Correction on Bartlett’s Decision Involving SV Man Charged with Gang Assault

Sept. 4 Correction:

Acting state Supreme Court Judge Catherine Bartlett didn’t find Victor Dempsey not guilty of criminal charges, but her ruling provided the same result of dismissing the charges.

Bartlett issued a trial order of dismissal involving the case against Dempsey, charged with first-degree gang assault and other charges. Her decision came weeks after the non-jury trial ended when the defense attorney asked that the case be dismissed for failing to sufficiently prove the charges.

Bartlett dismissed the indictment counts without a verdict on Wednesday because she viewed the evidence was insufficient to support the charges.

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Acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett today announced she found Victor Dempsey not guilty of first-degree gang assault charge resulting from a fight between two street gangs at a Spring Valley apartment building in December.

Six other men had pleaded guilty to the charge and received state prison sentences from Bartlett, who heard testimony and saw evidence, including surveillance tapes, in a non-jury trial by Dempsey.

After several weeks of delays, Bartlett announced her verdict but did not issue a written decision outlining her reasoning, other than to say the prosecution failed to prove its case. Bartlett had allowed statements and other evidence against Dempsey following pre-trial hearing.

Her decision is final and non-appealable. Defense lawyer David Narain didn’t return telephone messages seeking comment.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said he was working on a statement. Prosecutor Stephen Moore was on vacation and didn’t attend the verdict announcement.

State Panel: Bartlett Can Stay on Case

A state Appellate Division panel has ruled that acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett can oversee the sexual abuse trial involving Monsey businessman Zalman Silber and fired Ramapo police officer Andrew Dale.
The Appellate Division rejected District Attorney’s Office’s contention  Bartlett had actually recused herself.
Now, all that’s left is for Bartlett to schedule a trial date for either Dale or Silber. She separated their cases.
The sideshow to the trial has been contentious – adding to the rough relations between Bartlett and the District Attorney’s Office under Thomas Zugibe and his predecessor, Michael Bongiorno. Bartlett is a GOP-appointed Court of Claims judge assigned several years ago to Rockland County.
Dale and Silber are accused of performing gynecological exams on Silber’s now-former wife, who testimony the defense contends has been inconsistent and erratic. They each face four felony counts of unauthorized practice of a profession and fourth-degree aggravated sexual abuse.
Dale was fired by the Town Board following a disciplinary hearing after which the hearing officer recommended a year’s suspension without pay. His firing came a day after his indictment. Dale has filed a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars from the town over his firing.
The recusal issues came about in February when Bartlett informed defense and prosecution lawyers that someone had spoken to her about Silber’s divorce.
Prosecutors argued she recused herself and couldn’t take it back. Defense lawyers contended she offered the option, but never decided to recuse herself.
After several weeks of considering recusal, Bartlett released a 22-page decision presenting her legal arguments to stay on the case, contending she could hear the jury case without bias. The Rockland District Attorney’s Office appealed.
The appellate judges wrote in a June 30 decision that that recusal is a decision “solely within the discretion and personal conscience” of the judge.
Defense attorney David Goldstein, who represents Dale, said today that the panel echoed the contentions of the defendants. Both Silber and Dale felt Bartlett could be fair and wanted Bartlett to remain.
In the Dale-Silber case, Bartlett previously dismissed 24 misdemeanor sexual abuse charges and two counts of official misconduct against Dale. Silber faces separate type of sexual abuse charges on the same issue brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
First Assistant District Attorney James Mellion declined comment on the decision.

Rockland DA Appeal of Judge Staying on Dale-Silber Case Before Court

The Zalman SIlber- Andrew Dale case just went before a state Appellate Division panel in Brooklyn,

But the subject matter centered on Judge Catherine Bartlett, not the sexual abuse charges accusing Dale, the fired Ramapo police officer, and Silber, the Monsey businessman,  of doing medical exams on the former Mrs. Silber.

The appellate case focuses on the Rockland District Attorney’s Office’s  appeal of Bartlett’s decision to continue overseeing the trial, which remains in the pre-trial hearing stage.

The issue focuses on Bartlett revealing in February that during a luncheon a woman started telling her the ugly details of a divorce case and, as it turned out, it was Silber’s divorce case.

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, citing court transcript, argue Bartlett recused herself when she said in court, ” But … I feel at this time that it would be improper for me to continue sitting on this case. So as far as this court is concerned, to avoid the appearance of improper communications and to avoid the appearance of impropriety, I am going to be recusing myself from this case.”

Bartlett wrote in a decision staying on the case that the prosecution was mistaken in its interpretation that she recused herself.

“The people are mistaken,” Bartlett wrote. “The record is clear that at no time in the proceedings did the court state that it had disqualified itself.”

Dale’s lawyer, David Goldstein, said he had urged her to stay on the case. Silber’s lawyer, William Aronwald, later agreed. They argued she did the right thing by informing the lawyers of the conversation and they believe she can try the case without any bias.

Goldstein today called the DA’s appeal ridiculous and predicted the Appellate Division would reject the prosecution’s argument. He noted that an advisory panel for the courts recommended that Bartlett stay with the case.

The panel is likely to rule on  April 17, so the DA’s request for a stay of the evidentiary hearing scheduled for April 20 was not necessary.

“All this is a ploy to get get off the case,” Goldstein said. “This is all going in one direction and that’s to retain her on the case.”

The scheduled April 20 hearing before Bartlett will center on information obtained against Dale, and if it came from his disciplinary hearing that led to Ramapo firing him. He was fire the day after the DA’s office announced his indictment in August. The defense contention is that Dale’s testimony was given under threat of dismissal.

Prosecutors contend their detectives obtained the information  – including recorded conversations – long before the disciplinary hearing. They contend they did nothing improper.

Dale and Silber each face four felony counts of unauthorized practice of a profession and fourth-degree aggravated sexual abuse.

Bartlett previously dismissed 24 misdemeanor sexual abuse charges and two counts of official misconduct against Dale. She ruled that anyone could commit sexual abuse and the fact that Dale was a public official does not make it misconduct in office. Without the misconduct count, the sexual abuse counts failed to meet the statute of limitations.

Bartlett and Rockland prosecutor Thomas Zugibe and his successor have had a contentious relationship on legal issues and her decisions. Bartlett has been critical of several prosecutors in court and before grand juries.

Staying or Leaving Silber-Dale for Bartlett…

Judge Catherine Bartlett has scheduled a decision Monday at the County Courthouse in New City on whether she’ll remain or recuse herself from a trial accusing former Ramapo Police Officer Andrew Dale and millionaire Monsey businessman Zalman Silber of sexual abuse.

Bartlett told prosecutors and defense lawyers earlier this month that she had been speaking to a woman who all of a sudden began talking about Silber’s divorce. They are accused of performing gynocological medical exams on a woman once married to Silber.

Bartlett told the lawyers she immediately cut the unnamed woman off, but the woman created a potential conflict in the judge’s estimation.

Bartlett’s decision has not been without controversy.

The District Attorney’s Office has maintained she recused herself and reversing that decision would create appellate issues. The office has asked the court administration to name a new judge.

Defense lawyers countered that Bartlett did her duty by informing both sides of the limited conversation and they want her to remain on the case.

Bartlett originally scheduled her decision for Thursday, but told the lawyers and prosecutors to come back to her courtroom on Monday morning.

Bartlett, an appointed Court of Claims judge from Orange County, has had a volatile relationship at times with prosecutors during her tenure in Rockland. She’s has questioned the quality of their tactics, ethics, and conduct during trials and before grand juries.

In the Dale-Silber case, Bartlett tossed two official misconduct charges against Dale, contending the grand jury charges were not appropriate and lacked evidence. That decision automatically dismissed 24 misdemeanor sexual abuse charges as beyond the statute of limitations.

Dale’s lawyer, David Goldstein, filed motions to dismiss eight remaining felony counts. Silber’s lawyer, William Aronwald, contends there is no case against Silber, who also faces separate criminal charges of performing medical exams on woman in Manhattan.

A day before the grand jury indictment, Ramapo Town Board members fired Dale based after a civil service hearing, though the hearing officer who heard the evidence recommended a year’s suspension without pay. Dale has filed a multiple million dollar lawsuit in federal court against the town for the firing.

Plea Offers Made in Spring Valley Gang Assault

Six young men accused of gang assault earlier this month face stiff prison sentences if they plead guilty or are convicted at trial.

In what prosecutors and police described as a fight between rival gang members,  a young men was beatened, slashed and stabbed during a fight inside 150 Liberty Parkway apartment building. The victim needed 103 stitches to the face.

The fight was spurred by the victim’s friend apparently making disparaging remarks about the Bloods street gang or affiliates, leading purported Bloods to go after him and his associates with  a machete, BB-gun, pipe, brass knuckles and knives, prosecutors said.

Several of the defense attorneys tried to mitigate their clients involvement in the fight, contending there clients weren’t seen doing anything on video, watching or defending themselves.  All six gave statements to the police that prosecutors claimed implicated themselves.

Judge Catherine Barlett pulled no punches during a discussion yesterday on pleas and potential sentences for first-degree gang assault – which carries a prison term of 5 to 25 years. Those defendants with prior felony convictions would face a stiffer sentence.

Based on what the prosecution presented to her, Bartlett said, “I don’t see any of these people worthy of the minimum sentence, if true.”

Indicted were Spring Valley residents Victor Dempsey, 23, of 35 Rose Ave.; Jaieem Webb, 18, of 254 Route 59; Christopher Pettiford, 22, of 117 Bethune Blvd.; Antoine Dufrene, 22, of 12 Gesner Drive; and Anwar Flores, 18, of 47A Summit Ave.  A seventh suspect, Samir Jose Flores, 16, of 47A Summit Ave., was not in court yesterday. Jose-Flores was arrested again on Tuesday night on a felony robbery charge after a cab driver was robbed in Spring Valley.

The gang assault charge accuses all seven with acting together. Prosecutor Dominick Crispino told Bartlett that the seven men were caught on video entering and leaving the building. Other cameras inside the building caught several of them during the fight. And six men gave Spring Valley police statements.

During plea discussion between Bartlett, Crispino and defense lawyers, the judge agreed to the following plea offers:

• Dempsey – 12 years in prison as a second felony offender with five years post release supervision. He is accused of possessing the BB-gun during the fight.
• Webb – 8 years in prison on allegations of hitting the victim with a pipe. He also has a pending third-degree robbery charge in a separate case, Crispino said.
• Pettiford – 8 years, plus a violation probation charge. He had a previous conviction for second-degree assault.
• DuFrene – 8 years and is accused possessing a knife. He has previous convictions for third-degree assault and bail jumping.
• Anwar Flores – 12 years. He is accused of cutting and slashing  the victim with a machete. He is on probation for attempted burglary conviction.
• Wifong – 8 years. He is accused of possessing a knife. He has previous misdemeanor convictions.
Bartlett set a March 10 deadline for the suspects to decide whether to take the plea offers or challenge the charges at trial.