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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Keeping dark secrets

A Journal News editorial - MAY 30, 2008

Pleasantville Detective Sgt. Stephen Bonura was suspended with pay after he publically complained that plea-bargaining by the Westchester District Attorney's Office had allowed a career criminal to elude longer jail stays - consideration that was exploited by the felon to commit still more crimes. A decorated officer, Bonura no doubt spoke for untold police officers and crime victims, all frustrated by a criminal justice system sometimes seen as coddling or enabling criminals. But make no mistake about it, Bonura deserved censure, not for lambasting the D.A.'s office - the prosecutors are fair game - but for exacerbating a civic ill that afflicts so many communities.

Commenting on the repeated plea-bargaining by prosecutors in connection with a burglary suspect - a Mount Vernon man with 30 arrests and a number of convictions to his credit - Bonura charged that prosecutors had broken a promise to seek more jail time for the accused. Imprudently, Bonura went further: He said prosecutors had been lenient because the suspect had given law enforcement information about other criminals - i.e., informed, "ratted" or "snitched" on others. One need not have watched all eight seasons of "The Sopranos," all five seasons of "The Wire" or have read the weekend police blotter to understand that outing informants can have dire consequences: Bad things can happen to the informant and also to communities hard hit by crime.

over the holiday

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the Memorial Day weekend, just blocks from where "Law & Order" episodes have been filmed, real police officers were spotted investigating a fatal shooting - just one among a series of gun attacks that left six people dead and more than a dozen wounded throughout the city. Police sources told Newsday that not even some of the victims would cooperate with police. No surprise there: "Stop Snitching!" has become a mantra in communities across the nation since the release in Baltimore in 2004 of a DVD by the same title - notwithstanding the best efforts of community leaders, civic activists and weary police to counter the dubious advice.

The Baltimore DVD depicts purported drug dealers threatening violence against those who inform against them. Much of the early attention it received stemmed from the outrage that a well-known professional basketball star appeared in it. Still more attention came later, when an East Baltimore family - a mother and her five children - were killed in an arson fire; the blaze ensued after Angela Dawson, the mother, had complained about drug dealing in her community. The DVD was followed up by "Stop Snitchin'" T-shirts, some with mock bullet holes. Baltimore police countered with "Keep Talkin'" shirts. But the earlier admonition had already taken root and spread.

'talk and get paid'

Last summer in Mount Vernon, the city kicked off a "Talk and Get Paid" campaign specifically aimed at combatting what then-Mayor Ernie Davis called the "Don't snitch" policy of the streets; the program traded $500 payments to anonymous tipsters who led police to individuals with illegal guns. "It takes time to change a culture," said Davis, whose city was in the throes of a series of gun deaths. In Pennsylvania two years ago, the authorities were forced to restore money for local witness-protection programs after some half-dozen witnesses recanted earlier testimony in the trial of men accused in the shooting death of a third-grader. A Boston judge took other steps to combat witness intimidation, banning "Stop Snitchin'" shirts from all state courthouses, this after the mother of an alleged gang member - her son was on trial for the shooting death of a 10-year-old girl -and other spectators wore such shirts to court.

No doubt the Pleasantville officer, who was suspended by his department with pay, had something else in mind when he gratuitously outed the Mount Vernon suspect as an informant. Indeed, the path between the police station and the courthouse was well-traveled by this recidivist offender. Police and prosecutors often disagree about how cases are handled, but District Attorney Janet DiFiore - not to mention any number of judges -has much to explain when a 30-time loser qualifies for any consideration, such as reduced charges and shortened stays behind bars. Yet there should be no mistaking the fact that this public tussle goes beyond one cop and one career criminal: Good people and their communities also suffer when those who would "snitch" on wrongdoers are given more ill reasons to keep their lips zipped and their dark secrets to themselves.

6 comments:

Westchester resident said...

the alleged District Attorney Janet DiFiore again gives Westchester residents/taxpayers the FINGER just as did J. Pirro. Meanwhile, all the while they answer to a higher entity where they are well taken care off.

wp court watcher said...

both DiFiore & Pirro belong behind bars in a big jail with all their pals.

Anonymous said...

oh, brother

the sleuth said...

they are two BoJoes (Ms. DiFiore and Ms. Pirro) that should be removed at all costs for the benefit society.

wc court officer said...

when you finally get nail, would love to see your mug shot Janet

yonkers resident said...

hear that Janet DiFiore has a extremely active sex life! When does she ever find time to work? Checked out your horoscope Janet and it warns about losing things?

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
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