For Schorr: law enforcement makes last pitch

One day before the election, Westchester District Attorney candidate Dan Schorr has called a news conference with, as he described it, “members of law enforcement” who are supporting him in his bid to topple incumbent DA Janet DiFiore.

This may be just a recap of his previous endorsements from county police and other PBA groups. (See earlier Completely Legal posts for the list). But I’ll update you after the event with the details.

Meanwhile, here in the newsroom, we are getting our election game plan together for tomorrow night. My esteemed colleagues will be covering the DA race; I will be tracking the 9th Judicial District judges’ race, which is spread out over 5 counties (thank goodness all 5 county boards of election will be posting the results online).

Good luck to all!

Maybe it’s an H1N1 concern

tjndc5-5rigbxw7i6c7porwjn1_layoutThis is from my Journal News colleague Gerald McKinstry, who witnessed this exchange in the parking lot of News12 in Yonkers:

Apparently after Tuesday night’s debate at News12, Republican Dan Schorr approached his opponent, Janet DiFiore, and offered to shake her hand. DiFiore, the incumbent district attorney, passed on that, as did her husband, who told Schorr, “Your 15 minutes are up.”

Schorr maintains that DiFiore had refused to shake his hand throughout the campaign.

Photo: DiFiore, left, and Schorr, right, at an earlier debate at Pace University.

For Schorr: Gang violence game plan

EDITED TO ADD response from District Attorney Janet DiFiore (below)

Westchester District Attorney candidate Dan Schorr announced his plan to tackle gang violence in the county, especially in Yonkers and Mount Vernon, where murders and gun violence are high.

If elected, he said, he would:
• Assign experienced prosecutors to high-crime jurisdictions for longer periods of time.
• Establish a Zero Tolerance Policy for gang-related and/or violent offenses involving handguns. If a criminal is convicted of a violent gun crime, (s)he would go to state prison, not the county jail. Repeat violent offenders would get consecutive, not concurrent sentences.
• Assign the same prosecutor or team of prosecutors from beginning to end, instead of changing at different stages of the case, so help them understand the complexities of a case and complicated nature of gangs.
• Hold off on giving plea deals until notifying the arresting officer(s).
• Send prosecutors and criminal investigators into local schools to teach a comprehensive anti-gang program to increase gang awareness and point out the legal punishments for gang offenses.
• Combat the “anti-snitch” attitude on the street, in part by reinvigorating the Crimestoppers program and developing a stronger witness protection program.
• Work with the corrections and probation officers to identify and monitor known gang members, as well as those at high risk of joining a gang.
• Hold convicted gang members responsible for violating probation curfews, drug use, and other criminal activity.
• Develop standard questions for police to ask anyone they arrested to determine if the arrestee is part of a gang or has information about gang activity.
• Improve ties with federal law enforcement agencies that have the resources and intelligence to help investigate gang activity in Westchester.

“This plan to reduce gang violence is a result of my experience prosecuting violent crime in New York City and Westchester, and from talking with local police, community, and religious leaders to create a realistic and achievable approach to making our streets safer from gangs,” Schorr said. “We can’t bury our heads in the sand from this growing problem, and I’m confident that a multi-pronged solution such as the one I’ve proposed will result in a real reduction of dangerous gang activity in our county.”

And this is what DiFiore had to say about his plan:

“Dan Schorr displays a complete lack of understanding of how gang-related violent crime is currently handled by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and, indeed, how cases are investigated by the police and prosecuted by my office. Just as he fails to grasp the facts of cases he continually comments on in this race, his so-called plan demonstrates he has no idea what has been going on in the law enforcement community over the last four years.

For Schorr: More cop endorsements

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UPDATED FROM OCT. 14: SCHORR HAS WON ENDORSEMENTS FROM WHITE PLAINS, RYE, SLEEPY HOLOW PBAs.

GOP candidate Dan Schorr has scored another endorsement in his bid for District Attorney, this time from the Westchester County Police Retired Officers. He recently held a press conference lauding the endorsement of the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association and was endorsed earlier by the PBA of Westchester.

In a press release from Schorr’s campaign, the retired officers group cited issues such as lenient plea bargains to violent criminals as its reasons for supporting Schorr.

“Dan Schorr knows what it means to be a prosecutor. He has the experience and understanding to prosecute tough cases and keep Westchester residents safe. He will put an end to the easy plea bargains and restore trust between the DA’s office and law enforcement,” retired officers president Steve Hoey said.

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent DA Janet DiFiore has racked up many endorsements from law enforcement types, including PBAs in Mamaroneck, Ossining, Yorktown, Greenburgh, Westchester County Chiefs of Police, Affiliated Police Association of Westchester, two state police groups, state court officers, and two New York City police unions, among others.

The retired officers group also endorsed GOP challenger Rob Astorino for Westchester County Executive.

Castro’s exit from the DA’s race, stage right?

The race for Westchester County District Attorney just got a little more interesting, at least politically.

My colleague, Jon Bandler (who has been doing the heavy lifting on the DA race while I chase killers, thugs and crooks) wrote a great story from a tip I got about Castro’s maneuvering toward a judgeship to escape another election night defeat. Click here to read the story.

Our columnist, Phil Reisman, has an amusing take on the situation. Click here to read his thoughts on the matter.

The battle of the shield

Democrat Tony Castro, who posing a primary challenge to Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, got ensnared in his own criticism over her use of the DA’s shield on her campaign website.

This was Castro’s press release, edited for length:

Castro: DiFiore Use of State Coat of Arms in Campaign is Illegal

Tony Castro today called upon the Attorney General to intervene and stop District Attorney Janet DiFiore from using the State coat of arms in her campaign advertising including her web-site, literature, television advertising and signage.  (Under state law — see legal background below — the State coat of arms can be used only for official business unless a specific statutory exception is made.)

“It’s hard to say what is more disturbing – the fact that despite being the District Attorney Janet DiFiore ignores the law or in the alternative that she is ignorant of the law,” Castro said.

“In the 1990s, the then Attorney General stopped The Fraternal Order of New York State Troopers from using the State coat of arms on their stationery because they are a private organization,” Castro said. “If it is illegal for The Fraternal Order of New York State Troopers to use the State coat of arms in their advertising, then it is illegal for Janet DiFiore to use it in her political campaign advertising.  The pertinent law has not changed.”

General Business Law §136 provides, in pertinent part, “Any person who: a. … shall place or cause to be placed … any advertisement, of any nature upon any flag, standard, color, shield or ensign of … the state of New York … or shall expose or cause to be exposed to public view any such flag, standard, color, shield or ensign … to which shall be attached, appended, affixed or annexed … any advertisement of any nature … shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” The Attorney General of New York has held that General Business Law §136 (a recodification of Penal Law §1425) prohibits the use of the coat of arms for advertising purposes unless the advertising matter is official in character and authorized and provided for by statute (1930 N.Y. Op. Att’y Gen. 115; 1934 N.Y. Op. N.Y. Att’y Gen. 331; 1979 Op. N.Y. Att’y Gen. 63. The New York A.G. has also opined that the enforcement of this statute is for the District Attorney (1947 Op. N.Y. Att’y Gen. Dec. 12).

Now comes the irony … DiFiore’s campaign manager, Mary Kornman, pointed out that not only can DiFiore lawfully display the shield of the office she now holds, BUT THAT CASTRO PUT THE DA SHIELD ON HIS OWN WEBSITE!

“Mr. Castro’s credibility is strained beyond tolerance when he objects to the use of the shield of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, at the same time that he displays the very same shield on the home page of his own campaign website,” Gorman said.

Coincidentally, the shield has been removed from Castro’s website.

For Schorr: DA misleading folks about Sanchez plea

Dan Schorr won’t let this one go.

Schorr, the Republican candidate for Westchester County District Attorney, held a second press conference today about the Aug. 18 plea agreement for convicted girlfriend beater David Sanchez.

Schorr, who has criticized DA Janet DiFiore for “easy plea bargains,” produced a transcript from Sanchez’s sentencing that he said refutes the DA’s claim that there was no reduced plea and that the DA’s office was not involved in the decision to hand Sanchez a five-year sentence.

Sanchez, who was a psych patient at Sunset House in Thornwood, was dating one of the counselors there when one night, he held her captive in her own car, torturing her for hours and threatening to kill her. Sanchez was indicted for attempted murder and other felonies, but the DA’s office allowed him to plead to felony assault. Read the story here.

The sentence was criticized by the victim in her written statement to the court, and lambasted by those who read the story on LoHud.com. Schorr called a press conference a few days later and publicly joined the critics.

DiFiore’s office then sent out a written statement arguing that first-degree assault and attempted murder are equal under the law: “There was no reduced plea in this case. Mr. Sanchez plead guilty to assault in the first degree, a “B” violent Felony, the highest level of crime charged in his indictment. Assault in the first degree carries the same penalty as attempted murder and the same penalty that would have been imposed had Mr. Sanchez been found guilty after a trial. As Mr. Schorr must be aware, on top charge convictions, the Court makes sentence determinations, not the District Attorney’s office.”

Today, Schorr pointed to the transcript showing that three different times, the prosecutor refers to the plea deal as a “negotiated plea” and the judge referred to the case as an “agreed-upon plea.” Schorr argued that this proves the DA’s office agreed to the five-year sentence and that the judge was simply honoring the plea deal that was negotiated by both sides.

He also noted that Sanchez asked to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial — where a jury could have given him the max — but the prosecution objected, opting for the 5-year agreement.

“Her office released misleading and false statements,” he said. “That’s unconscionable.”

Click here to read the transcript of the sentencing. WARNING: Some parts of the transcript are graphic descriptions of violence by the victim.

For Schorr: Follow-up response

Dan Schorr, the Republican candidate for Westchester County District Attorney, had a few words for sitting District Attorney Janet DiFiore’s claim that the judge, not her office, was responsible for David Sanchez getting five years in prison for brutally beating his ex-girlfriend in Thornwood last year:

“Ms. DiFiore’s claim that it she is not responsible for Mr. Sanchez receiving a mere 5 years in prison for his heinous crimes is a complete distortion of the law. A defendant indicted for attempted murder is not permitted under the law to plead guilty to any other charge or sentencing recommended by the court without the consent of the DA’s office. A violent criminal will be free in 5 short years and this plea never would have been consented to if I was the district attorney on this case.”

For Schorr: Only five years?!

Dan Schorr, the Republican candidate for Westchester County District Attorney, held a news conference today at the Westchester County Courthouse to condemn how DA Janet DiFiore’s handled the case of David Sanchez, who is serving five years in prison for brutally attacking his ex-girlfriend last year.

Sanchez, who was a psych patient at Sunset House in Thornwood, was dating one of the counselors there when one night, he held her captive in her own car, torturing her for hours and threatening to kill her. Sanchez was charged and later indicted for attempted murder and other felonies, but the DA’s office allowed him to plead to felony assault if he agreed to the five-year prison sentence. Read the story here.

The sentence was criticized by the victim in her written statement to the court, and blasted by those who read the story on LoHud.com. Schorr, a former domestic violence prosecutor, has been a consistent critic of what he describes as “easy plea bargains” handed out by the DA’s office and has taken other dispositions to task, such as the 8-year prison stint given to career criminal and prolific burglar Kahlil Gonzalez.

Janet DiFiore sent out a written statement defending her office’s decision by arguing that first-degree assault and attempted murder are equal under the law:

“This case was aggressively prosecuted. There was no reduced plea in this case. Mr. Sanchez plead guilty to assault in the first degree, a “B” violent Felony, the highest level of crime charged in his indictment. Assault in the first degree carries the same penalty as attempted murder and the same penalty that would have been imposed had Mr. Sanchez been found guilty after a trial. As Mr. Schorr must be aware, on top charge convictions, the Court makes sentence determinations, not the District Attorney’s office.”

Westchester DA fundraising facts

Yesterday, I reported that incumbent District Attorney Janet DiFiore had $420,000 in her campaign war chest. Turns out her opponents are far, far behind. GOP candidate Dan Schorr has about $60,000 in the election piggy bank, while Democratic primary challenger Tony Castro has only $9,200.

DiFiore has some BIG spenders giving money to her campaign. One guy, Dennis S. Hersch of Manhattan (Upper West Side) donated a whopping $26,000 in May — the largest single donation this year. Other five-figure donors included Peter A. Hochfelder of Purchase ($25,000) and Ettore V. Biagioni of Bronxville ($10,000). Many, many people donated between $5,000 and $1,000.

Castro, apparently, isn’t worried about having 2 percent of what DiFiore has to spend. He told my colleague Rich Liebson (who attended his twice-rescheduled press conference today) that he is confident that he’ll have enough money to get his message out before the primary. That could mean some heavy-hitting contributions over the next two months. We’ll see.

Castro had about $80,000 to start the year and raised $22,000. But he spend more than $93,000 — most of that doled out in increments of a few hundred dollars each to more than 90 people who collected signatures for him.

An interesting expense on his campaign finance report: three parking tickets in April from the City of White Plains. Anyone who parks a car in White Plains on a regular basis has gotten the dreaded red ticket on their windshield (myself included). I asked Castro if they were his parking tickets. He said he didn’t know about them. “But I’m sure they were from someone working hard on the campaign,” he added.

Dan Schorr’s numbers are as follows: He started out the year with $118,000, raised nearly $57,000 and spent $115,000. His biggest single expense was a $42,000 loan repayment to Daniel R. Schorr (likely for out-of-pocket expenses paid up front) followed by printing and mailing costs.

An interesting campaign expense from Schorr: $625 on Facebook advertisements. He’s the only candidate of the three who is on Facebook, and he Twitters, too. Funny how none of his ads have ever popped up on my Facebook page. Then again, Schorr isn’t one of my “Facebook friends” — and neither is anyone who I could potentially write about for the newspaper.