Busy court day in Westchester

Summers are typically slow in the Westchester County Courthouse, but today featured three high-profile arraignments and a lesser-known sentencing.

The first was the arraignment of two Yonkers men charged with fatally beating Robert Lopez, the brother of a Yonkers mayoral aide. The men had been arrested on assault charges for the lethal May 17 attack, but the charges were upgraded to manslaughter after he died 10 days later.

The second arraignment was of a now-suspended correction officer accused of raping a prisoner at the Taconic Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison for women in Bedford Hills. The suspect, Fredrick Branyah, a 61-year-old married father from Yonkers, was accused of raping another inmate there in 2003 but acquitted at trial and returned to work a year later.

Arraignment #3 was of the former New Rochelle public works supervisor on 66 (!) charges of fraud. Richard Fevang, who oversaw the maintenance and repair of the city’s vehicles, is accused of doctoring documents to steer contracts to favored businesses.

Lastly, a story we’ve never reported. A 26-year-old New Rochelle man was sentenced to serve two years in prison for punching a 71-year-old cab driver in New Rochelle. Fernando Marquez pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in the attack. Here’s the criminal complaint from the Westchester District Attorney’s office, edited for length and for language:

On November 14, 2010 at approximately 2:30 a.m., the victim picked up the defendant at Main St. and Centre Ave. in New Rochelle.  The defendant requested a ride to 25 Drake Ave., and while in route to his destination, he fell asleep. When they arrived at 25 Drake Ave., the victim woke up the defendant and informed him they were at his destination. The defendant told the victim that was not the location and to keep driving.  The victim drove a little further and pulled over. As the defendant started to open the door, the victim reminded him that he needed to pay for the ride. The defendant handed the victim money for his fare and the victim gave him change.

At this point, the defendant started to doze off in the back seat and the victim said to him “friend, I’m leaving its time to go.”  The defendant became engaged and stated, “don’t kick me out.” The victim then insisted that the defendant exit his vehicle, at which point, the defendant began assailing the victim with verbal insults as he stated that he was going to kill the victim.  The defendant told the victim he was not going to kick him out of the taxi and put his arm through the middle partition, which separates the passengers in the back from the driver in the front. Eventually, the defendant exited the vehicle, but left the passenger door open.  He then proceeded to the driver’s side of the vehicle and opened the driver’s door.  The defendant continued to insult the driver and punched him in the face several times, which broke the victim’s nose.  During this attack, the defendant attempted to grab the victim’s fanny pack (which contained his money).

The victim was eventually able to get away from the defendant and drive away.  Once he was clearly away from the defendant, the victim called the police, who responded to the scene.  The victim was transported to Sound Shore Medical Center where he received treatment for his broken nose and other injuries.

Marquez apologized in court, but Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit admonished him for attacking the driver because he lost patience with him. “I don’t know what you could have been thinking,” the judge said. He sentenced Marquez to 18 months of supervision after he is released.

Rebecca Baker

Rebecca Baker joined The Journal News in March 2004. She covers Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe, and was previously the state and county courts reporter in Westchester County. In prior jobs, she covered the Town of Greenburgh and Rockland County government and politics. Before coming to The Journal News, she was a municipal reporter for newspapers in New Haven, Conn. and Warren, Ohio.