County courthouse to host Halloween “party” for sex offenders

UnknownAt this Halloween party, there will be no tricks, no treats and no fun.

That’s because Westchester County officials once again are ordering registered and non-registered sex offenders to leave their homes and go to the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, where they will have to sit and listen to crime victims’ stories.

The county, which started this Halloween program in 2005, mailed notices to 160 sex offenders that they must be at the courthouse in White Plains from 7 to 10 p.m. Probation officers and police will visit those who fail to show.

Two speakers from the county jail’s Resolve to Stop Violence program will talk about how as children they were victims of crime and how such acts can impact the victim’s life.

The state, meanwhile, plans to keep tabs on sex offenders on parole by visiting them in their homes from 4 to 6 p.m. and reminding them that they forbidden from answering the door for trick-or-treaters, wearing a costume or even having Halloween candy.

Parole officers will visit about 1,800 sex offender statewide this year for its “Operation Halloween” program, which is in its 10th year.

Pumpkin photo from Google images

Blink and you’ll miss it

There are hearings in federal court that go on for hours and hours. Yes, I’m looking at you, Bernie-Kerik’s-nearly-four-hour-bail-revocation hearing.

And then there are those hearings whose length is best measured in seconds. Such is the case with today’s 240-second  appearance by Pelham Middle School teacher Gregg Cavaluzzi, nabbed by Westchester County police on May 31 in an Internet sex sting after he allegedly showed up in Elmsford to meet what he thought was a 15-year-old girl he had been chatting to first on the Internet and then on the phone. She turned out to be an undercover detective. Cavaluzzi, who had tendered his resignation from the school district prior to his arrest, was fired after he was charged.

Cavaluzzi’s lawyer, Clinton Calhoun and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Martin are in plea discussions in the case and asked today for another 30 days to continue those talks. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas put the case down for a Nov. 30 hearing.

Then Cavaluzzi was led out by deputy U.S. marshals and back to the Westchester County Jail.

It’s Pro Bono Day!

Today is Pro Bono Day in Westchester County, a day where lawyers are encouraged to waive their fees and fight for impoverished clients. In recognition of the American Bar Association’s first ever National Pro Bono Week, Pace University Law School in White Plains is hosting a day’s worth of programs and activities for attorneys who want to take on the challenge of pro bono work.

Later tonight, state Supreme Court Justice Francis A. Nicolai will be among those to receive the “Partners In Justice Award” during a reception starting at 5:30 p.m. Nicolai, the presiding judge of the Appellate Term for the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, will be honored alongside attorneys Barbara Lerman, Julie Cvek, Robert Byrne, Dawn Arnold and the law firm of McCarthy Fingar LLP in the Omni Room of the Judicial Institute.

Sponsors include Pace Law School Center for Career Development, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, The Westchester County Pro Bono Committee, Westchester County Bar Association, Westchester Women’s Bar Association, Westchester Black Bar Association, Brandeis Bar Association, Columbian Bar Association, and bar associations in White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers.

New court date for cross burner Hudak

tjndc5-5raoeh1omttzzed1g0k_thumbnailThe case of convicted cross burner Christopher Hudak, who violated his probation by skipping anger management classes and performing only 7 hours of his 1,000 hours of required community service, will return to Westchester County Court for a conference on Nov 10. Hudak was scheduled for a court appearance on Tuesday, but it was rescheduled at the request of his attorney, who has been out of town.

Hudak, a 21-year-old from Cortlandt, is accused of associating with white supremacists while serving his six-month sentence in the county jail and posting hate speech on the Internet. He is being held on $250,000 bail.

Hudak and an accomplice, Ryan A. Martin, admitted to building a 4-foot wood cross – a symbol of racial terrorism and hatred associated with the Ku Klux Klan – and setting it ablaze at the Artope home on Nov. 21, 2007 – the day before Thanksgiving. They burned the cross after then-15-year-old Timothy Artope was involved in a fight earlier with Hudak’s younger sister and another girl at Hendrick Hudson High School.

Timothy Artope told police the fight was provoked by the girls and he hit Danielle Hudak after she used a racial slur.

Hudak and Martin, also 21, pleaded guilty to three felonies, the top one a hate crime, and a misdemeanor arson count. Hudak also pleaded guilty to intimidating a witness. Martin spent to four weekends in jail and complied with his 300 hours of community service.

Maybe it’s an H1N1 concern

tjndc5-5rigbxw7i6c7porwjn1_layoutThis is from my Journal News colleague Gerald McKinstry, who witnessed this exchange in the parking lot of News12 in Yonkers:

Apparently after Tuesday night’s debate at News12, Republican Dan Schorr approached his opponent, Janet DiFiore, and offered to shake her hand. DiFiore, the incumbent district attorney, passed on that, as did her husband, who told Schorr, “Your 15 minutes are up.”

Schorr maintains that DiFiore had refused to shake his hand throughout the campaign.

Photo: DiFiore, left, and Schorr, right, at an earlier debate at Pace University.

Schubert hearing re-skedded

Lawyers for a World War II veteran will be in court Dec. 8 for a hearing in the $5 million federal lawsuit that claims the City of Rye violated the man’s civil rights in an ongoing battle over a neighbor’s drainage system. The case had been scheduled for a pre-motion conference on Dec. 2.

Bob Schubert, 86, says in his suit the city failed to make sure his neighbor got proper permits before installing the system. Schubert says the drainage system dried up his 20,000-gallon pond. The suit claims the city inflicted emotional distress as well as shock and emotional scarring in addition to depriving him property, privacy and speech.

The battle over Schubert’s dried up pond grew in intensity when former City Manager Paul Shew sent a mental health team from Westchester Medical Center to Schubert’s home saying he was worried about Schubert’s health.

Post postponed.

The sentencing of former Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Constance “Gerrie” Post and her businessman boyfriend Wayne Charles has been pushed off again. Both Post and Charles have new lawyers. Post has retained Clinton “Chip” Calhoun and Charles has hired Richard Willstatter. Post was represented by Andy Rubin and Ken Saltzman at her trial in March year where she was convicted of illegally conspiring with Charles to steer more than $2.3 million in municipal contracts and federal funds to his businesses. Charles was represented by Richard Ware Levitt.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas has retained the Nov. 12 court date for the case, but not for sentencing. There will be a hearing that day to determine if Calhoun is barred by conflicts from representing Post. His law partner, Kerry Lawrence, represented John Cavallaro, a lawyer who worked for the city and testified for the prosecution at Post and Charles’ trial.

No new sentencing date has been set. Post and Charles each face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Kerik hearing cancelled

Bernie Kerik’s hearing in federal court in White Plains was cancelled by Judge Stephen C. Robinson at the last minute today. Kerik was in the U.S. Marshals’ holding cells in the basement of the building where he huddled for more than an hour with his lawyers, Barry Berke and Michael Bachner. Neither Kerik’s lawyers nor a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office knew why the hearing was adjourned. The judge’s courtroom deputy also did not give a reason for the cancellation.

Kerik was not given a new date in White Plains. But his lawyers will be before a federal appeals panel in Manhattan tomorrow to argue for his release from Westchester County Jail. Robinson ordered Kerik jailed after ruling he had violated a court order by leaking confidential documents turned over to the defense by federal prosecutors.

Kerik’s trial on public corruption charges is still scheduled for Nov. 9. But that, of course, is subject to change. His trial date has been postponed twice in the last month.

Hearing set in Zherka suit vs. Manhattan ADA

U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel has set a hearing date of Nov. 20 in newspaper publisher/strip club owner Sam Zherka’s lawsuit against a Manhattan assistant district attorney named Matthew Bogdanos on motions to dismiss the lawsuit. Zherka claims that Bogdanos launched a criminal probe of the owner of the Westchester Guardian at the behest of Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore because of unflattering pieces about DiFiore and her husband Dennis Glazer that were published in the paper. Bogadanos denies the claim as have DiFiore and her husband.

Bogdanos claims in court papers filed in federal court in White Plains that he has never met DiFiore or Glazer. But Dhyalma Vazquez, secretary of Westchester’s Independence Party, said in a sworn affidavit that she met Bogdanos at DiFiore’s house during a campaign event during her first campaign for district attorney in 2005. DiFiore, Glazer, and Bogdanos have all submitted sworn affidavits saying that’s a lie.

What’s not a lie is that there was a criminal probe by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in 2006 connected to Zherka. Bogdanos has submitted court papers regarding wiretaps approved by a state court for three numbers connected to Zherka, his business, and a business associate named Genaro Morales in the spring of 2006.

No criminal charges have ever filed against Zherka, who lives in Katonah, in connection with that probe.

Kerik’s legal muscle again at issue

Bernard Kerik's jail mug shot

Bernard Kerik's jail mug shot

Former NYPD Commisioner Bernie Kerik will be back in court this afternoon where federal prosecutors are expected to lay out their reasons why they think Judge Stephen C. Robinson should conduct a hearing to determine if Kerik’s lawyers Barry Berke and Eric Tirschwell are barred by potential conflicts from representing Kerik.

It’s deja vu all over again for the former presidential nominee for secretary of Homeland Security now known in Valhalla as Inmate #210717. Federal prosecutors got his last lawyer, Ken Breen, bounced from the case the same way. Breen, it turns out, is a potential witness in the case.

Whatever the outcome of the case, Kerik can’t complain he had a lack of talent working on his side of the aisle.  Breen’s bona fides include 10 years  as a federal prosecutor, part of which was a stint as the deputy chief of the securities and business fraud section in the US Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. And his current lawyers hardly represent a step down: Berke has been recognized as one of  the 50 best litigators in the country under the age of 45 by the magazine The American Lawyer. Tirschwell was recognized last year by Lawdragon as one of the 500 best lawyers in the country.

And all that doesn’t even include headline-making defense lawyer Joe Tacopina who represented Kerik when he was prosecuted by the Bronx D.A.’s office and in the early stages of the federal investigation. Tacopina, fresh off his successful defense of  state senator Hiram Monserrate against felony charges stemming from the slashing of his girlfriend, is expected to be called by federal prosecutors to testify against Kerik.