Two killers, a mayor and a dangler: an unusual day in Westchester courts

It’s going to be an interesting morning in the local judicial system on Tuesday: a county judge will hand down sentences in two high-profile homicide cases, while the ex-White Plains mayor will be in a nearby courtroom to answer probation violation charges, at the same time as the Tappan Zee bridge dangler will appear in Greenburgh Town Court.

First, the sentencings:

Francisco Acevedo (left) will be sentenced in the murders of three women in south Yonkers over a seven-year period starting in 1989. Acevedo had sex with each of them before strangling them, posing their nude bodies to face upward and fleeing the scene. Acevedo was caught after he submitted DNA in a bid to get early release from prison on a drunken driving conviction. Westchester Judge Barbara Zambelli, who has a reputation for tough sentences, may give him three consecutive prison terms of 25 to life, for a total of 75 to life.

Whatever the sentence, I expect it will be an emotional closure for the families of the women and for John T. Geiss, the dogged Yonkers detective who pursued the cold case for years.

Zambelli also will be sentencing ex-Eastchester police officer James Pileggi (right), who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for the unintentional (but criminally reckless) shooting of his friend, Andre Everett. This is a sentencing with wide options: Pileggi could get as little as probation or as much as 15 years in state prison; it’s completely Zambelli’s call. She could rule down the middle: 4 to 7 years or perhaps 7 to 10. Pileggi’s family vowed to launch a massive letter-writing campaign begging the judge for leniency. The question is, did Everett’s family do the same, urging Zambelli to go the other way?

Down the hall from Zambelli’s court, ex-Mayor Adam Bradley (left) will appear before acting state Supreme Court Justice Susan Cacace on charges that he violated a stay-away order by calling his estranged wife, Fumiko, late last year. Bradley swears he repeatedly “pocket dialed” her by accident. Bradley had to post $10,000 bail for his smartphone snafu. We’ll see what, if anything, happens in the latest twist of this ongoing domestic violence case.


Finally, disgruntled Rockland County resident Michael Davitt (right) will be in Greenburgh Town Court on charges related to his November publicity stunt in which he dangled mid-span from the Tappan Zee Bridge. Davitt, an ex-county employee, is facing several misdemeanors and violations. He worked for the county for more than 27 years before being was suspended in 2008, and then became a fixture at county Legislature meetings, claiming corruption in government. No word on if or when a plea deal is coming., but I’d be surprised if this case goes to trial. My guess is that he’ll plead guilty to one or more of the charges and get a conditional discharge, with a fine, of course.

White Plains man charged with filming women in restrooms

A 24-year-old White Plains man is accused of using the camera in his cell phone to record women using the restrooms at the Galleria mall.

Milton Sisalima (left) of Battle Avenue was arraigned today in Westchester County Court on a 10-count indictment stemming from his actions on Feb. 20. That day, according to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, security officers watching surveillance cameras saw Sisalima entered the women’s restroom near Macy’s,

They found him locked in one of the stalls videotaping women under the stall dividers. His cell phone had images of women who had used that restroom.

In court papers, Sisalima told White Plains police that he had filmed women in restrooms numerous times for sexual gratification.

“I really thought I was going to get away with it because I’ve done it several times in the same bathroom and have even done it about six times in the women’s bathroom at Wal-Mart and never got caught,” he said in the court papers.

He also told police that he began watching women in restrooms when he was 13 living in Ecuador. He said he continued to do so after coming to White Plains in March 2009, according to the court papers.

Sisalima is charged with two felony counts of second-degree unlawful surveillance and eight misdemeanor counts of second-degree attempted unlawful surveillance. He is being held without bail and is due back in court on July 13. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Ballot is set for Westchester County, Family Court judicial races

A Mount Vernon lawyer backed by Republicans to be a Westchester County Court judge this fall secured the Conservative Party line over his Democratic challenger in yesterday’s primary race.

Douglas Martino won the minority line by a nearly 3-1 ratio over Barry Warhit, a Greenburgh lawyer who was appointed to the bench several months ago. The vote was 833 to 303, according to unofficial vote tallies.

They will face off in the Nov. 2 election. Warhit will carry the Independence and Working Families party lines as well as the Democratic line.

County Court judges preside over felony criminal cases.

In the other countywide judicial race, eight candidates are vying for four open seats on the bench in Family Court, which handles child custody, visitation and neglect cases as well as juvenile delinquency issues.

Incumbents David Klein of Mamaroneck and Nilda Morales Horowitz of White Plains are running for a second term. Both are endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties.

The other Democratic candidates for Family Court are Family Court attorney referee Michelle Schauer of Ossining and Hal Greenwald, a Yonkers lawyer who specializes in Family Court cases. They will appear on the Working Families party line as well.

Republicans endorsed Patricia O’Callahan, a former deputy county attorney and Bill Edwards, an acting Family Court judge in White Plains. Former Yonkers City Court Judge Edward P. Borrelli and candidate Mary Clark replaced Sharon Bell Adamo of Pound Ridge and Guy T. Parisi of Rye as Republican candidates.

Edwards and Clark will appear on the Independence line, while Greenwald and Borrelli will appear on the Conservative line. Horowitz and O’Callahan will carry both the Conservative and Independence lines.

Both Democrats and Republicans endorsed incumbent Surrogate Court Judge Anthony Scarpino for another term. Surrogate Court judges handle wills and estates and decide disputed claims among family members.

Judges for County, Family and Surrogate courts serve 10-year terms and receive $136,700 a year.

Ex-Nationwide Insurance manager admits to theft

An ex-manager for Nationwide Insurance admitted today to stealing nearly $300,000 from the company during his six years in the Elmsford branch.

Robert Wirchansky of Yonkers pleaded guilty in Westchester County Court to a four-count felony indictment charging him with second-degree grand larceny and forgery.

He told investigators from Nationwide and the that he stole the money to pay for his wife’s medical bills after she was hurt in a car crash, according to court papers.

Prosecutors said Wirchansky, 49, stole the money between November 2000 and January 2006. The indictment accused him of writing out a $10,000 check from Nationwide to Gerard Werchewski, a $9,000 check to Helen Woshensky, and a $9,000 check to Edward Brown. Wirchansky changed the names on checks to reflect variations of his own name, then deposited the money into his personal account.

The fraud was discovered after Wirchansky had left the company. He made $60,000 a year when he started at Nationwide and $75,000 when he left, according to the court papers.

Wirchansky agreed to repay $296,808 and serve 6 months in the Westchester County jail in Valhalla as part of a five-year “shock” probation sentence. He must repay at least $165,000 before his sentencing date of Oct. 28. If he fails to do so, he could be sent to state prison for 1 to 3 years, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Yonkers brothers plead guilty to gun charges

A 32-year-old man and his 22-year-old brother each agreed to serve 10 years in state prison today after admitting in Westchester County Court to selling illegal guns, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Gustavo Rivera and his younger brother, Anthony Rivera, both of 185 Valentine Lane, Yonkers, pleaded guilty to several counts each of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Gustavo Rivera also pleaded to one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

The brothers, working together, sold three loaded weapons to an undercover Yonkers police officer on two different occasions between January 16 and March 3, the District Attorney’s office said. Anthony Rivera allegedly sold a shotgun and an assault rifle to the same officer.

When Yonkers police arrested Anthony Rivera on April 21, he had a semi-automatic handgun on him, the DA’s office said.

The Riveras are being held without bail in the county jail in Valhalla. Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli set a sentencing date of September 21.

The Yonkers Police Department, the FBI Gang Task Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Westchester District Attorney’s Office investigated the gun sales. Assistant District Attorneys Thomas Luzio and Patrick Moore prosecuted the case.

UPDATE: City of Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett had this to say in a statement today:
“This successful undercover investigation is one of the many ways that the Yonkers Police Department is working to get illegal guns off the streets of Yonkers.  The Yonkers Police Street Crime Unit continues to put themselves in harm’s way by arresting violent criminals such as Anthony and Gustavo Rivera.  Special thanks to the undercover officer who made numerous firearms purchases in this investigation.”

Yonkers man pleads guilty to attacking ‘racist’ dog

A man accused of slashing a so-called “racist dog” and causing the dog to lose an eye pleaded guilty to animal cruelty today in Westchester County Court.

Andrew Owens, a 58-year-old Yonkers resident, used a 9-inch knife to attack his neighbor’s companion animal, a 4-year-old German shepherd named Jenna, who was leashed outside her home at 705-707 Nepperhan Ave.

The knife left a deep gash in Jenna’s face, and her right eye had to be removed.

The SPCA of Westchester County, which investigated the case, said the slashing was unprovoked. An SPCA detective said Ownes “egged on” the barking dog and charged at her.

Owens, a handyman at Valley Oil on Nepperhan Avenue, pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony, in Westchester County Court.

He agreed to serve 15 months in jail as part of the plea. according to the  DA’s office. Sentencing was set for Sept. 2.

Owens claimed that Jenna bit him a year earlier and told authorities he cut the animal in retaliation. The day after Jenna was slashed, her owner, Paul Tocco, told The Journal News that Jenna had it in for Owens — and other minorities, for that matter.

“The dog reacts to black people, Hispanics, anyone who is not white,” Tocco said. “She always barked at him (Owens). He was well aware the dog didn’t like him, and he knew to stay away from her.”

After Tocco’s comments were published, he was bombarded by interview requests and calls from friends and customers. In the face of criticism, he backed off his initial statements, saying now that the dog does not dislike minorities.

Others who know and love Jenna came to her defense, saying she’s no racist and, in fact, has many black and Hispanic friends.

Dobbs Ferry man pleads guilty to underage sex attempt online

A Dobbs Ferry man admitted in court today that he tried to solicit sex from someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl but who was actually an undercover investigator.
David Bagley, 25, pleaded guilty in Westchester County Court to attempted dissemination of indecent materials to a minor, possession of a sexual performance by a child and promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, all felonies.
Prosecutors accused Bagley of attempting to solicit sex from the “girl” during online chats  from November 12 to 23. Bagley also was accused of having sexual images of children on a computer file called “childlover_little” and of sharing child sex performances over the Internet. He was arrested Dec. 15.
Bagley agreed to serve consecutive one-year sentences at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla, for a total of two years behind bars. Westchester Judge Susan Cacace set a sentencing date for Sept. 7. Bagley, who had been free on $10,000 bail, was taken into custody after the plea.
He had faced up to seven years in state prison on the top charge of a 50-count indictment.
His guilty plea today covered a pending misdemeanor case in Dobbs Ferry, where he was charged with with unlawfully dealing with a child for allegedly buying alcohol for minors.
Photo of David Bagley, courtesy of the Westchester County District Attorney’s office

Lippe murder trial: the details

The murder trial of Cortlandt jewelry designer Werner Lippe, charged with killing his wife, Faith, began today in Westchester County court. To read a brief summary of opening statements and testimony, click here.

A little about the jury: there are seven women and five men on the panel, plus four alternates (two men, two women). They are being allowed to take notes during testimony. They may be sequestered if they fail to reach a verdict during the first day of their deliberations. One juror was dismissed before opening statements because he said problems at his job, and his need to be there to solve them, would be a distraction during the trial.

Testifying today were massage therapist Marilyn Prego, realtor Diane Franzoso, longtime friend Julia Mercado and divorce lawyer Christopher Mangold, all of whom described Faith Lippe was an organized, meticulous “Type A” personality who made plans to see them on Oct. 3 and 4 and never showed up — an act completely against her character.

“She was beyond punctual,” Mangold said.

The prosecution’s case continues tomorrow.