Archive for April, 2011
An article posted on The Journal News’ website today describes a willful delay of a Freedom of Information Request from the New York State Office of Court Administration.
I don’t think I’ll be winning any popularity contests at OCA in the foreseeable future. And so it goes ….
Woman who stole $180K to serve no jail time • 04.26.11
Mary Mancuso, 53, was sentenced today to serve five years’ probation for second-degree grand larceny. She pleaded guilty to the felony charge on Jan. 11.
Mancuso was accused of embezzling $181,657 from Vernon Woods Apartments Inc., 180 Pearsall Drive, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.
As treasurer of the 353-unit apartment complex, Mancuso used money from the co-op’s bank account for personal expenses, including $80,000 for landscaping at her private home on Topland Road.
After a new management company took over, a complaint led to an investigation beginning in June 2009 by investigators from the District Attorney’s Office and, ultimately, Mancuso’s arrest.
She has paid back the entire amount, which prosecutors said she stole between December 2007 and April 2008. If she had been convicted at a trial she could have been sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in state prison.
Robert Viggiano (left), an electrical contractor, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of first-degree attempted rape. He is free on $100,000 bail.
According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office, Viggiano approached a prostitute and told her he wanted to have sex with a 10-year-old virgin. He asked her if she could arrange it.
Instead, the prostitute reported him to Yonkers police, who with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office set up a sting operation. They had Viggiano go to a pre-arranged location on Feb. 8, leading him to think he would meet the girl there for sex.
When he showed up — with $400 and candy in his pockets — he was arrested.
Viggiano is due back in court on May 10. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison if convicted.
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct released its annual report today, showing more New Yorkers filed complaints against judges last year than in any year since the agency was founded.
The commission received and processed 2,025 complaints in 2010 — 170 more than were filed in 2009, according to its annual report. But although there were more complaints in 2010, there were fewer investigations. The commission launched 225 full-fledged investigations last year, compared to 257 investigations in 2009.
From those investigations, 15 judges were publicly disciplined, 36 were confidentially cautioned and 14 resigned, the commission reported. There are about 3,500 judges in the state unified court system.
Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said the numbers for 2010 were on par with those from the last five years.
Of the 15 judges who were disciplined, one was from Westchester: Ossining Village Justice Raymond R. Barlaam, who was admonished for scheduling trials in traffic cases based solely on the availability of the officers who made the arrest or issued the ticket. The commission said his actions from 2003 to 2008 resulted in long delays in hundreds of cases and forced defendants “to wait years for their day in court.”
Barlaam, a village justice since 1983, had allowed more than 500 traffic cases to languish — some more than five years — so that he could schedule trials when the issuing officer was available. The commission noted that Barlaam acknowledged his actions were wrong, that he has discontinued the practice and now schedules calendar matters in a timely fashion and considers requests for adjournments on a case-by-case basis. Barlaam has since “disposed of virtually all of the approximately 500 cases at issue, by conducting trials, accepting guilty pleas or entertaining motions to dismiss by the prosecutor,” the commission said.
The admonishment was the least severe of three possible sanctions the commission can issue. The most severe is removal from office, followed by censure. The admonishment results in no penalty against Barlaam but serves to advise the public of his actions.
In the commission’s annual report Tembeckjian renewed a call for state legislation to make the commission’s formal disciplinary proceedings open to the public for the first time since 1978.
“It may be unusual for a government agency to invite more scrutiny of its work,” he said in a written statement, “but that has been the Commission’s unwavering position for more than three decades.”
The Report, which details the Commission’s activities in 2010, is available http://www.cjc.ny.gov/
Milton Sisalima (left) of Battle Avenue was arraigned today in Westchester County Court on a 10-count indictment stemming from his actions on Feb. 20. That day, according to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, security officers watching surveillance cameras saw Sisalima entered the women’s restroom near Macy’s,
They found him locked in one of the stalls videotaping women under the stall dividers. His cell phone had images of women who had used that restroom.
In court papers, Sisalima told White Plains police that he had filmed women in restrooms numerous times for sexual gratification.
“I really thought I was going to get away with it because I’ve done it several times in the same bathroom and have even done it about six times in the women’s bathroom at Wal-Mart and never got caught,” he said in the court papers.
He also told police that he began watching women in restrooms when he was 13 living in Ecuador. He said he continued to do so after coming to White Plains in March 2009, according to the court papers.
Sisalima is charged with two felony counts of second-degree unlawful surveillance and eight misdemeanor counts of second-degree attempted unlawful surveillance. He is being held without bail and is due back in court on July 13. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
WHITE PLAINS — A man who struck a 23-year-old man with his car while driving high on PCP in Mount Vernon a year ago was sentenced to probation today and ordered to surrender his driver’s license.
Lawrence McDowdell, 42, was sentenced to time served with five years’ probation, following his guilty plea to second-degree vehicular assault, a felony, and driving while ability impaired, a misdemeanor.
McDowdell, a Mount Vernon resident, struck the man in front of 146 South 10th Ave. on April 13, 2010. The impact broke the victim’s leg in three places.
McDowdell also smashed into three parked cars before fleeing on foot shortly before 7 p.m. Police arrested him a short time later. He spent 9 days in jail.
In court, McDowdell apologized for his actions to Westchester County Judge James Hubert. His lawyer, Richard Portale, said McDowdell knew the family and reached out to them right away.
As part of his probation, McDowdell must stay off drugs. His driver’s license was revoked, and he now gets around on a bicycle, Portale said.
Celebrity becomes a side issue for Taylor • 04.12.11
The retired grid-iron great left it up to his attorney, Arthur Aidala, to do the talking. The last time Taylor talked after his sentencing he downplayed the crime of prostitution and his paying woman for sex in an interview with a cable news station — an issue that came up during his risk assessment hearing on Tuesday.
Taylor, 53, who now lives in Florida, was convicted patronizing a prostitute, a 16-year-old runaway girl from the Bronx, and sexual misconduct. The former Giant linebacker admitted during sentencing in January that he and the girl had sexual intercourse. Supreme Court Justice William A. Kelly sentenced Taylor to six-years probation and a $1,400 fine in March 2011. The girl showed up with her lawyer.
In a statement to Ramapo police after his May arrest, Taylor told Detective Richard Strathey that he had oral sex on the the girl, after mutual back tubs. Police recovered a condom with their DNA. He also told Strathey that he and the girl talked and she left the room to make a telephone call — to a family member. Taylor declined to name the friend who had hooked up with Rasheed Davis, 37, who brought the girl up to Rockland. Davis beat her up before forcing her into Taylor’s room at the Holiday Inn in Montebello.
In court today, Aidala convinced Kelly to classify Taylor as a low-risk Level one sex offender. That means Taylor’s name, photo and address will not appear of sex offender registries run by New York and Florida.
There was lots of discussions on the media and Taylor’s celebrity.
At one point, the discussion compared Taylor with Tiger Woods as far as a negative reputation hurting an athlete’s ability to garner endorsements. Kelly noted that despite Woods’ problems and loss of sponsors, the golfer “still makes $85 million and the whole world knows about his dalliances or whatever you call it.”
Woods issue came up when Aidala discussed how a level two sex offender classification could economically harm Taylor. Level two would mean Taylor’s name, address, photo and conviction would be added to public sex registries. for life
The level one classification would keep Taylor anonymous, though Kelly pointed out Taylor’s case is no secret having been on television, newspapers, and the Internet. SInce Taylor didn’t have to attend the hearing – and didn’t – four reporters attended, compared to dozens and the circus-like atmosphere when he did appear in court.
Aidala said businesses like Nike would check and could become hesitant to use Taylor if his name was out there.
Kelly then cited Woods, leading Aidala to note that Woods is still active while Taylor works as a retired player. Kelly then pointed out in the real world we’re a society based on money
“My determination is not going to be based on media reports,” Kelly said. “I’ll decide this on the law.”
Aidala said, “I knew that and knew that when we first walked into this courtroom,” leading Kelly to respond, “You don’t have to compliment me.”
Upper right: Young woman who Taylor paid $300 for sex and her lawyer Gloria Allred
Upper left: Lawrence Taylor and local attorney Alan Brill
Lower Right: Taylor’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala
Paula’s killers up for parole again • 04.07.11
Two years like clockwork the two men who murdered 16-year-old Paula Bohovesky 31 years ago will soon sit before a parole board panel and ask for their freedom.
And what has becomes an annual rite every two years since their first parole hearings in 2005, the teenager’s family, residents, police and prosecutors will urge the parole panel to keep the two men in prison — hopefully for the rest of their lives.
On Oct. 28, 1980, Paula Bohovesky walked down Main Street in Pearl River on her way home from her part-time job at the library. She was attacked and killed, separately, by Richard LaBarbera and Robert McCain. Bohovesky, an aspiring actress, musician and artist, was two blocks from home.
Both LaBarbera and McCain had spent the day drinking at the High Wheeler bar on Main Street.
McCain, a drifter and career criminal, saw the high school junior with long blonde hair walk by. He left the bar and struck her in the head with a chunk of pavement outside a vacant house on North Main Street. She stumbled down the alley, where McCain had pulled her and then supposedly sexually abused her.
LaBarbera, a local resident, watched and thinking the teenager was dead, tried sodomizing her. When she stirred, LaBarbera stabbed her multiple times with a knife, leaving five large stab wounds to her upper body. She was found in a pool of blood with her dungarees pulled down around her ankles.
Both men denied killing her — and continue during parole hearings — but were convicted of second-degree murder and sentence to 25 years to life in prison. Both men have been denied parole every two years since 2005.
They come up for parole for a fourth time in May and June.
Lois Bohovesky, a puppeteer whose works with children, has diligently opposed their release, along with her son. Her husband died in recent years. Local residents have joined Bohovesky to lobby every two years.
Legislator John Murphy, R-Pearl River, started a website called “Petition for Paula Committee” that raises money and awareness for the anti-parole effort. His daughter Jennifer, now 47, went to school with Paula Bohovesky.
“The driving purpose is to rally everyone into telling the New York State Parole Board to never release these convicts who remain unrepentant,” Murphy wrote. “The other purpose is to keep Paula’s memory alive. Pearl River High School theater students sustain a modest scholarship fund on their own.”
Murphy said the purpose is to “create a little corner of the school property in Paula’s memory where all students, but mostly those who hear the call of the arts as Paula did, can find quiet to meditate and reflect. Lois’ life now revolves around performing art as the central figure in the Vagabond Puppets.”
To oppose parole for LaBarbera and McCain, go to Petition for Paula
A 28-year-old man who was convicted in a deadly robbery of a suspected Mount Vernon drug dealer two years ago has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Keith Wilkinson received the maximum sentence last week after being found guilty of murder, robbery, burglary, gun possession and assault, in the fatal shooting of 38-year-old Leaton Burke.
Westchester County prosecutors said Wilkinson was probably not the shooter but was equally guilty because he “acted in concert” with those who killed Burke and beat up his roommate. The shooter and the other attacker were never caught.
Burke was shot once in the head, execution style, at his home at 613 S. 10th Ave. on Jan. 27, 2009. Wilkinson was arrested a year later after police got a tip that he confessed to his role in the fatal robbery.
Wilkinson has maintained his innocence and said he had nothing to do with the robbery. No forensic evidence tied him to the crime scene, but several police officers said he confessed to participating in the crime.
DA addresses child abuse • 04.06.11
In her monthly “Desk of the DA” letter, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore discusses the topic of child abuse:
“Children need and deserve a safe, nurturing environment to grow and learn, and helping to provide that environment is one of our most important shared responsibilities as a community. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and as chief law enforcement officer in Westchester County, I want to share with you the steps the District Attorney’s Office is taking to enhance children’s safety and health.
“Having served as a Family Court Judge, I know how difficult and overwhelming it can be for children and families to navigate the legal system. As District Attorney, I make sure that cases involving child victims, those under age 18, are handled effectively and appropriately by specially trained prosecutors and staff. My goal is to minimize any additional trauma a child or family might feel, while bringing those responsible for harming a child to justice.
“The Child Abuse Bureau of the DA’s Office handles every criminal offense involving a child victim, investigating and prosecuting the cases of child abuse reported to local law enforcement. In addition, each day the Bureau reviews every report of suspected child abuse or neglect involving a child in Westchester County that has been received by the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). Most of the SCR allegations reviewed by my staff do not, in the final analysis, rise to the level of criminal activity.
“However, when the SCR allegations do present issues warranting law enforcement intervention, our child abuse prosecutors work together with local police to investigate and where appropriate, prosecute those offenders who commit crimes against children.
“As part of the work we do in this highly specialized area, we also refer cases for family, mental health or other services and interventions through Child Protective Services, Family Court, the Family Justice Center and other agencies. In 2010, my staff reviewed 7,958 SCR reports, referring 492 cases for law enforcement investigation. We prosecuted 419 cases in which children were the targeted victims.
“Very importantly, the Child Abuse Bureau in my office coordinates Westchester County’s Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT), designed to investigate child abuse. This is a group of law enforcement, medical and service professionals who work together to protect child victims and ensure effective investigations and prosecutions of cases involving sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or fatality of a child. The MDT works to reduce the trauma to child victims by limiting the number of times a child is exposed to interviews necessary to the investigation and by providing medical examinations performed by forensically trained medical professionals.
“The heart of the MDT is the Westchester Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) where interviews and forensic medical examinations take place in a child-friendly, supportive environment on the grounds of the Westchester Medical Center. In 2009, Westchester’s MDT/CAC was recognized by New York State as a Tier 1 Center, an acknowledgement that the Center had achieved the highest standards for the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases in the state.”
“Our office also serves as the co-coordinator of the Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT). The CFRT brings together the resources of a multidisciplinary team of professionals, particularly the investigating agencies of the District Attorney, the local police, the Medical Examiner and the Department of Social Services( DSS), and other protective specialists to carefully review the circumstances and events that have led up to the death of any child who, at the time of death, was receiving services from the DSS or one of its many contract agencies; whose death was reported to the SCR; or whose death is unexplained, unexpected or suspicious.
“The work of the CFRT often includes a public education component, intended to share the lessons learned from investigations of child fatalities in an effort to avoid preventable deaths in the future. Our work on the CFRT has resulted in recommendations on the proper and safe use of products that have been associated with fatalities, such as the improper use of nursing pillows and infant walkers. The CFRT has also made recommendations on practices such as providing a safe sleeping environment for babies and securing heavy objects such as televisions to prevent them from toppling over onto a child and causing death or other serious injury.
“Notwithstanding the work done by the District Attorney’s Office and our professional partners in this area, as with all effective public safety strategies, we need and want the help of the community as well. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911; to report suspected neglect or abuse of a child, call the SCR child abuse hot line at 1-800-342-3720, and let the professionals make the determination as to whether or not a child is safe in his or her environment.