Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our Readers Respond...

Tony Castro Writes In Defense of Client Eugene Tumolo

Dear Editor:

As counsel to Peekskill Police Chief Eugene Tumolo, it is with great dismay that I have been reading your series of articles personally attacking him for what you perceive to have been his alleged role in the Jeffrey Deskovic
case. Contrary to your erroneous allegations, the incontrovertible documentary evidence categorically shows that it was through Chief Tumolo’s conscientious and diligent efforts that the DNA results were obtained – the same
DNA results that ultimately exonerated Jeffrey Deskovic.

Rather than acknowledging the facts, you prefer to publicly persecute Chief Tumolo. You have prejudged and attempted to disparage a law enforcement official who has served his community with distinction for decades. Chief Tumolo has always been held in high esteem and boasts an impeccable record, earning many commendations for his unswerving commitment to public safety. In his forty years of public service, he does not have a single blemish on his record.

Instead of incorrectly blaming him for the arrest and false prosecution of Jeffrey Deskovic, you should be commending him for what he in fact did. Eugene Tumolo’s determined efforts in obtaining the DNA evidence
tests was by far the single most important reason Jeffrey Deskovic was exonerated. Had it not been for Eugene Tumolo’s perseverance, Jeffrey Deskovic would still be in jail today.

In his quest to find young Angela Correa’s killer and his desire to search for the truth, Eugene Tumolo went through great lengths to obtain the DNA results. In 1989, DNA testing was not as readily available as it is
today. It was relatively difficult and expensive to obtain. The last eighteen years have seen gigantic strides in the science of DNA, specifically the ease with which it is obtained, tested and kept on file (CODIS database).

Despite those difficulties, then detective lieutenant Eugene Tumolo made every effort to preserve the DNA evidence and obtain its results. He wanted to be sure that no stone was left unturned in attempting to bring Angela’s killer to justice. The Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research was contacted, however, it performed only serology tests and not DNA tests. The Westchester County lab then suggested
the Analytical Genetic Test Center in Denver, Colorado. The DNA samples were sent to the Colorado lab but, unfortunately, the tests from the Colorado lab were inconclusive for racial/ethnic background.

The frustrating experiences with both the Westchester and the Colorado labs serve as proof of the difficulties in obtaining DNA results at the time. Nonetheless, Eugene Tumolo remained undeterred and appealed to the FBI laboratory in Washington D.C. Despite the countless requests received nationally by the FBI laboratory, many of which had to go unfulfilled due to the lab’s relative limitations, Eugene Tumolo successfully advocated and convinced the FBI lab to take on Angela Correa’s case. Having convinced the FBI, he felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that the results would be instrumental in either “incriminating or exonerating” Jeffrey Deskovic.

Merely one month after Deskovic’s arrest, the results of the FBI tests became available. The results excluded Jeffrey Deskovic. Eugene Tumolo followed the proper protocol and immediately presented the DNA results
to the chief law enforcement agency in the County, The District Attorney’s Office. He expressed his concerns that the DNA evidence found on the victim did not match Jeffrey Deskovic’s DNA. To suggest as you did that
Eugene Tumolo should have disclosed to the media and others the DNA evidence obtained during a homicide investigation, as well as his concerns and thoughts, ignores the fact that he did follow protocol. Besides, during
the trial such information was revealed to the public, including everyone you suggested Eugene Tumolo should have approached.

The decision of whether or not to prosecute the case and Jeffrey Deskovic did not rest with then detective lieutenant Eugene Tumolo. It did not even rest with the City of Peekskill Police Department, but rather the District Attorney’s Office.

As the chief law enforcement agency in the County, the District Attorney’s Office has a great responsibility in overseeing criminal cases. It has sole discretion in deciding whether or not there is enough legally sufficient and reliable evidence to prosecute. The decision of going forward with a homicide prosecution belongs to the District Attorney’s Office, not the local police department. In the Jeffrey Deskovic case, it was no different.

Sadly, in the face of compelling and exonerating evidence, the District Attorney’s Office forged ahead with the prosecution and Jeffrey Deskovic was wrongfully convicted. The conviction was based in large part on the false and baseless theories put forth by the prosecution, such as that the DNA belonged to Angela Correa’s boyfriend as a result of consensual sex.

Years later, Jeffrey Deskovic reportedly pled with the District Attorney’s Office to have his case reviewed, but his pleas went unheeded. There was no downside in reviewing the case. Any first year law student would have had the common sense to allow the crime scene DNA to be run against the growing CODIS DNA database for a possible match, but inexplicably, it was not done. Had it been done, Jeffrey Deskovic would have had a second chance to be freed by the District Attorney’s Office sooner. The DNA of Steven Cunningham,
the real killer, entered the CODIS database upon his conviction for a second murder a few years later. The DNA samples from the crime scene would have matched Cunningham’s, conclusively inculpating him and exonerating Deskovic.

There are many questions that remain to be answered by those who controlled Jeffrey Deskovic’s fate. However, the all important question as to who was responsible for obtaining the DNA results that ultimately resulted in Deskovic’s freedom, has been answered --- it was none other than detective lieutenant Eugene Tumolo. Notwithstanding that fact, you continue to persecute him.

Ironically, your persecution defies some of the very principles that Jeffrey Deskovic has so eloquently advocated. It fails to provide Chief Tumolo with the principles of justice, fairness, and balanced reporting that he deserves. Instead, it passes judgment on Chief Tumolo without ever mentioning his role in obtaining the DNA results that ultimately resulted in Jeffrey Deskovic’s exoneration and release from prison. You have ignored his commendable efforts, ironically in the same way that the District Attorney’s Office ignored the exculpatory DNA evidence and, much like Deskovic’s prosecutors, continue to press your persecution. Your readers deserve to know more than just opinion – they deserve to know the facts.

Facts will triumph. As the public becomes increasingly aware of Chief Tumolo’s role in successfully obtaining the DNA results, he will not only prevail in the realm of public opinion, but he will most certainly prevail in a court of law.

When the details of the Jeffrey Deskovic case unravel, the one incontrovertible fact involving Eugene Tumolo will be that, but for then detective lieutenant Tumolo and his conscientious and diligent efforts in seeking the truth, an innocent man would still sadly be languishing in a state penitentiary today.

Tony Castro, Esq.

Editor’s Note: A detailed response to Mr. Castro’s letter appears in The Advocate, p5.

Long-Time Mount Vernon Democratic District Leader Calls For Conn-Halevi Resignation

Dear Editor:

Serapher Conn-Halevi should resign as Mount Vernon Democratic Party Chairwoman. After her devastating defeat in the September 18th Democratic Primary elections, Ms. Conn-Halevi should resign. It is not only because she lost both Democratic Primaries but because she displayed a serious lack of leadership after the Primary by failing to embrace and welcome the victorious candidates who are now the Democratic Party standard bearers for the general election. She also went out for the Conservative and Independence
lines. How could the Chair of a major party seek two minor party lines for herself? It is unheard of. Is she a Democrat or a Conservative? How could she convince voters or future candidates to stick with the Democratic Party when she does not?

Some people say that she is being trained by David Ford. That is hard to believe. I was a long-time Democratic district leader under David Ford’s leadership in the party and one thing that I know is that when the Primary was over he would embrace the Democratic candidates and move forward. We had our battles back then but we pulled together. You might not agree with Ford about many things but his loyalty to the Democratic Party
was never divided or never a question. He would rally his district leaders behind victori-ous Democratic candidates. That’s more than I could say for Ms. Conn-Halevi. When the Chair has doubts about who she should support after a Democratic Primary, the decent thing for her to do is to resign. She made a statement in The Journal News that she would support Clinton Young, the Democratic voters’ choice, and the next evening her daughter, her sons, her husband, her best friends, were all at Ernie Davis’ rally supporting him as the Conservative candidate for Mayor in the November general election. If she can’t bring her own family and friends in line then how could she bring others together behind the candidates? Or, has she made a side deal with Ernie? That stinks. She should resign. Our Party deserves a person who believes in its principles, not a political opportunist.

And another thing, that performance by City Clerk Lisa Copeland on television at the recanvassing of the voting machines was disgraceful. She is an embarrassment to the City of Mount Vernon.

Former David Ford District Leader
Mount Vernon Democratic Party

Mount Vernon Resident Takes Davis To Task

Dear Editor:

On October 9th The Journal News reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office empanelled a grand jury to investigate and take testimony of a Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Agency employee, Lou Albano, about possible corruption of Ernie Davis’ administration. Davis, who says, “I’m not a crook”… “I meant I’m not a cook” immediately lawyered up by hiring Ravi Batra who, along with Davis, accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office of a political witch hunt. This is typical Ernie. He takes no responsibility. He blames everyone else. He makes
excuses. He makes very bad judgments. Take a look at who he hired as his lawyer – Ravi Batra – a political operative, well known for shady tactics. Read more about Batra at http://www.lawyerfraud.com/ and search Ravi Batra, you’ll get the picture of this character. Also check out www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics to learn more about Ernie’s friend Ravi. As the saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together”, Ernie and Ravi a perfect match. Ernie’s ankle bracelet will soon be permanent. Maybe he could join Ravi on the Bombay Express and avoid the embarrassment of an indictment. Ravi knows nothing about Mount Vernon but he is acting a spokesman – what a joke.

Mount Vernon Resident for Uncorrupted Government

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