The Journal News by Rebecca Baker - May 15, 2009
Westchester County Judge Rory Bellantoni is stepping down after six years on the bench, effective June 8. Bellantoni apparently is leaving over money. In his resignation letter, Bellantoni the lack of judicial pay raises has caused economic hardships on Bellantoni’s family, according to Administrative Judge Francis Nicolai. County and state judges make $136,700 a year. They have not receive a raise in 10 years. Bellantoni made headlines in October when he exonerated Richard DiGuglielmo, who had spent 10 years in prison on a murder conviction in the shooting death of Charles Campbell of Dobbs Ferry. Bellantoni threw out the conviction after a hearing in which an eyewitness to the shooting recanted his trial testimony. In his decision, Bellantoni said Dobbs Ferry police coerced witness Michael Dillon to change his story and blasted the Westchester District Attorney’s office in a bizarre “Wizard of Oz” reference, comparing Dillon to Dorothy Gale and authorities to the wizard behind the curtain.
Bellantoni, who had been the presiding judge of sex offender court, was reassigned to civil court a few months ago – shortly after the DiGuglielmo decision – and was made an acting state Supreme Court justice. Nicolai said he needed another judge to hear civil cases in the 9th Judicial District, which includes Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties. Bellantoni’s decision means he won’t be following in the steps of his father, Orazio Bellantoni, who has been on the bench for 25 years. There’s some interesting rumors floating around about where Bellantoni, a Republican, is going to be practicing law. I’ll let you know when I get the facts confirmed.