MLK said: "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

SEC Attorney Convicted, "Knew the Law" - Madoff Explanation?

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 28, 2010 U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs - (202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-188

Texas Attorney Convicted for Role in Pump-and-Dump Stock Manipulation Schemes

WASHINGTON—A securities attorney was convicted today by a federal jury in Alexandria, Va., for participating in multi-million dollar pump-and-dump stock manipulation schemes, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia announced. Phillip Windom Offill Jr., 51, of Dallas, was indicted on March 12, 2009, and today was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit registration violations, securities fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. “It is a sad day when a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) attorney uses what he learned in the government to later defraud the investing public,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. “As this case shows, individuals who illegally manipulate our securities markets to line their own pockets will be brought to justice.” “As a former SEC lawyer, Mr. Offill knew the law—and he intentionally broke it and tried to hide his crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia. “He and his co-conspirators made millions while innocent investors were left with stock in worthless companies. We are committed to pursuing these cases aggressively to protect the public and the integrity of the securities market.” According to court records and evidence at trial, Offill, an attorney in Dallas and a former attorney with the SEC, was retained by David Stocker, a Phoenix attorney who pleaded guilty in March 2009 in the Eastern District of Virginia to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. According to the indictment, from approximately March 2004 through October 2004, Offill and Stocker evaded federal securities registration requirements and provided co-conspirators with millions of unregistered and “free-trading” shares of nine companies’ common stock that the co-conspirators could not have otherwise legally obtained. Many of the shares were subsequently sold by co-conspirators to investors in the general public. By evading the registration requirements, the co-conspirators were able to hide from the investing public the actual financial condition and business operations of the companies. The companies included Emerging Holdings Inc.; MassClick Inc.; China Score Inc.; Auction Mills Inc.; Custom-Designed Compressor Systems Inc.; Ecogate Inc.; Media International Concepts Inc.; Vanquish Productions Inc.; and AVL Global Inc. In connection with Emerging Holdings, MassClick and China Score, evidence at trial showed that Offill knowingly participated in a conspiracy known as a “pump-and-dump” scheme to manipulate the price of these companies’ securities. Co-conspirators falsely manipulated the price and volume of some of the companies’ stock by making materially false and misleading statements in press releases and in spam e-mails to tens of millions of e-mail addresses throughout the United States in an effort to create artificial demand for the three companies’ stock. After fraudulently “pumping” the market price and demand for the companies’ stock, co-conspirators “dumped” shares by selling them for large profits to the general investing public in the over-the-counter market through listings on Pink Sheets, an inter-dealer electronic quotation and trading system. These shares were purchased by unsuspecting investors, including investors in the Eastern District of Virginia, and were often rendered virtually worthless. Offill, who was immediately remanded by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 20 years in prison for each charged count of wire fraud. He will also be subject to up to $15 million in forfeiture. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 16, 2010, at 9 a.m., before Judge O’Grady. Ten other defendants have pleaded guilty and eight of them have been sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Va., for their roles in related stock manipulation schemes. David B. Stocker will be sentenced on March 8, 2010. Kenneth Owen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and will be sentenced in federal court in Los Angeles on Aug. 25, 2010. Michael R. Saquella was sentenced to 10 years in prison; Justin Medlin was sentenced to six years in prison; Steven P. Luscko and Gregory A. Neu were each sentenced to five years in prison; Lawrence Kaplan was sentenced to three years in prison; Brian G. Brunette was sentenced to a one year in prison; Anthony Tarantola was sentenced to six months in prison; and Henry “Hank” Zemla was sentenced to three months in prison. The case, which was referred by the Market Regulation Department of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from FINRA’s Criminal Prosecution Advisory Group. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Patrick Stokes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Power of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Department of Justice acknowledges the substantial assistance of FINRA and the SEC in its investigation. It would also like to thank the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Division of Securities and Retail Franchising, for its assistance.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A 'Wink' Exposes Corrupt Courts' 'Company Secret'

NY Lawyer/TV Producer Blasted by Judge On Ethics, Honesty
The New York Law Journal by Daniel Wise - January 29, 2010

Three years after publishing a book in which he criticized New York City Criminal Court judges as "belligerent" and "spoiled divas," a lawyer-turned-author has become the recipient of harsh words from the bench for his conduct in a proceeding involving a former client. David Feige left the Bronx Defenders to write "Indefensible," a well-reviewed chronicle of his legal career published by Little Brown in June 2006. The book, which is subtitled "One Lawyer's Journey Into the Inferno of the Criminal Justice System," later inspired a TV series called "Raising the Bar." Bronx Justice Richard Lee Price mentioned both Mr. Feige's book and the series in a Dec. 18 decision criticizing the lawyer's ethics and intellectual honesty. In that ruling, the judge rejected an application for post-conviction relief from Troy Radcliffe, who claimed Mr. Feige had provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel. People v. Radcliffe, 3714-2001, was published Jan. 15 on page 27 of the print edition of the Law Journal. In an affidavit supporting Mr. Radcliffe's application, Mr. Feige said he had made the "stunning and appalling mistake" of urging his client to opt for a bench trial before Justice Dominic R. Massaro because he believed the judge would acquit him. Instead, Mr. Radcliffe was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting a livery cab driver. In his book, Mr. Feige insists Mr. Radcliffe, who is identified by the pseudonym Ray Hartford, was "utterly innocent." He recalls that he "made the mistake of trusting Judge Massaro when he told me with a grave nod that he was 'well acquainted with the problems of eyewitness identification.' I believed he was telling me to waive a jury, which is exactly what I insisted on doing. But I erred." Mr. Feige writes in his book, in a passage to which Justice Price alludes, "Not a night goes by that I don't touch that file and think of him, alone in his prison cell." Justice Price scoffed at Mr. Feige's "mea culpas" and purported remorse in his affidavit. He noted that defense attorneys often affirm their own ineffectiveness either to help a former client or to protect their own reputations. The judge "[found] acutely disturbing that after spewing his mea culpas, Mr. Feige implicitly abdicates responsibility to Justice Massaro for the verdict not being what he anticipated. …To infer that Justice Massaro somehow made false and misleading representations is intellectually dishonest." Moreover, the judge suggested that "[i]f Mr. Feige is indeed guilty of that which he claims to be, it would perhaps be far more than ineffective assistance of counsel." In that case, he commented, "disbarment would be far from adequate." But Justice Price said it was "patently absurd to believe that an extraordinarily experienced defense attorney with an admittedly inherent distrust for the judiciary would suddenly unravel into a hideously incompetent advocate merely by the way a judge looked at him." The judge said that nothing in the record "remotely suggests that Justice Massaro assured, promised or guaranteed that he would acquit the defendant." Justice Price concluded that Mr. Feige's regret for misreading Justice Massaro "hardly qualifies as error, much less ineffective assistance of counsel; it is merely unsuccessful defense strategy." Justice Price is not mentioned in Mr. Feige's book, but the author describes Justice Massaro as "one of the most odd and temperamental justices in the Bronx." Justice Massaro declined to comment.

Identification Issue

In arguing for the conviction to be overturned, Mr. Radcliffe's current lawyer, Harold V. Ferguson of the Legal Aid Society, had argued that Mr. Feige "attempted to perpetrate a fraud on the criminal justice system" in the mistaken belief that Justice Massaro had agreed to acquit Mr. Radcliffe. The case against Mr. Radcliffe was based solely on a cab driver's identification in a lineup of Mr. Radcliffe as the man who shot and robbed him 18 days before. Mr. Feige failed to persuade Justice Massaro to suppress the driver's identification but won a pretrial ruling—novel at the time—in which Justice Massaro ruled he could present an expert on eyewitness identifications, People v. Radcliffe, 196 Misc. 2d 381 (2003). In his affidavit, Mr. Feige wrote that he had agreed to have Justice Massaro try the case after a bench conference on the eve of trial at which the judge raised the possibility. According to the affidavit, Justice Massaro "fixed me with an unmistakable look, nodded his head in an affirming way and told me 'I am intimately acquainted with the vagaries of eyewitness identification.'" Based on that exchange, which the author described as a "wink," he said he was "absolutely convinced" Justice Massaro had "already decided" to acquit his client. However, while Justice Massaro acquitted Mr. Radcliffe of attempted murder and first-degree assault, he convicted him of the two lower counts and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Mr. Feige said in an interview that he had become the subject of Justice Price's harsh critique "not because of who I am but what I did—put him in a very awkward position by revealing a company secret that everyone knows, but no one wants to publicly acknowledge"—that judges frequently signal attorneys that it would be in their client's interest to take a bench trial. Mr. Feige, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School who was admitted to practice in 1992, worked in the Bronx for seven years, rising to become the chief of trials for the Bronx Defenders before leaving to write "Indefensible" after receiving a grant from the Soros Foundation. Mr. Feige said he was aware, when he submitted the affidavit, that his revelations could open him to ethical charges, but said the "honorable thing to do when you screw up a client's case is to say what happened, what is true, no matter the consequences." Justice Price did not refer Mr. Feige to the disciplinary authorities. Mr. Feige said that being a public defender was the "best job I have ever had" and "I have no intention of giving up my law license." Mr. Feige, who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles, said he would like to practice again eventually, but for the moment, "the glamour of being a Hollywood producer is fun." "Raising the Bar," which Mr. Feige co-produced with Steven Bochco, whose credits include "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue," was canceled in December after a two-year run. Mr. Feige is pursuing the development of another law-related TV show.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Odd Pattern of Protection by Federal Courts

Two more civil rights lawsuits against Harrison police dismissed
The Journal News by Theresa Tjuva - January 29, 2010

HARRISON, NY — A federal judge has tossed out two more civil rights lawsuits against the police, making them the 10th and 11th lawsuits to end favorably for the troubled department. "It shows that each and every one that has been brought by a small group of miscontents and (attorney) Mr. (Jonathan) Lovett is entirely frivolous," Town Attorney Frank Allegretti said. "It vindicates the leadership of the police department." Chief Magistrate Judge George Yanthis dismissed claims Friday that the force's top brass violated police officers' free speech when they told them not to discuss the investigation of a missing $2,500 Harrison PBA donation. Harrison detectives learned in 2007 that a cashed check written to the Harrison PBA had been altered to the "Chiefs Police Association," which was headed by now former Police Chief David Hall. The plaintiffs, which included former PBA president Ralph Tancredi, who has filed other failed lawsuits, charged that after they wrote a letter to their superiors about the alleged crime, they were forbidden to discuss it. Yanthis wrote in his decision that the letter was not "a matter of public concern," but even if it was, the department "had a substantial interest in protecting the on-going investigation and thus limit the officers' speech to each other." The District Attorney's Office cleared Hall of any wrongdoing. Yanthis also dismissed a suit from police officer William Duffelmeyer against the town. Duffelmeyer claimed he was denied a promotion to sergeant because he was named a plaintiff in the missing donation lawsuit and a suit that accused police leaders of planting a video camera in the men's locker room. Tancredi said he was surprised by the latest outcome. "I'm baffled," he said by phone. "I'm discouraged by it." Allegretti said the town has spent an estimated $500,000 defending the 13 civil rights lawsuits filed since 2007. All of them have been dismissed or withdrawn, and two more are pending. Lovett did not return a phone message seeking comment. TJUVA@LOHUD.COM

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Committee Adopts Articles of Impeachment Against Judge

House Committee Adopts Articles of Impeachment Against Federal Judge
The Legal Times by David Ingram - January 27, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC - The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously today to adopt two articles of impeachment against U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., accusing the judge of misconduct over three decades. It was poised to adopt two additional articles after a late-morning break. Porteous, who has refused to resign, would be the eighth federal judge ever removed from the bench if the full House of Representatives impeaches him and the Senate convicts him. He has been a judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana since 1994 but is not currently hearing cases because of the ethics questions surrounding him. This is the second time in as many years that the House has taken action against a federal judge. In June, the House impeached U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of the Southern District of Texas, who had pleaded guilty to obstructing an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. It was the first impeachment of a federal judge since 1989. Kent resigned before the Senate began his trial. The four articles of impeachment cover a wide variety of allegations against Porteous: First, that he should have recused from a 1997 case because he had, while a state judge, accepted cash from a law firm involved in the case; Second, that he corruptly accepted meals, trips and other gifts from a bailbondsman while Porteous was a state judge; Third, that he lied during his personal bankruptcy case from 2001 to 2004 by, among other things, concealing assets; and Fourth, that he misled the Senate by not revealing his allegedly corrupt activity during the 1994 confirmation process. “Judge Porteous demonstrates a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him as a federal judge,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who chaired the House task force that investigated Porteous. Porteous’ lawyer, Richard Westling of the Washington office of Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver, has said that the House should not consider Porteous’ conduct as a state judge. And, Westling has said, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to bring a case against Porteous, citing multiple complications with a potential trial.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Former Lawyer Pleads Guilty to $1.2 Billion Ponzi Scam

Fla. ex-attorney pleads guilty in $1.2B Ponzi scam
The Associated Press by CURT ANDERSON - January 26, 2010

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – A disbarred attorney who courted politicians and star athletes and led a flamboyant lifestyle even by flashy South Florida standards pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges that he ran a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. Scott Rothstein, 47, pleaded guilty to all five counts against him, including wire fraud, money-laundering conspiracy and a racketeering charge commonly used to take down Mafia chieftains. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 100 years in federal prison and at least $1.5 million in potential fines. Sentencing is set for May 6 before U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn. Rothstein said little during a brief hearing Wednesday, other than responding "guilty" to the charges and answering the judge's many questions with "yes" or "I understand." His wife, Kim Rothstein, spoke publicly about the case for the first time, reading a statement to reporters outside the courthouse. "Today is the saddest day of my life," she said. She also denied wrongdoing in the scheme, though federal officials have never accused her of being involved. "Two years ago when I married the sweetest man I'd ever met, I would never have believed our future together could come to this." Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman said the case is not over. Prosecutors have said former Rothstein associates may face criminal charges, along with bankers and others who might have been involved. "We intend to pursue every lead and arrest those, prosecute those, who are criminally liable," Sloman said. The plea caps a downward spiral that began in late October, when court documents say Rothstein fled Florida on a chartered jet to Morocco carrying $500,000 in cash after wiring another $16 million to a Casablanca account he controlled. He returned to face charges and has been in federal custody since the FBI arrested him Dec. 1.

It was a swift fall for Rothstein, who in the months before had hosted fundraisers or other events for state and national politicians including Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The state's Democratic and Republican parties and Crist have since returned hundreds of thousands in contributions from Rothstein, whose office was festooned with political and sports photos and memorabilia. He gave generously to dozens of charities, many of which are being forced to return the money. Prosecutors say it was all an elaborate facade, meant to lend an air of power and respectability to Rothstein's four-year scam. They say he used fake legal cases— at least once forging the signature of a federal judge — to lure people with promises of huge payouts over time in exchange for an up-front investment. "He presented a dangerous mixture of public trust with the opportunity to make purported easy money," said Martin B. Goldberg, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. The ripple effects have been far-reaching. Authorities have seized two dozen homes and other real estate once owned by Rothstein, along with 20 exotic cars — Ferraris, a Bugatti Veyron, a Maserati among them — as well as numerous bank accounts, an 87-foot yacht, expensive jewelry and other assets. All will eventually be used to repay dozens of jilted investors, many of whom have filed lawsuits seeking at least some of their money back. The law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler is now defunct, with as many as 50 of its 70 former attorneys under investigation by the Florida Bar for possible irregularities involving client trust funds, according to Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker. Also under investigation by Fort Lauderdale officials is the city's police chief, Frank Adderley, who once flew with Rothstein on a private jet to attend a Miami Dolphins football game at the New York Jets. City officials are rewriting rules that allowed off-duty officers to provide security for Rothstein's home and business ventures. Meanwhile, the Florida Democratic Party returned $200,000 in contributions from Rothstein's law firm, with the state GOP returning some $150,000. Crist returned $9,600 that Rothstein and his wife had given to Crist's U.S. Senate campaign.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Governor and Attorney General Asked to Probe Alleged $40 Million Judicial Scam

Integrity in the Courts
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

January 25, 2010

The Honorable David Paterson,
Governor of The State of New York
The State Capital
Albany, New York 12224 (Delivery Confirmation # 03091830000075798107)

The Honorable Andrew Cuomo,
New York Attorney General
120 Broadway
New York, New York 10271 (Delivery Confirmation # 03091830000075798114 )

RE: Request for Immediate Action Concerning Alleged $40 Million Dollar Fraud by 2 top New York State Judges (Hon. Jonathan Lippman and Hon. Charles Ramos)

Dear Governor Paterson and Attorney General Cuomo:

Our research has revealed, and fully documented, a troubling state court “ethics” oversight structure that is itself corrupt. We have documented countless examples where the law, attorneys, litigants, state employees and, in fact, judges have been targeted for annihilation simply because of a political whim or from the vengeful, misguided desires of a few. Conversely, we have evidence of many outrageous and criminal acts by certain individuals within and about the state court system that have been substantively overlooked for no other reason than their favored position or political affiliation.


We take all allegations very seriously, but especially when they involve New York State’s Chief Justice, Jonathan Lippman, and an Appellate Division Associate Justice, Charles Ramos. We are most troubled by the apparent common denominators of “greed of money” and “thirst for power.” The sad result of these crimes against families, state employees and citizens is outrageous, and must end.

Immediate Action Required

OVERVIEW: New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos received a "waiver" of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct from then-Chief Administrative Judge Lippman based upon information he (Ramos) provided in writing. The “waiver” pre-approved Judge Ramos to be co-executor of two estates of a couple who were alive; the “waiver” also approved Judge Ramos’ in a role over various family trusts.

DOCUMENTED FACTS: The highly unusual "waiver" of the State Judicial Rules was given by then-Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman on May 7, 2003. The May 7, 2003 dated letter from the Administrative Judge allowed Judge Ramos "to be named and to serve as a co-executor and trustee under the Wills of Ruth and Herb Weissberg.” (see attached) However, on May 7, 2003, Ruth and Herb were very much alive. And though Herbert Weissberg would die about 2 months later, on July 3, 2003, it was known that Herb had had a stroke and couldn’t speak, due to dementia and aphasia, for well over one year prior to his death.

While Judge Lippman's letter reiterates Justice Ramos' contention that he "had a longstanding relationship of trust and confidence with the Weissbergs going back 36 years"(see attached), there is no mention as to why the original March 24, 2002 dated Will did not name Charles E. Ramos as an executor or trustee but, instead, the Last Will named trusted accountant Andrew Rubin and long-time friend attorney Paul Herman as co-executors. It was only by virtue of a subsequent Codicil, purportedly by the long-incapacitated and dying Herbert Weissberg that Andrew Rubin and Paul Herman were removed as named co-fiduciaries, and replaced with Judge Ramos and the frail, soon-to-be-widow, Ruth Weissberg as the new named co-fiduciaries. Witnesses confirm that Herb could barely say “yes” or “no” and was in a fetal position during the last year of his life. People who knew the Weissberg family for decades were shocked to hear that Judge Ramos had presented himself as a long time "dear friend" of Herbert Weissberg.

It appears that other plans to wrestle control of Herb's millions were in the works. It is also alleged that in October of 2001, Herbert Weissberg’s attorney, Paul Herman, went to the hospital to visit Herb, who was at that time extremely ill and unable to speak due to dementia and aphasia. While it cannot be determined exactly how many documents, purportedly signed by Herbert Weissberg, emerged from that hospital visit, or exactly from whom, what is certain is that Herb’s signature varies significantly from one writing to another on papers with the exact same date. One document, supposedly prepared by Herb, misspells the word “Gramercy” – as in the Gramercy Park Hotel- the place Herbert Weissberg had run for decades. Out of thin air, but with a judicial waiver in hand, Judge Ramos then appeared and became a paid trustee. The question remains that if Judge Ramos was such “a close, personal friend of the family” and as was presented to Judge Lippman, then Judge Ramos surely would have known that Herb Weissberg had been very ill, could barely scribble a signature, and could not communicate or understand anything complex- all long before the codicil giving him (Ramos) so much was even drafted. Simply, people with Dementia and Aphasia do not initiate complex estate changes.

ALLEGATIONS: (1) Judge Ramos, in early 2003, filed papers within the New York State Court system containing knowingly false information, so to advance a scheme where he would improperly, and financially, gain; and (2) Judge Lippman, since at least mid-2007, has been aware of the false presentation of information by Judge Ramos, and he has failed, and he continues to fail, to take appropriate action as required by law.

A gubernatorial election has renewed the promise of hope to the great people of New York- citizens who have long-yearned for leadership in reforming the condition of avarice and corruption that exists within and about our state’s government and, tragically, throughout our state court system. We are confident that future generations will echo our gratitude of the gubernatorial restoration of our faith in our state government and in our system of law. Please take immediate action concerning the allegations now presented to you. Thank you.

All the best,

Frank Brady

Franklin N. Brady
Integrity in the Courts &
347-632-9775 tel

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Serpico on Serpico

Serpico on Serpico
The New York Times by COREY KILGANNON - January 22, 2010

HARLEMVILLE, N.Y. — He looked like some sort of fur trapper, this bearded man walking through the snowy woods here in upstate New York. But then, Frank Serpico has always been known for his disguises. Anyone who has seen the celebrated 1973 film “Serpico” knows that he often dressed up — bum, butcher, rabbi — to catch criminals. His off-duty look was never vintage cop either, with the bushy beard and the beads. This is the man whose long and loud complaining about widespread corruption in the New York Police Department made him a pariah on the force. The patrolman shot in the face during a 1971 drug bust while screaming for backup from his fellow officers, who then failed to immediately call for an ambulance. The undaunted whistle-blower whose testimony was the centerpiece of the Knapp Commission hearings, which sparked the biggest shakeup in the history of the department. Four decades later, Frank Serpico is still bearded, handsome and a flamboyant dresser. At 73, he seems spry enough to chase down and collar a perp; on that wintry walk through the woods, he interrogated a man carrying a sled, and followed a trail of blood drops in the snow until it disappeared. Not long before, he had sniffed out a dumper of garbage on his property and reported him to the police. Mr. Serpico still carries the detective shield he was awarded as he left the department on a disability pension and, often, his licensed revolver, with which he takes target practice on his 50-acre property not far from this Columbia County hamlet. He also still carries bullet fragments lodged just below his brain from the drug shooting; he is deaf in his left ear, and has nerve damage in his left leg. For many, “Serpico” conjures the face of Al Pacino, who won his first Golden Globe award for his star turn in the film. The movie — along with news reports and the best-selling biography of the same name — seared the public memory with painful images: of the honest cop bleeding in a squad car rushing to the hospital, where, over months of rehabilitation, he received cards telling him to rot in hell. Instead, Mr. Serpico took his fluffy sheepdog, Alfie, and boarded a ship to Europe; the film’s closing credits describe him as “now living somewhere in Switzerland.” Which was true at the time. After years traveling abroad, Mr. Serpico returned to the United States around 1980 and lived as a nomad, out of a camper. He finally settled about two hours north of New York City, where he lives a monastic life in a one-room cabin he built in the woods near the Hudson River. In 1997, he spoke out after the brutal beatings of Abner Louima in a Brooklyn station house, but mostly he stays far from his old nemesis. Now, all these years later, Mr. Serpico is working on his own version of the harrowing adventures chronicled by Peter Maas’s biography, which sold more than three million copies (royalties from the book and the movie have helped him live comfortably without working). The memoir begins with the same awful scene as the film: Serpico shot in the face during a heroin bust on Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Feb. 3, 1971. Working title: “Before I Go.”

“It’s the rest of the story,” he said recently over lunch in the self-service cafe of a health-food store here in Harlemville. “It’s more personal. I used to think, ‘How can I write my life story? I’m still living it.’ ” Though he is healthy, he added, “I’m getting close to the line, so I figure I better get busy.” It is, ultimately, a story of healing. He wandered in Europe and across North America, he said, because “I wanted to find my life.” “I had gone through a near-death experience,” he explained, “and that gives you an insight into how fleeting life is, and what’s important.” After he settled here, his journey turned inward. He eschewed what he sees as an ugly American addiction to consumerism and media brainwashing. He eats mostly vegetarian and organic food, cooking on the wood-burning stove that heats the cabin, where there is neither television nor the Internet. “This is my life now,” he said. “The woods, nature, solitude.” Mr. Serpico relies on Chinese medicine, herbs and shiatsu. He practices meditation, the Japanese Zen flute and African drumming, and dance: ballroom, tango, swing. He takes long walks at sunrise and rescues wounded animals. He raises chickens and guinea hens. He has a girlfriend: she is French, a schoolteacher, age 50. None of which has exorcised the demons of being Serpico. “I still have nightmares,” he said. “I open a door a little bit and it just explodes in my face. Or I’m in a jam and I call the police, and guess who shows up? My old cop buddies who hated me.” Growing up the son of Italian immigrants in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, young Frank revered the local cops. He loved detective stories on the radio and dreamed of wearing the uniform. He had also cultivated a bit of worldliness from visiting Italy as a child and traveling abroad with the Army after enlisting at age 18. He joined the New York Police Department in 1959 and passionately pursued big game. His partners and bosses resented his hippie looks and his zealousness to make arrests even while off-duty or on the turf of other officers. His intrigues with the ballet and opera rubbed against the conservative culture of the station house. He lived a bohemian life, with a small garden apartment on Perry Street in the West Village, where he was known as Paco and hid his police badge. The street-savvy but idealistic Officer Serpico was appalled at the cliquishness and the payoffs — free meals as well as big, blatant bribes — from criminals, gamblers, numbers men and ordinary merchants whom he saw as a beat cop in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct and later while working vice and racketeering. He refused to accept such grease, and became despised for it both inside and outside the department.

In 1967, Mr. Serpico began telling what he knew to high-ranking officials at police headquarters and City Hall. He presented names, places, dates and other information, but no action was taken. Frustrated, he and a friend on the force, David Durk, a graduate of Amherst College who had become an officer in 1963 after quitting law school, contacted a reporter for The New York Times. The front-page story by David Burnham on April 25, 1970, pressured Mayor John V. Lindsay to form the Knapp Commission, before which Mr. Serpico testified that “the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers.” The commission carried out the most extensive investigation of police wrongdoing in the city’s history and exposed a pattern of entrenched corruption and cover-up that helped usher in reform. “It was terrifying in those days — they were really sticking their necks out,” recalled Mr. Burnham, who now works at a data-gathering and research firm. “We really shamed the city, and things really changed.” Mr. Serpico does not exactly agree. He believes the department still does not acknowledge its internal problems because the leadership’s top priority is to avoid scandal. “I hear from police officers all the time; they contact me,” he said. “An honest cop still can’t find a place to go and complain without fear of recrimination. The blue wall will always be there because the system supports it.” Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, dismissed Mr. Serpico’s indictment by saying, “It’s a very different department now.” “Things have changed vastly,” Mr. Browne said, “and he is literally old enough to be the grandfather of some police officers now on duty.”

Mr. Serpico avoids the city now, but there is a part of him that has never left its station houses. Several years ago, he showed up at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan to confront Patrick V. Murphy, the police commissioner at the time of the shooting, who was in the audience. “I’ve been carrying a bullet around in my head for 35 years and I hold you responsible,” Mr. Serpico recalled telling Mr. Murphy, who did not respond. Michael Bosak, a 27-year veteran of the Police Department who has served as its informal historian since retiring in 1995, said that for a time he kept in touch with Mr. Serpico by e-mail, and that his messages tended to be long diatribes on various topics, seemingly unaffected by the passage of decades. “The N.Y.P.D. is a thousand times more honest than it was 40 years ago,” Mr. Bosak said. “I think he’s still in a lot of pain. Going through what he went through, it can drive you off your rocker.” Indeed, Mr. Serpico still brims with bitterness that he was made third-grade detective, rather than the top tier of first-grade; that the department’s museum in Lower Manhattan declined his offer of his uniform and his service revolver; that its leadership never asks him to speak about corruption or reform. The Medal of Honor he was awarded — the department’s highest commendation — remains tossed “in some drawer.” “They never even had a ceremony for me,” he said of the honorary promotion. “They handed it to me over the counter with the Medal of Honor, like a pack of cigarettes. “The department never recognized me for standing up for what’s right,” he added, “because I violated the omertà; I spoke out.”

During his years in Europe, Mr. Serpico bought a farm in the Netherlands and married a Dutch woman with two young children. But after the woman died of cancer, her parents took custody of the children and Mr. Serpico sold the farm and moved back to the United States. He wandered the continent from Mexico to Canada in his camper. In 1980, a lover had a son and brought a paternity suit. He claimed to have been “deceived and entrapped” by the woman, and then waged a lengthy and unsuccessful court fight to avoid child-support payments. He did not raise the son, Alex Serpico, and has had limited contact with him in recent years.

Mr. Serpico refused to reveal the exact location of his current home. Instead, he was interviewed in various coffee shops and restaurants where he is a regular in a few small villages north of Hudson, N.Y., just off the Taconic State Parkway. He is known to the locals as Paco, his off-duty nickname in the Village in the late 1960s. At lunches in the Harlemville health-food store, Mr. Serpico slipped a bottle of red wine out of his bag and poured it into paper cups. Afterward, cigars. True to his cinematic self, he always showed up in a different outfit and hat: one day as the sheepherder, the next day the prospector, then the monk. He wears an earring in each ear and a magnifying glass around his neck for fine print. He would spout esoterica and draw from his knowledge of Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Arabic and Russian. In a coffee shop, he might quote from Dante’s “Inferno,” or pull out his harmonica and play “Danny Boy.” Mr. Serpico said he had played, in local productions, the Arab in Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life,” Gonzalo in “The Tempest,” a detective in “Ten Little Indians” and Johann Most in Howard Zinn’s “Emma.” “My acting career began on the streets of New York,” he said. “When I was a cop, I played many impressive roles, from derelict to a doctor, and my life often depended on my performance.” Back then, as he became suspect among fellow officers, Mr. Serpico began spreading the word that he was writing a book, but only as a bluff. “I said, ‘I’m going to name names, and if anything happens to me, I got it all written down right there,’ ” he recalled. “But I never really wrote anything.”

After several frustrating attempts at collaboration with co-writers — “They just don’t get it,” he said — Mr. Serpico enrolled in a weekly workshop through an arts group in Troy, N.Y., where his classmates also do not always understand his stories. “How could they?” he said. “We have women in the class writing about their kids — they don’t know what a bag man is.” Frank Serpico writes out the story of his life daily in longhand, at the cabin, then types the pages on a computer at the public library, using the two-finger method he honed filing arrest reports on station house typewriters, gathering the pages in a manila folder. The memoir begins on the night of the Williamsburg drug bust, his bleeding body cradled by an elderly tenant who called for assistance when his fellow officers did not, the narrator floating above and recounting the life path that led him there. It is not unlike the opening scene of the film. He said he had never seen the full movie, but agreed to watch it with me — on my laptop, propped on a windowsill at the public library in Kinderhook, N.Y. As Pacino, near death, was rushed to Greenpoint Hospital, the real Mr. Serpico stared out the window, unable to watch — too painful, he said. He provided a running commentary: His own wardrobe was much better than in the film, as were his police disguises. The scene in which the police commissioner hands him a gold detective shield in the hospital bed was conjured; in reality, he picked it up from a clerk at police headquarters. Afterward, Mr. Serpico seemed spent. He looked out at the snow and trees graying in the descending darkness. “They took the job I loved most,” he said. “I just wanted to be a cop, and they took it away from me.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wife Attacking Judge Yanked From Domestic Murder Case

Judge in Domestic Violence Murder Off Case After Attacking His Wife on Anniversary
By The Associated Press - January 20, 2010

A Pennsylvania judge overseeing a murder case involving domestic violence allegations has been suspended from duty over criminal charges that he pushed and choked his wife on their first wedding anniversary. Sixty-one-year-old Perry County Senior Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp has been charged with simple assault and harassment and is also subject to a protection from abuse order. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended him from duty, including handling a case in which a man is accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife in front of two of her children. Rehkamp has not commented on the charges. He has been serving in shorthanded Luzerne County, where state police say the judge and his wife argued Saturday at their Plymouth Township home after celebrating at two Wilkes-Barre restaurants.


Details emerge on former Perry County judge accused in domestic dispute
The Sentinel by John Hilton - January 19, 2010
Court documents reveal a night of discord between former Perry County president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp and his wife

Former Perry County president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp had been drinking Saturday night when he pushed his wife down “and started to choke her, leaving red marks,” court documents say. Valerie Rehkamp screamed and told her husband to leave their home in Plymouth Township, Luzerne County. According to the criminal complaint filed by Trooper Matthew Stacktish, Valerie Rehkamp’s son stopped the assault and Joseph Rehkamp left the home in his Ford Crown Victoria. Joseph Rehkamp, 61, later turned himself in and was arraigned about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. He is charged with misdemeanor assault and summary harassment. His preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 26. It was not known Monday whether Rehkamp has an attorney. The conflict between the Rehkamps began earlier in the evening, court documents say, when Valerie Rehkamp told her husband he “did not act appropriately” during a dinner outing. Valerie Rehkamp told the judge to “sleep somewhere else” for the night, court documents say. Valerie Rehkamp’s son gave Trooper Stacktish a similar account of the evening, adding that his mother told Joseph Rehkamp not to enter the house. When he did, an argument ensued, with Joseph Rehkamp following his wife into their bedroom. Valerie Rehkamp’s son “related that he heard a lot of yelling and arguing,” court documents say. Returning to the living room, court documents say, the couple resumed arguing in front of Valerie Rehkamp’s son, followed by the assault.


Perry County District Attorney Charles “Chad” Chenot said that when he started working in Perry County 16 years ago, Rehkamp was a judge. “Surprised” is how he described his reaction to the news that Rehkamp faced criminal charges, Chenot said. “I’m not aware of any kind of this behavior in the past,” Chenot said. As a judge, he said, “I believe he tried to be very fair. He certainly presided over all kinds of cases, including domestic cases, so he certainly would be familiar with what people do when they’re in domestic conflict.” The outcome of the charges shouldn’t impact any closed cases, Chenot said, but if there are still a few Perry County motions that Rehkamp hasn’t finished since moving onto his new assignment it could affect those, he said.

Senior judge

Rehkamp resigned from his seat on the Perry/Juniata County Court of Common Pleas in 2008 but has since been appointed as a senior judge - fill-in judges who serve at the order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. As such, Rehkamp was appointed on Oct. 1, 2008, to preside over two civil cases filed against former Cumberland County commissioner Bruce Barclay. Barclay resigned his county position in April 2008 after William McCurdy, who had been living with him, accused him of rape. Upon investigating, state police said Barclay had installed a hidden videotaping system in his home that proved the rape accusation false and led to McCurdy’s conviction on false report charges. However, it also led to the criminal charges Barclay is currently facing: patronizing prostitutes, unlawful use of computer, intercepting communications, unlawful duplication and 13 counts of invasion of privacy. Rehkamp is handling the case because Barclay used to work in the same courthouse as all of the Cumberland County judges. Rehkamp had been assigned to take over a capital murder case in Luzerne County for former Judge Michael T. Toole, who resigned from the bench and pleaded guilty last month to a fraud charge.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Judge Filmed Taking Cash

What Again?: Rookie Judge Filmed Taking Cash (Could Have Been Worse - FBI Says He Also Traded Sex to Fix Cases)
By The Associated Press - January 22, 2010

EL PASO, Texas — Prosecutors played video showing money changing hands in the federal trial of a judge in El Paso accused of offering court favors in exchange for cash and sex. State District Judge Manuel Barraza on Thursday was seen in the video, at his courthouse office, accepting almost $5,000 from the sister of an inmate facing drug charges. Barraza was arrested in April 2009, just months after he took office. He was indicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to a federal agent. The video included testimony from Sarai Valencia. FBI agents equipped her with a portable hidden camera and a body wire. Valencia was expected back on the stand Friday. Valencia testified, during cross examination, that she received $2,000 for helping the FBI build its case against Barraza.


District Judge Manuel Barraza charged with bribery
The El Paso Times by Ramon Bracamontes - April 3, 2009

EL PASO, TX -- The state suspended District Court Judge Manuel Barraza on Thursday afternoon, just hours after FBI agents arrested him on suspicion of taking money and sexual favors as bribes. "This is embarrassing," Barraza said of his arrest. "What concerns me the most right now is that I've embarrassed my family." A federal grand jury indicted Barraza, 53, on three charges of wire fraud and deprivation of honest services. He faces an additional charge of making a false statement to the FBI, whose agents arrested him at his house Thursday morning. In an interview outside the federal courthouse, where he posted $10,000 bond, Barraza spoke of the U.S. Constitution in relation to his case. "The great thing about this is that we have a right to presumed innocence," he said. Barraza, who was elected in November and took office Jan. 1, said he did not want to talk about specifics of the case against him. He said he had not hired a lawyer, and did not know about his status as a judge. "I want to remain on the bench, but I just don't know what will happen," he said. A letter sent Thursday afternoon to Barraza by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct stated that he was immediately suspended without pay. As a district judge, Barraza was to make $140,000 this year. In just three months on the bench, the indictment said, Barraza sought bribes from women and solicited a bribe from an undercover female agent, who helped the FBI build the case against him. Barraza's encounter with the undercover agent occurred Feb. 5, according to the indictment. He allegedly promised to intervene in a felony case filed against her friend. Barraza also said he would transfer the case to his court if the woman had sex with him, the indictment stated. Barraza allegedly gave her the name of a lawyer that she should hire. Then the law yer, not identified in the indictment, was to request that the case be transferred to Barraza's court. The criminal case was never moved to Barraza's docket, records show. Because of Barraza's immediate suspension, his caseload will have to be divided among other judges. Under Texas law, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct may suspend a judge from office immediately upon his indictment. Barraza has 30 days to appeal. Barraza will be arraigned at 2 p.m. April 9. If convicted, he could face prison time and fines. Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at; 546-6142.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Independence in Both NY and Washington is Best Cure for Corruption

N.Y. needs independence in Washington: Harold Ford weighs in on Martha Coakley's defeat
The New York Daily News by HAROLD FORD, JR. - January 21, 2010

The defeat of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts represents the latest rejection of a governing style that takes the taxpayers for granted and puts partisan, insider politics ahead of everything else. Put simply, the defining moment in the Massachusetts Senate campaign was during the final debate when David Gergen asked Scott Brown whether he would be willing to "sit in Teddy Kennedy's seat" and block the passage of health care reform for another 15 years. Brown responded, rightly, that "it's not the Kennedys' seat . . . it's the people's seat." And while I disagree with Brown about most issues of public policy, I absolutely agree that a United States senator has to put the people first when making decisions. I have made it very clear that if I run for the U.S. Senate, and if I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will be an independent Democrat who puts the people of New York before the politicians in Albany and Washington. All the time. Every time. To be sure, there are many issues where the interests of the people collide with what the professional politicians want. And frequently, our politicians end up sticking together - forming a narrow, insulated, self-reinforcing elite. That's not me. And that makes them worried. New Yorkers know that if I run, I will be on their side. Always.

Let me be specific: On health care, I have made it very clear that I will stand with New Yorkers against any efforts that would cost us an additional billion dollars in Medicaid payments and impose unfair financial burdens on our state in the form of extra fees or taxes. New York already sends far too much money to Washington, getting back far too little in return. Health reform remains important. But in the wake of this week's election, the legislation should be narrowed to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions, enact responsible tort reform and provide health coverage to all children. And states must have more input into how health coverage is expanded. Make no mistake, I will take a backseat to no one in supporting health care reform. But not at the expense of New York State. Not now. Not ever. And while I understand why the President is putting the onus on banks and other financial institutions to pay back the money they borrowed, let's not forget that the financial services industry is critical to New York State's economic well-being - to creating jobs, to stimulating the economy and to providing needed tax revenue. Congress should pass financial regulatory reform that compels greater transparency in how risk is managed, protects consumers from excessive banking and mortgage fees and expands shareholder say about compensation, among other priorities. But it must also take great care not to harm the great engine of New York's economy. With renewed concerns about terrorism and national security emerging, New York needs a senator who will put our state first. That's why I'm thinking, very seriously, about running for United States Senate. Ford represented Tennessee in Congress from 1997 to 2007. He lives in Manhattan and is a vice chairman of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lippman's Failed Attempt to Explain Corrupt Waste of Money

Lippman: " issue is more fundamental to the court system’s mission than ensuring equal justice for all."

Communications Office: David Bookstaver, Director - Kali Holloway, Deputy Director
(212) 428-2500 - Date: January 19, 2009 - Hon. Ann Pfau, Chief Administrative Judge

New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Statement on Proposed 2010-11 Judiciary Budget

I must respond to the Governor's commentary on the judiciary’s fiscal year 2010-11 proposed budget, in which he asks that I revisit the judiciary's request and offers suggestions for how it may be reduced. The commentary states that the judiciary must do more to “restructure” its operations in light of the State’s economic downturn, and suggests that its budget request should be dramatically reduced, by as much as $132 million. The commentary reflects both a misunderstanding of the judiciary’s basic constitutional obligation to hear each and every case that comes before it and a failure to appreciate fundamental differences in the budgets of the Judicial and Executive Branches. The Governor's commentary completely ignores the fact that this is a no-growth budget request. Even though the court system’s workload has reached historic levels, the request seeks not a single dollar for enhanced court operations. The additional funding sought essentially represents extraordinary, non-discretionary cost increases beyond the judiciary’s control, including $84.6 million in contributions to the State’s pension fund, $58.4 million for nonjudicial salary increases required by collective bargaining agreements and $7.5 million needed to cover mandatory increases in health insurance and other fringe benefit costs. Suggesting that the judiciary should consider reducing its budget request by as much as $132 million, the Governor presumes that the court system can absorb these extraordinary mandatory costs. Unlike Executive Branch agencies, however, the judiciary cannot simply eliminate costly programs or defer expensive capital projects. The judiciary does not operate “programs” – it adjudicates cases. Indeed, the overwhelming portion of the judiciary’s budget – nearly 90 percent – is personnel costs. Savings of the magnitude suggested in the commentary would require the elimination, mainly through layoffs, of approximately 2,000 court employees. This would have a devastating and irreparable impact on the courts’ ability to perform their constitutional role at a time when caseloads are spiraling and the public’s use of the courts has multiplied because of the economic downturn. Judges’ ability to monitor drug offenders’ participation in treatment programs, to resolve foreclosure matters in settlement conferences and to conduct countless other proceedings on which the Governor’s own initiatives depend, would be drastically compromised.

The Governor singles out three items in the budget request that “result in increased costs.” First, the request seeks an increase in judicial salaries, at an annual cost of $48 million. A judicial salary increase, however, has been sought in the judiciary’s last several budget requests, and therefore the current request does not represent an increase in costs over last year’s request. In any event, the painful and inconceivable fact is that New York’s judges have not had a single cost-of-living increase in over 11 years, and I make no excuses whatsoever for addressing that travesty in this year’s budget request. Second, the request seeks an additional $6 million to increase the Judicial Supplemental Support Fund to $10,000. For judges who have gone so long without a single raise, this modest increase – representing less than one-quarter of one percent of the overall judiciary budget request – is wholly justified and, I must say, the very least we can do for a judiciary that meets it constitutional responsibilities each and every day under the most difficult circumstances. Third, the request seeks $15 million for civil legal services. As I noted in recent legislative hearings on this subject, no issue is more fundamental to the court system’s mission than ensuring equal justice for all. This amount will offset the precipitous shortfall in IOLA revenues, and will help in our most vulnerable citizens in their time of greatest need. For several years, the judiciary has been keenly aware of and responsive to the State’s fiscal crisis. As a result, we submitted a zero-increase budget request last year, we eliminated several hundred positions in the courts during the current fiscal year and we are well into our second year of a strict hiring freeze for administrative positions. In those respects we have been ahead of the Executive Branch. The judiciary remains committed to working with the Executive and Legislative Branches to address the serious challenges confronting our State.

U.S. Supreme Court: 'Dignity and Respect" ONLY in Death Cases

Nation's Highest Court Justified in Being "Troubled" - Some Federal Circuits are a Corrupted Mess

Supreme Court mandates 'dignity and respect' in death sentencing
The Washington Post by Robert Barnes - January 20, 2010

"From beginning to end," the Supreme Court intoned Tuesday, "judicial proceedings conducted for the purpose of deciding whether a defendant shall be put to death must be conducted with dignity and respect." And so a majority of the court decided that a trial in which jurors presented the judge with an "edible chocolate penis" and the bailiff with a pair of chocolate breasts deserved a closer look. It told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to examine more closely the trial in which Marcus Wellons received the death penalty for the rape and murder of 15-year-old India Roberts in suburban Atlanta in 1989. The appeals court upheld the death sentence the first time around. "Petitioner's allegations and the unusual facts raise a serious question about the fairness of" the trial, said the unsigned opinion that reflected the views of Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. The "unusual events going on behind the scenes," the court said, included unreported contacts outside the courtroom between the judge and jurors and the fact that "either during or immediately following the penalty phase, some jury members gave the trial judge chocolate shaped as male genitalia and the bailiff chocolate shaped as female breasts." The judge did not report the gifts, and Wellons's lawyers learned about them only when preparing his appeal. "Neither Wellons nor any court has ascertained exactly what went on at this capital trial or what prompted such 'gifts,' " the opinion said. "Wellons has repeatedly tried, in both state and federal court, to find out what occurred, but he has found himself caught in a procedural morass." Georgia's appeals courts did not consider the gifts when Wellons first appealed, because they were not part of the judicial record. Subsequent reexaminations of Wellons's sentence in both state and federal courts have said procedural rules barred their ordering discovery about the gifts. The Supreme Court's opinion criticized the 11th Circuit panel for saying Wellons's claims of misconduct were "speculation." "Had there been discovery or an evidentiary hearing, Wellons may have been able to present more than 'speculation' and 'surmise,' " the opinion said. The court's four most consistent conservatives criticized their colleagues for abusing their own procedures. The majority told the lower court to reconsider the case in light of a recent Supreme Court precedent, but Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said that should not affect the 11th Circuit's decision. They said it was disrespectful to send the case back because of an "inconsequential imperfection" in the lower court's opinion. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., said he agreed with the majority that the "strange and tasteless gifts" raised "troubling" concerns. But he, too, objected to the "improper" way the majority sent the case back to the 11th Circuit. The case is Wellons v. Hall.

In a separate, unsigned opinion, the court took on another procedure case from Georgia. It ruled that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee to the accused of a "speedy and public trial" meant that the public must be allowed into the part of the trial where potential jurors are questioned. The court had already ruled that the First Amendment meant such procedures should be open. The court repeated that trial judges must consider all alternatives before moving to close a trial. "Trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials," the opinion said. In reversing the Georgia Supreme Court, the opinion said the outcome was so apparent from its earlier rulings that it need not accept the case for full briefing and arguments. Thomas and Scalia dissented, saying such sentiment "belittles the efforts of our judicial colleagues who have struggled with these issues in attempting to interpret and apply the same opinions upon which the court so confidently relies today." The case is Presley v. Georgia.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gubernatorial Target: A Corrupted Court System

Governor Criticizes Judiciary Budget, Calls It 'Business as Usual'
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - January 20, 2010
January 20, 2010

ALBANY, NY - Governor David A. Paterson suggested today that the court system was guilty of conducting "business as usual" by advancing a 7.4 percent spending increase that ignores the "reality" of the state's rough fiscal circumstances. In addition to urging the court system and legislators to revisit the judiciary's $2.7 billion spending plan, the governor called for increases in civil court filing fees—a measure Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has opposed. The governor's unusually critical observations were contained in a commentary on his $134 billion budget proposal he submitted to the Legislature for the fiscal year that begins April 1. His proposal calls for an increase of 0.6 percent in spending and would close a projected budget gap of $7.5 billion. "Admittedly, the operation of the courts and their reform is no simple matter; but it must also be acknowledged that the $2.7 billion Judiciary budget is a significant part of the overall State budget," the governor wrote. "The Judiciary must accept that each branch of government can no longer conduct 'business as usual,' and that all branches share an obligation to taxpayers to restructure government in light of the State's new fiscal reality." The governor is under the constitutional obligation to submit the judiciary's budget to the Legislature as it presented to him although he is free to comment on court spending.

Last year, when the courts proposed a budget that included virtually no spending increase for the second year in a row, the governor praised the courts for being "responsive" to the state government's economic situation. The Legislature and the governor are free to alter the courts' proposal when they adopt a final budget. Mr. Paterson urged the Legislature to scrutinize the courts' budget request for fiscal 2010-11. "Given the serious fiscal situation in which the State finds itself, I am transmitting the Judiciary's budget submission along with a strong charge to the Legislature to evaluate this request carefully," the governor wrote. "I also call upon the Chief Judge to revisit this request and offer suggestions for how it may be reduced." There was no immediate response today from the court system.

Court administrators had described the spending plan that they submitted in December as a "zero growth budget," with all of the projected increases going to contractually mandated wage, pension and benefit payments (NYLJ, Dec. 3, 2009). "There are no discretionary programs to cut and no nonessential initiatives to defer," judicial administrators said. The judiciary's budget does include $48 million for a pay raise for state judges retroactive to April 1, 2005, representing a one quarter of one percent increase. The legality of denying the judiciary a pay increase since 1999 is currently before the Court of Appeals (NYLJ, Jan. 13).

But Mr. Paterson today noted that Judge Lippman is doubling from $5,000 to $10,000 the size of his "judicial supplemental support fund," a pool of money to help pay for judges' robes, life insurance and other costs related to their jobs. "There appears to be little restriction on how these funds are spent," the governor noted. Of the pay raise retroactivity and the overall size of the money held in reserve for a judicial pay raise, Mr. Paterson observed, "the increase is quite large given the current economic climate," though the governor said it was "regrettable" that judges have been denied a raise. The governor said he also had warned court administrators that he opposed the judiciary including $15 million in its proposed budget to help fund civil legal services in light of the drastic fall-off in funding for the Interest on Lawyer Accounts (IOLA) fund. Mr. Paterson said he favored an increase in court filing fees for civil actions to fund legal services for civil litigants and others. The governor said increases he proposed today would raise $41 million in the next fiscal year and also deter the filing of "frivolous cases and motions." The governor's budget also proposes a continued downsizing of the state's residential and institutional system for housing potentially dangerous juveniles with the closing of two more facilities and reductions in the residential populations of two state centers. Mr. Paterson's budget proposal now goes to the Legislature for its dissection following public hearings. A final spending plan will be negotiated by Mr. Paterson and legislative leaders later in the year. Joel Stashenko can be reached at

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eight Encouraging Words:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New York Times Editorial on Another Broken Part of NY's Corrupt Court System

New York’s Antique Divorce Law
The New York Times - EDITORIAL - January 16, 2010

Barring marriage by same-sex couples is not the only way that New York State’s policies on marriage are stuck in the past and inflict needless pain. In 2006, a special blue-ribbon state commission sensibly called for overhauling state law to allow no-fault divorce. The reform enjoys broad support within legal circles and well beyond. Practically every New Yorker has a bitter divorce story, even if it’s not his or her own. Yet four years, and a countless number of traumatized parents and children later, Albany has yet to act. As a result of that inaction, New York remains the only state in the union that will not permit marriages to end without one spouse’s alleging fault, such as cruel and inhumane treatment, adultery or abandonment. Further dawdling would be inexcusable. Gov. David Paterson and the leaders of the State Legislature should publicly commit now to enact no-fault divorce before the end of the current legislative session. The current rules inflict serious financial and emotional costs. Litigants end up spending thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees, and courts devote significant time to airing the painful and highly personal details of a breakup. It is a ridiculous use of judicial resources at any time, but especially in tough fiscal times. Making divorce harder cannot rescue irretrievably broken marriages. The only thing really achieved by perpetuating the current law is to make divorces costlier, longer, and uglier than they need to be. For years now, efforts to enact a fair no-fault system have cratered because of opposition from the Catholic Church and issues like lawyers’ fees and protecting victims of domestic violence. Achieving reform may not be easy. But it can be done. Just ask every other state.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Manhattan DA: Oral Sex Demand OK for Lawyers, But Not For Cops

Cop convicted for demanding oral sex to ditch summons for woman
The New York Daily News by Melissa Grace - January 16th 2010

A city cop was convicted Friday of official misconduct for offering to rip up a summons in exchange for a sex act. Wilfredo Rosario, 41, was tossed into jail after the jury's verdict when prosecutors asked the judge to revoke his bail pending an upcoming rape trial. "Jail is appropriate," Assistant District Attorney John McConnell said. "He is facing much more serious felony charges." Eight years ago, Rosario issued a ticket to a 26-year-old woman for being in Riverside Park after hours with a male friend. He asked her whether she was a virgin and offered to shred the summons if she would perform oral sex, she testified. She made a complaint the next day, but the allegation didn't become public until 2008 when another woman accused Rosario of sexual abuse. He faces up to a year in prison on the official misconduct rap but could get 25 years to life if convicted of a 2003 rape and two sex abuse charges. The officer, who has been suspended, will also be fired from the NYPD. "We certainly don't agree with the jury," defense lawyer Steven Fusfeld said.

CLICK HERE TO SEE RELATED STORY, "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Asked to Appoint New York Ethics Prosecutor"

Holder's Ethics Straw: Sexual Assaults and Harassment by Politically Connected Attorneys - The Civil Rights violations of two specific New York cases are most troubling for the nation's chief law enforcement officer. One victim, Luisa Esposito, says her former New York attorney, Allen H. Isaac, allegedly sexually abused her and wanted oral sex in exchange for his legal representation. Attorney Isaac's political connections were apparently good enough to not only thwart the attorney ethics complaint against him, but to keep him from getting arrested. As one Manhattan District Attorney Police Detective advised Ms. Esposito, "... phone calls were made.... favors were called in...... sorry...." That police detective had previously advised Ms. Esposito that he was going to make the arrest. Ms. Esposito's evidence is quite compelling: she has audiotape proof, and her story has been televised on various TV programs.

Governor Paterson Gets It: Corruption Is About Money

Dave dares the devils: Gov. Paterson throws down ethical gauntlet but has few takers
The New York Daily News EDITORIAL - January 6, 2010
Paterson's State of the State address willl focus on state of finance mess

True to form, the Legislature is responding to Gov. Paterson's ethics reform proposals as if he were trying to infect lawmakers with swine flu. And, just as true to form, legislative leaders said publicly that they are open to considering Paterson's ideas or that they need more information before they can comment, while trashing his plan privately as political posturing by a governor seeking to repair his approval ratings. Only Senate Republican chief Dean Skelos had the courage to dismiss Paterson's rather sweeping package on the record. Give Skelos points for that, even if it was the height of folly for him to contend that voters are more concerned about fixing the state budget than about ethics - as if the Legislature can't do both at once. As the Legislature must. Ethics reform is not a matter of good government for good government's sake. Because only when Albany breaks the grip of special-interest money, only when Albany bars pay-to-play, only when Albany establishes competitive elections - only then will New Yorkers have a shot at a state government whose officials represent the interests of ordinary taxpayers rather than the wallets of the insiders. Paterson's proposals amount to the biggest, strongest fix-Albany plan ever rolled out by a governor - and easily outclass the weak notions floated by lawmakers looking to cover their butts after a flurry of scandals. Even so, the governor did not go all the way to urging the lawmakers to write strict criminal laws that would make it a felony to abuse and misuse their offices, as is now effectively permitted under New York statutes. Paterson will challenge the Legislature today in his State of the State address to put up or shut up on ethics. And the dodging and weaving will begin in earnest. He would cut off the obscene flow of special-interest cash by slashing the maximum campaign donation from $55,900 down to $1,000 - and introducing a public financing system of a kind that already exists in city elections. He would establish a single, streamlined, independent ethics panel that has the power to police both the executive and legislative branches, as well as to enforce campaign finance rules. No more internal coverups by the Legislature. No more see-no-evil laxity by the state Board of Elections. He would require lawmakers to come clean about their sources of outside income - even naming names of individual clients - to prevent a repeat of the Joe Bruno scandal. (Here, too, Paterson must go further by also requiring disclosure of income amounts.) He would abolish give-to-get scams that allowed ripoffs of the state pension fund under former Controller Alan Hevesi, as well as under some predecessors. And he would set term limits on all state officials - including an iron-clad 12-years-and-out rule for a Legislature that has become a sclerotic lifetime sinecure. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. If Paterson stands guilty of pandering, as the legislative snipes so smarmily accuse, then let him pander. Because this is mom-and-apple-pie stuff.

As Long As Lawyers Get Paid, Campaign Funds Pay For Criminal Defense

Bruno trial empties $742,458 fund
The Albany Times Union by JAMES M. ODATO - January 16, 2010
Records show money financed the former Senate majority leader's criminal defense

ALBANY, NY -- As he prepares for a private fund-raiser for his legal expenses, former Sen. Joseph L. Bruno can no longer turn to his political campaign fund. His political war chest is barren now, according to the Committee To Re-Elect Senator Bruno's report filed Friday. He drained the account of its last dollar, and actually went $1,044 in arrears. The filing shows $742,458 was spent by the senator in the past six months on fees tied to his unsuccessful defense of federal fraud charges. In all, the senator exhausted about $1.5 million in political contributions, mostly to his campaign, but also from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, over the past three years, for lawyers and legal services associated with the investigation and subsequent trial. Bruno's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, did not return a message but has declined to speculate on the cost of an appeal. On Tuesday, Bruno will be featured at a fund-raiser hosted by two friends, James Barba, the head of Albany Medical Hospital, and John Nigro, a real estate developer. The Joe Bruno Defense Fund event is aimed at restocking the fund, which has also been used to pay for Bruno's legal expenses.

One lawyer planning to attend said he assumed Bruno would need $1.5 million for an appeal of the two fraud charges he was convicted of in December. Bruno is awaiting a March sentencing. The Bruno campaign filing showed Bruno's expenses mostly went to Lowell's firm, McDermitt, Will & Emery in Washington, D.C. But he also spent $25,000 with Luntz, Maslansky Research, advisers that, among other things, recommend how to own up to your mistakes. There is also an expenditure of $10,000 to DecisionQuest Inc., a trial jury consulting company. The campaign was able to collect almost $25,000 by entities returning past payments to Bruno's campaign, including $8,500 from former New York Racing Association trustee Charles V. Wait, $100 from the Research Foundation of the State University of New York and $61 from Lombardo's Restaurant. Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the political fund should not have been used to fend off prosecution. "We think it's ridiculous. Campaign contributions should be used to run for office not to pay high-priced lawyers to stay out of jail," he said. Bruno resigned from the Senate in 2008. James M. Odato can be reached at 454-5083 or

Friday, January 15, 2010

Attorney Ethics Complaints Dismissed

Ethics Complaints Dismissed In Total Attorneys Case
The Connecticut Law Journal by Douglas S. Malan - January 15, 2010

Grievance complaints were dismissed Friday afternoon against five Connecticut attorneys who have done business with Total Attorneys Inc. of Chicago. Norwich bankruptcy attorney has grieved 12 attorneys in Connecticut more than 550 attorneys in 47 total states claiming that attorneys participating in the Total Attorneys network are paying for referrals, which is a felony offense in this state. Connecticut-licensed attorneys Matthew Rousseau, Gregg Wagman, Steven Lesko, Kenneth Lenz and Russell Small all have been cleared by the Statewide Grievance Committee. It’s likely that the other seven complaints, including one against Manchester attorney and State Rep. Ryan Barry, will be dismissed similarly, though a time table isn’t evident. The short summary decision offered no insight into the three-person hearing committee’s logic behind the decision. A full-length decision is due in two weeks. Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mark Dubois declined to comment until the full decision is released.

Connecticut was the only state to hold formal hearings on the matter. Those hearings occurred in November. Several other states had decided to take no action on the complaints. For defendants who have been part of a massive ethics complaint that was launched last spring, Friday afternoon offered a lot of peace of mind. “We’re delighted with the decision and hope it ends this particularly difficult piece of legal history,” said Raymond Garcia of Garcia & Milas, who was local counsel for Total Attorneys. Kimberly A. Knox and Brendon P. Levesque from the high-powered Hartford appellate firm Horton, Shields & Knox represented Wagman and Lenz. Levesque said it’s “been a crazy ride.” Levesque added, “We are thrilled that Connecticut has dismissed the grievance complaints. Our position has always been that this is simply lawyer advertising.” The company operates numerous web sites for different practice areas that all work the same way: Attorneys pay $65 to receive leads on potential clients who enter their zip code and other contact information through the web site. There’s no guarantee that the leads will turn into paying clients. Total Attorneys says its business model allows lawyers, who are mainly solo and small firm practitioners, to pool resources and pay for group advertising online.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Governor Says State Ethics Plan Inadequate

Lawmakers Offer Ethics Plan, but Paterson Says It Falls Short
The New York Times by JEREMY W. PETERS and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE - January 14, 2010

New York’s legislative leaders proposed their own ethics overhaul on Wednesday in an effort to restore public confidence in the wake of recent scandals that have exposed political corruption at the highest levels of power in Albany. The proposal, which would essentially remake the current system that polices the conduct of public officials, would require elected officials to disclose more about their outside income and face stricter oversight by investigative bodies that will have enhanced powers. But the plan was quickly criticized by the governor and others as falling short of what was needed because it would provide no independent oversight over the Legislature and would exclude many lawmakers from disclosing the names of their outside business clients. Gov. David A. Paterson, who last week offered a far more ambitious ethics proposal, denounced the plan, through a spokesman, as nothing more than “election-year window dressing,” and he signaled that he would veto the proposal its current form, throwing into doubt whether change was possible this year. Some government watchdog groups expressed similar reservations, saying the plan would do little to improve a political system that is often condemned as one of the nation’s most opaque and dysfunctional.

Under the proposed legislation, separate oversight bodies would be created to monitor the executive branch, the legislative branch and lobbyists. It was the plan to create two new legislative oversight commissions that drew the most criticism on Wednesday. The panels would consist entirely of members selected by legislative leaders, a provision that some, including members of the Paterson administration, said would render the commissions ineffective. “This proposal does nothing to address the underlying issues that have caused the people of New York to lose faith and trust in their government,” said the governor’s spokesman, Peter E. Kauffmann. Mr. Paterson, in his State of the State address last week, proposed a far more sweeping plan that would centralize ethics enforcement in Albany with a single independent commission responsible for enforcing the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws. Legislators acknowledged that their plan could have gone further, but insisted that the agreement represented the best hope for near-term progress, especially when it came to the difficult task of convincing rank-and-file lawmakers to vote for broader scrutiny of themselves. “This is what we know the members will vote for,” said Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker. Senator Daniel L. Squadron, a Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, said, “It is better to have a good bill than a perfect press release.”

Legislative oversight would be handled by two bodies. One would resemble the current Legislative Ethics Commission, which is made up of legislators and nonlegislators. The commission would be responsible for issuing advisory opinions on matters involving possible misconduct and imposing penalties. Its work would be supplemented by a new entity called the Legislative Office of Ethics Investigation, an investigative body composed of eight members appointed by the legislative leaders. Each of the four leaders would appoint two members, making the breakdown even between Republicans and Democrats. It would conduct investigations and forward its findings to the primary legislative commission. If its investigation determined there was wrongdoing, its findings would be made public even if the primary commission reached a different conclusion. The proposal would also make changes to other areas of state ethics law.

The current oversight arm responsible for investigating campaign finance irregularities, the Board of Elections, would be freed from restrictions that make it difficult to begin an investigation. Currently the law requires the approval of three of four board members to begin an investigation. The new regulations would instead require three votes to stop an investigation started by the board’s chief investigator. Those votes would then have to be made public. The plan would also require all lawmakers to publicly disclose their outside income by categories, the lowest being $1,000 to $5,000 and the highest more than $1 million.

But in what critics consider to be a major loophole, legislators who are lawyers — a significant portion of senators and Assembly members, including Mr. Silver and the Senate Democratic leader, John L. Sampson — would not have to disclose who their clients are and how much they are being paid. Instead, businesses and other entities that lobby state government would be required to disclose any significant payment made to a lawmaker for any purpose, including legal advice. The bill’s supporters said that such a provision would allow the public a more revealing view of lawmakers’ outside business dealings, including legal work that is otherwise exempt from scrutiny. While the disclosure requirements, like most elements of the plan announced on Wednesday, may not be as far-reaching as government watchdog groups had hoped for, some considered it an improvement on the status quo. “This bill allows us to put more dots on the page and connect some of those dots,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “It may not connect all the dots, but it shows us the relationships that have been previously hidden.”

Politics Turns Ours Courts Into Corrupt Patronage Mills

Brooklyn's Old Guard political fixers will have to answer to the New Guard
The New York Daily News by Errol Louis - January 14, 2010

In a state that desperately needs a political overhaul and fresh blood, it's welcome news that some Brooklyn reformers are organizing an effort to confront Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who doubles as Democratic Party boss. As always in Kings County, the battle revolves around courthouse politics. Lopez recently jammed an unqualified crony named Pamela Fisher onto the Civil Court bench, in an unusually ham-fisted display of power that should disturb everyone. Fisher, who spent years as an employee in the assemblyman's social service empire, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, completed law school nearly two decades ago but has never practiced law. Her résumé includes a drift from one low-ranking government post to another and unsuccessful runs for City Council and Assembly. After 19 years of avoiding the practice of law, she suddenly landed an $85,000-a-year job as a clerk to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Mark Partnow. And with nine months of legal experience, she ran unopposed for Civil Court with Lopez's blessing, winning a 10-year term as a judge at a $125,600 annual salary. That has reform-minded Brooklyn pols and activists furious.

"Vito Lopez has turned the courts into a patronage mill," says the Rev. Taharka Robinson, an activcist and son of Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, a party district leader. "This was somebody who had almost no legal experience, and didn't even submit paperwork to the screening panel. But the county leader endorsed her," says attorney Jo Anne Simon, a Democratic district leader. This sort of foolishness was supposed to have ended in recent years. Following a wave of scandals that saw several judges censured, bounced from the bench and/or packed off to prison, the county organization agreed to have candidates go before a screening panel. The panels themselves are far from perfect. But they at least offer a semblance of honest review and enable the public to spot party manipulation.

Fisher didn't even bother putting her thin résumé before the panel, making a mockery of the notion of basing judicial nominations on merit. She also failed to file any of the required preelection paperwork showing where her campaign funds came from. Lopez says his support for Fisher is based on his capacity as a Bushwick-based political club leader supporting an ally, and was not an exercise of his power as county boss. That won't satisfy Brooklyn's restless reformers. Robinson is staging a protest in front of the party's Court St. headquarters at 1 p.m. today and will call for Lopez to quit. He may be joined by members of the New Kings Democrats, a group of young, pro-reform grass-roots activists. Last fall, the club ran dozens of candidates for county committee, slowly becoming party foot soldiers who are sure to rise in influence. "We're trying to build a new infrastructure," says 25-year-old Lincoln Restler, a New Kings vice president. The turmoil is welcome and long overdue. One way or another, Brooklyn is showing what the rest of New York State is learning: fixing what's wrong in Albany and City Hall and the courts starts with reforming politics at the grass roots.

Judge Sued for Having Court Spectator Arrested "On a Hunch"

Man sues Dickson judge for forcing a drug test
The Dickson Herald ( by D. Frank Smith - January 5, 2010
Court spectator asking for $1.5 million in restitution for incident

A man is suing a Dickson County judge, the sheriff and a handful of deputies for allegedly violating his civil rights when the judge ordered him to take a drug screening. The incident occurred in General Sessions Judge Durwood Moore's courtroom in January of 2008. Benjamin Marchant was a spectator in the courtroom that day, waiting to give a friend a ride home. Moore ordered a drug screening on Marchant, and had sheriff's office deputies escort him out of the room to administer the urinalysis. Marchant's drug test came back negative. But even if it were positive, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary ruled in May that Moore had no right to order Marchant to take a drug test. He was censured in May by the board, which is an extension of the Tennessee Supreme Court, for the incident, and his actions were described as illegal and unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed Dec. 30 by Marchant, states that he was afforded no due process before or during his detention, search and seizure as evidence was taken from his body forcibly. "Only a plainly incompetent officer or a knowing participant would have taken place in such unlawful and unconstitutional procedures," according to the lawsuit. The suit also alleges that Moore has issued a written statement that he "routinely drug screens 'spectators' in his courtroom if he 'thinks' they may be under the influence of drugs." Marchant is asking for $1.5 million in restitution for the six claims he brings against Moore, Sheriff Tom Wall and the deputies. The list includes violation of constitutional rights, outrageous conduct, violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A trial date for the case has not yet been set, but a jury has been requested. It will be heard at the U.S. District Court in Nashville.

Blog Archive

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

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2
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