Playful Taylor appears in Rockland court today

For a married man with kids who’s facing statutory rape charges involving a runaway Bronx girl forced into prostitution, Lawrence Taylor was in a good mood today when his black car pulled up in front of the Rockland County Courthouse in New City.  The Rockland Sheriff’s Department cordoned off the walkway to the front door for him.

His lawyer, Arthur Aidala, had pulled up seconds before in a white BMW and parked at the curb to the entrance.

“Hello,” Taylor said. “What’s going on, Bud.”

Then referring to Aidala’s parking spot (clearly illegal), Taylor said, “You must know somebody.”

The lawyer didn’t get a ticket.

When reporters asked Taylor if he had anything to say, he responded, “Have a nice day.”

He walked up to the courthouse door laughing with his friends and at one point he used his massive arms to put his longtime golfing buddy, Dino Kyriacou, in a headlock. Dino, who owns the Ramapo Diner, stands just above Taylor’s shoulder. Dino and other golfing buddies were with Taylor on May 6, before Taylor was arrested on charges of having sex with a 16-year-old girl at his hotel room in Ramapo.

Inside the courtroom, Taylor stood silently before state Supreme Court Justice William Kelly. Taylor got a chair to sit in when his lawyer and prosecutors Arthur Ferarro and Patricia Gunning spoke with the judge.

At one point, after Taylor felt uncomfortable about his dress, Aidala told Kelly, “My client profusely asked me to apologize to the court for not having a jacket and tie. He has great respect for the court.”

Kelly responded bruskly,  “He’s suitably attired. No need to apologize.”

What didn’t happen in court is TMZ, the TV-Internet website that tracks the hijinx of celebrities, wanted to video-stream Taylor’s court appearance. Kelly noted state law converning allowing  cameras and/or video in courtroom  was never reaffirmed by the Legislature.

 Both the defense and prosecution said, ” No,” arguing cameras and/or video would be disruotive. Prosecutor Patricia Gunning noted if Taylor goes to trial, the prosecution’s victim is a teenager. Kelly said, No.

Earlier post before Taylor appeared in court:

The countdown is down to two hours before Lawrence Taylor’s 2 p.m. appearance at the Rockland County Courthouse.

If the former linebacker’s past appearances are a barometer, the media from New York City and elsewhere will be out in force to surround him as he enters and leaves the Courthouse. While reporters shout questions to him, Taylor has said little, leaving  camera personnel and note-book-holding reporters usually without some word or words of wisdom or quip.

And the media will likely leave without a plea and told to come back another day, though Taylor’s lawyers likely would prefer less attention when he appears in court.

The media show aside, Taylor is facing serious charges —  paying $300 to a 16-year-old runaway from the Bronx  for sex at the Holidome off Arimont Road in Montebello.

In the background – but not too far away – the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is involved. Federal prosecutors have charged the accused Bronx pimp Rasheed Davis with human sex trafficking, including using violence and drugs to force and coerce the girl to have sex with men. One could surmise that federal prosecutors are interested in what Taylor has to say and what he does concerning the state charges.

The federal complaint against Davis doesn’t help Taylor since it includes Taylor’s admission to Ramapo police that he had paid the 16-year-old (who told him she was 19, not that what she said matters in court) for sex. She told the police that too. And then there is forensic evidence.

Taylor is moving slowly between state and federal prosecutors as his lawyer works on his behalf. Taylor would like to avoid state prison — with the rape and sexual abuse counts carrying up to four years. 

A guilty plea to a sex crime would put Taylor on the state sex registry, which could hurt his ability to make money signing autograph or making personal appearances before children.

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe  said he’s open to a plea to the top felony counts, 10 years probation and possibly jail time.

If Taylor rolls the dice and goes to trial and is convicted, Zugibe has said state prison joins the equation.  Zugibe is quick to add that the judge – in this case state Supreme Court Justice William Kelly – has the final word on sentencing.

Taylor’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, is a different story. He’ll hold news conferences, offering little insight into the case other than what could happen  in the legal process — such as pretrial efforts to suppress his client’s statements to the cops, his client being identified. Aidala has said Taylor didn’t have sex with the girl and claims the girl told a roommate she didn’t  have sex with Taylor.

All those different angles will be decided in court — either through a guilt plea or trial.

Top right photo: Lawrence Taylor  walking into the Rockladn County Courthouse today.

Second photo: Taylor and his wife walk to a car at courthouse parking lot after a previous appearance.

Lippe guilty of murder in burning death of wife

A Westchester County jury took eight hours — six yesterday and two today — to find Cortlandt jewelry artist Werner Lippe guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, (pictured left) a 49-year-old school nutritionist who disappeared two years ago.

Lippe had confessed to knocking his wife unconscious and burning her remains in a backyard oil drum. He testified at trial that the confession was coerced.

The 11:40 a.m. verdict unleashed a wave of emotion and relief over Faith Lippe’s family and friends. Her sister, Dawn Faigle, threw her arms around prosecutor Christine O’Connor in the District Attorney’s office upstairs and fought tears as she recalled the psychological abuse Werner Lippe inflicted on her sister. She publicly thanked O’Connor and prosecutor John O’Rourke for their hard work on the case.

“Their endless devotion sends a strong message that domestic violence will not be tolerated and these criminals will be brought to justice,” she said.

For more about the verdict and courtroom reaction, as well as background on the trial, click here.

Jury ends day 1 of deliberations in Lippe wife-slay trial

WHITE PLAINS — A sequestered jury did not reach a verdict today in the first day of deliberations in the trial of Werner Lippe, accused of murdering his wife and burning her remains at their Cortlandt home two years ago.

The seven men and five women on the jury debated the case for nearly six hours before Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli excused them at 5 p.m.

The jury asked the court to replay Lippe’s three confessions — two to a friend wearing a police wire and one to state police — and to reshow photos from a scientific experiment showing how quickly a corpse can burn in an oil drum. They also asked to see photos of the burn barrel on Lippe’s property.

Lippe, a 68-year-old jeweler, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Faith Lippe, his wife of 18 years who was a nutritionist in the Ossining schools. She was 49 when she disappeared on Oct. 3, 2008 in the midst of a bitter divorce battle.

There is no body, no eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence in the case. Werner Lippe claims his confession was false and was the result of paranoia, fear and confusion.

This is his second trial. His first trial ended in February with a hung jury, which was unable to reach a verdict after 27 hours of deliberations. The vote was 7 to 5 for acquittal.

Lippe faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He has been in jail since his arrest nearly two years ago.

The jurors will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

White Plains dentist-scammer violates plea deal

Dr. Joanne Baker (left) is refusing to give up her state dental license, despite her agreeing to do so when she pleaded guilty to theft and fraud charges in May.

The reversal has sent her plea deal into a tailspin and prompted a judge to keep her in jail until the matter is resolved.

Baker was scheduled for sentencing today on felony charges of third-degree grand larceny and insurance fraud. She is now due back in court on Nov. 16.

In court today, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli ordered defense lawyer Peter Tilem and Assistant District Attorney Gwen Galef, chief of the economic crimes bureau, to write legal briefs on the consequences of backing out of a negotiated plea.

Zambelli had sent Baker to jail in September after she refused to meet with the county Department of Probati0n for a presentencing report, mandatory for all defendants upon conviction. She had been free on $10,000 bail before that.

Baker, a 51-year-old Scarsdale resident, had agreed to serve five years’ probation with 24 weekends in jail. She changed lawyers and tried withdrawing her guilty plea, but Zambelli denied her request.

Baker’s new attorney, Peter Tilem, said his client had signed a statement agreeing to give up her license, then later hired another lawyer to withdraw the paperwork. Tilem said Baker would accept suspension of her license while on probation but wants someday to practice dentistry again.

“She does not want to forfeit her license,” he said. “It’s something she worked very hard for.”

Baker was accused of running a two-year scam from her office at 1 Bryant Crescent in which she sent phony bills to Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and created phony patient records, then sent copies to the insurance firm, starting in September 2006.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, 18 patients came forward in 2008 to say Baker had billed MetLife for dental work she never provided. Baker was arrested Sept. 23, 2008.

After her arrest, prosecutors said, investigators found four additional patients who said Baker sent their insurance company, MetLife, phony bills between December 2008 and February 2009. She was accused of misleading MetLife and trying to prevent patients from reporting her. She was rearrested in April 2009.

At her court appearance today, she turned over a check made out to MetLife for $8,920 as well as a $50,000 check in what is known as a stipulation of settlement. She is being held without bail at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla.

Closing arguments wrap up Lippe trial

It’s up to the jury now.

Twelve jurors listened today to more than four hours of closing arguments in the murder trial of Werner Lippe, accused of killing his wife of 18 years during a bitter divorce fight in October 2008 and disposing of her body without a trace.

Lippe, a 68-year-old jeweler, remained stoic as Assistant District Attorney Christine O’Connor urged the seven men and five women on the jury to believe that Lippe’s confession to a friend, who was wearing a police wire, had been both truthful and voluntary.

Defense lawyer Andrew Rubin argued during his closing statements that it was a false confession borne out of paranoia, fear and confusion. There is no body, no eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence in the case.

O’Connor ended her summations by playing a recording of Werner Lippe telling his friend, “She doesn’t exist. You cannot find her. It’s impossible.” As the tape played, those words appeared on a screen with a photo a smiling Faith Lippe. Her cousin, Shari Caradonna, walked out of the courtroom in tears.

Faith Lippe was a nutritionist in the Ossining schools. She was 49 when she disappeared.

Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli will instruct the jury on the law Monday morning, and deliberations will begin immediately afterwards.

Lippe faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

This is his second trial. His first trial ended in February with a hung jury, which was unable to reach a verdict after 27 hours of deliberations. The vote was 7 to 5 for acquittal.

Felon gets 16-life for Bronxville home break-in

A Mount Vernon man with a 22-year criminal record was ordered today to serve 16 years to life in prison for breaking into a Bronxville home last year.

Joseph Sain, 40, had been convicted of second-degree burglary, a felony, and petty larceny, a misdemeanor. Westchester County Judge James Hubert convicted Sain during a bench trial in May and handed him the lengthy prison term.

According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office, Sain was accused of breaking into a home at 163 White Plains Road shortly before 6 p.m. on September 9, 2009. A homeowner called police to report an intruder inside her home and when she confronted the burglar, he ran off.

The woman gave police a description of the suspect, Sain was located within minutes behind the athletic field at Concordia College.

Sain told police he did not steal anything. Police retraced Sain’s route and found the homeowner’s missing coins and jewelry in a storm drain near the Village Lutheran Church, prosecutors said.

Sain was sentenced as a persistent violent felony offender. He served three different prison stints on charges of robbery, burglary, and auto theft from 1992 to 2007, according to New York state prison records. His first felony conviction dates back to 1988, the DA’s office said.

Westchester Bar ranks judges in ’10 election

It’s the list we’ve been waiting for … the Westchester County Bar  Association has released their ranking of judicial candidates seeking office this November.

For the New York State Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District

Found well qualified:
Hon. Linda Christopher
Hon. Colleen Duffy
Hon. Lawrence H. Ecker
Hon. Gerald M. Klein
Hon. J. Emmett Murphy

Found qualified:
Hon. Matthew J. Byrne
Hon. James Maisano

For Surrogate’s Court, Westchester County

Found well qualified:
Hon. Anthony Scarpino, Jr

For the Westchester County Court

Found well qualified:
Hon. Barry E. Warhit

Found qualified:
Douglas J. Martino

For Family Court, Westchester County

Found well qualified:
Edward P. Borelli
Hon. David Klein
Michelle I. Schauer

Found qualified:
Patricia A. O’Callaghan

Meets minimum requirements:
Hal B. Greenwald
Hon. Nilda Morales Horowitz

Found not qualified, failure to appear:
Hon. William Edwards

For the Yonkers City Court:

Found well qualified:
Hon. Robert C. Cerrato
Hon. Thomas R. Daly
Hon. Theodora K. Wood

Found qualified:
Hon. Evan Inlaw
Hon. Richard F. Sweeney

An explanation of the rankings:
Well Qualified signifies that a candidate has extraordinary qualifications for the judicial bench being sought.
Qualified signifies that the candidate has the character, temperament, professional aptitude and experience which are requisites for the judicial bench that he/she is seeking.
Meets Minimum Requirements signifies that a candidate has no significant negative impediment but lacks some important qualification for the judicial bench that is being sought.
Not Qualified signifies that a candidate has some characteristic which would indicate that the person is a poor choice for the judicial bench he/she is seeking.
Any candidate who fails to appear will be rated Not Qualified by Failure to Appear, or, where appropriate, Not Qualified.  No candidate may withdraw from the interview process or decline a rating.

Larchmont lawyers feted by Pace Women’s Justice Center

Attorneys Rita K. Gilbert and Lonya A. Gilbert from the Larchmont law firm of Hyman and Gilbert will be honored this Thursday at the 13th annual “Celebration of Justice for Women” fundraising dinner for the law school’s Pace Women’s Justice Center, which offers legal services to domestic violence and elder abuse victims.

Rita Gilbert will receive the Diane White Legal Advocacy Award, which honors a member of the community who has demonstrated a commitment to helping disenfranchised women obtain equal access to the legal system. Lonya Gilbert will receive the Gail Katz Memorial Award, named in memory of 26 year-old Gail Katz who was murdered by her husband in 1985. 

The keynote speaker will be appellate attorney Annette Hasapidis, who will share her story as a domestic violence survivor. Also at the dinner, Pace law student Jessica Wolff will receive the Center’s first-ever Justice for Women Award for her commitment to domestic violence issues and public interest law.

The dinner and silent auction will be held at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown starting at 6:00 p.m. For reservations or more information about the dinner, call Woodrina Harris at (914) 422-4069.

Testy testimony between Lippe, ADA at wife-slay trial

The murder trial of Cortlandt jeweler Werner Lippe (left) turned into a verbal sparring match this afternoon, when prosecutors pressed him to explain why he never called a hospital after his wife vanished two years ago.

“You don’t understand? Maybe I speak to you in German,” the Austria-born Lippe told Assistant District Attorney John O’Rourke. “Do you understand English?”

“Did you treat your wife the way you’re trying to treat me?” O’Rourke shot back. “Did you argue with her the way you’re arguing with me?

The heated exchange came as Lippe, 68, was cross-examined in Westchester County Court at his retrial in the death of his wife, Faith, a 49-year-old school nutritionist who disappeared on Oct. 3, 2008. SWerner Lippe is charged with second-degree murder in her death.

Lippe’s cross examination will continue tomorrow, which will be the last day of testimony. Jurors will hear closing arguments Friday and begin deliberating on Monday.

Read more about this story tomorrow in The Journal News and on LoHud.com.

Mount Vernon man acquitted in 2009 fatal shooting

A Mount Vernon man has been found not guilty in last year’s shooting death of a 30-year-old man but was convicted of having an illegal loaded firearm.

A Westchester County jury acquitted 27-year-old William Robinson on Monday of second-degree murder in the Sept. 16, 2009 slaying of Shawn Andre McGee in front of 20 E. Fourth St.

McGee was shot multiple times in broad daylight in front of the building and later died at Mount Vernon Hospital. Robinson was arrested in Yonkers after an intense manhunt involving police dogs, a helicopter and heavily armed police officers.

Robinson became the prime suspect because of evidence found at the scene and tips from Mount Vernon residents, Mount Vernon Police Commissioner David Chong said last year. Chong also said Robinson and McGee had an ongoing dispute.

The jury also acquitted Robinson of first-degree manslaughter but found him guilty of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 16 by Westchester County Judge James W. Hubert., who presided over the three-week trial.

Robinson was represented by Allan Focarile, a veteran defense lawyer with the Westchester County Legal Aid Society. Assistant District Attorney Perry Perrone Michelle Lopez prosecuted the case.