Last member of Peekskill drug crew gets 25 years in prison

The last of the members of the infamous Barnes Brothers drug crew that operated out of Peekskill was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for his part in the violent crack cocaine organization.

U.S. District Judge Stephen C. Robinson sentenced Tuere Barnes, 27, in U.S. District Court in White Plains more than a year after a federal jury convicted him of racketeering, narcotics conspiracy, murder conspiracy, kidnapping, and possessing a firearm in connection with a violent crime.

Barnes is the younger brother of kingpin Khalid Barnes who was sentenced to life in prison after a jury spared him the death penalty following his conviction in the cold-blooded killings of two other drug dealers in Manhattan. The crew operated from 1995 to March 2004, federal prosecutors said.

All 11 members of the Barnes crew have been convicted. Another defendant in the case who was not a member of the crew, Anthony “Toast” Paulino, remains on the lam.

State Bar creates task force to tackle Family Court crisis

An overwhelming rise of family court cases has prompted the New York State Bar Association to create a Family Court task force to find ways that the justice system can best handle the heavy caseload.

According to the bar association, family court filings in New York State reached a record high of nearly 750,000 last year, with filings related to family violence increasing 30 percent in the last two years. On average, it said, there are 4,601 filings for every judge.

The new task force, announced today, will study what and where more family court resources are needed, how to better manage cases and staff, how technology can make family court more efficient, among other improvements. A Broome County Family Court judge and a top state Legal Aid lawyer will lead the investigation.

“To thousands of New Yorkers, family courts are the face of our legal system but, unfortunately, with overcrowded dockets, too few judges, and far too many delays, these courts resemble hospital emergency rooms and our family law attorneys are forced to perform triage,” new bar association president Stephen P. Younger said in a statement.

“At the end of the process, we will have a road map that will set a course for us to finally address the most challenging problems and to create a family court system that can protect our children when they most need it,” he added.

Family courts deal with child custody and visitation issues, foster care, child abuse and neglect, among other related issues. A recent state report criticized overcrowded court facilities in Yonkers and New Rochelle. To read more on the problems in Yonkers and New Rochelle Family Court, click here.

Alfieri Decides Case With Feuding Satmar Rabbis

Rockland County Court Judge Victor Alfieri found himself between the battling factions of the Satmar Hasidic dynastic family based in the Orange County town of Kiryas Joel and Brooklyn.

The Satmar leadership has been contested since the 2006 death of Grand Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum, a renown figure in the Hasidic world. His heirs, rabbis Aaron and Zalman Teitelbaum, have fought over which one their father intended to lead the 100,000-plus Satmar community.

The Teitelbaum brothers have clashed personally and through their supporters. They are fighting over power, property, synagogues, elections and yeshivas. News reports have estimated that the disputed real estate alone is worth more than $500 million.

The court fight before Alfieri involved control over the Kiryas Joel cemetery — one of 23 legal actions between both sides, referred in the community as the Aaronites and the Zalmanites, according to published reports.

The cemetary dispute came to a head after 41-year-old member of the Zalmanite faction died in 2009. The Aaronites controlled the cemetery, a symbolic victory for them since that’s where the elder Teitelbaum is buried. The Zalmanites dug a grave in a nearby clearing for their deceased member to meet with Jewish law requiring quick burial. They hoped to have dedicated as a new cemetery.

Alfieri, an elected Rockland judge assigned as an acting state Supreme Court justice in Orange County, played King Solomon, in a way. He sent the dispute back to religious court, called a Bais Din, which already is hearing other succession issues. He also named the three rabbis to hear the dispute.

“Since the Congregation’s bylaws are a secular corporate document adopted by its members pursuant to New York law, this Court finds that the Congregation and its members adopted the Rabbinical Court, i.e., the Din Torah…as the alternative dispute resolution mechanism of choice for disputes between and among members of its congregation,” Alfieri wrote, according to reports.

For the entire article, go to Vos Iz Neias.

FBI agent at center of Quinoy storm still on-duty

FBI Special Agent Catherine Pena was found by a federal judge to have destroyed evidence in the criminal civil rights case of Sleepy Hollow Det. Jose Quinoy. Judge Kenneth Karas also found that Pena tried to cover up the destruction or replacement of a disc containing recordings made by Officer Michael Hayes, the Sleepy Hollow cop who cooperated with the FBI in its investigation. Then, Karas found after pre-trial hearings, that Pena lied about it on the witness stand. Pena refused to testify at Quinoy’s criminal trial. Her lawyer informed Karas that if forced onto the stand by a subpoena from Quinoy’s lawyer, Andrew Quinn, Pena would take thew Fifth Amendment.

The jury acquitted Quinoy of two counts — one civil rights charge and witness tampering — and deadlocked on another civil rights charge. Quinoy came within one holdout juror vote on one count of beating the entire indictment. The lawyer for the man who Quinoy allegedly assaulted on Oct. 17, 2006, after he was already in handcuffs blamed Pena for the verdict and the deadlocked count.

But despite all this, Pena is still working in the FBI’s New York office. FBI Spokesman James Margolin said this morning, “She is still an FBI agent assigned to the New York office.”

But Margolin declined to comment when asked if she was under any disciplinary review.

At the end of pre-trial hearings that delved into the missing disc, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Dunne said federal prosecutors and the FBI were looking into Pena’s actions.

Lawyer pleads guilty in mortgage fraud case

A fourth defendant has admitted his role in what prosecutors say was a multimillion dollar mortgage scam in Westchester County.

David Reback, an attorney from Rye Brook, pleaded guilty on Friday to the entire indictment against him, which included four felony counts of second-degree grand larceny and one count each of conspiracy and fraud. All the charges are felonies.

Reback will be sentenced Oct. 8. He’ll either serve a year at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla or one to three years in state prison, depending on how much money he can pay back, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Four others accused in the mortgage scheme maintain their innocence. They are Amerigo DiPietro of Brewster, who owned Interstate Monetary Concepts in Briarcliff Manor, and lawyers Eileen Potash of Queens, Mildred Didio of Manhattan and Frank Corigliano of Newtown, Conn.

Prosecutors allege they are among a group of eight who stripped homes from four Westchester County families and swindled two mortgage lenders out of $1.4 million from December 2004 to January 2007. They are accused of targeting people in Croton-on-Hudson, Yorktown, Cortlandt and Mount Vernon who were about to lose their homes, promising to save them but leaving their victims with nothing.

Doreen Swenson and Hubert “Phil” Hall, a married couple from Tarrytown, already pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud, both felonies, in helping to set up the phony mortgages. Hall, a former editor at a precursor to The Journal News, and his wife agreed to serve two to six years in state prison and will be sentenced Aug. 5.

Wilma Shkreli of Westwood, N.J., is scheduled to be sentenced to five years’ probation on Aug. 31 after pleading guilty to second-degree grand larceny. Prosecutors said she posed as an investor.

Second-degree grand larceny is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in state prison.

Quinoy not guilty on two counts; jury deadlocks on the third charge

A federal jury has just acquitted Sleepy Hollow police Det. Jose Quinoy on two of the three charges he faced in his civil rights trial. A mistrial was declared on the third charge after the jury reported it was hopelessly deadlocked on that count.

Quinoy, 37, was cleared of illegally using a stun gun on Luis Vilches on Dec. 17, 2006, after Vilches was handcuffed and under the control of other officers. He was also cleared of tampering with fellow officer Michael Hayes who wore a wire for the FBI and secretly recorded conversations with Quinoy and other Sleepy Hollow police officers.

The jury deadlocked on the first count of the indictment in which Quinoy was charged with punching and kicking Mario Gomez on Oct. 17, 2006, after a handcuffed Gomez was already complying with other officers. The incident stemmed from rumors that the married Quinoy was romancing Gomez’s 22-year-old daughter, Haydee. Mario Gomez came to the Sleepy Hollow police station to fight Quinoy that night and the charge came from Quinoy’s alleged post-fight actions against Gomez.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas scheduled an Aug. 10 conference at which time federal prosecutors are expected to decide whether they will re-try Quinoy on the Gomez charge.

Judge to lawyers in DiSimone case: You got 9 weeks

State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler had an order for the Westchester District Attorney’s office: give me a list of every document you have in the case against Anthony DiSimone.

“Given the history of this case, I think that would be a good start,” he said.

Boxes of court transcripts and other evidence had been been withheld by Westchester County prosecutors during DiSimone’s first trial — the reason his conviction was thrown out. DiSimone is being retried for murder in the 1994 stabbing death of Louis Balancio, the son of a former Yonkers city councilman.

Just selection is set to start Oct. 4.

Adler told Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward and defense lawyer Murray Richman that they must cooperate for the next two months. Richman will get to see the document list that the DA will turn over the judge and Richman will get to choose which papers he wants to see. The DA’s office must make copies of any statements of witnesses who will testify at trial — known as rosario material — at its own expense. Meanwhile, Richman must get any and all relevant documents from DiSimone’s past attorneys and pay any copying charges out of pocket.

“I realize this may be burdensome to both sides,” Adler said. “I’m going to see that it gets done. I’m going to make sure this case doesn’t go off track.”

Adler ordered both sides to fax him a letter by July 28 updating him on the sharing of discovery material. If there is any dispute, he said, both sides will be in his courtroom the next day to resolve the matter. He said he would shorten his vacation if he needs to settle a dispute between the lawyers.

“There’ll be no excuses from here on in,” the judge said. “We have nine weeks to get this done.”

DiSimone, now 43, can’t be retried for intentional murder because he was acquitted of that. He was convicted on a charge of depraved-indifference murder of Balancio, a college student, who was stabbed 13 times during a brawl outside a bar on Feb. 4, 1994.

He was serving 25 years to life in the killing of Balancio when a federal judge overturned his conviction in 2005, finding that the DA’s office withheld evidence, particularly police statements that pointed to another man as the killer.

DiSimone, described by authorities as a member of the mob-linked Tanglewood Boys gang, went on the lam after the killing, but walked into a Yonkers police station in 1999 and surrendered. He remains free on $500,000 bail.

Quinoy jury breaks without reaching verdict

Jurors in the civil rights trial of Sleepy Hollow Det. Jose Quinoy failed to reach a verdict today after five hours of deliberations.

They’ll be back at the Brieant courthouse tomorrow to continue weighing the fate of Quinoy, 37, who’s accused of assaulting two men after they were already handcuffed and under the control of other cops. He’s also charged with witness tampering for allegedly trying to dissuade Officer Michael Hayes from telling a federal grand jury what he saw during the first incident, a fight between Quinoy and Mario Gomez on Oct. 17, 2006, and Gomez’s subsequent arrest.

The jury asked if a report about the second incident, an alleged Tasering of a handcuffed Luis Vilches on Dec. 17, 2006, was in evidence. The report about the arrest by Sgt. Paul Hood was not in evidence. And Hood only made a verbal report to a lieutenant about the alleged stun gun incident, defense lawyer Andrew Quinn said.

It became pretty clear that there would be no verdict Wednesday when the jury of nine women and three men sent out a note a little after 1 p.m. saying they’d work from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Father of Manhattanville College slaying victim fights tears as wife answers murder charge

A teary-eyed John Pagli couldn’t stop  shaking as he watched his handcuffed wife appear in court today on a charge of killing their teenaged daughter five months ago at Manhattanville College.

Stacey Pagli stood expressionless by her lawyer, who is defending her against a second-degree murder charge in the slaying of Marissa Pagli in their apartment on campus in Purchase.

At one point during her brief court appearance, Stacey Pagli turned around and locked eyes with her choked-up husband in the front row. He mouthed some words to her with a painful expression on his face. She turned to face the judge and didn’t look at him again.

At his wife’s initial appearance in Harrison Town Court in February, John Pagli yelled, “You can’t even look at me, you bitch!”

Two psychiatric experts will interview John Pagli tomorrow in the Westchester County District Attorney’s office about his wife’s mental state before his daughter was choked to death on Feb. 22. John Pagli had resisted talking to the defense experts and previously said through prosecutors that he wanted nothing to do with his wife’s lawyer.

If a jury believes that Stacey Pagli, 38, suffered an emotional disturbance due to severe depression or some other cause when she killed her daughter, she could be convicted of manslaughter and serve less time in prison.

Authorities say Stacey Pagli strangled her daughter, an 18-year-old Manhattanville freshman, then tried killing herself by first cutting her left wrist and then by hanging herself with a belt on a doorknob.

John Pagli, a college maintenance supervisor, returned home and found his daughter’s body and his wife unconscious in their second-floor apartment.

In court papers, Stacey Pagli told police that she strangled Marissa because her daughter was disrespectful and rude. “I couldn’t take it any more,” she told police in a statement. “She pushed my last button.”

Both sides will return to court on Aug. 18.

Ex-matchmaker deceived clients, judge says

A story on today’s front page tells the story of Gary Ferone of Eastchester, who was found liable for defrauding clients of his former matchmaking businesses, both of which have gone bankrupt.

Great Date Now and its successor, Meet Over Drinks, were sued by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo after a flood of clients complained that they were jilted by the dating service. They said the companies took their money and never set them up with the promised number of people, if any at all. They also paid up to $5,500 for this service.

A Westchester County civil court judge found in favor of the AG’s office and held Ferone personally liable for his companies’ actions. The judge also and ordered restitution. The AG is asking for $720,000.

To read more of the story, including a personal account from a former Great Date Now client, click here.