Terror indictment filed in Manhattan

An Indian national living in Queens illegally and another man who is still at large were charged in a federal indictment with attempting to provide guns, ammunition, vehicles, bulletproof vests and night vision goggles to Hizballah, the terrorist group based in Lebanon, federal authorities said today.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced this morning that Patrick Nayyar, 45, had already been arrested last month by the FBI in the Eastern District of New York. Those charges, contained in a criminal complaint, accuse Nayyar of being an illegal alien in possession of a handgun. The other defendant, Conrad Stanisclaus Mulholland, 43, has not yet been arrested.

Federal authorities said the two men agreed to sell the items to a man who they thought was an operative for Hizballah but who actually was an infomant working for the FBI.

Read the indictment here.

To jail or not to jail

Judge Stephen C. Robinson said today that, contrary to a few media reports, he was not “angry” during last week’s hearing where he ordered former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik jailed for slipping confidential court docs to a New Jersey lawyer who used them to formulate an email sent to but never printed in the Washington Times.

I’m going to take the judge at his word and must admit having seen him, shall we say, more animated in his disappointment at other times (the defense’s opening argument in the James Curley trial jumps to mind.)

In addition, I guess it’s hard to accuse a judge of being irate when he off the top of his head recites, flawlessly, a Shakespearean sonnet in reference to a defendant. Robinson  reached for the Bard’s No. 29 in explaining that he thought Kerik saw himself as an unfairly castigated man. It goes a little something like this:

“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,

Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”

One of Kerik’s lawyers, Michael Bachner, duly impressed, sheepishly admitted the only line of Shakespeare he knew by heart was from Hamlet. (“To thine own self be true.”)

Robinson, as quick a wit as you’ll find on any bench, replied, “What about, ‘First kill all the lawyers.'”

New name for part of Pace Law School

The entrance of a new classroom building at Pace University Law School has been named the The Cuddy & Feder Grand Foyer, in appreciation for the law firm’s years of support and contributions. Partners of the firm and Pace faculty unveiled the name today at a reception at the White Plains law school.

The firm, also based in White Plains, has given financial support to the law school’s annual leadership award dinner, its Land Use Law Center, the Real Estate Law Institute and the Women’s Justice Center. The firm also has hired many Pace Law alumni, and attorneys at the firm have volunteered for the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition and the school’s mentoring program, according to a news release.

Cuddy & Feder specializes in real estate litigation, corporate finance, lending, elder law and estate planning. Click here to learn more about the firm and click here to learn more about Pace Law School.

For Schorr: Gang violence game plan

EDITED TO ADD response from District Attorney Janet DiFiore (below)

Westchester District Attorney candidate Dan Schorr announced his plan to tackle gang violence in the county, especially in Yonkers and Mount Vernon, where murders and gun violence are high.

If elected, he said, he would:
• Assign experienced prosecutors to high-crime jurisdictions for longer periods of time.
• Establish a Zero Tolerance Policy for gang-related and/or violent offenses involving handguns. If a criminal is convicted of a violent gun crime, (s)he would go to state prison, not the county jail. Repeat violent offenders would get consecutive, not concurrent sentences.
• Assign the same prosecutor or team of prosecutors from beginning to end, instead of changing at different stages of the case, so help them understand the complexities of a case and complicated nature of gangs.
• Hold off on giving plea deals until notifying the arresting officer(s).
• Send prosecutors and criminal investigators into local schools to teach a comprehensive anti-gang program to increase gang awareness and point out the legal punishments for gang offenses.
• Combat the “anti-snitch” attitude on the street, in part by reinvigorating the Crimestoppers program and developing a stronger witness protection program.
• Work with the corrections and probation officers to identify and monitor known gang members, as well as those at high risk of joining a gang.
• Hold convicted gang members responsible for violating probation curfews, drug use, and other criminal activity.
• Develop standard questions for police to ask anyone they arrested to determine if the arrestee is part of a gang or has information about gang activity.
• Improve ties with federal law enforcement agencies that have the resources and intelligence to help investigate gang activity in Westchester.

“This plan to reduce gang violence is a result of my experience prosecuting violent crime in New York City and Westchester, and from talking with local police, community, and religious leaders to create a realistic and achievable approach to making our streets safer from gangs,” Schorr said. “We can’t bury our heads in the sand from this growing problem, and I’m confident that a multi-pronged solution such as the one I’ve proposed will result in a real reduction of dangerous gang activity in our county.”

And this is what DiFiore had to say about his plan:

“Dan Schorr displays a complete lack of understanding of how gang-related violent crime is currently handled by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and, indeed, how cases are investigated by the police and prosecuted by my office. Just as he fails to grasp the facts of cases he continually comments on in this race, his so-called plan demonstrates he has no idea what has been going on in the law enforcement community over the last four years.

For Schorr: More cop endorsements

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UPDATED FROM OCT. 14: SCHORR HAS WON ENDORSEMENTS FROM WHITE PLAINS, RYE, SLEEPY HOLOW PBAs.

GOP candidate Dan Schorr has scored another endorsement in his bid for District Attorney, this time from the Westchester County Police Retired Officers. He recently held a press conference lauding the endorsement of the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association and was endorsed earlier by the PBA of Westchester.

In a press release from Schorr’s campaign, the retired officers group cited issues such as lenient plea bargains to violent criminals as its reasons for supporting Schorr.

“Dan Schorr knows what it means to be a prosecutor. He has the experience and understanding to prosecute tough cases and keep Westchester residents safe. He will put an end to the easy plea bargains and restore trust between the DA’s office and law enforcement,” retired officers president Steve Hoey said.

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent DA Janet DiFiore has racked up many endorsements from law enforcement types, including PBAs in Mamaroneck, Ossining, Yorktown, Greenburgh, Westchester County Chiefs of Police, Affiliated Police Association of Westchester, two state police groups, state court officers, and two New York City police unions, among others.

The retired officers group also endorsed GOP challenger Rob Astorino for Westchester County Executive.

Haverstraw man convicted of attempted murder on his own words

Raul Johnson’s own words – and his conscience – got him convicted of attempted murder of a now 81-year-old former teacher and a potential prison sentence reaching 25 years.

Johnson, 20,  nearly three years after the stabbing, went to the Clarkstown police to finger the stabber. He convinced the police he knew who did it and the cops believed him and were enlisting him as a confidential informant.

Then, Johnson started changing the facts of the story.

First. the Haverstraw resident told them he saw the stabbing at ShopRite off Route 59 from across the road close to the Palisades Center, then moved himself closer and then closer to the scene.  Eventually, Johnson admitted punching the man and stabbing him, adding one of his friends also stabbed him.

His lawyer, Alan McGeorge, said without the confession, there wasn’t much evidence against Johnson.

Neither the victim or another witness could identify the attackers. The victim was grabbed from behind.

A jury at the Rockland Courthouse in New City convicted him Wednesday afternoon of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.

Prosecutor Dominic Crispino said Johnson’s explanation for the stabbing was he was angry after a fight with his father. Apparently his conscience got the better of him and he went to the police, Crispino agreed.

But Johnson’s change of heart will not prevent Crispino from asking state Supreme Supreme Court Justice William Kelly for an extended prison sentence on Dec. 8. Johnson faces five to 25 years for second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault. He was offered 10 years in prison before trial, so Crispino’s recommendation to Kelly is likely to top that offer.

WWBA judges the judges

The Westchester Women’s Bar Association released its ratings today for the eight candidates running for four judicial seats in the 9th District, which covers Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange and Putnam. Possible ratings are “outstanding,” “well qualified,” “qualified” or “not qualified.”

The WWBA has deemed these candidates “well qualified”
State Supreme Court Justice Orazio Bellantoni
State Supreme Court Justice Francesca Connolly
Westchester County Judge Jeffrey Cohen
Westchester County Judge James Hubert
Hyde Park Town Justice David Steinberg

The group deemed these candidates “qualified”
Pawling attorney Charles “Terry” Stewart
Yonkers City Judge Charles Wood

For Westchester County Court, the WWBA deemed incumbent Judge John P. Colangelo well qualified.
Peekskill City Judge William Maher, who was a late addition to the 9th JD race, was not rated.

The WWBA’s Judicial Screening Committee conducts a personal interview of each candidate and reviews a written questionnaire, a resume, written decisions, legal briefs and other writings. The committee bases its rating on judicial temperament, knowledge of the law, legal writing ability, general reputation, character and fitness, and attitudes towards women’s issues. The panel also considers a candidate’s judicial experience and references from lawyers who have appeared before the candidate or as opposing or co-counsel.

This year, the WWBA Judicial Screening Committee was chaired by attorney Loren I. Glassman and included attorneys Lisa Bluestein, Sylvia Goldschmidt Sandra Kurtz, Roberta Michael, Lucille Oppenheim, Kevin Plunkett, Marilyn S. Reader, Beverley Rogers, Steven A. Swidler and Arlene Gold Wexler.

WWBA is the largest chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, with more than 600 members who live or work in Westchester County and nearby counties.

Guilty verdicts for son, lawyer in Brooke Astor estate case

t=”tjndc5-5bhyfffdwlc12vbr86jw_layout” width=”150″ height=”150″ />The verdicts are in: Anthony Marshall and his lawyer were found guilty of scheming to defraud beloved New York socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor, who died at age 105 at her Briarcliff estate, Holly Hill, in 2007.

Click here to read more about the verdicts and read more about the story in The Journal News and Lohud.com, which will include reaction from Briarcliff residents, some who knew Brooke Astor and others who admired her from a short distance.

Rockland Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Dale

Rockland prosecutors today fell on their own sword  and dismissed sexual abuse charges and other counts against fired Ramapo Police Officer Andrew Dale – killing the controversial case before Judge Catherine Bartlett likely would have after hearing all the testimony in a non-jury trial. Charges also were dismissed against Zalman Silber, a millionaire Monsey businessman.

Prosecutors acted a day after their chief – and only – witness, Sarah Sharon Silber, admitted she had lied on medical and insurance forms, as well as her divorce papers. 

Dale’s defense lawyer, David Goldstein,  then snared her in another lie after she told the judge that she didn’t give massages in New York, where she’s not licensed to rub down bodies. Videos with audio played before the judge showed did three massages in Monsey and The Bronx – results of a sting operation by the defense team of Dale and her accused husband, Zalman Silber.

And her husband’s lawyer, William Aronwald, believes they could have videoed her doing many more massages, since she advertised in New York magazines.

Sarah Silber had accused Dale of performing gynecological, rectal and breast exams on her under strange conditions at her then home in Monsey. The circumstances  included telling her to change  clothing – she chose a evening gown and patterned skirt –  and doing 25 jumping jacks after each of the exams in heels and her underware. She said her then husband watched.

Whether Bartlett believed her  testimony about the examinations, defense lawyers couldn’t say,  but they had gut feelings they were on solid ground.

Aronwald said he believed the judge would have dismissed the case based on the law – there wasn’t evidence to support sexual abuse or practicing medicine without a license. Aronwald said the prosecution’s second mistake was relying on Sarah Silber as the sole witness without obviously vetting her. He said the lies the defense found on her medical and insurance forms were there for the prosecution to find since they had the same documents.

“This case was doomed from the beginning,” Aronwald said. “The DA is in the position of getting an indictment. It’s a tough decision to prosecute. But they didn’t have any corroboration. Dave brought out the lies. Then we had the massage video, which the DA didn’t know about.

“I give them credit  for pulling the plug on this thing before it went any further,” Aronwald said, referring to prosecutors realizing Sarah Silber’s testimony likely convinced Bartlett to dismiss the charges or acquit the two men. He also said his clients claims his former wife threatened to bring charges to  Rockland prosecutors  – and did in December 2007 – after he refused to give her $300,000 more in divorce payments.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe issued the following statement: “Given the development in court yesterday where it became clear that the complaining witness was untruthful under oath in a collateral matter, and persisted when confronted with incontrovertible proof. the District Attorney’s Office felt it could not longer sustain its burden of proof. Therefore, the District Attorney’s Office moved to dismiss in the interest of justice. The District Attorney’s Office has an obligation to seek justice  and insure that only truthful testimony is advanced in court.”

Bartlett was not enamoured with the prosecution’s case from the beginning or Sarah Silber’s testimony during pre-trial hearings.

The judge  already had dismissed 24 misdemeanor sexual counts before the non-jury trial, as well as several felonies for official misconduct against Dale, who had been accused of doing the exams in his police uniform. She and prosecutors fought over whether  she recused herself from the case after a woman discussed the Silbers’ divorce with her. An appeals panel ruled she didn’t and the judge had the discretion to make that decision.

As for Zalman Silber, he still faces charges in Manhattan on accusations of doing gynecological and rectal exams on Orthodox Jewish women at an expensive Manhattan office that he supposedly rented.

Those charges could go the way of the Rockland case. The  misdemeanor sexual abuse coutns against him were dropped as beyond the statute of limitations, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said today. He faces felony counts of unauthorized practice of a profession (medicine)  and unauthorized use of the professional title (doctor).

Another hearing for Zalman Silber  is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Manhattan.