Fight on the 19th floor: the details

It took a few days, but I finally found out what happened during the “altercation” in Westchester County Surrogate Court last week. This is what Westchester County Police told me:

A former Surrogate’s Court employee named Charmain Smalls had a beef with Deupty Chief Clerk Johanna O’Brien (her former boss?) and confronted her in a courtroom. The argument escalated, and Smalls threw an umbrella,  hitting O’Brien in the chest.

Smalls, 31, of Queens, was originally charged with aggravated harassment, which is either a misdemeanor or a low-level felony, depending on the degree. But county police said she was incorrectly charged and changed it to second-degree harassment, a violation.
She was released on her own recognizance and ordered to appear in White Plains City Court on July 10.

State Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scarpino Jr., who heads the Surrogate Court, directed all questions about the confrontation to David Bookstaver, spokesman for the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Bookstaver identified Smalls today (which allowed me to get the details from police), but he declined to offer further details about the incident, saying it was an “internal dispute.”

Click here to read the original blog post about the fracas.

Fight on the 19th Floor

So there I was, in the third-floor hallway of the Westchester County County when 8 uniformed court officers run past me. And I mean RUN. Of course, I run after them. They won’t let me on the elevator, so I wait, and the next elevator is packed with MORE court officers.

I find out they’re going to the 19th floor — Surrogate Court — so I hop on a free elevator and go to the top floor. The doors open, and it’s quiet, except for a couple of court officers behind the help desk. I ask one of the women at the help desk what happened. She smiled a tight smile and said, without moving her jaw, “This is really not a good time.”

Turns out two employees got into a fight, or “altercation” as the lingo goes. Apparently one of the employees wasn’t supposed to be there. No one got arrested and no one was hurt. That’s all I got from those willing to talk with me.

I left a message with the law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scarpino, the head of the Surrogate Court.  No word yet from them.

Meanwhile, if you know more about what happened up on 19, feel free to email me confidentially at