NYC “party supplier” faces drug charges

A New York City teenager is accused of selling “party supplies” — drugs — on Craigslist to an undercover investigator from Westchester County.

Wesley Holman, 18, (left) of 60 E. 106th St., was arraigned last week in Yonkers City Court on a felony charge of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, according to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, which just released the information today.

He is due back in Yonkers City Court tomorrow.

Holman, using the screen name of “Sam,” allegedly offered to sell “party supplies” to an undercover investigator from the District Attorney’s office. In their email exchanges, “Sam” told the investigator that he had “ski” and “X” for sale, which are street names for cocaine and Ecstasy. He also showed online photographs of the drugs, prosecutors allege.

Holman arranged to meet the officer at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the Yonkers Raceway Diner. He arrived at about 7:00 pm and was arrested. Prosecutors say he had one-eighth of an ounce of cocaine and 50 tablets of Ecstasy on him when he was arrested.

“The alleged activities of this defendant once again highlight the vigilance an adult, parent or caregiver should maintain when using any social networking, bulletin board, trading or auction site,” District Attorney Janet DiFiore said. “While the internet has become an integral part of our society, the organic nature of the web, no central control, means that the onus is on the user.”

Holman faces one to nine years in state prison if convicted.

Lawyers’ “Red Mass” set for Oct. 20 in White Plains

St. John the Evangelist Church on Hamilton Avenue in White Plains will host the annual “Red Mass” for judges, lawyers and their families on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m.

The Catholic Lawyers’ Guild of the Archdiocese of New York is sponsoring the Mass, which began in Europe in the 13th century and was referred to as a “Red” Mass to symbolize scriptural “tongues of fire” given to the Apostles of Jesus.

“It provides a unique opportunity for the legal profession to seek the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel and fortitude,” according to William P. Harrington, a Catholic lawyer from White Plains.

The Rev. Brendan Gormley — a former practicing lawyer who is now a priest at  St. Barnabus Church in the Bronx — will celebrate the Mass. A reception in the school next to the church will follow.

The Mass is open to the public.

Jury selection to start Nov. 8 in Eastchester double-slay retrial

Selwyn Days will get a pre-screened jury for his third trial in the 1996 slayings of an Eastchester millionaire and his home healthcare worker.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Holdman said he needs to know if the five- to six week-trial would pose a hardship to prospective jurors before jury selection begins Nov. 8. The jurors also might be asked if they’ve read or seen any media coverage of the trial to help shrink the jury pool up front.

Holdman said he wants to avoid the trouble he experienced trying to seat a jury late last month in a mortgage fraud case. Jury selection in that case took three days because dozens of people in the 160-member jury pool said they simply could not take a month off of work to sit on that jury, which isn’t expected to start deliberating the case for another two weeks.

Prosecutors and Days’ defense team said they had no problem with the pre-screened jury and agreed to meet with Holdman Nov. 3 to review what jurors would be asked and to discuss any last-minute pre-trial issues.

Days, a former Mount Vernon resident, is charged with first- and second-degree murder in the slayings of Archie Harris, 79, and Betty Ramcharan, 35, at Harris’ Berkley Circle home Nov. 21, 1996. Harris’ body was on a blood-soaked carpet in his bedroom next to a bloody baseball bat; Ramcharan’s was in a bathroom, next to a kitchen knife. Harris’ dog was also found dead.

Days’ mother, Stella, used to work for Harris and had accused him of sexually abusing her a few months before the killings. Her son, who had a criminal record, was not arrested until February 2001, when he violated a protection order by going to the home of his ex-girlfriend, who then suggested that police look at him for the killings.

No forensic evidence linked Days to the scene. Prosecutors relied on a taped statement in which Days acknowledged going to Harris’ home to confront him about the alleged abuse and admitted to hitting and stabbing Harris, then slashing Ramcharan’s throat when she walked in.

Days’ first trial in 2003 ended in a hung jury. He was convicted a year later and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. But in December, a judge threw out Days’ conviction after four witnesses testified that he was in North Carolina from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, 1996 — the timeframe in which authorities said the slayings took place.

Prosecutors argued that Days’ alibi witnesses all had close ties to Stella Days and should not be believed. A convict who said Selwyn Days admitted in prison to killing Harris and Ramcharan will testify for the prosecution. The defense said they will put two additional alibi witnesses on the stand.

Days’ appeal is being led by the Manhattan-based Exoneration Initiative and lawyers from two Manhattan firms. Assistant District Attorneys Perry Perrone and Christine O’Connor are prosecuting the case.

Days is being held in the county jail in Valhalla with bail set at $300,000.

Lead investigator in Lippe wife-slaying trial takes the stand

Werner Lippe does not look like the same man he did two years ago, when he allegedly knocked his wife unconscious and pushed her body into a backyard burn barrel, a state police detective testified today.

“He was bigger, more husky then,” said David Atkins, the lead investigator in the case. “He definitely looks more (like a) fragile, older man now.”

Atkins remarks came as Westchester County prosecutors try for a second time to convict Lippe, a 68-year-old jeweler, of second-degree murder in the death of his 49-year-old wife, Faith Lippe, with whom he was locked in a contentious divorce.

Lippe told police he last saw his wife leave their house with a manilla envelope at 1:45 p.m. Oct. 3, 2008 and be whisked away by a dark-colored vehicle. He reported her missing the next afternoon, after returning from lunch with a friend in Connecticut.

But, weeks later, Lippe told a friend — who was wearing a police wire — that he knocked his wife unconscious on Oct. 3, put her body in a drum and incinerated her. He repeated that story to police Oct. 30, 2008 and was arrested. He has been held without bail at the county jail in Valhalla since then.

Lippe’s lawyer argues that his client, fueled by fear and paranoia, gave a false confession in a misguided attempt to be left alone. He repeated it to police so they would let him see a judge, who he thought would instantly see how ridiculous the story was.

Lippe’s first trial earlier this year ended with a hung jury, which voted seven to five for an acquittal.

Lippe’s state of mind in the days and weeks after his wife’s disappearance — which Rubin claims was so crazed that he concocted the confession — was a theme Rubin revisited with Atkins. During cross-examination,  Atkins confirmed that Lippe told police that he was under stress and “having a lot of crazy thoughts.” He also said an incoherent Lippe called state police at least once. He acknowledged joking with Learnihan that “it takes a nut to catch a nut,” but he said the remark was just an icebreaker.

Atkins said he wasn’t necessarily looking for incriminating evidence against Lippe, but suspected Lippe knew more than what he was telling police. Once Lippe emerged as the prime suspect, Atkins said, state police investigators questioned New York City police to see if Lippe was known to have underworld connections through his jewelry business that could have helped him carry out her murder.

They found none and contend that he acted alone.

“Besides Werner Lippe, were there any other suspects in this case?” Rubin asked.

Atkins never had to answer. Assistant District Attorney Christine O’Connor objected to the question, and county Judge Barbara Zambelli sustained the objection.

A theory that Faith Lippe, on the day she vanished, may have been en route to pay a hit man to kill her husband was “so far-fetched that it didn’t make sense,” Atkins said.

The trial will continue on Wednesday.

Accused bomb maker pleads guilty; will serve no jail time

A Cortlandt man who, officials say, offered an undercover officer homemade bombs in exchange for gun silencers last year admitted today to having illegal weapons and fireworks.

Gary Burstell, 53, (left) pleaded guilty in Westchester County Court to one felony count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and a misdemeanor count unlawfully dealing with fireworks.

Burstell, a retired carpenter, will be sentenced to probation with time served on Jan 6, according to acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea. Burstell spent several days in jail after his arrest on Sept. 17, 2009 and is free on $500,000 bail.

Burstell got caught up in a cigarette smuggling sting, and investigators who raided his home in September 2009 said they found guns, ammunition and five “suspected homemade explosive devices.”

His lawyer, Kevin J. Kitson, had argued that Burstell only wanted the silencers to shoot at critters in his back yard without scaring the neighbors. He also said the “explosive devices” were smoke bombs to clear animals. Neither Kitson or Burstell had any comment after today’s plea bargain.

According to the indictment, Burstell offered to make bombs on July 30 to an officer posing as a cigarette smuggler. They didn’t speak again until Sept. 9, when Burstell allegedly agreed to see the silencers. Burstell handed the officer a homemade bomb the next day at 400 Nepperhan Ave. in Yonkers, where cops had set up an undercover warehouse for the cigarette case.

Four days later, on Sept. 14, the indictment alleges, Burstell arranged to meet the officer so he could collect the silencers.

According to court papers, on the day he was arrested, Burstell admitted to making the bomb but later recanted that statement, saying he’d bought the device three years earlier. He also told authorities that a .22-caliber handgun he had taken to the undercover warehouse on Sept. 10 was now in the Hudson River.

Kitson had said Burstell was guilty of nothing more than poor judgment and that the devices in his home were made in China and used on construction sites. He said the device shown to the undercover officer — and the basis for the criminal charge — was a “super blockbuster” purchased 15 years ago in Pennsylvania for $25.

Burstell’s guilty plea satisfied an eight-count indictment that included additional weapons charges and conspiracy. The felony weapon charge was punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Lippe’s son testifies against him — again — in wife-slay trial

It’s awful to have to testify against your own father when he’s charged with murdering your mother.

Andrew Lippe has had to do it twice.

Lippe, the 16-year-old son of accused killer Werner Lippe, took the stand for the second time this year in Westchester County Court, where the elder Lippe is charged with second-degree murder in the disappearance of his 49-year-old wife, Faith.

Faith Lippe, a nutritionist for Ossining schools, was last seen alive on Oct. 3, 2008. No one has heard from her since. Her husband of 18 years allegedly knocked her unconscious with a piece of wood during an argument Oct. 3, dragged her behind their home on Little Lake Road in Cortlandt and burned her body in a 55-gallon barrel for 24 hours until her remains were nothing but ash.

He told as much to a friend and later to police but recanted his confession, saying he made up the story in a misguided attempt to be left alone. His first trial ended with a hung jury, who voted 7 to 5 for acquittal.

The teenaged Lippe was calm and composed today in front of the jury, as he was in January at his father’s first trial. He testified about the strife in the family’s home because his parents were divorcing. He said that two days after his mother vanished, his father lit a bonfire behind their home, spread new topsoil over the area when the fire went out, and sprinkled the same area with spices when police dogs showed up.

Prosecutors contend Lippe’s actions are evidence that he was trying to cover up all traces of his wife’s remains.

Under cross examination, Andrew Lippe said his mother could be controlling and that his father had problems with his eyesight — a reference to Werner Lippe’s insistence that he last saw his wife leaving the house and getting into a mysterious dark vehicle that he couldn’t describe further.

Also testifying against Lippe today was Meryl Learnihan, the wife of one of the prosecutions star witnesses, James Learnihan, who had worn a police wire that recorded Lippe’s confession. Meryl Learnihan told the jury that Faith Lippe, who she described as a devoted mother, was making “serious plans” for a new life after her divorce. She said Werner Lippe had left a message on their answering machine saying that Faith was missing and that he was felling overwhelmed by the situation.

Werner Lippe, a 68-year-old jewelry designer whose celebrity clients include Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, has been held without bail at the county jail in Valhalla since his arrest on Oct. 30, 2008. His trial continues next week before county Judge Barbara Zambelli.

Andrew Lippe and his 14-year-old sister, Stephanie, continue to live with Andrew’s longtime tae kwon do instructor and attend school.

No more night classes at Pace Law School

For anyone who’s ever wanted to keep a full-time job and go to Pace Law School at night, you better start looking somewhere else.

Westchester County’s only law school is cutting its part-time evening classes. Those in the program this year will be the last ones accepted. Here’s the explanation from Pace officials:

“In personal letters to current students and alumni, Dean (Michelle S.) Simon cited a confluence of demographic and economic factors necessitating the decision, made after ‘much research and internal discussion’ at the law school and Pace University. The viability and vitality of part-time evening programs has been an issue nationwide. Demand is down, with employer-subsidized law degrees a thing of the past, and employees reluctant to jeopardize their primary jobs by pursuing a part-time advanced degree.

“‘Phasing out what has become a costly program with steadily declining enrollment will allow the law school to reallocate resources to innovative, new programs designed to preserve flexibility and reduce the expense of a legal education,’ explained Dean Simon. These initiatives include a January admit program, the part-time day program, a continuation of evening courses year-round, and the summer skills semester.

“The part-time evening program has been a division of the law school since its inception in 1976. While Dean Simon conceded that ‘this is an emotional issue,’ she is confident that ‘the benefits far outweigh any losses.’

“The fall 2010 incoming class will be the last to enter the evening division. Students will be fully supported and retained until each member graduates over the next four years.”