The real “death panel”

tjndc5-5b4d814pxie11dks5eo0_layoutWith the trial for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others accused in the terror attacks being held in New York City, the unenviable task of defending him will go to one of about 20 veteran defense lawyers experienced in death penalty and other complicated federal cases. These lawyers are on what some call “the death list.”

Click here to read more about this story.

Photo from The Associated Press, 2003

Gotti jury deadlocked again

tjndc5-5gqvc5k5b8g7cp6bhoz_thumbnailIt’s official: there’s another hung jury in the case of reputed mobster “Junior” Gotti. Click here to read more about the story.

This makes 4 deadlocked juries. Four. It just begs questions: How many more times will be be tried? How many more times will the same witnesses have to take the stand? I’m not advocating that he be let go, but at what point does the U.S. Attorney’s office give up trying Gotti with the same evidence?

What do you think the feds should do?

Photo: John Gotti Jr. leaving the federal courthouse in White Plains in 2007


Biggest trial ever coming to NYC

It looks like the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and others accused of various roles in the plot, are going to be tried in federal court in Manhattan rather than before a military tribunal. Click here to read the latest on this development.

I can’t imagine the jury selection process for this — what New York City resident wasn’t affected by 9/11? How are prosecutors and the defense lawyers going to find fair and impartial jurors? And the security! That courthouse will be on lockdown. It’ll make the 2004 Republican National Convention, where you needed to flash a different badge every 20 feet, where guards snatched glass (potential shards!) makeup bottles from women and where small folding umbrellas were considered dangerous weapons (you still owe me a Totes, GOP), seem like the Wild Wild West. Reporters who want to cover this better get in line for the press passes now.

Schubert hearing re-skedded

Lawyers for a World War II veteran will be in court Dec. 8 for a hearing in the $5 million federal lawsuit that claims the City of Rye violated the man’s civil rights in an ongoing battle over a neighbor’s drainage system. The case had been scheduled for a pre-motion conference on Dec. 2.

Bob Schubert, 86, says in his suit the city failed to make sure his neighbor got proper permits before installing the system. Schubert says the drainage system dried up his 20,000-gallon pond. The suit claims the city inflicted emotional distress as well as shock and emotional scarring in addition to depriving him property, privacy and speech.

The battle over Schubert’s dried up pond grew in intensity when former City Manager Paul Shew sent a mental health team from Westchester Medical Center to Schubert’s home saying he was worried about Schubert’s health.

Post postponed.

The sentencing of former Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Constance “Gerrie” Post and her businessman boyfriend Wayne Charles has been pushed off again. Both Post and Charles have new lawyers. Post has retained Clinton “Chip” Calhoun and Charles has hired Richard Willstatter. Post was represented by Andy Rubin and Ken Saltzman at her trial in March year where she was convicted of illegally conspiring with Charles to steer more than $2.3 million in municipal contracts and federal funds to his businesses. Charles was represented by Richard Ware Levitt.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas has retained the Nov. 12 court date for the case, but not for sentencing. There will be a hearing that day to determine if Calhoun is barred by conflicts from representing Post. His law partner, Kerry Lawrence, represented John Cavallaro, a lawyer who worked for the city and testified for the prosecution at Post and Charles’ trial.

No new sentencing date has been set. Post and Charles each face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Hearing set in Zherka suit vs. Manhattan ADA

U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel has set a hearing date of Nov. 20 in newspaper publisher/strip club owner Sam Zherka’s lawsuit against a Manhattan assistant district attorney named Matthew Bogdanos on motions to dismiss the lawsuit. Zherka claims that Bogdanos launched a criminal probe of the owner of the Westchester Guardian at the behest of Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore because of unflattering pieces about DiFiore and her husband Dennis Glazer that were published in the paper. Bogadanos denies the claim as have DiFiore and her husband.

Bogdanos claims in court papers filed in federal court in White Plains that he has never met DiFiore or Glazer. But Dhyalma Vazquez, secretary of Westchester’s Independence Party, said in a sworn affidavit that she met Bogdanos at DiFiore’s house during a campaign event during her first campaign for district attorney in 2005. DiFiore, Glazer, and Bogdanos have all submitted sworn affidavits saying that’s a lie.

What’s not a lie is that there was a criminal probe by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in 2006 connected to Zherka. Bogdanos has submitted court papers regarding wiretaps approved by a state court for three numbers connected to Zherka, his business, and a business associate named Genaro Morales in the spring of 2006.

No criminal charges have ever filed against Zherka, who lives in Katonah, in connection with that probe.

Kerik’s legal muscle again at issue

Bernard Kerik's jail mug shot

Bernard Kerik's jail mug shot

Former NYPD Commisioner Bernie Kerik will be back in court this afternoon where federal prosecutors are expected to lay out their reasons why they think Judge Stephen C. Robinson should conduct a hearing to determine if Kerik’s lawyers Barry Berke and Eric Tirschwell are barred by potential conflicts from representing Kerik.

It’s deja vu all over again for the former presidential nominee for secretary of Homeland Security now known in Valhalla as Inmate #210717. Federal prosecutors got his last lawyer, Ken Breen, bounced from the case the same way. Breen, it turns out, is a potential witness in the case.

Whatever the outcome of the case, Kerik can’t complain he had a lack of talent working on his side of the aisle.  Breen’s bona fides include 10 years  as a federal prosecutor, part of which was a stint as the deputy chief of the securities and business fraud section in the US Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. And his current lawyers hardly represent a step down: Berke has been recognized as one of  the 50 best litigators in the country under the age of 45 by the magazine The American Lawyer. Tirschwell was recognized last year by Lawdragon as one of the 500 best lawyers in the country.

And all that doesn’t even include headline-making defense lawyer Joe Tacopina who represented Kerik when he was prosecuted by the Bronx D.A.’s office and in the early stages of the federal investigation. Tacopina, fresh off his successful defense of  state senator Hiram Monserrate against felony charges stemming from the slashing of his girlfriend, is expected to be called by federal prosecutors to testify against Kerik.

Terror indictment filed in Manhattan

An Indian national living in Queens illegally and another man who is still at large were charged in a federal indictment with attempting to provide guns, ammunition, vehicles, bulletproof vests and night vision goggles to Hizballah, the terrorist group based in Lebanon, federal authorities said today.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced this morning that Patrick Nayyar, 45, had already been arrested last month by the FBI in the Eastern District of New York. Those charges, contained in a criminal complaint, accuse Nayyar of being an illegal alien in possession of a handgun. The other defendant, Conrad Stanisclaus Mulholland, 43, has not yet been arrested.

Federal authorities said the two men agreed to sell the items to a man who they thought was an operative for Hizballah but who actually was an infomant working for the FBI.

Read the indictment here.

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.”