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.

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.

Sam’s sentencing

If Judge Kenneth Karas’ comments during the sentencing of Sam Israel’s ex-girlfriend Deb Ryan yesterday were any indication, the convicted fraudster turned fugitive is not going to find a smiling face waiting for him on the bench when he steps into Courtroom 521 at the Brieant Courthouse next month.

Karas decided against sending Ryan to jail for helping Israel flee in part at least because he believed Israel took advantage of Ryan.

Noting that federal sentencing guidelines called for four to 10 months in jail for Ryan, Karas asked Assistant U.S. Attorney what Israel’s guidelines called for. Krissoff said she thinks it’s 12 to 18 months.

The judge said taking advantage of people like Ryan is what people like Israel do. Commenting on the $300 that Ryan is alleged to have sent Israel in jail, landing her a state charge to go with her federal charge, the judge again said that was Israel at work.

“I think it more speaks to the sad and pathetic way that Mr. Israel operates,” he said.

Ominously for Sam, the judge said he’d have more to say on that when he sentences Israel on July 15.

Other notes from yesterday’s sentencing:

* Ryan has been left penniless by her relationship with Israel. She lost not only her own savings in Israel’s hedge fund fraud (savings accumulated from what once was a flourishing interior design business), but also the small inheritance she received upon the death of her mother in 2001. She also went into debt helping Israel with his legal fees. That’s why Karas declined to impose a fine on her, saying to do so would have been cruel.

* After she came clean with federal authorities 10 days after Israel fled, Ryan offered to act as a lure to bait Israel into coming out of hiding. Her lawyer, Richard Strassberg, said after her sentencing that no plan was ever put into operation, but she made the offer and was ready to help snare him.

* Karas’ decision to sentence Ryan to home confinement and probation rather than jail might seem to some like he went out of his way to cut her a break, but that’s not actually the case. The probation department, which prepares a lengthy pre-sentencing report for defendants convicted in federal court, recommended that sentence.  Neither federal sentencing guidelines nor the probation department’s recommendation are binding upon judges. But they do take them into account when determining a sentence.

Sam Israel’s sentencing date pushed back

Swindler Sam Israel III will have to wait until July 15 to be sentenced for faking his suicide and going on the lam for three weeks last year rather than reporting to prison to serve 20 years for orchestrating a $450 million hedge fund fraud.

Israel was scheduled to be sentenced June 24 by Judge Kenneth Karas. But his lawyers filed papers today asking for a postponement because they have to get Israel’s medical records from the Westchester County Jail to the U.S. probation officer who is writing up Israel’s pre-sentence report. That’s an involved process due to federal privacy law, attorney Barbara Trencher wrote. 

Israel’s medical history includes multiple back surgeries and painkiller addiction. It was his struggle with withdrawal symptoms related to his drug treatment that put off several times his efforts to plead guilty to fleeing.

His girlfriend, Debra Ryan, who pleaded guilty to helping him escape, is scheduled to be sentenced by Karas on Tuesday.

She oughta know

As Judge Kenneth Karas stood behind the bench in his crowded courtroom this morning, waiting for the jury to enter, he gauged the temperature in the room.

“Is it warm in here?” he asked.

One courtroom observer, sitting in the third row, answered immediately.

“Always,” she said.

She should know. The expert on the climate in Courtroom 521 was Judge Colleen McMahon. That was her courtroom for nine years before she transferred down to Manhattan, where she currently is stationed. McMahon was back in White Plains today because she’s handling some criminal cases to ease the burden on judges Karas and Robinson. The third full-time district judge in the building, Cathy Seibel, still can’t take on a full criminal case load because many of the cases being indicted are the result of investigations that began while she was a top lieutenant of then U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.

Postponements

Sentencings scheduled for this week in a couple of closely watched federal criminal cases have been pushed off due to the Simoes trial. Judge Kenneth Karas has moved the sentencing of Paul Cote from Thursday to Monday, June 1. Cote, a former Westchester County Jail corrections officer, was convicted of violating the civil rights of inmate Zoran Teodorovic when he stomped him into a coma on Oct. 10, 2000. Teodorovic died in Dember 2001.

Cote’s federal conviction was tossed out by the late Judge Charles Brieant after he was found guilty by a federal jury in White Plains. But a federal appeals court re-instated the conviction.

Karas also moved the sentencing of Debra Ryan from Friday to Tuesday, June 9. Ryan, 45, has admitted she helped her then-boyfriend Sam Israel flee the day he was supposed to begin a 20-year prison sentence for orchestrating a $450 million hedge fund fraud — a crime that set records for white collar crime in the pre-Madoff days. It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Israel and Co.’s thievery scam amounts to less than 1 percent of Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion financial fraud.

Just asking…

As Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Torrance was getting set to begin his opening remarks today in the Wayne Simoes trial, a steady stream of federal prosecutors, investigators, public affairs people, and support staff made their way up the two flights from the U.S. attorney’s office and into the 5th floor courtroom of Judge Kenneth Karas. 

The prosecutorial parade led one courthouse wag to wonder, “Jeez, is anybody working on the 3rd floor?”

And then there were 13….

The Wayne Simoes trial was down one juror today even before opening arguments began. One of the two alternates selected yesterday for the panel called Judge Kenneth Karas’ chambers early this morning to say her kids were sick and she couldn’t make it in for the trial. Karas seemed to view the news with a slightly raised eyebrow, noting perhaps she’d go back in the jury pool now and get assigned to a six-month RICO case. So now there’s only one alternate to go with the eight men and four women who are sitting on the jury. Judges usually select four alternates when empaneling a jury in a federal criminal trial, but because the Simoes case is expected to take just a week, only two alts were picked.