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.

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.

Feds give up on Gotti

tjndc5-5hlr2jwtx76vlggdjbj_thumbnailThe U.S. Attorney’s office just released a statement announcing that Preet Bharara has decided to forego a possible fifth attempt to convict John “Junior” Gotti after his first four trials ended in hung juries.

“In light of the circumstances, the Government has decided not to proceed with the prosecution against John A. Gotti,” Bharara said in the statement.

Bharara’s office submitted what is called a “nolle prosequi” order for approval by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel, who oversaw the last Gotti trial where the son of former Gambino Crime Family boss John “Dapper Don” Gotti walked out of court a free man following Castel’s declaration of a mistrial on Dec. 2 when the jury said it could not reach a verdict. “Nolle prosequi” is a legal term derived from the Latin that basically means the prosecution will not continue.

The feds do have a conviction of Gotti stemming from a 1998 case where he and now-deceased Gambino capo Greg DePalma of Scarsdale were charged with extorting the notorious – or famous depending on your viewpoint – Manhattan strip club Scores. It was while he was in prison on that conviction that Gotti said he quit the mob. Federal prosecutors and the FBI disagreed and tried to prove it four times after Gotti was released from prison.

Liza with a “z” stuns one Tony viewer

Liza Minnelli, photo from theinsider.com

Liza Minnelli, photo from theinsider.com

So there’s Jack Garcia sitting at home watching the Tony Awards when Liza Minnelli’s win for special theatrical event is announced. She hops up onstage to accept the award accompanied by her choreographer and – this is where Garcia about falls off the couch – her manager Gary Labriola.

See, Garcia is former FBI Agent Joaquin Garcia better known as Jack “Fat Jack” Falcone, the erstwhile jewel thief who ran with Greg DePalma’s Gambino crew in Westchester a few years back. Garcia’s undercover work helped bring down the entire hierarchy of the Gambino Crime Family. He became DePalma’s right hand man, so valuable to the aging Mafioso that DePalma wanted to put him up for official membership in the crime family.

Part of the case included allegations that DePalma shook down Labriola, trying to get him to pay $12,000 for a lavish Las Vegas trip for the wives of reputed mob bosses. When Labriola balked, DePalma  was caught on an FBI bug denouncing Minnelli’s diminutive longtime handler, “He’s not a munchkin, he’s a worm.”

But when it came time to testify, Labriola was gone. DePalma’s lawyers wanted him to call him to the stand to say DePalma didn’t force him to pay for the trip, that he did it of his own volition. But federal prosecutors left open the possibility of a perjury charge if Labriola said that.  Labriola was out of the country when DePalma went to trial three years ago in federal court in Manhattan. His lawyer, Paul Bergman, said at the time he was not authorized to accept a subpoena for him.

“I wonder if he accepted the invitation to the Tonys for him,” Garcia cracked a a few minutes ago. “This weasel is willing to run out of the country then. But he’s standing there on stage for the whole world to see. Unbelievable.”

Labriola, it turns out, provided one of the hairier encounters Garcia had during his time undercover. While posing as a Florida jewel thief, he actually grew up in the Bronx and went to school at Mount Saint Michael on the Bronx – Mount Vernon border. So, too, and at the same time, it turns out, did Labriola.

But when they met while Garcia was undercover, Labriola didn’t recognize him.

Garcia, meanwhile, is working on a followup to his book about his time undercover with DePalma’s crew, “Making Jack Falcone.” This book will focus on his undercover work in police corruption cases.

In the interim, the 300-pound Garcia, whose book detailed as much of the culinary delights as criminal endeavors of the mob, is trying to take better care of his health.

“I’m looking for the doctor who is going to tell me fat is in,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened yet.”

The FBI director defends operations like the Newburgh terror case

It’s likely that the big issue as the case of the so-called Newburgh Four goes forward will be: What was the engine for the alleged plot? Was it self-propelled, as in, the four accused Muslim converts acted on their own with the FBI’s informant merely the investigators’ eyes and ears into the plot to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and military airplanes at an Air National Guard base in New Windsor. Or was it informant-driven, meaning that the FBI’s informant led the four into a plot that would never otherwise have jelled or moved forward.
The actions of the informant and how he was managed by his FBI handlers will be explored if the case goes to trial. The day after the four were arrested, the Iman at the Newburgh mosque where a couple of the accused worshipped said other worshippers complained to him about a man who was offering money to those who would join him in some undertaking. FBI director Robert Mueller III defends the bureau’s practice of using informants at mosques to gather information on other worshippers and clerics in an AP story carried on the web site ticklethewire.com