaint had been withdrawn by the officer. In February I was ordered into the Captain’s office where I was ordered to leave Sgt. Bizzarro alone. According to Sgt. Bizzarro every
time I saw him I would call him a punk.
“In April, one day at approximately 2:45pm, I was paged in the jail to call the Captain’s office. The Captain that answered the phone said he was glad that I was still in the building. He went on to explain that Warden Gibson, who was Sgt. Bizzarro’s ex-fiance, claimed “you left at 2:15 and wants you written up and charged.”
“All this harassment and retaliation was because I did my job and duty as an employee of Westchester
County and a supervisor with the Department of Correction. I have been to numerous training days where EEO staff from White Plains has informed Dept. of Correction employees of their strict zerotolerance policies.
“I believed that because of the training I received from EEO that I was obligated to act on the racial slurs and Klan recruiting that took place in my presence. Because of my actions I have been labeled a nigger-loving whistle-blower by the Executive Staff of the Department of Correction.
“These three Sergeants have relentlessly pursued any supervisor that would listen to them and told them lies about me to discredit me. After the April incident with Warden Gibson I went to a Warden and explained to him what was being done to me in retaliation for my whistle-blowing. He told me to put everything in writing to protect myself because they are coming after you.
“I then wrote a two-page complaint about a hostile workplace to Warden Amicucci dated April 9, 2006. A short time later Warden Amicucci asked me if I had a problem with a Captain conducting the investigation
into my complaint, I told him no, and he ordered me to write that in a special report. As of the date of this letter
I have not received a response from the Department of Correction concerning my complaint.
“I contacted the EEO office in White Plains and they told me that when I wrote the special report allowing
the Department of Correction to conduct the investigation, I could not file a report with their of-fice. If the investigation into my complaint turned out to be unfounded I’m sure the Department of Correction would have notified me immediately. What are they hiding? THE TRUTH!!!!
“The real problem started after Joe Spano was promoted from Correction Officer to Deputy Commissioner.
My enemies saw an opportunity to manipulate and convince someone who is unqualified, uneducated and inexperienced as an administrator. They have told him lies about what a troublemaker and threat I am to the Department of Correction.
“In June 2006 I had a verbal altercation with an of-ficer who refused to obey my orders. Captain Battista
was present and filed a report on the incident. The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) conducted an investigation
into Captain Battista’s report. A few weeks later I was ordered to SIU by Captain Diaz who escorted me
to Westchester County Police where I was placed under arrest for harassment of the officer. Due to my arrest my firearm privileges were suspended and once again I was suspended from the Emergency Services Unit.
“The above officer told another Sergeant that Captain Diaz forced him to make statements against his will about me to substantiate Captain Battista’s report. On October 3, 2006 I went to court in Mount Pleasant, where the officer told the Judge that I never did anything to him and that he and I have never had a problem with each other. The Judge dismissed all charges against me.
“On August 31, 2006 I formally counseled an of- ficer for an incident that happened the previous day. The officer then tried to circumvent my counseling by filing false reports on the incident. A Captain then formally counseled the officer for numerous infractions pertaining to the false reports. On September 8, 2006 the officer wrote a letter to Warden Amicucci and SIU making false allegations against me in retaliation for his counseling from myself and the Captain. SIU then conducted a department-wide investigation into his letter, to try and find something that be used against me.
“On September 20, 2006 I was suspended by the Department of Correction with pay pending disciplinary
charges. My shield and identification card were confiscated by SIU. I had no proof to show that I was a
Sergeant with the Department of Correction. In all reality they made me a civilian. I asked the Union President
of SOA Robert Buckley the reason I was suspended. He told me as long as I was getting paid the Department of Correction doesn’t have to give me a reason.
“For the past 60 days I have been under house arrest by the Department of Correction during the hours of 9-5, Mon-Fri without any explanation as to why. During this time I made numerous inquiries to Robert Buckley and other Union officials as to the status of my suspension. Again the response was as long as they pay you they don’t have to give you a reason. Obviously SOA is controlled by the NINTH FLOOR of White Plains and has no intention of representing all of its members.
“On November 20, 2006, 60 days after I was suspended with pay, I was served with over 30 charges from the County Attorney’s Office. They range from a bounced check I wrote to using profanity inside the jail. It took the Department of Correction and White Plains 60 days to conjure up over 30 bogus charges that they have no documentation to support.
“I am now suspended for thirty days without pay. The County is asking for termination because I did my job. They waited until the holidays to suspend me without pay. I have four children that I have to support and explain to why I’ve been home since September 20, 2006. After thirty days off the payroll mine and my family’s benefits stop. Robert Buckley has not made any attempt to contact me. It’s me against the world.
“I have never been counseled in my 16 years with the Department of Correction. In my letter dated
April 9, 2006 I informed the Department of Correction that the ultimate goal of the individuals mentioned
is to slander, suspend and terminate me. “My hearing date is December 12, 2006 In the County Attorney’s Office. I hope all that read this will realize the racism, discrimination, corruption and hostile work environment within the Department of Correction. All allegations in this letter can be substantiated by dated and signed documentation. May God have mercy on my enemies. I will not!”
The White Sergeant
DA DiFiore: Can We Trust Her?
Last week’s headline story in The Westchester Guardian, “Westchester Divorce Courts Under Federal Scrutiny,” brought out an avalanche of phone calls and e-mails from Westchester residents, mostly women, the
majority of whom claimed they were victims of forgery and fraud. Each was the non-monied spouse in divorce litigation who had been stripped of any share of marital assets through the connivance of the attorneys and the judges involved in their case. Additionally, most had gone to the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, with documents and significant evidence of forgery and fraud, most often related to their homes and bank accounts,
but also involving partnerships, and corporate interests as well. Some had complained to Pirro, but, as many within this year, had brought their complaints to Janet DiFiore, always with the same result.
When asked how DiFiore’s Office handled them, the response, invariably was, that at first they were greeted with interest, but as soon as they revealed that the judge and the attorneys were involved in the irregularities, including forgery, disappearance of files, perjury, etc., the DA’s Office appeared to lose all interest in their case, telling them there was nothing they could do, particularly when Judge Nicolai’s name was mentioned. This same experience was also related by men who contacted the Guardian as well.
It is difficult to understand why the chief law enforcement officer of a county, the DA, would not be concerned about forgery, in most instances involving several hundred thousand dollars, as well as possible official misconduct. Then again, DA DiFiore was very tight with Judge Nicolai, in fact, appointed by him to be Administrative Judge of the Criminal Part.
Many of those who were refused help have turned to the F.B.I. because of their belief that the Westchester Supreme Court, Matrimonial Part is corrupt, and tightly connected to certain law firms that the DA would rather
protect than expose and prosecute. One very knowledgeable caller indicated that she was aware that the corruption extended into the Appellate Division with the appointment of Judge Robert Spolzino, former counsel
to Nick Spano. Of course, Janet DiFiore’s ties to Nick Spano became very evident last year, both during the election for District Attorney, and after, as well as this year, in the race for State Senate.
Last year, when DiFiore ran for DA, several individuals connected to Nick, particularly in Yonkers, were deeply involved in her effort, on Election Day, and immediately thereafter. Election Fraud, having been historically
acknowledged in many Westchester elections, and particularly in Yonkers, at this point it is sufficient to state that Janet’s declaration of victory, following the second canvass was curious, but revealing, to say the least. Her
declaration, “We did it,” followed by a long “thank you” specifically to “the Spano Family” seemed no coincidence given the unusual voting patterns turned up on the second canvass in Yonkers, the fact that Frank Nicolai granted DiFiore an impoundment of the voting machines, three days before the election, and the rumors that have been circulating regarding the machines with increasing frequency.
Sticking with that election, many have not forgotten that DA Janet DiFiore’s husband, Dennis Glazer, a powerful New York attorney, had been accused by the Right To Life Party candidate for DA, Anthony DiCintio, of attempting to bribe him off the ticket. That story appeared locally and in The New York Times.
When that attempt failed, GOP operatives connected to Nick Spano attempted, unsuccessfully, to knock the entire Right To Life slate of candidates for County Office off the ballot. Updating to this year and Nick’s unsuccessful bid for an eleventh term, DA DiFiore, apparently felt an obligation to return the favors.
About ten days prior to the election, she allowed Nick and his colleague Vinnie Leibell to make a campaign TV appearance from inside the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, boasting about past legislation that they had been involved with related to law enforcement. That was definitely a no-no, and calls to her office were not responded to.
Now that many of the criminally prosecuted, and convicted, cases of her predecessor, Jeanine Pirro, are beginning to collapse, on appeal, it is instructive to realize that Janet DiFiore was an Assistant DA under Pirro
for several years, and that when asked to rate Pirro by The Journal News, in 2005, she gave her an “A+.” Given the fact that she has been the DA for nearly a year now, if she were really that different from Pirro, one might expect that she would have, in the interest of Justice and Fairness, come forward, before she was compelled to in the DiSimone case, and actively sought to bring relief to other victims such as Richard DiGuglielmo, Jing Kelly, Steven Nowicki, and many more, she must surely be aware of.
Can we trust DA Janet DiFiore? The answer to that question would seem obvious given the choices she has made thus far when confronted by the interests of injured citizens versus those of her political associates.
With Pirro’s Demise, Unravel The Lies.
Extreme Prosecutorial Misconduct of Pirro Regime Exposed.
Last Tuesday in United States Federal District Court, White Plains, The Westchester Guardian was present in Judge Charles L. Brieant’s Court when the following startling exchange occurred. Judge Brieant, was opening what was to have been preliminary discussions leading to a series of Evidentiary Hearings to determine if, in fact, the Westchester District Attorney’s Office had committed severe prosecutorial misconduct, specifically the withholding of Brady Material, (information possessed by a prosecutor which tends to support the innocence of an accused) in their trial and conviction of Anthony DiSimone in October, 2000 in the stabbing death of Louis Balancio, February 4, 1994. Brieant began with, “We reached an agreement that if the defense counsel had not seen the Brady Material the opposition would agree to the granting of a Writ of Habeus Corpus.”
Of course, it was what every prosecutor ought to do; only in this case, it was 12 years too late. And, ADA Livingston was only the messenger, after all. The decision to drop opposition, virtually go into court “hands up” declaring, “You’ve caught us. We surrender,” was Janet DiFiore’s; caught between a rock and a hard place. But make no mistake, the decision was not motivated as suggested by Livingston when she told Brieant, “We are doing these things, Your Honor, out of a sense of fairness and justice.”
Thursday, December 7, 2006
We the members of the Westchester County Department of Correction cannot begin to convey expressions of our gratitude for your paper’s willingness to report issues regardless of it’s inflammatory contents. The bias the other local media have shown in reporting our serious issues that may put politicians and government officials under the scrutiny of the public were segmented and defrayed from telling the whole truth. The same walls that restrain the incarcerated are the very same walls that keep the truth from being told.
One would believe, The Journal News was sponsored by Westchester County or that certain people in County government were the editors. It’s hard to trust the reporting of news media that attempts to divert from the truth to print a favorable article which gives those in power the opportunity to suppress and manipulate the truth. Media control and what’s being reported is extremely important for public awareness, which has greater implication and impact in elections. It’s no wonder so many people are disenfranchised, it’s systemic.
News 12 did a moderate attempt to report their chosen issue and the prior issues concerning COBA President Robert DelBene and the Jail which were kept from prime time television. It wasn’t until Susan Tolchin attempted to defuse public interest and concern, to give the public her version of why so many officers marched, did we get prime time air coverage, while the Journal News again trivialized our efforts. It appears that The Westchester Guardian was the only media capable of reading all the signs that were displayed during the march and printing the truth of what they saw and heard. So again we say Thank You
The Membership of COBA
I have been with the Department of Correction for 16 years. I have been a Sergeant for four of those years. Towards the end of August, 2005 I transferred from Second Shift to First Shift in the Jail. It is normal procedure for a search to take place each morning. Due to Post Bidding most officers that participate in the search are the same each day.
Numerous Black officers started coming to me complaining about how they were being treated by certain Sergeants during the search. At first I thought it was just the officers crying to get out of the search. Then I
noticed Black officers receiving write-ups on the searches. I decided to go to a search that was not in my sector.
After a few minutes I had to leave because I couldn’t stomach the behavior of the three Sergeants at the search. After that I refused to participate in any searches with these three Sergeants and limited my contact with them. Below is a small portion of a letter that I submitted to the Warden about a hostile workplace dated April 9, 2006:
“On or about September 30, 2005, at approximately 0730 hours I was approached by Sgts. Stallone and Maccabee by Central Control stating to me that they had to talk to me so we could be on the same
page. I replied I would never be on the same page as you two.We decided to go to the old Jail second floor Sergeant’s office to discuss the matter in private. Upon arriving at the Sergeant’s office Sergeant Bizzarro was
also present. They informed me We have to stick together and get the officers and especially the niggers.I told them that they are not captains and that I don’t have to listen to them. I said, If you have a problem with
me let’s settle it like men outside, if not just leave me alone, don’t talk to me, I can do my job by myself.”
In Our Opinion...
As one examines the approach that Westchester County Government, in both the executive, and legislative branches, has taken to certain public responsibilities, a clear pattern of neglect emerges. We make reference to the homeless, and the incarcerated wards of our County. Despite serious issues crying out for resolution, both at the County Jail, and at the County Homeless Shelter, one within a few hundred yards of the other, on the Valhalla Campus, the County Legislature and the County Executive’s Office apparently prefer to publicly ignore them, and simply hope they will disappear without too much notice.
And, it doesn’t seem to motivate anyone, either on the eighth, or ninth, floor of the County Office Building that hundreds of Correction Officers demonstrated for two hours at the seat of county government, a few weeks ago, demanding the appointment of a new, full-time, Corrections Commissioner, or that hundreds of thousands of dollars per year continues to be needlessly fed to unscrupulous food venders, and drug dealers, by the County Department of Social Services. Given the fact that residents of Westchester County are, without question, paying the highest property taxes in the entire nation, one might reasonably expect more sensitivity to issues of waste and corruption on the part of elected County officials. However, it would appear that most Westchester taxpayers do not yet realize that it’s their bull that’s being gored.
It’s time to Wake Up Westchester! The checks and balances that one normally presupposes exist at every level of representative government simply are overridden in Westchester County. In short, we have a Democratic County Executive, and a seventeen-member County Legislature, two thirds of whose members are also Democrats. However, entirely too many of those Democratic Legislators owe their election to financial support directly and indirectly under the control of Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, Jose Alvarado, Marty Ragowsky, Chairman Bill Ryan, to name just a few; and there are more.
For the most part these individuals, under the virtual control of Schwartz, are the same kind of hand puppets that appointees such as Election Commissioner Reggie LaFayette, and Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Belfiore, and scores of others, such as Combined Probation/Corrections Commissioner Rocco Pozzi, are for the County Executive’s Office, and specifically the self-serving, corrupt, agenda of Larry Schwartz. Though elected to be individual, and free, voices, speaking on behalf of their constituents, those members of the County Legislature, beholden to Schwartz, are merely another vote in his pocket.
How else is it a fact that Westchester Taxpayers are paying $87 million for solid waste removal over five years, when the County had the option more than two years ago to renew their existing contract for only $70 million with a carter who Commissioner Landi admitted had done “a good job?” How else is it a fact that in March of 2000 the County Executive’s Office, without putting it out to bid, granted Lightpath, a wholly owned subsidiary
of Cablevision, a $23.5 million contract, over five years to set up a communication system.
What taxpayers need to understand is that the Connecticut carter, that is getting $17 million extra is a company that the City of New York specifically would not do business with because of its Mob connections, and Cablevision just happens to be the sole franchise holder of the privilege to operate a commercial cable network within Westchester County, a franchise granted by the County Executive’s Office. Sound a little incestuous? Is there any wonder that Janine Rose, and NEWS 12 go out of their way to avoid embarrassing the County Executive?
At the time the County Legislature was considering the solid waste contract in committee, Larry Schwartz came down from the ninth floor, stood at the doorway to the meeting room, and, one-at-a-time, motioned each one of the legislators under his influence away from the table to hear his arm-twisting remarks. Any taxpayer who doesn’t understand that it was his bull getting gored that day shouldn’t be operating a checking account.
Finally, quite apart from the financial consequences of the ‘death-grip’ Larry Schwartz has over County Government, and the siphoning of taxpayer resources to Mob operatives, residents must consider the potential consequences for their safety and well-being, and that of their loved ones, posed by a County Jail operated under a less than part-time commissioner, where resentment and criminal activity continue to flourish and where serious physical injury, and even death, has been in the offing in recent years. Taxpayers must heed the warnings of Correction Officers entrusted to deal with those incarcerated, and express their concerns to their County Legislators, as well as to the County Executive’s Office. As the great British philosopher, and statesman, Edmond Burke observed, more than two centuries ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”