Heated justice in Westchester

Westchester County officials, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a 90-degree day in April does not warrant turning on the air conditioning inside the “climate-controlled” county courthouse building. The stifling heat was a source of aggravation for prosecutors and defense lawyers alike, many of whom were wearing two-piece suits in the oppressive courtrooms and did not want to break decorum by taking off their jackets. 

Also in the courthouse today, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office set up an information table for Crime Victims’ Rights Week with pamphlets about the county’s Victims Justice Center, a booklet about the rights of crime victims in New York State, and the number for the Crime Victim Hotline (1-888-VINE-4-NY). VINE stands for Victim Information & Notification Everyday and is run by the Westchester Department of Correction and the state Sheriffs’ Association Institute, with funding from the state Crime Victims Board.

Check out  the display and get some free chocolates on the table, because justice for victims is sweet.

Sepe murder trial hearings start today

UPDATE: Click here to read about opening statements in the Sepe trial

Pre-trial hearings started this morning in Westchester County Court for Robert Sepe,who is accused of fatally beating his fiancee, Janette Carlucci, with a baseball bat in his Cortlandt home last year. He is charged with second-degree murder, a felony punishable by 25 years to life in prison.

Sepe, who owns a health supplement business, had tried jumping off of a bridge in Binghamton after Carlucci’s death, but state troopers pulled the 53-year-old from the ledge.
Sepe told the troopers that he had been suffering from panic attacks, depression and insomnia in recent months, and that he was taking two psychotropic medications, Elavil and Zoloft, along with medicine to control high blood pressure. We’ll see if the defense plans to use any of this.
Defense lawyer Bruce Bendish is representing Sepe. Assistant District Attorney Tim Ward is prosecuting the case. Westchester Judge Barbara Zambelli is presiding.

Animal cruelty and the courts, Part II

While SCOTUS ponders free speech as it pertains to videos of dog fights, check out this ruling, courtesy of the U.S. Humane Society:

Federal Court Orders Postal Service To Reconsider Mailing of Illegal Animal Fighting Magazines

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2009) A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Postal Service to reconsider whether the mailing of certain animal fighting magazines should be banned by the Postal Service because they violate the federal Animal Welfare Act. The ruling comes in response to a case brought by The Humane Society of the United States challenging the Postal Services denial of The HSUS 2006 legal petition seeking to block the mailing of advertisements for illegal fighting animals, knives and other animal-fighting paraphernalia. 

We are delighted the Court has ordered this review of the Postal Services bizarre open-door policy for the animal-fighting industry, said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president & chief counsel of animal protection litigation for The HSUS. The advertisement and sale of fighting animals and weapons is a federal felony, and American taxpayers should not have to subsidize animal cruelty.

The magazines at issue are frequently packed with advertisements for fighting birds and the implements of illegal fighting such as gaffs and knives (sharp instruments strapped to the birds’ legs). Although illegal in all 50 states, cockfighting remains a multi-million dollar business in the United States, thanks in large part to these publications that facilitate the commerce of the illicit industry.

Magazines like The Feathered Warrior are regularly sent in the U.S. mail to subscribers across the country, and at a special reduced rate subsidized by American taxpayers. Not only do these magazines frustrate federal law enforcement officials efforts to enforce laws against cockfighting, but they also plainly violate the newly enhanced provisions of the Animal Welfare Act.

Section 2156 of the Animal Welfare Act bans the use of the mail service for purposes of advertising an animal, or an instrument described in subsection (e) [cockfighting knives and gaffs], for use in an animal fighting venture, promoting or in any other manner furthering an animal fighting venture. In the course of strengthening this provision in 2007, Congress noted that the animal fighting industry continues to thrive within the United States and that [n]umerous nationally circulated animal fighting magazines still promote these cruel practices, and advertise fighting animals and the accouterments of animal fighting.  

In its decision, the Court noted that [p]ublications like The Feathered Warrior are recovered in seventy-five percent or more of law enforcement raids of illegal animal fights, and that The HSUS is entitled to challenge the Postal Services continued mailing of these materials because [t]he Humane Society has spent decades trying to reduce illegal animal fighting in the United States, and the need to care for animals on an emergency basis is increased by USPSs circulation of The Feathered Warrior . . . .

Cuba, Obama, and Chesimard

A New Jersey state senator wants President Barack Obama to tie normalization of relations with Cuba to the island nation returning convicted cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, who had links to several 1960s radical groups involved with the 1981 Brinks robbery-murders in Rockland.

Sen. Sean Kean argues it’s only fair for Chesimard to serve out her life-sentence for murdering New Jersey State Trooper Trooper Werner Foerster in July 1973 during a shoot-out on the New Jersey Turnpike.  The gun-fight followed a routine traffic stop, when Chesimard and other Black Liberation Army member opened fire on Foerster and another trooper.

Chesimard is accused of shooting Forester execution style in the head.

Chesimard, who changed her name to Assata Shakur, was sentenced to life in prison for murder.

In 1979, her fellow militants busted her out of a women’s prison. In 1983, she turned up in Cuba, celebrated as a revolutionary heroine by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who has been gravely ill and has turned over power to his brother.

In his letter to Obama, Kean wrote: “I am sure you would agree that this murderer of a dedicated law enforcement officer should be made to face the consequences for her cowardly actions that took the life of this brave man. Further, by aiding and abetting this cold-blooded killer, Cuba has insulted our State Police and all members of the law enforcement community.

“As such, for the United States to enter into normal relations with Cuba without requiring Chesimard’s extradition sends the message to the world that we are not committed to pursuing justice for a police officer who was savagely gunned down in the line of duty,” Kean wrote.

“Therefore, I urge you to take action to ensure that any efforts to normalize relations with Cuba are contingent upon the extradition of JoAnne Chesimard to the appropriate authorities in the United States,” the senator said.

Kean’s letter and a <a href=”http://www.petition2congress.com/2/1792/president-obama-extradite-joanne-chesimard-before-signing-relatio/ “>petition to the president is being circulated to law enforcement officers in Rockland and across the country.

Rockland Experts Talk to Albany Officials

Rockland’s leading street gang unit and Youth Bureau official took a ride north yesterday to discuss the problems caused by gangs on youths and society before Assembly panels.

Sheriff’s Investigator Jim Behrens and Youth Bureau Assistant Director Mariann McCarney-Haesch spoke  at an Assembly roundtable discussion exploring ways to prevent gang membership and combat gang activity. Behrens is assigned to the Rockland Intelligence Center’s gang unit.

The discussion featured other  gang prevention experts involved in diversion initiatives, law enforcement, and education and included discussion of social factors that lead to membership in gangs as well as initiatives that have been successful in preventing gang activity, according to Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee’s office.

The participants also discussed the impact of gangs in youth detention facilities, the results of the economy on gang activity and the effect on state and local government gang diversion programs.

Zugibe Pushing Anti-Crime Community Program

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe will promote his office’s  “Community Prosecution” Program  on Tuesday, April 28, before the North Rockland Business Alliance  in Haverstraw Town Hall, 1 Rosman Road, Garnerville at 7:00 pm.

The program is designed to get the community involved in discussing problem areas and solution to problems with prosecutors and police. Zugibe will discussed criminal and quality of life issues, such as strreet gang activity and drug dealing. The forum is free and open to the general public.

You can reached<a href=”http://www.NorthRocklandChamberofCommerce.org”> North Rockland Business Alliance</a> by email at  NRockBA@aol.com or call 845-942-4474.

Zugibe also has established a community prosecution unit in Nyack and wants to establish one in all five towns and other villages.

Janet to warn parents of prom perils

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore is taking a break from prosecuting criminals to speak with area parents tomorrow night about the perils of drinking and driving during prom season.

The Ardsley PTA is hosting the talk, which has been opened to all parents in Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings and other schools, to help them prepare for upcoming proms and social parties, in part by making them aware of what their kids are doing on Facebook and other social internet sites.

Parents can hear what DiFiore has to say starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Ardsley High School cafeteria, 300 Farm Road.

This week in Westchester courts

A pair of sentencings for two men convicted of violent crimes ….

Tomorrow, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli is scheduled to sentence Kenneth West, who was convicted by a jury of brutally killing Josephine O’Keefe in her Pelham apartment in 1983. West is facing 25 years to life for the cold-case slaying, which was brought to trial by newly-discovered DNA evidence. O’Keefe’s daughter, Sue Hupplesberg, is expected to give a victim’s impact statement at the sentencing.  Click here to read the stories about the jury’s verdict.

UPDATE: WEST WAS SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS TO LIFE.

Then, on Thursday, after five (!) delays, state Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler may get to hand down his sentence to Tyrone Haywood, convicted of raping two prostitutes who he picked up near the Mount Vernon/Bronx border. Haywood hired a new lawyer for his sentencing, which has caused the matter to be adjourned over and over again. Click here to read about the case, including the conviction of his girlfriend for evidence tampering.

UPDATE: JUDGE DENIED HAYWOOD’S MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT AND RE-SET SENTENCING FOR APRIL 30.