Cold reception

There was a chill on the second floor of the Westchester County Courthouse this morning, and it had nothing to do with winter weather.

Without saying a word, the wife of convicted Mount Vernon thief Arthur Rose told defense attorney Carolyn Minter exactly what she thought of her — or at least her inability to get an acquittal for her husband.

As they left Judge James Hubert’s courtroom, where Minter has just been replaced by another lawyer, she turned to Mrs. Rose and said, “Good morning.”


Minter seemed stunned. “You mean you can’t even say good morning to me?”

At that point, Mrs. Rose gave her a look that I won’t even attempt to translate, but it made me step five paces back. Mrs. Rose then turned and walked down the hallway with her new attorney Barry Agulnick, a veteran criminal defense lawyer from Brooklyn.

For those unfamiliar with the case, Arthur Rose, the former purchasing agent for Mount Vernon schools, was found guilty of accepting bribes from companies who he helped get big contracts with the district. He was supposed to be sentenced today on third-degree bribe receiving, official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities.

He is facing up to seven years in prison on the felony charges. Judge Hubert adjourned the case to Jan. 23 so Agulnick can get up to speed.

Season’s greetings, again and again

Some of us criminal justice reporters here at The Journal News are truly feeling the holiday spirit today.

In our mailboxes today were not one, but TWO “Season’s Greetings” cards from Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. “May the peace and joy of the holiday season be with you throughout the coming year,” she says in an engraved silver cursive font, signing her name in blue ink with “the Prosecutors, Investigators, and Staff of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.”

One of my cards came in an envelope with a typed label, while the other came in a handwritten envelope with a personal message from Christina, one of the press aides in the DA’s office.

Also on the DA’s holiday card list were veteran cops reporter Rich Liebson, investigative reporter (and my predecessor on the court beat) Jonathan Bandler, columnist Phil Reisman and my editor, Scott Faubel. There may be more, as reporters check their mailboxes later today.

We all consider ourselves officially seasonally greeted.

Let’s go to the videotape

The Wayne Simoes police brutality case’s immediate future might hinge on what videotape – if any – federal prosecutors showed grand jurors who indicted the suspended Yonkers cop on charges of violating the civil rights of a 44-year-old woman. Simoes is accused of brutally slamming Irma Marquez face-first to the ground of a restaurant.

But Simoes’ lawyer said in court today a version of the videotaped encounter prosecutors turned over to him appears to have been sped up. Andrew Quinn said he intends to ask Judge Kenneth Karas to toss out the indictment, saying that his client was wrongly charged if jurors based it on a doctored version of events.

We’ll have more on this story tomorrow in the paper and online.

New Sheriff in Town

Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin was in the federal courthouse in White Plains this morning, making his first official trip to the  Brieant Courthouse as the top federal prosecutor in the flagship district, a position he assumed three days ago with the departure of Michael Garcia to private practice. He stopped in on a bank fraud trial accompanied by Assistant U.S. Attorney Margery Feinzig, who heads the White Plains office. It’s unclear how closely Dassin will adhere to the approach of his predecessor – he might only hold the top spot for a couple of months – but he did ape his moves during his trip to White Plains: He wrapped it up by going out to lunch with U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, just as Garcia did when he visited the building last year.

Toys for tots from lawyers

Tonight, the Westchester County Bar Association is collecting toys for needy kids starting at 6 p.m. at Antonees on Broadway (the old Elks Lodge) at 115 North Broadway.

Judges, lawyers and law students are urged to help out by bringing an unwrapped toy or monetary donation for the U.S. Marines Toys-for-Tots program. If you didn’t register already, ticket are $20 at the door.

You can call the WCBA at 914-761-3707 and ask for Bill Egan, the executive director at extension 16 for more info.

I don’t have any children, so I’m not sure what to recommend as the perfect gift for kids. Maybe a Janet DiFiore action figure?

Thanks, your honor

I got a nice (and unexpected) compliment from state Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler this morning. He told me that he liked my story about court reporters in today’s paper.

What made this surprising is that he told me this in open court. From the bench. In front of about a dozen lawyers and their clients. A little embarrassing, but really flattering.

He also told me that the case I was waiting for — a fatal DWI in Greenburgh — would be adjourned, so there was no need to wait for it to come up on the docket.

You have to understand how rare this is — 99.9 percent of judges NEVER talk to reporters, not hello, not how are you, nothing. So Judge Adler is a rarity. I credit his friendliness to journalists to his years as a Greenburgh Town Board member. He’s used to dealing with the press.

And he gives great quotes.

Teens who killed Haverstraw man convicted

In December 2007, former Haverstraw resident Gary Secone was beaten to death at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Secone was living with his girlfriend, Linda Wagner,  of 20 years. She was home at the time.

He died from internal injuries to this chest and spleen and had sneaker marks embedded in his chest from being stomped.

Two teenagers –  Tor Hardy, 15, and Jullian Douglas, 17 – were arrested by the Cincinnati police.

The were  accused of becoming enraged over text messages he thought the 53-year-old maintenance man sent him. Police said Secone didn’t text anyone.

Douglas was charged as an adult with felony murder and aggravated robbery. He eventually was convicted of  involuntary  manslaughter on June 17 and sentenced the same day to three years in prison, according to Julie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office.

Hardy was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison, Wilson said. He was sentenced June 18, the day after his conviction.

Secone grew up on Railroad Avenue and was the baby of the family – the youngest of five born to Anthony and Irene Secone and raised in Haverstraw. He played pool professionally, learning the game at Gokey’s Pool Room, owned by his uncle, on Broadway in Haverstraw village.

His family held a memorial service for him at Mount Repose Cemetary. The family includes his Elizabeth Zachmann, two other two sisters and a brother.

Brown pleads guilty

From the Westchester County District Attorney’s office:

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced today that Richard Brown (DOB 7/01/59) of 41 Kimball Avenue, Yonkers, New York plead guilty today to two counts of Predatory Sexual Assault, class A-II Felonies.

On February 26, 2008, at approximately 9:20 P.M., in the parking lot of an A&P shopping center located off Albany Post Road in Croton, New York, the defendant, displayed a knife to the victim and forced her into the passenger compartment of her vehicle and abducted her.

While in the car, Brown put the knife to the victim’s neck and repeatedly ordered her not to look at him. He then blindfolded her.

The defendant drove the car to a secluded area on the property of Graymoor, in Garrison, New York, where she was sexually assaulted.

He then forced her out of her car, abandoning her and drove off with her car.

The victim immediately contacted the police.

On February, 27, 2008, the victim’s car was located in Beacon, New York. The car was near the home of the defendant’s nephew.

New York State Police developed information that the defendant had returned to the Cortlandt area staying with a friend. On February 28th, 2008, Police found the defendant hiding behind a dresser in the bedroom of his friend’s apartment and placed him under arrest.

Brown will be sentenced on January 27th, 2009.

He faces a minimum of ten years to a maximum of twenty five years to life in state prison.

Assistant District Attorney Fredric I. Green, Chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau, prosecuted the case.

Sentencing week in Westchester

The next few days are going to be busy at the Westchester County Courthouse.

Four high-profile criminals are getting sentenced this week — two of them in the same courtroom tomorrow. Here’s the rundown:

First, and most notably, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s ex-neighbor, Carlos Perez-Olivo, will be sentenced tomorrow in the fatal roadside shooting of his wife in November 2006. The 62-year-old disbarred lawyer is looking at a maximum of 25 to life from Judge Barbara Zambelli, which means he’ll likely die behind bars. The big question is whether or not his three adult children — who believe his innocence — will appear in the courtroom. You can read about Perez-Olivo’s conviction here.

Interesting side note: the hole in the wall that Merced Perez-Hall punched upon learning his father was convicted is still there.

In the same courtroom tomorrow, Carmela Magnetti will learn her fate for helping gal pal Anne Trovato cover up the murder of Trovato’s mom in May 2006. Magnetti could go to prison for 2 1/3 to 7 years for hindering prosecution and 1 1/3 to 4 years for evidence tampering. We’ll see if Zambelli gives her consecutive or concurrent sentences. My bet is on consecutive, for a total of 3 2/3 to 11 years.
Trovato, meanwhile, is serving 25 to life for beating and stabbing Patricia Mery to death and was denied visitation rights to her 5-year-old daughter, Arianna, who was the heart of the dispute between slain mother and murderous daughter. Mery’s sister, Maureen Magaro, is expected to give a victim’s impact statement in the courtroom. Should be angry, emotional stuff.

OK. Sentencing No. 3 comes on Wednesday, when international jewel thief Moshe Tsitsaushivili will officially start his year-long stay in the Westchester County jail. Tsitsaushivili, who hails from the republic of Georgia, pleaded guilty to swiping $30,000 to $35,000 in diamonds from the Yorktown jeweler nearly 20 years ago. The 41-year-old has bigger legal troubles ahead: Maryland wants to extradite him for jewel heists there and the Australia government may come after him next. You can read more about him here.

Finally, disgraced Mount Vernon school official Arthur Rose will find out how much time he’ll spend behind bars for taking bribes from companies that got contracts with the schools. Rose, an ex-purchasing agent for the school district, shook down the businesses for donation to his storefront church. Read about the case here. Westchester County Judge James Hubert has handed down some harsh sentences this year — including 19 years to a lookout in a fatal robbery — so we’ll see what kind of sentence he hands Rose.

Stay tuned!