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.

We’re back from winter break

Completely Legal has returned after a week off, and we have lots of news to share.

The big story today is the U.S. Attorney’s public corruption indictments of three Westchester County political insiders: former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandi Annabi, former Yonkers GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis and lawyer Anthony Mangone. To read the full story, click here.

Tomorrow, in Westchester County Court, pre-trial hearings begin for Manhattan jeweler Werner Lippe, accused of killing his wife, Faith Lippe, whose remains have yet to be found. Lippe, who lived in Cortlandt before his arrest, is charged with second-degree murder.

werner lippeThe hearing may give some insight into what evidence the prosecution wants to introduce at trial, such as forensic evidence and statements that Lippe made to police after he was arrested Oct. 30. Investigators theorize that her body may have been burned shortly after Werner Lippe reported her missing – a ruse, they say, that was intended to throw police off the trail. Police have brought in experts in biochemistry and forensic anthropology to help build a case against Lippe, 67.

Faith Lippe, 49, was a well-liked nutrition consultant for the Ossining school district. The couple had two children – Andrew, 15, and Stephanie, 13.

Photo courtesy of the Westchester County District Attorney’s office

Still in the game

A common refrain about federal law enforcement post-9/11 is that the feds are no longer in the business of fighting the illegal drug trade. It was repeated several times on the greatest television show ever — “The Wire.”  Anti-terrorism and the Wall Street meltdown with its associated financial scandals may indeed have focused the feds’ resources elsewhere. But that  doesn’t mean federal agents and prosecutors aren’t still in the game.

Just ask the 53 Bronx residents charged in six sweeping federal indictments aimed at the crack and heroin trade in two Bronx housing projects. Some 450 federal agents and New York City cops descended upon the Morrisania section of the Bronx this morning to corral more than three dozen of the accused. And the feds used all the weapons at their disposal in the investigation —wiretaps, informants, undercover officers — to build the case that resulted in the execution of 22 search warrants this morning and the seizure of $18,000, four guns, and 1000 bags of heroin.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called a press conference to announce the arrests, the third such news event since he was sworn in last month. The first two were connected to white collar cases.  Read the release issued by Bharara’s office here.