Archive for May, 2011
More honors for Westchester lawyers …
Larchmont resident Stewart D. Aaron, a partner in the New York office of Arnold & Porter, will be inducted as the 58th president of the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA), a lower Manhattan bar association with more than 9,000 members, at the organization’s annual meeting on Thursday, May 26 beginning at 5:30 PM at St. Paul’s Chapel. A reception will follow at the NYCLA Home of Law at 14 Vesey Street.
In addition, NYCLA’s Eppler Prize will be awarded at the meeting to NYCLA’s LGBT Issues Committee for their report and recommendations on repealing the ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals in the military.
As NYCLA’s president, Mr. Aaron plans to create several task forces designed to address a variety of pressing issues facing attorneys, small law firms and the administration of justice in our society. In addition, he plans to use the latest in technology and social media to communicate with the membership.
In commenting on his becoming president of NYCLA, Mr. Aaron said, “NYCLA has been an important organization to me for many years. I’m honored by becoming its president, and my overriding hope and goal are that it become an even more vibrant organization than it is today with a membership that works on several fronts to improve the delivery of justice to all people.”
Mr. Aaron’s practice at Arnold & Porter is in commercial litigation and, over the past 27 years, he has developed experience and expertise in securities-related matters, representing clients in litigated matters in state and federal courts, and before regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations. He received a B.S. from Cornell University and graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law, where he was an editor of the Syracuse Law Review.
The New York County Lawyers’ Association was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
A local judge has been named an officer of a state board that investigates complaints about judges and disciplines those who behave unethically:
Commission members serve for renewable four-year terms, by appointment of the Governor, the Chief Judge or one of the four leaders of the Legislature. Commission officers are elected by the members and serve renewable two-year terms. Judge Ruderman is filling the remainder of the term of former Commission Vice Chair Stephen R. Coffey, whose term expired on March 31, 2011 after serving as a member for 16 years and as Vice Chair for three.
Judge Ruderman was appointed to the Court of Claims in 1995 by then-Governor George E. Pataki and is assigned to the White Plains district. At the time she was the Principal Law Clerk to a Justice of the Supreme Court. Previously, she served as an Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy County Attorney in Westchester County, and later she was in the private practice of law.
Judge Ruderman was appointed to the Commission in 1999 by then-Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to complete the remainder of Judge Juanita Bing Newton’s term as a member. She was reappointed by Judge Kaye in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Judge Ruderman is a member of the New York State Committee on Women in the Courts and Chair of the Gender Fairness Committee for the Ninth Judicial District. She is also a board member and former Vice President of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, was President of the White Plains Bar Association and served as President of the New York State Association of Women Judges.
Yannai trial: “Not in Kansas anymore” • 05.23.11
I had a bit of a break from the routine today as I travelled to Brooklyn to cover opening statements in the federal trial of Joseph Yannai, a restaurant book writer from Pound Ridge facing sex trafficking charges. Yannai, 67, is accused of luring young, foreign women to work as “personal assistants” and then intimidating and pressuring them to perform kinky acts.
As I walked into the gleaming, cavernous courtroom, I spotted Westchester County prosecutor Audrey Stone, who was the lead prosecutor in domestic violence trial of White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley. She was designated a special Assistant U.S. Attorney and is helping federal prosecutors Daniel Spector and Hilary Jager make their case against Yannai.
Stone seemed as impressed with the high-tech layout of the federal courtroom as I was. Two flat-screen monitors faced the gallery, and a third was inside the jury box. A wall-sized movie screen dropped from the ceiling so jurors could see documents up close. Microphones were everywhere and were tested before the judge entered. A clerk showed Stone how to operate a sophisticated overhead projector to display evidence.
I contrasted the scene with a typical Westchester County courtroom, where prosecutors have to wheel in a television monitor on a cart for the jury and where technical difficulties, especially when hooking up laptops, are the norm.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Stone quipped.
41 staff cuts in the 9th Judicial District • 05.20.11
UPDATE: Susan Tolchin, the former deputy county executive who was hired in retirement as a court management analyst, was one of the 41 let go in Wednesday’s layoffs.
Looks like the 9th Judicial District was largely spared from the hundreds of staff cuts announced by the New York State Office of Court Administration.
Out of the 1,116 full-time and part-time court employees in the five-county district, which covers Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties, a total of 41 employees were terminated. They included 13 senior court office assistants, 7 resource coordinators, 6 full-time and 2 part-time court assistants, 2 court attendants, 2 court aides, 2 assistant court analysts, 2 court office assistants, a case manager and a full-time and part-time law stenographer. Several others will get transferred to other judicial districts.
Also getting pink slips were two out of four court management analysts, but no word yet if one of them was Westchester’s former deputy county executive Susan Tolchin, who returned to the public payroll in December when she was hired by the court system to monitor the use of the county and city court buildings in the district.. Tolchin’s annual pay as a management analyst is $75,982, and her pension is $85,758. The combined income is higher than the $155,000 salary she received her final year in county government.
Administrative Judge Alan Scheinkman refused to say today if Tolchin was among those let go, saying he would not discuss specific personnel. A message left on Tolchin’s voice mail was not immediately returned.
No court officers in the 9th JD were laid off, although many took the buyout offered last year. The 9th Judicial District lost just more than 100 people to the state’s early retirement incentive in 2010.
Mount Vernon DPW supervisor indicted • 05.13.11
Ganga “Rudy” Persaud, 58, (left) was arraigned this morning in Westchester County Court on charges of first-degree perjury, a felony, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. He allegedly lied as a witness in a civil lawsuit against Mount Vernon about taking $2,650 to fix a sidewalk for a homeowner.
The lawsuit stemmed from a pedestrian’s slip and fall in front of 245 Summit Ave. The injured pedestrian accused the city of negligence, recklessness and carelessness.
Persaud testified on Nov .9 that he never spoke with the owner of 245 Summit Ave. or received payment from her. But city officials discovered that Persaud had taken two checks for $1,000 and $1,650 from the homeowner, one payable to cash and the other payable to Persaud, the District Attorney’s Office said.
The home at 245 Summit Ave. is owned by Alice Seibert. In January, Seibert said Persaud had come to her home to inspect the sidewalk and told her it would have to be repaired. Seibert said she asked whether Persaud knew any contractors that did such repairs, and he suggested she get three price quotes for the job.
Seibert said she paid Persaud’s son to do the work.
Persaud earned $100,231 in base pay and $34,553 in overtime in 2009, according to the most recent city records obtained by The Journal News. In January, Mount Vernon had said Persaud was serving a 30-day suspension during an unspecified misconduct investigation.
In a statement, District Attorney Janet DiFiore said Persaud put his self interest ahead of the city of Mount Vernon by taking money from a homeowner to fix a sidewalk and then lying about it.
“Actions like those severely undermine the public’s confidence in government,” she said. “Public employees should not act with impunity; this defendant’s behavior is more than criminal, it is an affront to the taxpayers who expect honest services from the City’s workforce.”
Persaud is due back in court on May 25, He is free on bail and has surrendered his passport. He faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted.
New Rochelle man convicted for Bronx murder • 05.12.11
A 25-year-old New Rochelle man was found guilty yesterday of murdering one man and trying to murder another in the Bronx four years ago.
A jury took less than three hours to convict Joseph Sanchez of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder, as well as three counts of second-degree weapon possession, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
Sanchez was found guilty of fatally shooting Joseph Viera and wounding Bonifacio Soto on April 7, 2007. Prosecutors argued that it was Sanchez who pulled up in front of a Kennedy Fried Chicken restaurant, at 162 East 174th Street and Morris Avenue, got out of his car and pointed a gun at Viera. They said Sanchez attempted to shoot Viera twice but the gun jammed, but Sanchez later shot Viera twice in the chest.
When Soto tried to help Viera, prosecutors argued, Sanchez shot him in the mouth. According to testimony, the fatal shooting may have been the result of a dispute over $30,000 that Viera believed had been stolen from him, according to the Bronx DA’s office.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Ann Donnelly set sentencing for June 2. Sanchez, who lived at 248 Centre Avenue before his arrest, faces up to 50 years to life in prison if given consecutive sentences for each crime. He is being held without bail.
Paul Ingvoldstad, 68, (left) was arraigned in Westchester County Court today on a felony charge of second-degree endangering the public health, safety or the environment. He remains free on $2,500 bail.
According to the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, Ingvoldstad called the public works department in early July to pick up some items, and put out drafting printers with six, one-gallon containers of ammonium hydroxide in front of his home on Old Post Road South.
The village’s public works department took the printers but left the containers of ammonium hydroxide on the curb, which were added to some household trash several days later, on July 7.
When a sanitation worker picked up the trash and threw it in the garbage truck, the ammonium hydroxide containers burst, releasing the ammonia fumes.
Three public works employees were exposed, and one, a 46-year-old man, was knocked unconsciousness for more than an hour, prosecutors said. He also suffered burning, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, and extreme sensitivity to light from the fumes. The worker has since recovered.
Police have said the box containing the gallon chemical jugs was not marked as containing hazardous materials.
Ingvolstad was arrested in September 2010 on the environmental charge, as well as second-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree assault, both misdemeanors. He rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors in December and was indicted last week.
He is due back in court on Aug. 4 and faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted.
A disbarred Bronxville lawyer was sentenced today to five years probation for stealing $82,000 from a former client.
Timothy Quinn, 75, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., pleaded guilty last year to second-degree grand larceny. He has paid $40,000 in restitution and must pay an additional $796 a month until the debt is covered.
Quinn, whose law office was at 65 Pondfield Road, stole the money from a Harrison man who had hired Quinn to help sell his home at 12 Bradford Ave.
Quinn accepted an $82,000 down payment in July 2008 from a couple buying the home that was intended for his client. When the Harrison man went to collect the deposit at the closing two months later, Quinn had already spent it.
He pleaded guilty on June 15. The sentencing was postponed several times so Quinn could come up with the $40,000 lump-sum restitution that was part of his plea deal.
At the sentencing in Westchester County Court, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea noted that the victim, who had been a friend of Quinn, was more interested in getting his money than seeing Quinn serve jail time.
Quinn must reimburse the New York State Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, which covered his client’s losses. Quinn was disbarred in August.
Bronxville lawyer honored for pro bono work • 05.09.11
Elizabeth King received the Bar Association’s 2011 President’s Pro Bono Service Award for volunteering her time with the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and helping clients with uncontested divorces, unemployment insurance cases and domestic relations orders.
Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger said in a statement that King took on the pro bono work with “genuine concern, dedication and generosity.”
“As lawyers we have a duty and responsibility to better our communities and help our neighbors,” he stated. “Particularly now when government support for legal services has dropped and the need for legal services has grown significantly, pro bono services are more essential than ever.”
For a complete list of Bar Association award winners go to www.nysba.org/probonowinners.
Photo, from left: Vincent E. Doyle, president-elect of the NYS Bar Association, Elizabeth King and Stephen P. Younger with the 2011 President’s Pro Bono Service Award.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore talks about the three-year anniversary of the Westchester Intelligence Center, a cooperative program betwen the DA’s office and local police departments:
Westchester County is home to 42 independent local police departments. As District Attorney and Westchester County’s chief law enforcement officer, I have made the sharing of crime-related information among these departments a top priority. In 2006, in order to realize this goal, I began the process of building the Westchester Intelligence Center, working in consultation with police chiefs and commissioners throughout the county. The WIC officially opened in May of 2008 as a vital and cost-effective partnership among our 42 local police departments in Westchester as well as our county, federal, and state law enforcement partners. Three years into its operation, the WIC has become an essential part of our public safety efforts here Westchester County.
The WIC employs innovative and creative approaches to support the investigative work of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies: crime analysts are assisting detectives in identifying murder suspects by enabling the collection of identifying data from multiple sources; police are sharing crime reports and receiving information on geographic patterns such as burglary rings; and analysts are using multi-jurisdictional data to identify emerging crime trends. These types of critical information allow law enforcement to create pro-active and predictive public safety strategies.
Analysts at the WIC assist our local police departments with time-consuming analysis of crime data and information that would tax an individual department’s limited resources. Data from numerous criminal justice agencies and online sources enhance these functions. The WIC collaborates on a regular basis with state and federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and statewide agencies using the national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) data network along with other resources. Weekly meetings of field intelligence officers are conducted at the WIC which bring together local police departments, County Police, FBI, NYPD, and representatives from New York State Parole and Probation and Corrections Departments. Once a month, as District Attorney, I meet with police commissioners and chiefs from various departments in order to review countywide crime trends, share information and discuss the strategies necessary to keep Westchester a safe place for all of us.
The work done by the crime analysts at the WIC is assisting in a wide range of investigations. WIC analysts, particularly in their analysis of the voluminous records of the telephones used in connection with the crimes, contributed to arrests in more than a dozen murders, many of which were linked to gangs and narcotics activity. In the last three years, information on more than 700 guns seized by police was cross-checked with a nationwide ballistics database; matches can determine if the same weapon was used in another crime. In conjunction with long term narcotics wiretap investigations, WIC helped to identify and locate suspects who were being sought by police. Building upon the NY/NJ HIDTA license plate reader project, the Westchester Security Initiative has begun deployment of permanently fixed license plate readers to capture data and track movements.
An important aspect of the work of the WIC’s analysts is identification of crime patterns and trends. One commercial burglary pattern expanded to include more than 30 incidents across multiple state lines. In 2009, a WIC analyst received national recognition for her analytical work on this case. One emerging trend is the increased use of the illegal drug heroin. In March, four people between the ages of 21 and 23 overdosed on heroin in the northern part of the county. Utilizing an approach that represents a departure from traditional law enforcement, the WIC’s analysts are also consulting with clinics that provide assistance for addicts to learn about current patterns of illegal drug use that might also involve illegal drug use including heroin, prescription drug abuse or illicit methadone use.
The Westchester Intelligence Center continues to provide critical and highly cost-effective resources to gather, analyze and share information. The result is intelligence-driven policing and informed strategic planning, allowing law enforcement to be even more efficient and effective in the fight to keep Westchester communities safe and secure.
For more information please visit www.westchesterda.net