Cohen appointed to Appellate Court

State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey A. Cohen has been appointed to the Appellate Division, Gov. David Paterson’s office said today.

Cohen, 62, was elected last year to state Supreme Court. Prior to that, he had served two years as a Westchester County Court judge. Cohen is also a former Yorktown town justice, having served in that position from 1989 to 2006.

“I am proud to nominate such an accomplished and respected jurist to the Appellate Division,” Paterson said in a statement. “Justice Cohen’s experience and dedication on the bench will be a tremendous addition to the Appellate Division.”

The $144,000-a-year post does not require approval by the state Senate.

Feds crack cell phone cloning ring

Federal authorities have charged nine people who worked at Sprint stores in the Bronx, New Jersey, and Florida in a case of illegal cell phone cloning.

Federal prosecutors and the United State Secret Service said the nine defendants illegally accessed customer accounts 16,000 times during the first six months of the year to steal information about the accounts that was then used to make copies of the cell phones. The illegal cell phones were used to ring up more than $15 million in calls, federal authorities said.

The federal complaint and news release do not say which company the employees worked for but the company was  identified in court as Sprint.

Among those charged was Johnny Santana, 29, of Yonkers, who worked at one of the Bronx stores. Other stores involved in the scam were in North Bergen, New Jersey, and Tampa,Florida, prosecutors said. The other eight defendants were Luis Abad, 24, of West New York, N.J.; Mathews Angel, 23, of West New York, N.J.; Luis Orriols, 22, of Jersey City, N.J.; Francis Lopez, 25, of Weehawken, N.J.; Pedro Rodriguez, 30, of the Bronx; Princetta Dorisma, 23, of Tampa, Fl.; Lesly Esquea, 27, also of Tampa; and Jacklin Volny, 36, of Riverview, Fl.

All nine defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the top count: conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Feds drop Quinoy case

Federal prosecutors have decided against a retrial for Jose Quinoy, the Sleepy Hollow police detective who was cleared last month by a jury on two of three charges against him.

Quinoy, 37, was accused of violating the rights of two men in two incidents in late 2006. He was also accused of tampering with a witness in the case, fellow Sleepy Hollow Officer Michael Hayes, who wore a wire for the feds.

Quinoy was cleared of violating the rights of Luis Vilches in December 2006. In that incident, prosecutors said Quinoy illegally used a stun gun on Vilches after he was handcuffed. Vilches had shown up with a tree saw at police headquarters earlier that day threatening to cut Quinoy up over alleged comments Quinoy made about his daughter months earlier. Quinoy was also cleared of tampering with Hayes. Federal prosecutors said he tried to influence Hayes’ grand jury testimony.

The jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal on another civil rights charge. In that incident, Quinoy was accused of punching and kicking gomez after he was already handcuffed following a vicious street brawl outside police headquarters on Oct. 17, 2006. The fight stemmed from Gomez’s belief that Quinoy was dating his 22-year-old daughter. The married Quinoy and Gomez’s daughter Haydee both denied there was a romantic relationship.

The case took a bizarre twist on the eve of trial in June when it was discovered that evidence in the case was missing. A disc with recordings made by Hayes turned up blank. After pre-trial hearings, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas said the lead FBI agent in the case, Catherine Pena, had destroyed the disc and then lied about it on the stand.

Accused human trafficker, sex abuser Yannai to be arraigned

Just got word from the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office that Pound Ridge author Joseph Yannai is going to be released from the hospital this afternoon and then moved to federal court in Brooklyn where he will be arraigned on charges connected to his alleged practice of luring young women to the U.S. from foreign countries and then sexually abusing them in his home. Yannai was charged by the feds on Tuesday. That came more than a year after he was arrested on similar charges by the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said that Yannai is not going to be represented by Scarsdale lawyer John Pappalardo in the federal case. He will be represented at the arraignment, which likely won’t take place until after 4 p.m., by a lawyer from the Federal Defender’s office.

Yannai, 66, faces a possible life sentence if he’s convicted. The feds also want to seize the $700,000 home of the man who wrote a book about famous chefs.

Last member of Peekskill drug crew gets 25 years in prison

The last of the members of the infamous Barnes Brothers drug crew that operated out of Peekskill was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for his part in the violent crack cocaine organization.

U.S. District Judge Stephen C. Robinson sentenced Tuere Barnes, 27, in U.S. District Court in White Plains more than a year after a federal jury convicted him of racketeering, narcotics conspiracy, murder conspiracy, kidnapping, and possessing a firearm in connection with a violent crime.

Barnes is the younger brother of kingpin Khalid Barnes who was sentenced to life in prison after a jury spared him the death penalty following his conviction in the cold-blooded killings of two other drug dealers in Manhattan. The crew operated from 1995 to March 2004, federal prosecutors said.

All 11 members of the Barnes crew have been convicted. Another defendant in the case who was not a member of the crew, Anthony “Toast” Paulino, remains on the lam.

FBI agent at center of Quinoy storm still on-duty

FBI Special Agent Catherine Pena was found by a federal judge to have destroyed evidence in the criminal civil rights case of Sleepy Hollow Det. Jose Quinoy. Judge Kenneth Karas also found that Pena tried to cover up the destruction or replacement of a disc containing recordings made by Officer Michael Hayes, the Sleepy Hollow cop who cooperated with the FBI in its investigation. Then, Karas found after pre-trial hearings, that Pena lied about it on the witness stand. Pena refused to testify at Quinoy’s criminal trial. Her lawyer informed Karas that if forced onto the stand by a subpoena from Quinoy’s lawyer, Andrew Quinn, Pena would take thew Fifth Amendment.

The jury acquitted Quinoy of two counts — one civil rights charge and witness tampering — and deadlocked on another civil rights charge. Quinoy came within one holdout juror vote on one count of beating the entire indictment. The lawyer for the man who Quinoy allegedly assaulted on Oct. 17, 2006, after he was already in handcuffs blamed Pena for the verdict and the deadlocked count.

But despite all this, Pena is still working in the FBI’s New York office. FBI Spokesman James Margolin said this morning, “She is still an FBI agent assigned to the New York office.”

But Margolin declined to comment when asked if she was under any disciplinary review.

At the end of pre-trial hearings that delved into the missing disc, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Dunne said federal prosecutors and the FBI were looking into Pena’s actions.

Quinoy not guilty on two counts; jury deadlocks on the third charge

A federal jury has just acquitted Sleepy Hollow police Det. Jose Quinoy on two of the three charges he faced in his civil rights trial. A mistrial was declared on the third charge after the jury reported it was hopelessly deadlocked on that count.

Quinoy, 37, was cleared of illegally using a stun gun on Luis Vilches on Dec. 17, 2006, after Vilches was handcuffed and under the control of other officers. He was also cleared of tampering with fellow officer Michael Hayes who wore a wire for the FBI and secretly recorded conversations with Quinoy and other Sleepy Hollow police officers.

The jury deadlocked on the first count of the indictment in which Quinoy was charged with punching and kicking Mario Gomez on Oct. 17, 2006, after a handcuffed Gomez was already complying with other officers. The incident stemmed from rumors that the married Quinoy was romancing Gomez’s 22-year-old daughter, Haydee. Mario Gomez came to the Sleepy Hollow police station to fight Quinoy that night and the charge came from Quinoy’s alleged post-fight actions against Gomez.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas scheduled an Aug. 10 conference at which time federal prosecutors are expected to decide whether they will re-try Quinoy on the Gomez charge.

Quinoy jury breaks without reaching verdict

Jurors in the civil rights trial of Sleepy Hollow Det. Jose Quinoy failed to reach a verdict today after five hours of deliberations.

They’ll be back at the Brieant courthouse tomorrow to continue weighing the fate of Quinoy, 37, who’s accused of assaulting two men after they were already handcuffed and under the control of other cops. He’s also charged with witness tampering for allegedly trying to dissuade Officer Michael Hayes from telling a federal grand jury what he saw during the first incident, a fight between Quinoy and Mario Gomez on Oct. 17, 2006, and Gomez’s subsequent arrest.

The jury asked if a report about the second incident, an alleged Tasering of a handcuffed Luis Vilches on Dec. 17, 2006, was in evidence. The report about the arrest by Sgt. Paul Hood was not in evidence. And Hood only made a verbal report to a lieutenant about the alleged stun gun incident, defense lawyer Andrew Quinn said.

It became pretty clear that there would be no verdict Wednesday when the jury of nine women and three men sent out a note a little after 1 p.m. saying they’d work from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

No verdict in Quinoy case

Jose Quinoy

Jurors sent out four notes in four hours of deliberation today in the Jose Quinoy case, but none of them said “verdict.”

The jury of nine women and three men will be back at it tomorrow morning at 9:30 in the Brieant Federal Courthouse to consider the fate of Quinoy, the 37-year-old veteran Sleepy Hollow police detective accused of abusing two men in separate incidents in the village in late 2006. He’s charged with kicking and punching Mario Gomez, then 49, on Oct. 17, 2006, after Gomez was already handcuffed and under the control of other cops. He’s charged with using a stun gun on Luis Vilches on Dec. 17, 2006, after Vilches was already handcuffed and complying with police. Prosecutors charge that Quinoy violated the men’s civil rights in the incidents.

Both incidents stemmed from personal disputes Quinoy had with the men, federal prosecutors said. In the  Gomez incident, Quinoy and Gomez got into a fight over rumors that the married Quinoy was carrying on a relationship with Gomez’s 22-year-old daughter, Haydee, and bragging about it in the police locker room. In the Vilches incident, Quinoy and Vilches had allegedly traded vile sexual threats about each other’s families in June 2006. In December, Vilches came looking for Quinoy with a tree saw, saying he was gooing to cut him into pieces for Quinoy’s threat to sodomize Vilches’ daughter while Vilches was in jail. Quinoy, who was not on duty, joined other officers in the search for Vilches and they found him in a village parking lot. Quinoy allegedly applied a Taser to Vilches while he and Sgt. Paul Hood were walking the cuffed Vilches to a police vehicle. Quinoy says he only threatened to use the stun gun in order to stop Vilches from spitting at him.

Quinoy is also accused of tampering with a witness in the case, Officer Michael Hayes, who wore a wire at the behest of the FBI and secretly recorded Quinoy and other officers.

Jurors asked for testimony from five witnesses — including Quinoy and Hayes — regarding what happened between the time Gomez was handcuffed and he was driven away in a police car. They also asked for the testimony of Vilches and Hood.

Regarding the voluminous request, Judge Kenneth Karas quipped, “I’m inclined to send them back a note asking what they don’t want.”

Quinoy hearing postponed

Oral arguments on indicted Sleepy Hollow cop Jose Quinoy’s bid to have charges against him thrown out due to accusations of misconduct by an FBI agent have been pushed back from tomorrow to Friday at 2:15 p.m. in front of U. S. District Judge Kenneth Karas. Quinoy (at left with his wife after his arraignment last year) is charged with brutalizing two men already in police custody and tampering with a witness. Jury selection is still scheduled in White Plains for next Wednesday. Of course, that could change if Quinoy’s lawyer Andrew Quinn is successful in his arguments Friday that FBI Agent Catherine Pena’s actions – Quinn charges she swapped in a blank disc for one that was secretly recorded by a cooperating witnes – have so damaged the prosecution’s case that the charges have to be tossed out. Federal prosecutors, who didn’t exactly rush to Pena’s defense in their court papers opposing Quinn’s motion, say no matter what happened with the discs, it doesn’t have anything to do with the charges that put Quinoy in the defendant’s seat to begin with, namely the beatings of two men two months apart in 2006, a year and a half before any secret recordings were made by Sleepy Hollow cop Michael Hayes.