Ramapo GOP Supervisor Hopeful Back on Primary Ballot – For Now

Robert Romanowski got back on the ballot today for the Sept. 15 Republican Party nomination for Ramapo supervisor against Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, a Democrat.

State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey reversed herself after a hearing today for Romanowski and his supporters explained alterations to his nominating petitions.

Garvey originally nullified the petitions but the Appellate Division on appeal ordered her to hold a hearing and consider evidentiary evidence. State election law allows nullification if the change goes unexplained. If there’s an explaination, the petition could be held valid.

Garvey ordered another hearing Tuesday on whether Romanowski’s petitions were notarized by a supporter, Michael Parietti, licensed to be a notary by New York. Lawyers for St. Lawrence and the Ramapo Democratic Party challenged the notarization.

The question comes down to whether Paretti has a business in New York since he moved out of the state and then moved back. The question is whether his notary license is still valid because he moved.

GOP Elections Commission Joan Silvestri said Garvey ordered Romanowski back on the ballot, pending the results of Tuesday’s hearing. The Rockland Board of Elections had upheld his petitions before the papers were taken before Garvey.

SIlvestri said the board is facing a deadline for the Sept. 15 primary to get ballots prepared for voters. If Garvey boots Romanowski from the ballot on Tuesday, then the county will pay the expense of making the changes, she said.

“It’s costly,” she said. “We have to follow the court’s order.”

Castro’s Labor Day press conference

Who holds a press conference on Labor Day? Apparently Tony Castro, who is challenging Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary:

This was the email from the Castro campaign this afternoon:

“Please be advised there will be a press conference at the Tony Castro Headquarters at 10:30 am on September 7th. Thank you for your continued interest.”

With the Democratic primary less than two weeks away, I can’t imagine what this will be about.

The battle of the shield

Democrat Tony Castro, who posing a primary challenge to Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, got ensnared in his own criticism over her use of the DA’s shield on her campaign website.

This was Castro’s press release, edited for length:

Castro: DiFiore Use of State Coat of Arms in Campaign is Illegal

Tony Castro today called upon the Attorney General to intervene and stop District Attorney Janet DiFiore from using the State coat of arms in her campaign advertising including her web-site, literature, television advertising and signage.  (Under state law — see legal background below — the State coat of arms can be used only for official business unless a specific statutory exception is made.)

“It’s hard to say what is more disturbing – the fact that despite being the District Attorney Janet DiFiore ignores the law or in the alternative that she is ignorant of the law,” Castro said.

“In the 1990s, the then Attorney General stopped The Fraternal Order of New York State Troopers from using the State coat of arms on their stationery because they are a private organization,” Castro said. “If it is illegal for The Fraternal Order of New York State Troopers to use the State coat of arms in their advertising, then it is illegal for Janet DiFiore to use it in her political campaign advertising.  The pertinent law has not changed.”

General Business Law §136 provides, in pertinent part, “Any person who: a. … shall place or cause to be placed … any advertisement, of any nature upon any flag, standard, color, shield or ensign of … the state of New York … or shall expose or cause to be exposed to public view any such flag, standard, color, shield or ensign … to which shall be attached, appended, affixed or annexed … any advertisement of any nature … shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” The Attorney General of New York has held that General Business Law §136 (a recodification of Penal Law §1425) prohibits the use of the coat of arms for advertising purposes unless the advertising matter is official in character and authorized and provided for by statute (1930 N.Y. Op. Att’y Gen. 115; 1934 N.Y. Op. N.Y. Att’y Gen. 331; 1979 Op. N.Y. Att’y Gen. 63. The New York A.G. has also opined that the enforcement of this statute is for the District Attorney (1947 Op. N.Y. Att’y Gen. Dec. 12).

Now comes the irony … DiFiore’s campaign manager, Mary Kornman, pointed out that not only can DiFiore lawfully display the shield of the office she now holds, BUT THAT CASTRO PUT THE DA SHIELD ON HIS OWN WEBSITE!

“Mr. Castro’s credibility is strained beyond tolerance when he objects to the use of the shield of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, at the same time that he displays the very same shield on the home page of his own campaign website,” Gorman said.

Coincidentally, the shield has been removed from Castro’s website.

Appeals Judges Tell Garvey To Allow Ramapo Supervisor Hopeful a Ballot Hearing

A Ramapo Republican candidate for supervisor could get a second shot at getting his name on the Sept. 15 primary ballot.

A state Appellate Division panel yesterday told Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey to allow Robert Romanowski  a hearing. He can then offer evidence to explain the alterations on his nominating petitions.

Garvey scheduled the hearing for tomorrow morning in her courtroom at the Rockland Courthouse in New City.

Garvey had ruled the uninitialed and unexplained changes to witnesses statements disaqualified Romanowski’s petitions. The decision also booted Mark Lehr from the Republican primary ballot for town judge. He remains off the ballot even the appellate panel decision.

State election law allows nullification if the change goes unexplained. If there’s an explaination, the petition could be held valid.

“Romanowski was not afforded an opportunity to offer evidence relating to these alterations,” the panel ruled. “Under these circumstances, we remit the matter to the [*2]Supreme Court, Rockland County, for an evidentiary hearing on the uninitialed alterations at issue, and thereafter for a new determination of that branch of the petition which was to invalidate the designating petition insofar as it relates to Romanowski.”

Garvery’s ruling left Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, a Democrat, running unopposed on the Republican ballot line. Romanowski wants to challenge St. Lawrence for the GOP line.

Romanowski remains off the ballot until he petitions Garvey for a hearing.  Garvey could decide against him at the hearing.

The Rockland Board of Elections had upheld his petitions before the papers were taken before Garvey.

The Appellate Division ruling is here.

Correction on Bartlett’s Decision Involving SV Man Charged with Gang Assault

Sept. 4 Correction:

Acting state Supreme Court Judge Catherine Bartlett didn’t find Victor Dempsey not guilty of criminal charges, but her ruling provided the same result of dismissing the charges.

Bartlett issued a trial order of dismissal involving the case against Dempsey, charged with first-degree gang assault and other charges. Her decision came weeks after the non-jury trial ended when the defense attorney asked that the case be dismissed for failing to sufficiently prove the charges.

Bartlett dismissed the indictment counts without a verdict on Wednesday because she viewed the evidence was insufficient to support the charges.

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Acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett today announced she found Victor Dempsey not guilty of first-degree gang assault charge resulting from a fight between two street gangs at a Spring Valley apartment building in December.

Six other men had pleaded guilty to the charge and received state prison sentences from Bartlett, who heard testimony and saw evidence, including surveillance tapes, in a non-jury trial by Dempsey.

After several weeks of delays, Bartlett announced her verdict but did not issue a written decision outlining her reasoning, other than to say the prosecution failed to prove its case. Bartlett had allowed statements and other evidence against Dempsey following pre-trial hearing.

Her decision is final and non-appealable. Defense lawyer David Narain didn’t return telephone messages seeking comment.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said he was working on a statement. Prosecutor Stephen Moore was on vacation and didn’t attend the verdict announcement.

Promised Sentences Can Be Revoked

Promised prison sentences are not forever from judges. All it takes is for the defendant or his/her lawyer to say, “No.”

Well, acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett got to say, the “court’s promised sentence revoked” several times this morning during her weekly calendar of cases.

Usually, a promised sentence is a bit less in years than the penalty if convicted after trial. Of course, if defendants believe they are not guilty, then turning down a plea offer is right move.

Today, Tyler Mix turned down a “promised” 15 years in prison from Bartlett in exchange for a plea of guilty to second-degree attempted murder in a shooting of another man in Spring Valley in later June. Police apparently have a statement from him and his girlfiend.

The next step is for his lawyer, Barry Weiss, to try and suppress statements and other evidence before trial. He could face 25 years in prison.

Tyrone Ormond turned down 3 1/2 years for a second-degree robbery guilty plea. His lawyer, Gary Eisenberg, told the judge he’s still negotiating with the prosecution. Prosecutor Dominic Crispino said he would listen, but doesn’t see the offer changing.

Verdict in Dempsey Gang Assault Case Re-set for Tomorrow

Victor Dempsey today got A 24-hour reprieve from learning if Judge Catherine Bartlett found him guilty of first-degree gang assault stemming from an attack on rival street gang members in December at a Spring Valley apartment building.

Bartlett, an acting state Supreme Court judge, had set today for her verdict announcement, after putting it off for Aug. 18 and on an earlier date after the non-jury trial.

Tomorrow is now the day, according to a hand-written note next to Dempsey’s case on Bartlett’s calendar, which is thumb-taxed to a board outside her courtroom at the Rockland Courthouse in New City. Prosecutor Stephen Moore came in from vacation on Aug. 18 and has been willing to make himself available for the judge’s announcement.

Dempsey stood trial before Bartlett on accusations of taking part in a brawl among Spring Valley Bloods and Crips during which a rival Crip suffered 150 stitches across his face and other injuries. The prosecution evidence included Dempsey’s statements to police and surveillance tape showing him carrying a gun inside the apartment building at 150 Liberty Parkway in Spring Valley.

While six of his friends pleaded guilty to first-degree gang assault and received state prison sentence, Dempsey opted for a non-jury trial. He faces more than a dozen years in prison if convicted.

All the suspects were caught on surveillance video entering the apartment building, some armed with a machete, knives, a gun, a metal pipe, BB gun, and brass knuckles.

For Schorr: DA misleading folks about Sanchez plea

Dan Schorr won’t let this one go.

Schorr, the Republican candidate for Westchester County District Attorney, held a second press conference today about the Aug. 18 plea agreement for convicted girlfriend beater David Sanchez.

Schorr, who has criticized DA Janet DiFiore for “easy plea bargains,” produced a transcript from Sanchez’s sentencing that he said refutes the DA’s claim that there was no reduced plea and that the DA’s office was not involved in the decision to hand Sanchez a five-year sentence.

Sanchez, who was a psych patient at Sunset House in Thornwood, was dating one of the counselors there when one night, he held her captive in her own car, torturing her for hours and threatening to kill her. Sanchez was indicted for attempted murder and other felonies, but the DA’s office allowed him to plead to felony assault. Read the story here.

The sentence was criticized by the victim in her written statement to the court, and lambasted by those who read the story on LoHud.com. Schorr called a press conference a few days later and publicly joined the critics.

DiFiore’s office then sent out a written statement arguing that first-degree assault and attempted murder are equal under the law: “There was no reduced plea in this case. Mr. Sanchez plead guilty to assault in the first degree, a “B” violent Felony, the highest level of crime charged in his indictment. Assault in the first degree carries the same penalty as attempted murder and the same penalty that would have been imposed had Mr. Sanchez been found guilty after a trial. As Mr. Schorr must be aware, on top charge convictions, the Court makes sentence determinations, not the District Attorney’s office.”

Today, Schorr pointed to the transcript showing that three different times, the prosecutor refers to the plea deal as a “negotiated plea” and the judge referred to the case as an “agreed-upon plea.” Schorr argued that this proves the DA’s office agreed to the five-year sentence and that the judge was simply honoring the plea deal that was negotiated by both sides.

He also noted that Sanchez asked to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial — where a jury could have given him the max — but the prosecution objected, opting for the 5-year agreement.

“Her office released misleading and false statements,” he said. “That’s unconscionable.”

Click here to read the transcript of the sentencing. WARNING: Some parts of the transcript are graphic descriptions of violence by the victim.