Double-dipping judges

My colleague Jonathan Bandler has an amazing story in today’s paper about how the law allows judges to retire and collect pension while remaining on the bench and collecting a salary. This gives them annual income of more than $200,000, and a loophole around the 11-year wage freeze for state and county judges.

Click here to read more about the completely legal double dipping.

Exoneration by social media

The Times’ Fort Greene blog has a great story about an NYC teenager who was saved by Facebook. Seems Rodney Bradford was collared for a robbery a few weeks ago in Brooklyn. But he claimed he was nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time. Turns out his alibi was a status update he posted on Facebook at the time of the robbery. After issuing subpoena to Facebook and verifying that Bradford posted his update from his father’s apartment in Harlem, Brooklyn prosecutors dropped the charges. Read the entire account here.

Judge: Everything in for Arroyo rape trial

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Neary delivered some bad news today to Jose Arroyo, a retired NYPD detective who is going on trial for allegedly drugging, kidnapping and raping a woman in a Greenburgh motel last year.

Neary is going to allow the jury to see a lot of potentially incriminating evidence against Arroyo, a 47tjndc5-5nhi7putwub1asuilcxw_thumbnail-year-old from the Bronx. They include statements he made to police (he claims the sex was consensual), surveillance video from the Bronx bar where he allegedly slipped the drug into the woman’s drink, and 16 photos he took of the naked, unconscious woman in the motel bed, posed in several positions.

Arroyo’s defense lawyer wanted the photos thrown out, saying police took Arroyo’s camera illegally, and that the photos serve no purpose except to inflame the jury. Prosecutors successfully argued that the pics go to the heart of their case — that the woman was incapable of consent. Neary noted that Arroyo voluntarily turned over the camera to police and never asked that it be returned. However, Neary will review the photos and determine if some of them should be kept out of the jury’s hands.

The defense also had a video expert testify that the bar surveillance video was unreliable, but Neary said he would let the jury determine that. The jury also will learn about DNA evidence found on the motel sheets that match both Arroyo and the woman.

And no, you’re not seeing double. The mug shots of Arroyo were scanned into our computer system this way, so this is how he’ll appear until our technical gurus at can fix the glitch.

Arroyo rape trial hearings begin

Pre-trial hearings opening today in the case of Jose Arroyo, a retired New York City police detective accused of drugging and raping a woman at a Greenburgh motel a year ago.

Arroyo, 47, is facing a five-count indictment for rape, kidnapping and assault and up to 25 years in state prison on the top counts. He is accused of chatting up the 31-year-old Texas woman Nov. 14 at Doyle’s Pub in the Bronx and slipping a drug in her drink that caused her to pass out. Prosecutors say her then took the unconscious woman to the Alexander Motel on Tarrytown Road in Greenburgh, beat and raped her. The woman, after waking up the next morning, grabbed a key and tried using it on several cars in the parking lot. That prompted the motel manager to call  Greenburgh police.

At today’s evidentiary hearing before acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Neary, a Greenburgh police officer testified that the woman was “clearly distraught … mostly scared” when she told him that she woke up with a man she didn’t know and had no idea how she got to the motel. The woman had visible bruises and scrapes to both cheekbones, the officer said. When police entered the room, they found Arroyo sleeping and the butt of a handgun sticking out from a pillow next to him. They took the giun and told him he could have it back after he sobered up.

Arroyo claims the sex was consensual, but authorities say she was incapable of consent because she was physically helpless because of the drug. Prosecutors say they have videotape showing Arroyo spiking the woman’s drink, stirring it up and handing her the glass when she returned to the bar.

Assistant District Attorneys Christine Cervascio and Patricia Murphy are prosecuting the case. Defense lawyer Peter Tilem is representing Arroyo.

Guns + trash can + conflicting stories = acquittal

Vance Major is a happy man today, having been found not guilty of gun charges that his attorney said could have sent the Yonkers convict to prison for 30 years.

Major, 29, has two prior felony convictions – a 2000 weapons charge and a 2006 drug possession charge – and was on trial for felony gun  charges after plainclothes police officers said they saw Major toss two guns into a trash can on Oliver Street the night of Sept. 10, 2008.

Other people hanging around the area said they saw Major ditch the guns in the garbage as well, but the jury chose to believe two other witnesses who testified that they were with Major that night and he had no part in any gun-tossing. The panel dismissed the entire five-count indictment.

In what will be entered as the Understatement of the Year, his attorney, the indefatigable Barry Warhit,  said his client was “relieved” by the verdict, adding that Major “is anticipating getting on with his life.”

Non-political people wanted for judicial nominating panel

The New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination is looking for volunteers to fill two vacancies on its board.

To qualify, the volunteers cannot hold any office in any political party. Bar associations and civic groups are encouraged to recommend “highly qualified individuals” for the posts.

One nominee would fill out a term ending on March 31 and will be chosen by Gov. David A. Patterson. The other nominee would be on the board a bit longer, to March 2013, and will be chosen by Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb.

Those interested can call Patterson’s office  at 518-474-8390 and Kolb’s office at 518-455-3751.

Insider trading, Act II

For the second time in three weeks, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara held a press conference to announce the filing of charges against several Wall Street execs in an ongoing investigation into insider trading on the street.

And once again, the feds’ have charged a Westchester man in connection with the alleged schemes.

Michael Kimelman, 38,  of Larchmont, who founded Incremental Capital, was accused of  securities fraud and conspiracy in one of  eight criminal complaints and felony information documents that were announced today. Kimelman was arrested by FBI agents at his home this morning.

The first shoe in the case dropped Oct. 16 when Bharara  announced the arrests of  six executives in connection with a $20 million insider trading case. Among those charged was Mark Kurland of Mount Kisco. The former president of a hedge fund company was charged along with one of the wealthiest men in the world, Raj Rajaratnam and now-former IBM executive Robert Moffat in the case.

This latest case was built on informants, wiretaps and intercepted phone calls — the staples of drug, organized crime, and anti-terrorism cases. It used to be that white collar cases were painstakingly built on reams of documents. That looks like it’s changing under Bharara as the feds appear willing to employ more aggressive tactics in rooting out white collar corruption.

Read the release from Bharara’s office here.

Still in the game

A common refrain about federal law enforcement post-9/11 is that the feds are no longer in the business of fighting the illegal drug trade. It was repeated several times on the greatest television show ever — “The Wire.”  Anti-terrorism and the Wall Street meltdown with its associated financial scandals may indeed have focused the feds’ resources elsewhere. But that  doesn’t mean federal agents and prosecutors aren’t still in the game.

Just ask the 53 Bronx residents charged in six sweeping federal indictments aimed at the crack and heroin trade in two Bronx housing projects. Some 450 federal agents and New York City cops descended upon the Morrisania section of the Bronx this morning to corral more than three dozen of the accused. And the feds used all the weapons at their disposal in the investigation —wiretaps, informants, undercover officers — to build the case that resulted in the execution of 22 search warrants this morning and the seizure of $18,000, four guns, and 1000 bags of heroin.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called a press conference to announce the arrests, the third such news event since he was sworn in last month. The first two were connected to white collar cases.  Read the release issued by Bharara’s office here.