Judge Wetzel retiring

State Supreme Court Justice William Wetzel is leaving the black robes behind for retirement. Wetzel, a one-time Briarcliff Manor Village Justice, spent years in Manhattan before being transferred to the Westchester County Courthouse last year.

While in Manhattan, Wetzel presided over the cybersex trial of Oliver Jovanovic in 1998 and was sharply criticized by the state appeals court for using the rape shield law to bar the jury from seeing lurid mails between the alleged victim and defendant. The appeals court overturned Jovanovic’s conviction. Most recently, Wetzel presided over the rape-murder trial of Walter Maddox of Yonkers, who was convicted of raping three women and killing one of them. He also presided over the murder trial of Vetal Bonhomme, who is serving a 20-year sentence for a shooting death in Mount Vernon and sentenced New Rochelle hand-chopper Christopher Calise to 15 years in prison.

For those interested, Wetzel’s retirement party will be held at Vintage in downtown White Plains from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2. Cost is $40 for food and an open bar. Call 824-5437 by May 21 to RSVP.

New lawyer in hand-chopping case

Accused hand chopper Christopher Calise got a new attorney today — Christopher McClure, best known as the lawyer for convicted wife killer (and ex-neighbor of Bill and Hillary Clinton) Carlos Perez-Olivo, now serving 25 to life for murder.

Calise, 44, of Yonkers  is charged with first-degree assault for allegedly trying to chop off the hand of a New Rochelle man who owed him (or his employer) $50,000. He is being held on $200,000 bail.

The Legal Aid Society of Westchester, which took Calise’s case, asked to be relieved as counsel, citing an unspecified conflict of interest. McClure stepped in as assigned counsel … over the objections of Calise, who wanted Legal Aid to stay on until he hired a private attorney.

Westchester County Judge Jeffrey A. Cohen told Calise that it wasn’t a good idea not to have a lawyer in his situation, even for a few days, so McClure was brought in, perhaps only on a short term basis.

Calise’s alleged accomplice, Michael Mann of Fort Lee, N.J. is also facing assault charges in the attack. You can read the grizzly details by clicking here.