Judge to lawyers in DiSimone case: You got 9 weeks

State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler had an order for the Westchester District Attorney’s office: give me a list of every document you have in the case against Anthony DiSimone.

“Given the history of this case, I think that would be a good start,” he said.

Boxes of court transcripts and other evidence had been been withheld by Westchester County prosecutors during DiSimone’s first trial — the reason his conviction was thrown out. DiSimone is being retried for murder in the 1994 stabbing death of Louis Balancio, the son of a former Yonkers city councilman.

Just selection is set to start Oct. 4.

Adler told Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward and defense lawyer Murray Richman that they must cooperate for the next two months. Richman will get to see the document list that the DA will turn over the judge and Richman will get to choose which papers he wants to see. The DA’s office must make copies of any statements of witnesses who will testify at trial — known as rosario material — at its own expense. Meanwhile, Richman must get any and all relevant documents from DiSimone’s past attorneys and pay any copying charges out of pocket.

“I realize this may be burdensome to both sides,” Adler said. “I’m going to see that it gets done. I’m going to make sure this case doesn’t go off track.”

Adler ordered both sides to fax him a letter by July 28 updating him on the sharing of discovery material. If there is any dispute, he said, both sides will be in his courtroom the next day to resolve the matter. He said he would shorten his vacation if he needs to settle a dispute between the lawyers.

“There’ll be no excuses from here on in,” the judge said. “We have nine weeks to get this done.”

DiSimone, now 43, can’t be retried for intentional murder because he was acquitted of that. He was convicted on a charge of depraved-indifference murder of Balancio, a college student, who was stabbed 13 times during a brawl outside a bar on Feb. 4, 1994.

He was serving 25 years to life in the killing of Balancio when a federal judge overturned his conviction in 2005, finding that the DA’s office withheld evidence, particularly police statements that pointed to another man as the killer.

DiSimone, described by authorities as a member of the mob-linked Tanglewood Boys gang, went on the lam after the killing, but walked into a Yonkers police station in 1999 and surrendered. He remains free on $500,000 bail.

Inherit the Heat

Justice was super toasty before State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler. His Westchester County courtroom had no air conditioning, and everyone was hot and bothered. Women fanned themselves, men mopped their foreheads and grumbling was all around.

Adler came in and apologized for the temperature, saying “the powers that be” were aware of the problem. He told the lawyers to feel free to take off their jackets — reminding me of the classic film “Inherit the Wind” where Spencer Tracy and Fredric March shed their jackets in the sweltering courtroom.

Adler decided to lead by example, and took the bench without a jacket OR his robe. Assistant District Attorney Steven Vandervelden slipped off his jacket during a break in the proceedings, but most of the lawyers didn’t follow suit. Once outside, though, the lawyers whipped off the jackets and revealed their soaked shirts.

The defendants, with their short sleeved shirts, seemed a lot cooler.

This week in Westchester courts

A pair of sentencings for two men convicted of violent crimes ….

Tomorrow, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli is scheduled to sentence Kenneth West, who was convicted by a jury of brutally killing Josephine O’Keefe in her Pelham apartment in 1983. West is facing 25 years to life for the cold-case slaying, which was brought to trial by newly-discovered DNA evidence. O’Keefe’s daughter, Sue Hupplesberg, is expected to give a victim’s impact statement at the sentencing.  Click here to read the stories about the jury’s verdict.


Then, on Thursday, after five (!) delays, state Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler may get to hand down his sentence to Tyrone Haywood, convicted of raping two prostitutes who he picked up near the Mount Vernon/Bronx border. Haywood hired a new lawyer for his sentencing, which has caused the matter to be adjourned over and over again. Click here to read about the case, including the conviction of his girlfriend for evidence tampering.


Rate your judge on “Robe Probe”

There’s a website called Robeprobe.com, and if enough attorneys and their clients in the Lower Hudson Valley find out about this, things could get very interesting.

Basically, it’s a rating system for judges at all levels, from U.S. Supreme down to municipal judges. Even judges from other countries are listed.  Billing itself as “the world’s most trusted judge rating site” (like there are so many others), the site’s search engine asks you to choose the jurisdiction (state, county, municipal, appellate, etc.) then type in the name of the judge and give them one to 5 stars. If your judge isn’t listed, you can add him/her to the list.

I typed in a few names of judges from Westchester County. The only ones who were listed were State Supreme Court Justices Lester Adler and Richard Molea, and county Judge Barbara Zambelli. Judge Francis Nicolai, the court administrator for the 9th Judicial District, was listed, as was Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman – the top judge in New York state.

No one has rated them yet, so if you’re so inclined, you know where to find them.

Logo courtesy of RobeProbe.com