Alfieri Holding Court in Orange County

Rockland County Court Judge Victor Alfieri always enjoyed holding court in Orange County – on a temporary basis. He’d handle trials in Middletown and Goshen, helping ease court calendars.

Now, the Rockland jurist will be heading north into Orange County on a daily basis. He has been assigned to hear state Supreme Court cases for the next several months. He’s covering for another jurist no longer on the bench.

Though elected by Rockland voters to the County Court a few year ago after a long stint as a Clarkstown justice, Alfieri and all other judges can be reaassiged by the administrative law judge for the 9th Judicial District. It starts with being designated as an acting state Supreme Court justice.

For example, appointed Court of Claims Judge Catherine Bartlett from Orange County has been assigned to hear criminal cases and some civil case in Rockland as an acting state Supreme Court Justices. Bartlett, a former Goshen town judge and Orange County attorney, can’t really hear cases in Orange because her husband is a lawyer and GOP chairman.

Other examples: Rockland County Court Judge William Nelson has long been assigned to civil cases as an acting state Supreme Court justice. State Supreme Court Justice William Kelly has been assigned mostly criminal cases and spent several weeks last year in the Bronx doing trials. Rockland County Court Judge Charles Apotheker had been assigned to Family Court cases and Drug Court supervision, and oversees a court handling non-indictment cases.

So most anything goes when it comes to assigning judges.

Alfieri’s last appearance at the Rockland Courthouse in New City for the time being came Monday afternoon. He will be making periodic appearances in Rockland to handle sentencings – monthly visits in August and September have been scheduled.

Westchester DA fundraising facts

Yesterday, I reported that incumbent District Attorney Janet DiFiore had $420,000 in her campaign war chest. Turns out her opponents are far, far behind. GOP candidate Dan Schorr has about $60,000 in the election piggy bank, while Democratic primary challenger Tony Castro has only $9,200.

DiFiore has some BIG spenders giving money to her campaign. One guy, Dennis S. Hersch of Manhattan (Upper West Side) donated a whopping $26,000 in May — the largest single donation this year. Other five-figure donors included Peter A. Hochfelder of Purchase ($25,000) and Ettore V. Biagioni of Bronxville ($10,000). Many, many people donated between $5,000 and $1,000.

Castro, apparently, isn’t worried about having 2 percent of what DiFiore has to spend. He told my colleague Rich Liebson (who attended his twice-rescheduled press conference today) that he is confident that he’ll have enough money to get his message out before the primary. That could mean some heavy-hitting contributions over the next two months. We’ll see.

Castro had about $80,000 to start the year and raised $22,000. But he spend more than $93,000 — most of that doled out in increments of a few hundred dollars each to more than 90 people who collected signatures for him.

An interesting expense on his campaign finance report: three parking tickets in April from the City of White Plains. Anyone who parks a car in White Plains on a regular basis has gotten the dreaded red ticket on their windshield (myself included). I asked Castro if they were his parking tickets. He said he didn’t know about them. “But I’m sure they were from someone working hard on the campaign,” he added.

Dan Schorr’s numbers are as follows: He started out the year with $118,000, raised nearly $57,000 and spent $115,000. His biggest single expense was a $42,000 loan repayment to Daniel R. Schorr (likely for out-of-pocket expenses paid up front) followed by printing and mailing costs.

An interesting campaign expense from Schorr: $625 on Facebook advertisements. He’s the only candidate of the three who is on Facebook, and he Twitters, too. Funny how none of his ads have ever popped up on my Facebook page. Then again, Schorr isn’t one of my “Facebook friends” — and neither is anyone who I could potentially write about for the newspaper.

DiFiore’s campaign piggy bank

DiFiore has 500,000 reasons to be happy with her campaign fundraising; that’s how many dollars the incumbent Westchester district attorney has raised in her bid for a second term, according to her campaign press office.

She has $420,000 cash on hand to outspend her Democratic opponent, Tony Castro (who postponed his still-mysterious press conference in front of the Board of Elections until tomorrow) and to take on GOP rival Dan Schorr in the fall.

“I am pleased and proud to have broad-based support from so many people throughout Westchester and New York state who appreciate the quality and the integrity of the work I am doing,” DiFiore said in a written statement.  “The list of contributors includes many lawyers and former judges, prosecutors, and police officers who understand the importance of my work.”

We’ll get a list of some of those donors as soon as possible, since today was the deadline to file the mid-year campaign finance report with the New York State Board of Elections.

More support for DiFiore

Looks like more high-profile Democrats are speaking in support of keeping Janet DiFiore as Westchester County’s District Attorney:

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined other Westchester Assembly Democrats at the county’s Democratic Committee headquarters to endorse DiFiore’s re-election bid today in White Plains.

“Janet DiFiore is a tough and intelligent prosecutor who is taking the lead on the issues that matter to the residents of Westchester County – from Child Advocacy to Youth Courts, drug treatment for the addicted, to prisoner re-entry, training and education for law enforcers, to community outreach,” Silver said. “She is a great D.A., and a talented legal mind. And I am proud to endorse her re-election.”

Assembly members Amy Paulin of Scarsdale, Adam Bradley of White Plains, Mike Spano of Yonkers and Sandra Galef of Ossining also praised DiFiore’s work as D.A. over the past 4 years.

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Tony Castro is planning a press conference at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow to “make an announcement about his candidacy” for District Attorney in front of the Board of Elections. I called Castro’s campaign HQ to find out what this is about. I got the machine. And no call back.

Update: Adonis Rape Trial Tomorrow

A 12-member Rockland County Court jury and one alternate have been chosen to determine if Ariste Adonis of Spring Valley raped a 14-year-old girl.
The trial is scheduled to start tomorrow before Judge Victor Alfieri, with opening statements and prosecution witnesses.
Prosecutor Arthur Ferarro said his case will offer several witnesses and could end Wednesday, leaving it up to defense attorney Mitchelll P. Schecter to call witnesses or go to closing statements.
The defense is not required to offer witnesses or put up a defense since the prosecution must prove the rape charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Jury selection was completed late Friday afternoon.
Previous post:
Prosecutors and defense attorney Mitchell P. Schecter are at it again – trying to pick a jury for the trial of Ariste Adonis, who’s charged with raping a 14-year-old girl.
They did choose a jury last month for a trial, only to have one juror, after most of the prosecution testimony, purposely cause a mistrial by telling her fellow panelist that Adonis is guilty and they can all go home. The jurors just heard a tape recording of Adonis talking with the girl about having had sex.
County Court Judge Victor Alfieri had rolled the dice and didn’t seat any alternate jurors, ya know, just in case one juror familiar with the television show “Law and Order” caused a mistrial. Only happens on TV – oops, no!
The juror told this reporter that she caused the mistrial because she felt intimidated by an Adonis’ family member – a woman in her late 60s – in the hallway outside the courtroom. The juror also felt Adonis and the girl had consensual sex, so the juror didn’t believe he raped her, even though she knew the law says it’s statutory rape.
Anyway, Alfieri was forced to dismiss the juror after talking to her and the Adonis family member in court. And with one juror short of the required 12, Alfieri had to declare a mistrial – or as Schecter said, a “do-over.”
Adonis, now 20, of Fred Hecht Drive, was indicted in December on eight counts of second-degree rape, a felony, and two felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual act.
Prosecutors Arthur Ferarro and Jennifer Parietti and Schecter were busy choosing jurors yesterday and today – and doing it very carefully. And hopefully, Alfieri doesn’t gamble and go to trial with two alternates.
The case resumes Tuesday in the Rockland Courthouse in New City.

Criminal Mastermind = Oxymoron

No doubt some of the most interesting people to jaw with over at the Brieant Courthouse are the court security officers led by Tommy Delahanty. They’re veterans of the NYPD, Yonkers and White Plains police departments, among others, who have done more than their 20 and put in their papers. They’ve seen it all, in other words.

Take yesterday’s sentencing of prostitute turned bank robber Christina Dawn Davis, who was sentenced to probation for an October 2007 stickup in Ardsley where she served as the getaway driver. Davis flipped on her co-defendants and has by all accounts done a 180 in her life.

After the sentencing I ran into CSO Connie Montanaro in the courthouse lobby. Bank robberies were a specialty of hers when she worked on the major case squad for the NYPD. She asked about Davis and it called to mind some of the cases she worked on – and the fact that even the most successful and daring bank robbers never quite rise to the pop culture image of bank bandits as sort of land-locked pirates, swimming in swashbuckling smarts.

Take the guy who hit three dozen banks in the city back in the late 80s. When he was finally nabbed, Montanaro questioned him and wondered why he picked off a lot of big banks but skipped over Canadian banks, the Bank of Israel and the Bank of Tokyo – even though they were right in his preferred path along Fifth Avenue.

“Well, those banks are foreign banks, right?” he said.

“Yeah, so?” Montanaro replied.

“They ain’t got any American money in there,” he said.

State Panel: Bartlett Can Stay on Case

A state Appellate Division panel has ruled that acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett can oversee the sexual abuse trial involving Monsey businessman Zalman Silber and fired Ramapo police officer Andrew Dale.
The Appellate Division rejected District Attorney’s Office’s contention  Bartlett had actually recused herself.
Now, all that’s left is for Bartlett to schedule a trial date for either Dale or Silber. She separated their cases.
The sideshow to the trial has been contentious – adding to the rough relations between Bartlett and the District Attorney’s Office under Thomas Zugibe and his predecessor, Michael Bongiorno. Bartlett is a GOP-appointed Court of Claims judge assigned several years ago to Rockland County.
Dale and Silber are accused of performing gynecological exams on Silber’s now-former wife, who testimony the defense contends has been inconsistent and erratic. They each face four felony counts of unauthorized practice of a profession and fourth-degree aggravated sexual abuse.
Dale was fired by the Town Board following a disciplinary hearing after which the hearing officer recommended a year’s suspension without pay. His firing came a day after his indictment. Dale has filed a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars from the town over his firing.
The recusal issues came about in February when Bartlett informed defense and prosecution lawyers that someone had spoken to her about Silber’s divorce.
Prosecutors argued she recused herself and couldn’t take it back. Defense lawyers contended she offered the option, but never decided to recuse herself.
After several weeks of considering recusal, Bartlett released a 22-page decision presenting her legal arguments to stay on the case, contending she could hear the jury case without bias. The Rockland District Attorney’s Office appealed.
The appellate judges wrote in a June 30 decision that that recusal is a decision “solely within the discretion and personal conscience” of the judge.
Defense attorney David Goldstein, who represents Dale, said today that the panel echoed the contentions of the defendants. Both Silber and Dale felt Bartlett could be fair and wanted Bartlett to remain.
In the Dale-Silber case, Bartlett previously dismissed 24 misdemeanor sexual abuse charges and two counts of official misconduct against Dale. Silber faces separate type of sexual abuse charges on the same issue brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
First Assistant District Attorney James Mellion declined comment on the decision.