Archive for September, 2010
Judge tosses Rockland lawyers from case • 09.30.10
Attorney Larry Weissmann’s stint as a Rockland County prosecutor has come back to haunt him in private practice.
State Supreme Court Justice Alfred Weiner tossed Weissmann and his law partner William Gerard from a civil suit against Gerald Braithwaite and several other people. Weissmann represented Otis Tankesly and Brock Tankesly in a civil case concerning real estate transactions involving at 12-14 Slinn Ave. in Spring Valley.
The chief reason is that Weissmann took part in a criminal investigation that involved Braithwaite and others while a Rockland assistant district attorney. The investigation involved allegations of bank fraud. No criminal charges resulted.
Elliot Mirsky, representing Emile and Susan Sayegh in the civil action, argued that Weissmann had inside information from his days as a prosecutor. Weissmann interviewed Mirsky’s clients twice as part of the probe. Mirsky’s clients contend Weissmann had possession of non-public information involving them. Mirsky asked the Weiner to disqualify Weissmann and his law firm.
In response, Weissmann told the court in legal papers that the only “confidential governmental information involved a grand jury subpoena issued to several banks.” Weissmann told the court he used none of that information in the civil case.
Weissmann also had the consent of Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, who wrote he had no problems with Weissmann working on behalf of “these victims potential civil claims, separate from the criminal actions.”
Weiner, in a decision dated Tuesday, found that the Weissmann-Gerard law firm “has not taken and maintained effective screening measures regarding Weissmann’s involvement in the instant action. Based upon the foregoing, the law firm of Gerard & Weissman is likewise disqualified as counsel.”
Bernabe Rodriguez (left), of 256 S. Lexington Ave., also must serve 15 years of post-release supervision and register as a sex offender after finishing his prison term.
Westchester County prosecutors said Rodriguez “repeatedly sexually abused” and raped the girl between Sept. 21, 2005, and Nov. 23, 2009, including in the presence of three other children. The girl told her mother of the abuse, and when the mother called White Plains police, Rodriguez surrendered and confessed.
He pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, a felony. He is under court orders no have no contact whatsoever with the girl or her family until 2043.
Yonkers man accused of lying to grand jury in casino-rigging case involving his sister-in-law • 09.29.10
Michael Mitchell, (left) a 39-year-old Yonkers resident, was arraigned in White Plains City Court today on a felony charge of first-degree perjury for his grand jury testimony in June 2009 regarding rigged promotional contests at the racetrack and casino.
According to the District Attorney’s office, Mitchell testified that he recruited his brother, Brian Mitchell, to take part in a rigged contest as a phony prize winner in 2008.
Brian Mitchell has been dead since July 2001.
Mitchell is married to the sister of Donna Cronin, who with Alicia Murray and Terence Osborne were indicted in the scheme by that same grand jury. They later pleaded guilty to grand larceny and fraud charges.
All three were sentenced to five years’ probation, with Murray serving 12 weekends in jail. Murray, who was just sentenced on Tuesday, was the last defendant in the case.
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s office, said the office did not intentionally delay charging Mitchell until the case was closed. He said Mitchell is facing federal charges in unrelated cases, and those cases took precedent.
Mitchell pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to social security fraud in connection to his deceased brother. He previously plead guilty in U.S. District Court to perjury, conspiracy and embezzlement involving corruption and kickbacks when he was a union shop steward.
Chalfen said Mitchell’s alleged perjury would not affect the convictions of the three defendants in the case, as there were more than 40 other witnesses who testified before the grand jury in the case.
Mitchell’s bail was set at $5,000. He faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted of first-degree perjury.
Patrick Martens, who lives on Kincaid Drive, will be arraigned in Yonkers City Court today on a felony charge of second-degree criminal sexual act for having sex with the boy, who is 17 now.
He also faces a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon for allegedly having a Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun at his home on Monday, according to the criminal complaint.
Martens, a former guard at Co-Op City in the Bronx, is an ex-instructor with the Yonkers Fife and Drum Band, which is made up of city firefighters but not run by the department. Yonkers Fire Commissioner Tony Pagano said Martens has not taught the Yonkers band for the past two years.
Staff writer Will David contributed to this report.
Former promotions coordinator Alicia Murray was given the jail term as part of a five-year “shock” probation sentence today.
Murray was arrested last year with two other employees on charges they received kickbacks by rigging games at the Yonkers racetrack and casino. She was accused of stealing $30,688.
Murray pleaded guilty in March to four counts each of third- and fourth-degree grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud. All the charges are felonies. She will serve weekends in jail, starting this Friday, until Dec. 19.
At the sentencing, acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea questioned why a college-educated woman such as Murray would commit such an act and criticized her for not repaying more of what she had stolen.
She already repaid $2,400 and was supposed to turn over another $2,500 today, but came to court with an $800 check. Molea told her that if she didn’t come up with the other $1,700 by Wednesday, she would violate her probation and be re-sentenced.
“I’m really not happy with the way this is proceeding,” he said.
Murray, a 33-year-old single mother, apologized for her actions and said she looked forward to putting the situation behind her. She will pay $489 a month for the next five years as restitution.
She is the only defendant in the case to receive any jail time.
Her boss, Donna Cronin, was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and ordered to find work so she could repay the $100,000 she stole. Molea said he was swayed by “sincere and compelling” letters written on Cronin’s behalf urging him to keep her out of jail. Cronin had agreed to serve six months in jail as part of a five-year “shock” probation sentence.
Cronin had paid $17,000 in restitution by the time she was sentenced.
The third defendant, Terence Osborne of Yonkers , 25, is serving five years’ probation and has repaid the $16,049 he stole.
According to prosecutors, the three ran a scam to let friends and relatives win promotional contests from December 2006 through August 2008.
They told the selected “winners” to be at certain slot machines in the casino while the drawings were held. They would then rig the contests so the chosen few would win cash, electronics, hotel stays and Broadway tickets. On many of these occasions, the workers got kickbacks — mostly in cash, it was alleged.
The rigged contests never compromised the casino’s video slot machines, authorities said.
After the investigation began, the New York Lottery ordered Empire City to bring in a consultant to review internal controls and management practices.
Lippe retrial begins in wife’s murder case • 09.27.10
The same prosecutors, same defense lawyer and same defendant returned to Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli’s second-floor courtroom today to retry Werner Lippe for the alleged murder of his wife, Faith, nearly two years ago.
Lippe’s first jury was deadlocked, voted 7 to 5 for acquittal in February. This time around, jurors were specifically asked if they watched “CSI” or similar TV shows, since there is no body, no witnesses and no forensic evidence in the case.
Assistant District Attorney John O’Rourke, who gave closing arguments in Lippe’s first trial, opened for the people today. That likely will mean ADA Christine O’Connor will summarize. Veteran defense lawyer Andrew Rubin continues to represent Lippe, who is approaching his second year at the Westchester County jail, where he has been remanded since his Oct. 30 arrest.
O’Rourke, taking a piece of Rubin’s opening argument from the first trial, said Lippe didn’t have to be “Superman” to burn his 49-year-old wife’s slender body to ash on Oct. 3, 2008 and dispose of the remains without leaving a shred of evidence. Rubin countered with another image, saying Lippe was no “evil genius” and was not responsible for his wife’s disappearance.
Lippe’s confession to his wife’s murder was another point of contention between the lawyers, with O’Rourke saying it was proof of his guilt and Rubin saying it was proof that Lippe was coerced into making up an outlandish story so that an old friend, who was working with police, would leave him alone.
The trial is expected to continue Wednesday and last for three weeks. The jury consists of seven men, five women and five alternates.
Donovan Mais Trial Opens in Rockland • 09.27.10
Jury selection is scheduled to begin this afternoon in County Court in New City for the prosecution of Donovan Mais, charged with burglary, attempted robbery, and attempted rape back in 2008.
The two-year delay is attributable to the Rockland District Attorney’s Office successful appeal of Judge Catherine Bartlett’s suppression of Mais’ arrest, statements and other evidence.
The Appellate Division ruled the police arrest was proper and Bartlett was wrong on the law
Then in July, Mais got himself a new lawyer, when the Rockland Public Defender’s Office told Judge William Nelson that it had a conflict. Nelson got the case when Bartlett was sent back to her appointed position as a Court of Claims judge in Orange County.
Mais, 26, was arrested ion Sept. 11, 2008, by Clarkstown police shortly after a woman reported that a man entered her bedroom and tried to pulled away her blankets. She told police he demanded money and told her to take off her clothes. She told the police the man fled with a bar of soap when she screamed.
Mais supposedly told the police several difference stories, including he broke into the house after having some beers with another person and ran when he heard screams. Another story was he was in the neighborhood because he got lost walking home after leaving a bar.
The start of talking to the potential jurors was delayed today until after 3 p.m. today because Nelson attended the funeral of civil rights leader Leonard Cooke, who died last week at 96.
A 12-member jury with alternates could be selected on Wednesday and Thursday, with opening statements on Friday.
Christopher Gets Dems Supreme Court Nod • 09.23.10
Rockland Family Court Judge Linda Christopher is one of the four jurists who has received the Democratic Party line for state Supreme Court justice in the November election.
Also nominated by Democrats on Tuesday in White Plains were state Supreme Court Justice J. Emmett Murphy of Westchester, Westchester County Family Court Justice Colleen Duffy and Supreme Court Justice Lawrence H. Ecker.
Christopher, a former Nyack village attorney and family practice attorney, won election to a 10-year term on Family Court in 2005. She has been the lead judge of Rockland Integrated Domestic Violence Court. She missed out on the nomination last year for Supreme Court.
Christopher’s official facebook page.
Photo: Judge Linda Christopher
Correction on Sept. 27: Justice Colleen Duffy was appointed in January to the state Supreme Court by Gov. David Paterson and later confirmed by the state Senate.
Paul Ingvoldstad, 67, was arraigned in Croton Village Court Wednesday on a felony charge of endangering the public health, safety or the environment, as well as second-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree assault, both misdemeanors. He is free on $2,500 bail.
According to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, Ingvoldstad, who lives on Old Post Road South, put out drafting printers with six one-gallon containers of ammonium hydroxide, which are used in those printers, for bulk pick up in early July.
The village’s public works department took away the printers at his request but left the containers of ammonium hydroxide on the curb, which were thrown out with some household trash about a week later, on July 7. When sanitation workers placed the trash in the garbage truck, the ammonium hydroxide containers burst, releasing fumes.
Three public works employees were exposed, and one, a 46-year-old man, was knocked unconsciousness for more than an hour. That employee also suffered burning, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, and extreme sensitivity to light from the fumes, prosecutors said.
A resident called 911 after seeing one of the workers lying on the ground. The worker has recovered from the injuries.
Ingvoldstad is due back in vilage court on September 29. He faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted of the felony charge.
UPDATE: Mayor opts for bench trial in November. Click here to read more.
A week after White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley and his wife Fumiko filed separate divorce papers, the mayor will be back in court tomorrow as his criminal domestic violence case moves forward.
His lawyers and prosecutors will have a pre-trial conference Thursday morning with Westchester County Judge Susan Capeci, who also is handling the divorce proceedings as part of the county’s integrated domestic violence court.
In signed statements and e-mails to her neighbor, Fumiko Bradley, the mayor’s wife of eight years, outlined a pattern of abuse by her husband, with escalating verbal and physical confrontations over the years, especially during his mayoral run last fall.
She accused him of slamming her fingers in a doorway, throwing hot tea on her, squeezing her arms so hard they bruised and pushing her down a flight of stairs. She also said Bradley pressured her to drop the case or take the blame for the accusations, including pressing her to go to a mental institution and say she was crazy.
The mayor has declined to comment on the allegations, saying he will address them only in court.
Bradley, whose wife has a protective order against him, faces nine misdemeanor and violation charges that include assault, witness tampering and harassment. He is also facing an ethics probe in the city, stemming from his relationship with his new landlord.
The mayor, who divorced his first wife in 1994, has two young daughters with Fumiko Bradley. The couple no longer live together.