Judge Wetzel retiring

State Supreme Court Justice William Wetzel is leaving the black robes behind for retirement. Wetzel, a one-time Briarcliff Manor Village Justice, spent years in Manhattan before being transferred to the Westchester County Courthouse last year.

While in Manhattan, Wetzel presided over the cybersex trial of Oliver Jovanovic in 1998 and was sharply criticized by the state appeals court for using the rape shield law to bar the jury from seeing lurid mails between the alleged victim and defendant. The appeals court overturned Jovanovic’s conviction. Most recently, Wetzel presided over the rape-murder trial of Walter Maddox of Yonkers, who was convicted of raping three women and killing one of them. He also presided over the murder trial of Vetal Bonhomme, who is serving a 20-year sentence for a shooting death in Mount Vernon and sentenced New Rochelle hand-chopper Christopher Calise to 15 years in prison.

For those interested, Wetzel’s retirement party will be held at Vintage in downtown White Plains from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2. Cost is $40 for food and an open bar. Call 824-5437 by May 21 to RSVP.

Prosecutor exodus

The big story in the Westchester County Courthouse today is the news that the most senior prosecutors in the Westchester DA’s office — including the office’s three top people — are going to quit as of July 1 so they won’t lose their accrued sick and vacation time. Those unused days are worth tens of thousands of dollars, according to insider estimates, and would disappear if the prosecutors stayed because of new employee benefit rules by county lawmakers.

Click here to read today’s story online.

Apparently, District Attorney Janet DiFiore received a note this week, signed by 9 or 10 or 11 prosecutors (depending on who you talk to), expressing their intent to resign with regret. I filed a Freedom of Information Law request yesterday asking to see the note. I’m still waiting for a reply. Stay tuned.

Kagan gets a thumbs up from veterans of the federal bar

With President Obama’s nomination today of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, we reached out to some veteran lawyers who have tried cases as prosecutors and defense lawyers in the federal courts to get their take on the choice.

Kerry Lawrence, who ran the U.S. Attorney’s office in White Plains for several years and is now a criminal defense lawyer, liked that the president nominated a woman.

“President Obama chose a nominee with incredible intellectual abilities and a tremendous resume of extraordinary professional accomplishments,” he said. “The fact that he has nominated two women as his two Supreme Court nominees shows his commitment to the importance of gender diversity on the Court.”

The only caveat for Lawrence was Kagan’s lack of experience on the bench.

“I am sure she is entirely capable of serving as a Supreme Court judge but we just don’t know what kind of judge she will be,” he said.

But William Aronwald, who also served as a federal prosecutor and is now in private practice, said Kagan’s lack of judicial experiece “means nothing.”

“She has the credentials,” he said.

Chappaqua bookkeeper gets 2-4 years in prison for grand larceny

A Chappaqua bookkeeper has been sentenced to serve 2 to 4 years in state prison for stealing $150,000 from her employer, a cell tower holding company, and not paying taxes on the stolen funds.

Susan McKee (left) had pleaded guilty last year in Westchester County Court to reduced charge of third-degree grand larceny, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of filing false tax returns. She also was guilty of violating probation on two previous grand larceny convictions, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

The plea satisfied a 15-count indictment that had included charges of criminal possession of stolen property and forgery.

McKee had to repay $25,000 by May 4, the day she was sentenced. If she had failed to pay that amount, she would have be sentenced to serve 3 to 6 years in prison.

McKee was arrested on July 9, 2009 after a four-month investigation that was launched when her employer, Bedrock Tower Corp. in Chappaqua, filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office after an audit uncovered missing money.

She was the company’s bookkeeper from March 1, 2005 to February 10, 2009 and had sole access to the company’s on-line bill paying and payroll accounts, according to the DA’s office.

She stole the money by making double salary entries and using company credit cards without permission, the DA’s office said. McKee never reported her extra income on state tax returns.

Top honors for Westchester crime analyst, prosecutor

Westchester’s chief investigative crime analyst and an assistant district attorney who handles fraud cases have been honored for nabbing more than two dozen suspected crooks in unrelated cases.

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Federal Prosecutors and FBI Enter Lawrence Taylor Case By Charging His Alleged Pimp

The rape and prostitution case involving Lawrence Taylor and a 16-year-old girl at a Montebello hotel got more complicated for the former NFL great this morning.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has made a bull-rush at Rasheed Davis — like Taylor blitzing the quarterback in his hey-day as a Giant linebacker. Davis is the New York City man accused of delivering the 16-year-old girl to Taylor’s hotel room at the Holiday Inn on Thursday. When caught, Davis possessed a handwritten note with the name of the hotel and the room number.
The feds charged Davis with sex trafficking, accusing him of forcing the runaway to have sex with numerous individuals since April – including the man in room 160 at the Holiday Inn. Police aren’t saying who set up Davis with Taylor and if Davis knew the former Giant linebacker was in the room. Some NYC press reports claim a Taylor golfing buddy in Rockland was the go-between.
On NBC’s Today Show, Taylor’s lawyer, Arthur Didado, again repeated his contention that Taylor didn’t have sex with the girl and didn’t know the girl. Rockland prosecutor Jennifer Parietti said in court on Thursday that Taylor spent enough time with the teenager to recognize her.
Aidado has implied that Taylor was targeted for his celebrity and questioned the accuracy of the police contending Taylor cooperated and admitted paying $300 for the girl. Aidado was less aggressive on the show when the host , Matt Lauer, asked if the 16-year-old went to Taylor’s hotel room. Aidado then played lawyer and responded that those were issues that would come out in cross-examination at trial.
Back on the defense team is former Rockland District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, who originally was hired Thursday by Taylor (they’ve met at events in Rockland). But Taylor’s business partner, Mark Lepselter of New Jersey, wanted Aidado.
Excerpts from the Today show
Read the latest on the Taylor case on LoHud.