The Politics Of Indictment
By J. R. de Szigethy
Just weeks before the general election of 2006, New Yorkers were stunned to witness a political scandal revolving around State Attorney General candidate Jeanine Pirro. At issue were phone conversations Ms. Pirro had with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik regarding Ms. Pirro’s plan to put her husband under surveillance, whom she suspected of infidelity. Lost in the tabloid uproar over the case was the fact that Ms. Pirro was the VICTIM of a crime, rather than the perpetrator of one. The evidence in the case, Under Seal ordered by a New York Judge, was illegally leaked to the Media just weeks before the election between Ms. Pirro and opponent Andrew Cuomo, son of a former Governor of New York. That the conversations in question were recorded by a wiretap over a year ago - only to surface in the final weeks of the election campaign, betrayed all the hallmarks of a politically-motivated campaign to injure Pirro’s candidacy. This sort of practice is nothing new to New York City politics, and a quick review of New York politically history of the past 6 decades reveals a disturbing pattern of such cases involving the politics of indictment.
A former U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York once revealed in his autobiography that for much of the 20th Century State and Federal Prosecutor’s offices in New York have been controlled by members of the American Mafia. While this had the effect of protecting high-ranking members of the Mafia from prosecution, (although not always), such corruption also provided the opportunity for persons who did not enjoy ‘protected’ status to be prosecuted for political reasons, regardless of whether they were innocent or guilty of the crimes they were accused of. The former Federal Prosecutor who made these stunning claims was none other than Roy Cohn, one of the more notorious in American history of those involved in politically-motivated ‘witch hunts.’
Cohn’s father was a former Prosecutor who literally purchased his position as a Judge, a tradition of corruption in New York City’s Judicial system that continues to this day. With his political connections, Judge Cohn was able to obtain for his son an appointment as an Assistant United States Attorney after his early graduation from Columbia Law School at age 20. In 1951 Cohn gained national attention for his role in the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, on trial for Treason for smuggling atomic weapons technology to the Soviet Union. The Rosenbergs were convicted largely on the testimony of Ethel’s brother through cross-examination by Cohn. Although Julius Rosenberg was in fact guilty, it would be revealed years later by Ethel’s brother that he Perjured himself during the trial at the urging of Cohn. Evidence also suggests Cohn had several improper "ex parte" communications with the Judge in the Rosenberg case, who was a family friend, a pattern of misconduct which has continued into current times involving Prosecutors in the Southern District and the Judges assigned to cases in that jurisdiction. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953.
From his success in the Rosenberg case, Roy Cohn sought to take his dubious skills to a higher level. Cohn sought appointment as right-hand-man to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had created a nationwide sensation by alleging in 1950 before a Republican Women’s Club that the U. S. State Department had been infiltrated by over 200 members of the Communist Party. Cohn very much saw the potential for political advancement by appointment to Senator McCarthy’s committee set up to investigate these allegations. However, another political powerbroker, former Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph Kennedy, also recognized the political potential of such an appointment. At that time, Joseph Kennedy was still living under the stigma of having been forced out of his position as Ambassador to England because of his public statements praising the military strength of Nazi Germany in the months leading up to World War II. Unknown at that time to most Americans was the fact that Joseph Kennedy had built his family fortune largely due to his illegal financial dealings with members of the American Mafia.
To repair the Kennedy family’s public reputation, the former Ambassador lobbied to get his son Robert appointed as right-hand-man to Joseph McCarthy. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, however, held the ‘trump cards’ in this case. Hoover and young Roy Cohn were already by that time, according to several later biographers, compromised by the Mafia. And, it would later be revealed, Hoover and his agents had already compiled extensive surveillance of Robert Kennedy’s brother John, most notably secret tape recordings of his romantic affair with a suspected Nazi spy named Inga Arvad. This event occurred during World War II, when John F. Kennedy was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence. Ms. Arvad, who had been Adolph Hitler’s companion at the infamous 1936 Olympic games in Berlin will go down in history as the only woman to have been involved in a romantic relationship with both Adolph Hitler and John F. Kennedy.
Thus, aided by J. Edgar Hoover’s secret arsenal of blackmail material, Roy Cohn received the coveted appointment as McCarthy’s right hand man, with young Robert Kennedy relegated to a subordinate position. Such an arrangement would lead to a life-long rivalry between Robert Kennedy and Roy Cohn that would be played out in several Courtroom proceedings. The evil triumvirate of Senator McCarthy, Roy Cohn, and J. Edgar Hoover, thus launched our country into one of the most divisive ‘witch hunts’ in American history. For four years Senator McCarthy led his hunt for suspected Communists, holding sensational hearings that captured the attention of the American people. The televised McCarthy hearings made everyone connected to the Committee an instant national figure.
Gradually, however, the American people began to realize that they were being taken for a ride by McCarthy and his associates, that the threat to America by domestic Communists was being overstated and exploited for political gain. Bobby Kennedy would determine that his association with McCarthy could, in the long run, cause serious damage to his and his brother’s political ambitions, and thus the young lawyer quietly removed himself from McCarthy’s inner circle. President Dwight Eisenhower recognized this also, and was among those who quietly conspired to expose Senator McCarthy and bring about his downfall. Finally, an attorney for the United States Army, Joseph Welch, stood up to the Senator in one of the most riveting moments in American history, an event broadcast live on television. Welch admonished the Senator thus: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?"
Thus Senator McCarthy's reign of terror came to an end. McCarthy drank him himself to death within 3 short years. Because J. Edgar Hoover had quietly played his hand in this saga behind the scenes, Hoover was able to survive this national drama with his reputation intact. Hoover, however, was in for rough times when, in 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President. Among Kennedy’s first acts was to Nominate his brother Robert as Attorney General of the United States. That action made Robert Kennedy the "Boss" of Hoover, which was an attempt to reign in the deranged FBI Director who was hanging on to his job through the not-so-subtle crime of blackmail.
However, President Kennedy also recognized that he needed the services of Hoover, who, despite all of his baggage, was vehemently anti-Communist. The greatest threat to America at that time was not by organized crime syndicates that flourished throughout the United States - crime syndicates that Hoover was denying even existed - but the growing threat of the Soviet Union, which by that time was secretly arming the regime of Fidel Castro - just 90 miles off the American coast - with missiles armed with nuclear weapons.
Still, President Kennedy recognized the threat to the America people by the rackets and corruption perpetrated by the American Mafia that Hoover had refused to investigate. Accordingly, the President directed his brother the Attorney General to launch one of the most aggressive prosecutions of organized crime in American history. That is the legacy that Robert Kennedy holds with only three others in the annals of American criminal Justice, those being New York City Prosecutors Tom Dewey, Rudolph Giuliani, and Robert Morgenthau.
Having taken action against the American Mafia on the home front, President Kennedy in 1963 launched an aggressive campaign against the Soviet Union, giving one of his most historically important speeches at the site of the Berlin Wall, that concrete barrier that separated those living in Communist East Germany from the Freedom they so desperately sought on the other side. President Kennedy inspired millions worldwide with his proclamation: "Ich bin ein Berliner!" (I am a citizen of Berlin!)
On a warm November’s day later that same year, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy was enjoying lunch at his suburban Washington home with several members of his Mafia prosecution team, including a young Robert Morgenthau, then the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Kennedy received a phone call from J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI Director informed the Attorney General that his brother had just been shot in Dallas, Texas.
In SONS AND BROTHERS Kennedy biographer Richard D. Mahoney reveals that from that moment until his death, Bobby Kennedy was tormented by his belief that his brother's murder was the result of his relentless prosecution of organized crime. This suspicion was strengthened 3 days after the President's murder when the man held in custody for this crime, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself murdered by a man named Jack Ruby, an event witnessed nationwide on live television. Ruby, a nightclub owner and former Organizer for a corrupt Union, was an Associate of the Chicago Mafia Family.
After the President’s murder, Robert Morgenthau returned to the Empire State, where he was already pursuing a vendetta against Roy Cohn that would unfold over the course of many years. After the fall of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn had somewhat quietly retreated to his base in New York City, where he made a career as a defense attorney representing a wide-ranging variety of clients, including members of the Mafia such as Genovese Family Godfather Tony Salerno and Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti. Cohn skillfully controlled the Media through his association with key journalists and publishing magnates, which allowed Cohn to run a particular story he wanted to appear in the local newspapers, or, sometimes more importantly, keep a certain story from being reported at all. Cohn also acted as a power broker, arranging the appointment of Judges and Prosecutors, many of them corrupt - all for the right fee, of course.
Cohn received in exchange more than just money, power, and political influence. Several biographers of both Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover have revealed in recent years that both men utilized the services of male prostitutes supplied to them by Mafia rackets in New York City. Evidence has emerged in recent years showing Hoover was both the victim of Mafia blackmail as well as a practitioner of blackmail himself, tactics which allowed him to remain in power at the FBI until his death in 1971. Roy Cohn died of AIDS in 1986.
Roy Cohn did not die in prison, much as Robert Morgenthau had hoped. On three separate occasions, Prosecutor Morgenthau indicted Roy Cohn on a variety of charges, including bribery, extortion, blackmail, fraud, conspiracy, and witness tampering. The prosecutions of Cohn - ironically mirroring so many he himself had previously prosecuted - were clearly politically motivated, although that did not mean that Cohn was innocent. However, as is often the case in trials that are motivated by means other than a search for the truth, in each case Cohn was acquitted. Thus, in his role as both Prosecutor and Defendant, Roy Cohn’s life story wrote the book on how prosecutors in New York can obtain an indictment - and sometimes a conviction - on an individual who has been targeted for political reasons.
With such a history of political corruption long established in New York, a new dynamic to the equation came with the crack cocaine epidemic that began in the early 1980s. By the end of the decade cocaine trafficking in New York had become a multi-billion dollar a year industry, one result being a further degradation of New York’s Judicial system that would accelerate the opportunity for politically motivated prosecutions.
On October 18, 1988 events would occur that would have far-reaching consequences in New York City legal history. On that fateful day, in two separate, unrelated events, drug dealers in Manhattan murdered two New York City Police Officers, Christopher Hoban and Michael Buczek. Michael Buczek was just 24 years old when he was gunned down by three drug dealers in Washington Heights. The three men who murdered Officer Buczek then fled back to their native Dominican Republic, which did not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Joining in the fight to bring the murderers of Michael Buczek to Justice were Bernard Kerik, a narcotics officer with the NYPD, and Joseph Occhipinti, a drug trafficking expert for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Both men would eventually be the targets of prosecutions that bore all the hallmarks of a politically-motivated prosecution. Occhipinti would be the first to be brought down.
In 1989, New Yorkers went to the polls to choose a Mayor from two very different candidates; David Dinkins, a product of a long-established New York City political machine, and Rudolph Giuliani, who had achieved one of the most significant records of organized crime prosecution in American history. In a close election that included charges of voter fraud, Dinkins was narrowly declared the winner. One of Mayor Dinkins’ first acts was to publicly denounce Occhipinti’s raid on drug locations in Washington Heights as a "Republican conspiracy to derail the Census." Dinkins claimed that Occhipinti’s aggressive arrest of illegal alien drug dealers was having the effect of making illegal aliens afraid of Federal Census takers knocking on their doors, and thus there would be an undercounting of such illegal aliens which would result in New York City receiving less than it’s fair share of Federal funds. With over one million New York City residents on Welfare at that time, the city desperately needed every Federal dollar it could obtain.
Mayor Dinkins demanded a Federal investigation of Occhipinti on allegations he was violating the civil rights of illegal alien drug dealers. Mayor Dinkins’ got his wish; the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York subsequently indicted Occhipinti on multiple counts of civil rights violations regarding the legality of his searches of drug locations. Typically, Federal prosecutors take over a year between indictment and bringing the case to trial. In Occhipinti’s case, he was rushed to trial within 3 months. Occhipinti was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in a federal prison on charges of non-violent civil rights violations, an event unprecedented in American legal history.
THE MEDIA AND POLITICS
After serving 7 months in a federal prison, Joe Occhipinti was Paroled by outgoing President George Bush, on the urging of Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari. Occhipinti immediately applied for a new trial of his case, which meant if he succeeded in obtaining a new trial he could be sent back to prison if he was convicted a second time. Joe Occhipinti was willing to take that risk in order to clear his name. What the newly-freed INS agent discovered, however, was that in New York, much of the Media is compromised by the agenda of it’s owner, thus limiting such opportunities for investigative reporters to take on a story such as his, which included claims of a politically-motivated prosecution as well as being framed by drug dealers.
In New York City, people pretty much self-identify themselves by the newspaper which they read and the TV news programs they tune into. For those who make their living in the financial industry, the Wall Street Journal is their paper of choice. The New York Times has for many years attracted a left-of-center reader who is likely to be interested in New York’s vast and varied cultural outlets. For many New Yorkers, their choice of newspaper is one of two ‘tabloids,’ the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Since the inception of both, the stories that appeared in these newspapers have followed the agenda of the owners of the papers. The New York Post is the oldest continuously published newspaper in America, having been established by Alexander Hamilton in 1801. For most of it’s history the Post was a left-of-center publication. In 1976 the conservative Australian publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch bought the Post, his agenda being to turn the paper politically to the right. Federal regulations would later require Murdoch to sell the Post, which was owned briefly in 1993 by Abe Hirschfeld, a deranged millionaire who later was convicted of trying to hire a Mafia hitman to murder a business associate. After Hirschfeld, Murdoch was able to re-purchase the Post, which ever since has been right-of-center politically and vigorously pro-law enforcement in it’s stories and editorial content. The New York Daily News was founded in 1919 and has been famous for it’s aggressive use of photographs to document a story. At one point in it’s history being the most conservative newspaper in the city, for the past two decades the Daily News has been politically left-of-center and has taken an anti-law enforcement stance.
The manner in which both papers covered an allegation of police corruption in 1994 is a telling example of each paper’s agenda. In this case, both papers learned that Luchese Mafia Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso was alleging that "Mafia Cops" Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa had carried out numerous murders on his behalf. The Post, ever to give cops the benefit of the doubt, refused to name the two accused cops, whereas the Daily News plastered the two cops’ photos on the cover with the headline "Hero Cops or Hitmen?" While it would later turn out that the News was correct in branding the cops as hitmen, the Daily News made a disastrous mistake that same year by brandishing on it’s cover the claims of it’s poll that had Governor Mario Cuomo leading by double digits in his race against unknown candidate George Pataki. When Pataki won the race by a substantial margin just two weeks later, the Daily News was saddled with the perception by many that it’s political bias often affected it’s reporting. By the same token, the New York Post was perceived by many New Yorkers as being biased to the political right, especially after the Post’s parent company hosted the Fox News Channel on cable television a decade ago.
Thus, as will be seen throughout this narrative, cases involving the possible political motivation behind a prosecution, particularly cases involving law enforcement, would receive a treatment based upon the agenda of the Post and the Daily News, both of which are among the top 10 newspapers in America in terms of circulation. The career of the late investigative reporter Mike McAlary offers examples of this reality. In 1992, McAlary worked for the New York Post, and ran an explosive series, "The Framing of a Cop," in which McAlary detailed voluminous evidence that Joe Occhipinti had been set up by the drug cartel. McAlary also went into considerable detail regarding how New York City politicians, Mayor Dinkins among them, had been duped into carrying out the drug cartel’s agenda.
McAlary’s sensational series on the Occhipinti case prompted Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman to lure the skilled and courageous journalist to his paper - at a substantial salary. McAlary delivered with two sensational series that reflected the Daily News’ agenda. First came McAlary’s explosive front-page series on the ethical questions of Christopher Lynn, Mayor Giuliani’s Taxi and Limousine Commissioner. Shocking allegations regarding the interactions between Lynn and a crack cocaine gang he represented as a lawyer was the first major scandal to tarnish the legacy of the Giuliani Administration. "This is outrageous what the Daily News is doing!" Giuliani complained to the Daily News in February, 1996. McAlary kept up the heat, publishing a week later his story: "Slime is trailing Lynn: TLC Chief had crack dealer on payroll." Lynn was never charged with a crime and Giuliani stood by him, promoting the crack attorney to Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. In 1997, the Daily News ran a story regarding a Rabbi to whom Lynn’s security officer - in his presence - falsely misrepresented himself as a police officer. Lynn’s employee would later plead guilty to that crime. In 1999, Christopher Lynn ran for a seat on New York City’s Council, opposing long-time human rights advocate Christine Quinn. One of only two of Lynn’s paid campaign managers was then arrested for possessing cocaine, heroin, handguns, and ammunition. Quinn defeated Lynn in the election and went on to win election as the President of the New York City Council. Mike McAlary would win the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of one of the most horrific cases of police brutality in our nation’s history, that being the sodomy torture and near murder of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, brutalized inside the bathroom of an NYPD precinct house.
Thus, with the agenda of both the New York Post and the New York Daily News clearly defined in the early 1990s, whether or not a New Yorker learned of a secession of cases of apparent politically-motivated prosecutions depended largely on which newspaper one reads.
MORE CASES EMERGE
In September, 1993 came a Federal prosecution by the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that had troubling signs of being politically-motivated. The case involved a young political leader named Thomas R. Stevens, who was arrested by the Southern District on murder for hire charges. That this sort of prosecution was being made by Federal prosecutors, instead of State prosecutors, was highly unusual. In fact, the Southern District had not handled such a case in over a decade, when Rudolph Giuliani, then the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District, sent a wired FBI agent, Lyndley DeVecchio, to entrap a rogue retired Intelligence officer named Ed Wilson. In this new case, the Southern District had seized jurisdiction when one of the figures in the case had asked the Defendant to call him on his beeper, claiming to have information about what the Defendant said was a conspiracy to frame him. Stevens did just that, not knowing that the ‘917’ number of the beeper phoned over into New Jersey, crossing State lines and thus giving the Southern District predication regarding wire and mail fraud in the course of the commission of an alleged crime.
Some months earlier, Stevens had appeared in May, 1993 on the ABC news program NIGHTLINE, during which in an interview with Ted Koppel he and two other former members of the political party UNITED WE STAND expressed their criticism of party leader H. Ross Perot. After Stevens’ appearance, he claimed several young men in New York engaged in a smear campaign against him, ultimately resulting in his being indicted for allegedly trying to hire an Informant claiming to be "Louie the Hitman" from the Luchese Mafia Family, to murder a political rival involved in the alleged smear campaign. At least two of these men were caught on tape making threats against associates of Stevens while claiming to be FBI Informants. On the eve of the trial, this reporter turned over such tapes to Steven’s attorney, as well as the U. S. Attorney’s Office, which asked for an Adjournment of the trial. The day after New York Post columnist Neil Travis ran a story based on these tapes, the Southern District dropped the charges against Stevens. At a Hearing to conclude the case, the Judge dismissed the charges "With Prejudice," a ruling which precluded the Southern District prosecutors from pursuing their case against Stevens.
While this drama was being played out, the FBI was involved in an apparent attempt to charge Guy Molinari with fabricating evidence in support of Joe Occhipinti’s case. In apparent retaliation, the Feds tried to convince a government Informant to wear a wire on Molinari and convince him to offer her a job in exchange for information she had on drug dealers in New York and their corruption of New York officials. The woman refused and reported the attempted set-up to Molinari. A furious Molinari then took this story to the Media, and in April, 1995 the New York Post ran the story: "Guy Molinari Fumes: FBI Tried to Set Me Up!" "It’s outrageous!" Molinari said. "If they will do this to me, an elected official, I hate to think what they might do to a member of the general public!" Molinari would fight back in other ways as well. In December, 1994 the Borough President held a public rally that attracted hundreds of cops and others in law enforcement. One of the speakers was Police Officer Michael O’Keefe, whose harrowing tale outraged New Yorkers. In 1992, Officer O’Keefe got into a struggle with an illegal alien drug dealer, ‘Kiko’ Garcia. During the struggle, Garcia attempted to shoot Officer O’Keefe and instead Garcia was fatally shot. Riots broke out in the Washington Heights area after then-Mayor David Dinkins effectively publicly accused O’Keefe of murder. Mayor Dinkins met with the family of the slain drug dealer and used taxpayer funds to pay for the drug dealer’s funeral back in the Dominican Republic. Despite Dinkins’ public demands for ‘Justice,’ a Grand Jury cleared Officer O’Keefe of any wrongdoing.
In 1995, Guy Molinari surprised many of his constituents by announcing his candidacy for District Attorney of Staten Island. Still angry at the attempt by FBI agents to set him up, Molinari knew that given the subpoena power accorded a Prosecutor, he could bring before a Grand Jury drug dealers and corrupt FBI agents that were previously untouchable. In the only political race he would ever lose, Staten Island voters chose to retain as Borough President the man who had so courageously stood up for beleaguered members of law enforcement.
One case Molinari’s office followed was that of one of his constituents, Joe Simone, a decorated New York City Police Detective. In December of 1993, just hours before his scheduled retirement, agents of the FBI arrested Detective Simone, who had served time on the Colombo Squad of the joint NYPD-FBI Organized Crime Task Force. Simone was accused by Colombo associate "Big Sal" Miciotta of selling information to the Colombo Family during the Mob War that was waged within the Family in the early 1990s. However, during his trial in Federal Court in Brooklyn, the case began to unravel, and it was clear to the jury that Simone was not the Mob’s mole on the Organized Crime Task Force. After just deliberating two hours, the jury returned their verdict, and 10 of those jurors waited outside the Courthouse in the cold, November rain to console Detective Simone and his family.
Eventually, "Big Sal" Miciotta would be kicked out of Witness Protection Program, after the Feds had detected him in numerous lies on the Witness stand. Miciotta, however, would get a second chance when he later gave information to the Feds that discredited Luchese Family Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who made many sensational claims when he was first arrested, among them that he had hired two "Mafia Cops," Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, to assist him in the commission of several of the 3 dozen murders he confessed to. The "Mafia Cops" case would languish unattended for years until the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office revived it in 2003, after which it was later taken over by the Feds. Two forensics experts, Dr. Stephen Dresch and Angela Clemente, would eventually spend several years investigating the Joe Simone case. Their conclusion was that Simone had been framed and that his supervisor on the organized crime task force, FBI agent Lyndley DeVecchio, not only leaked information to his FBI Informant, Colombo Family hitman/drug dealer Greg Scarpa, but that some of that information assisted Scarpa in the commission of murders during the Mob War. Dresch and Clemente turned over their evidence to Congress, and then later to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. That office earlier this year indicted former agent DeVecchio on four Mafia murder charges. DeVecchio pleaded not guilty to all charges and he is supported by some of the most respected current and former FBI agents to have served America in recent years.
In the Summer of 1997 came another questionable prosecution in New York, that of Sgt. Tom Kennedy, who was facing 15 years in prison for allegedly assaulting a man he arrested. Sgt. Kennedy had happened upon two men in the 24th Precinct on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the process of a burglary, and a foot chase ensued. Eventually, Sgt. Kennedy tackled one of the perps, a career criminal. The two men struggled, at which point the perp grabbed for Kennedy’s gun. The situation was almost identical to the altercation between Chico Garcia and Officer Michael O’Keefe, except in this case Sgt. Kennedy regained possession of his gun, holstered it, and proceeded to place the criminal in handcuffs. At that point, Sgt. Kennedy attempted to raise the arrested man to his feet, but the man, much heavier than Kennedy, fell to the sidewalk, receiving several stitches to his forehead.
What makes this case all the more remarkable is that the arrested man, Ricardo Cruz, was not the one making claims of police brutality; those allegations instead came from several members of a West Side political club, who claimed to have witnessed the arrest and who took their case to associates in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The case was assigned to Prosecutor Thomas Hickey, who brought an indictment against Sgt. Kennedy on assault charges that carried a 15 year prison sentence.
Hickey had previously brought to trial the "Feerick Four," consisting of Lt. Patricia Feerick of the NYPD and three of her subordinates. Hickey charged that the four officers had illegally searched a Harlem apartment in search of a stolen police radio. The case against them was made by Ben Stokes, a "Lieutenant" in a drug gang, the Purple Caps, so named for the color of the vials of crack they sold to young people in their Harlem neighborhood. The Purple Caps drug gang had been responsible for the murders of at least 7 people. Stokes had been caught with 591 vials of crack cocaine, but the D. A.’s office decided to overlook that in exchange for Stoke’s agreeing to testify against the "Feerick Four." Stokes did just that, but continued to sell crack; a videotape would later be obtained by the Media which showed Stokes selling crack to a woman pushing a baby in a stroller. Jurors in the trial did not see that videotape, and Lt. Patricia Feerick and her 3 co-Defendants were convicted of several misdemeanors. Feerick was sentenced to two years in prison, although Governor George Pataki would commute her sentence after receiving over 20,000 Petitions from crime-wary New Yorkers, most of them Harlem residents, demanding her release.
Another aspect of this troubling prosecution was the claims of feminists that a different standard was often applied to women who worked in jobs traditionally held by men, with some wondering out loud whether Lt. Feerick indeed would have been targeted had she not been a woman. Until her arrest, Lt. Feerick was one of the most decorated females in NYPD history.
There was also the troubling issue of disproportionate prosecution by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In 1995 it was revealed in Court proceedings that a Police Officer in the 24th Precinct of Manhattan, Darrin Edmonds, had been bribed by a ruthless drug gang operating on the Upper West Side that called themselves the "Young Talented Children." Despite their seemingly innocuous name, the drug gang had been responsible for the murders of at least 8 people. Edmonds had regularly tipped off the drug gang about impending raids, but just as he was to be arrested, his case had to be scratched when Morgenthau’s office learned that one of their Detectives, who had worked on the Edmonds investigation, had tried to sell a kilo of cocaine to an undercover State Trooper. To prevent embarrassment to their office, Morgenthau’s Detective was quietly dismissed and the charges against him dropped. Meanwhile, Officer Edmonds, still free while the D. A.’s office pursued a new case against him, tipped off the drug gang as to the identities of two undercover cops, who then narrowly escaped being murdered themselves by the drug gang. In April, 1997, Morgenthau’s Prosecutors gave Officer Edmonds a plea bargain bargain that carried a 3 year sentence. Two months later, that same office sought to send Sgt. Kennedy to prison for 15 years.
Thus, when the trial of Sgt. Tom Kennedy began in June, 1997, the Courtroom each day was filled to capacity with off-duty cops, those who had been outraged over the prosecution by Thomas Hickey of the ‘Feerick Four,’ as well as the lenient treatment of corrupt cops such as Edmonds. Patricia Feerick herself attended the trial, to offer support to Sgt. Kennedy and his wife Carol, who nervously caressed rosary beads in her seat on the front bench. An NYPD Chaplain, The Reverend William Kalaidjian and his wife Val were also there each day to offer support to Sgt. Kennedy and his wife. Predictably, the New York Post assigned daily coverage to the trial, which was ignored by the New York Daily News. The most dramatic event in the trial was produced not by a witness on the stand but rather by the entrance into the Courtroom one day of NYPD Officer Stephen McDonald, the hero cop rendered paralyzed by a teenager’s handgun in 1986. A hushed silence fell over the Courtroom as all eyes, including the jurors, were focused on Officer McDonald as he was slowly rolled into the Courtroom in his wheelchair.
To his credit, Ricardo Cruz could have easily committed Perjury on the witness stand by claiming that Sgt. Kennedy pushed him to the ground while he was handcuffed. Instead, Cruz told the jury that he was too strung out on heroin and cocaine at the time of his arrest to remember if he was pushed or if he fell accidentally. That testimony left Sgt. Kennedy’s Fate to be determined by the various people who claimed to have witnessed the event. However, their testimony was inconsistent and contradictory, and Sgt. Kennedy had hired John Patten, the lawyer who had so skillfully taken apart the government’s case against Detective Joe Simone. As in the Simone case, not only did the jurors quickly return a verdict of ‘Not Guilty,’ they were so outraged over the prosecution of Sgt. Kennedy that they waited outside the Courthouse and joined Kennedy and his family in an impromptu victory celebration at a nearby restaurant.
Yet another New York City Police Officer would be caught up in an investigation that was predicated on very questionable circumstances. That cop was Bernard Kerik. As the 1990s drew to a close, Kerik’s career had taken off. First, Kerik was appointed by Mayor Giuliani as Commissioner of the New York City Corrections Department, and then later Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. Kerik had not forgotten about the murder of Officer Michael Buczek and used his power as Police Commissioner to turn up the heat on the Dominican Republic to extradite the two men still alive involved in Buczek’s murder. With the co-coordinated efforts of Borough President Guy Molinari and Congressman Benjamin Gilman, the two accused murderers, after 12 years on the run, were finally returned to the United States. Kerik personally handcuffed one of the suspects upon his arrival in the U. S. and escorted him to face trial in Manhattan. Both men were convicted and sentenced to prison for 25 years to life.
Meanwhile, the FBI had not forgotten about Guy Molinari, and while the 1992 attempt to set him up had failed, the FBI then turned it’s attention to two men who were the sons of a police officer who was one of Molinari’s closest, lifelong friends. The two men were Frank and Peter DiTommaso, who, in the 1980s purchased a Staten Island waste station controlled by Edward Garafola, who was married to the sister of former Gambino Family Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Through their waste control operations and their construction company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, the DiTommaso brothers made millions of dollars in the 1980s and 1990s in government contracts, including the closing of the nation’s largest - and illegal - open garbage landfill, the Great Kills site on Staten Island that shamelessly had operated during the Administrations of the Mayors of New York City prior to Rudolph Giuliani’s tenure.
However, there was a price, according to the testimony of government witnesses in the 2004 trial of Peter Gotti, brother of the late Gambino Godfather John Gotti. The jury in that case was told by Prosecution witnesses that the DiTommaso brothers were involved in extortion plots by the Gambino and DeCavalcante families. Because both Mafia families maintained ironclad control over corrupt labor unions in the waste management, trucking, and construction industries, businessmen such as the DiTommaso brothers, the Feds’ witnesses alleged, turned over proceeds of their profits to the Mob.
Such alleged actions can be interpreted in two very different ways;
In the three recent trials of John "Junior" Gotti, "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo made similar allegations, most notably that a restaurant in New York popular with law enforcement organizations, Russo’s on the Bay, was similarly ‘controlled’ by the Gambino Family.
Frank DiTommaso has denounced such allegations in Media reports, claiming there is no evidence to back up the claims of the government Informants, whom, DiTommaso claims, have no credibility. Mikey Scars DiLeonardo can be judged by some to have credibility issues, given that his testimony in the three trials of John "Junior" Gotti was not deemed credible by those three juries, who failed to convict Gotti in each of the three trials. The DiTommaso brothers would later hire Guy Molinari as a consultant after he left office, as well as Randy Mastro, a former Federal Prosecutor and Deputy Mayor in the Giuliani Administration. Mastro’s job was to investigate employees of Interstate Industrial to ensure none were associates of organized crime.
The FBI’s investigation of the DiTommaso brothers can be traced back to the Bureau’s 1992 investigation of Guy Molinari. In response to Molinari’s complaint to Federal authorities about the attempt to set him up, Molinari did receive a letter from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility that stated that the operation planned against him "was not endorsed by the (FBI) agents’ supervisor and was flatly rejected by Department of Justice attorneys." This sort of half- apology was published in the New York Post’s exposé in 1995 in which Molinari blew the whistle on the FBI’s impropriety.
However, just one year later, in 1996, the FBI had found a man who had a casual relationship with one of the DiTommaso brothers that the Bureau felt could be exploited. Lawrence Ray would later claim he worked for four years as an FBI Informant before that relationship ended in March, 2000, when he and Edward Garafola, Daniel Persico, nephew of Colombo Family Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico, and many other Mafia associates, were indicted on Federal charges involving a $40 million stock ‘pump and dump’ scam. While Ray’s apparent co-operation with the Feds resulted in his receiving a ‘slap on the wrist’ for his crimes - Probation - the former insurance salesman was not about to go away quietly.
It would take the course of 6 more years before information about Ray’s work as a government mole would work it’s way into the public arena. That information - the full extent of which is still not believed to have been uncovered, suggests that Larry Ray was not the average, run-of-the-mill FBI Informant, but one of the most accomplished such of the last several decades.
Such a distinction is no small claim. For decades, the FBI has been served by some truly dangerous and duplicitous Informants; among them: Sarah Jane Moore, who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in San Francisco in 1975; Michael Fitzpatrick, the drug dealer and arsonist who set up Qubilah Shabazz on a murder-for-hire charge, alleging she tried to hire the FBI Informant to murder Louis Farrakhan, the man believed responsible for the murder of her father, Malcolm X; "Big Sal"Miciotta, the 350-pound drug dealer and murderer for the Colombo Mafia Family who set-up NYPD Detective Joe Simone; Greg Scarpa, the drug dealer and hitman for the Colombo Family who was protected from prosecution for decades because of his work as an FBI Informant; Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and "Whitey" Bulger, Boston gangsters who escaped prosecution for decades for their crimes involving drug trafficking, murder, and the production of child pornography.
While Lawrence Ray did not murder anyone, the FBI’s confidence man would, in the space of a very short while, gain the confidence of two men who would become known throughout the world as public servants. One was an American, Bernard Kerik, who would become a national hero on 9/11. The other was a Russian, Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the most important world leaders of the 20th Century. How both men became to be associated with Lawrence Ray, a Mafia associate and FBI Informant, is an intriguing yet disturbing tale which suggests the full story has yet to be told.
The year 1980 was a pivotal one in terms of world history, and for several political leaders whose destinies would intersect each others. One was Mikhail Gorbachev, who during that year became the youngest member ever selected to the Politburo of the Soviet Union. Also in 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, and soon entered into a ‘triumvirate’ consisting of himself, his counter-part in England, Margaret Thatcher, and the new Pope in Rome, the anti-Communist Pope John Paul II. The mission of this trio was to once and for all bring down the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union.
1980 also saw the birth of a grass-roots movement in which working people in Communist countries demanded labor Unions free from Communist government control. That movement, born in Poland by a Dissident Union Shop Steward named Lech Walesa, adopted the name SOLIDARITY. As the Workers' revolt grew in strength, the Soviet Union prepared to put down the unrest. In December, 1981, the Communist government of Poland, under threat of a Soviet military invasion, imposed martial law, throwing Walesa and scores of SOLIDARITY members into prison.
These events deeply disturbed Gorbachev, who, by 1985, had ascended to the office of Premiere of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev, recognizing that Communism was doomed to failure, instigated reform measures which became popularized by the terms "perestroika," which translates, roughly, ‘economic reform,’ and "glasnost," which translated into ‘openness.’ In reality, these terms were ‘code’ for "Capitalism" and "Democracy."
President Reagan then seized on the opportunities inherent in this change in Soviet doctrine. On June 12, 1987, Reagan traveled to the Berlin Wall, the infamous concrete gate that had become an international symbol of Communist oppression. By his presence and speech, Reagan drew upon the symbolic imagery of his predecessor from a generation earlier, President John F. Kennedy. Reagan’s proclamation was more direct and personal than Kennedy‘s, but none the less effective: "Mr. Gorbachev," the President defiantly shouted, "TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!"
By this time, Lech Walesa was out of prison and leading the Workers’ revolt that would spread throughout the Soviet Union and their puppet regimes. By the end of the 1980s Gorbachov faced a dilemma when thousands of Workers in East Germany demanded free passage to West Germany, where working conditions were far superior. His doctrines of ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ gaining momentum, Gorbachev opened up the Berlin Wall.
Like dominos, one by one the Communist governments of the Soviet Union fell. Lech Walesa, who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, was elected President of Poland in 1990. That same year, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and his photograph appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as it’s "Man of the Decade." The Soviet Union would fall with the deaths of just three Russian Union Dissidents, Architect Ilya Krichevsky, armed services veteran Dmitry Komar, and Vladimir Usov, an Accountant.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s success in bringing Democracy and Capitalism to the former Soviet Union succeeded in putting himself out of a job. Quickly moving on with his life, in 1991 Gorbachev founded the Gorbachev Foundation, an international ‘think tank’ devoted to spreading Democracy and Capitalism throughout the world, while at the same time providing healthcare services to Russian children in need of such services. Acknowledging the past discredited doctrines of Communism regarding State support of such programs, Gorbachev mandated that his Foundation would not accept government funding. Thus, Gorbachev quietly began to solicit funding from worldwide corporations whose history were a model of Capitalism. After turning down numerous offers from a variety of multi-national corporations, Gorbachev entered into an agreement with one of the world’s most widespread and successful restaurant chains, Pizza Hut.
From it’s humble beginnings in 1958 as a family restaurant at a quintessentially American locale in Wichita, Kansas, Pizza Hut would grow into the largest and most successful such restaurant chain worldwide, with over 7.000 retail outlets in the United States and over 3,000 such overseas. Pizza Hut has for over a decade been recognized by food critics as the leader in an industry that exceeds $25 billion in sales annually. The most successful Pizza Hut in terms of volume is one located in Moscow, Russia.
The television commercial for Pizza Hut was filmed in Moscow, featuring Gorbachev and his 10-year-old granddaughter, in which Moscow residents praised Gorbachev for bringing Capitalism - and with it - Pizza Hut, to the Russian people. The commercial was scheduled to be broadcast on January 1, 1998, during the Rose Bowl telecast from Pasadena, California, a contest that pitted the football teams of the University of Michigan against that of Washington State in a match that would decide the National Championship. Such a broadcast was certain to reach many millions of Americans nationwide.
Thus, Gorbachev traveled to the United States in the days preceding the broadcast to participate in pre-broadcast publicity for the commercial, for which Gorbachev was reported to have received $1 million for his Foundation. During his stay in New York, Gorbachev met with Mayor Giuliani, Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and the man who was providing Security for Gorbachev during his visit to the U. S., Lawrence Ray.
Exactly how a former insurance salesman became the bodyguard for a man of international stature such as Mikhail Gorbachev has yet to be explained. Ray’s position in this case implied that he was a man with significant connections in the U. S. government and was someone who was trustworthy and had a solid background. That was the impression Kerik and the DiTommaso brothers assimilated regarding Lawrence Ray in 1997. Thus impressed, Bernard Kerik and the DiTommaso brothers sought out Larry Ray as a "fixer,’ someone with perceived government and law enforcement connections that could be of mutual benefit. Ray, two years by that time into his tenure as an FBI Informant, was more than eager to oblige.
In 1998, Bernard Kerik was planning his wedding to a woman who was the love of his life and would bare him two children. Larry Ray offered to help pay for the wedding, giving to Kerik over $10,000 in gifts, most of which was, he would insist, be in the form of checks, rather than cash. Kerik accepted the gifts and chose Ray as his Best Man at the Wedding. There was nothing illegal on Kerik’s part by accepting these gifts. Nor was there anything wrong with Kerik’s suggestion that the DiTommaso brothers hire Ray to assist in the process of Interstate Industrial maintaining it’s lucrative contracts with City and State governments. What Kerik did not know was that the man he thought was his friend was documenting everything that transpired between them, including saving their e-mails in which they discussed Interstate’s business dealings. The bank checks Kerik had accepted were also leaving behind a paper trail which the FBI Informant was saving as well.
What Kerik also did not know was that Ray was involved with Mob figures in a stock "pump and dump" scam. Kerik found out in March, 2000, when Ray was arrested. A stunned Kerik immediately ended his association with Ray, but the damage to his career had already been done, although it would take the passage of several years before such damage would emerge. Kerik by that time had been promoted to the position of Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. On September 10th, 2001, few Americans outside the New York City area had ever heard of Bernard Kerik. By the end of the following day, Kerik and Mayor Giuliani were national heroes. In response to the terrorist attack on the United States, President Bush proposed the creation of a new Department to safeguard our country, the Department of Homeland Security. After serving as it’s first Director for over a year, Tom Ridge departed, prompting the President to search for a new Director. The consensus among all of Bush’s advisors was that Bernard Kerik was the most qualified person to lead that crucial office. Kerik, however, in going over his financial papers in preparation for his Confirmation Hearings in the Senate, discovered he had failed to pay appropriate taxes on a nanny for his children, who was an undocumented worker from Mexico. A similar situation in 1993 involving President Clinton’s first choice as Attorney General, Zoe Baird, had resulted in her having to withdraw her name from nomination. Thus, Kerik felt he had no choice but to withdraw his name from consideration.
The story became a Media circus, offering up to the tabloids of New York a new target in which to sell newspapers. Particularly, the fall of Bernard Kerik helped the Daily News on two fronts; it allowed the paper to run stories on a ‘bad cop,’ as it had made a reputation in so doing for more than a decade, and the story also allowed its’ political agenda to be pushed forward. Commissioner Kerik was perceived in the national consciousness as a personality closely associated with Rudy Giuliani, "America’s Mayor," perceived to be running for President. Also perceived to be a candidate was Hillary Clinton, whom the Daily News in it’s reporting and Editorial content was clearly supporting.
Thus, the Daily News began a relentless smear campaign against Kerik, reporting in minute detail every aspect of the former Commissioner’s professional and personal life. Lawrence Ray was the News’ willing source, having kept every financial record and e-mail and other correspondence between himself and Kerik. The New York Post would reveal that the FBI had been investigating Kerik for years. The Bronx District Attorney’s office then launched an investigation regarding renovations made to an apartment Kerik had purchased for himself and his new bride.
Many New Yorkers saw through the obvious political nature of the campaign to discredit Kerik, although some fell for it, convinced Kerik was some sort of dangerous criminal with "Mob connections." In the end, Kerik was charged with two misdemeanors for failure to report a loan during his tenure as Commissioner of the New York City Corrections Department, and the improper acceptance of contract work on his Bronx apartment. What Kerik admitted to was wrong, unethical, and improper given his position as a public servant, but his actions were not felonious.
The story, however, was far from over. In February, 2006, the New York Post revealed that former NYPD Detective turned investigative reporter John Connolly had received a letter from Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson advising him that a Judge had, in the previous year, authorized a wiretap on Kerik’s cell phone as part of the ongoing investigation into the renovations of Kerik’s apartment. Connolly was advised that conversations between himself and Kerik had been intercepted but that he was not the subject of a criminal investigation. Connolly is best known for his work exposing the Mafia ties of actor Steven Seagal, as well as the alleged crimes of "Private Eye to the Stars" Anthony Pellicano. Connolly is sometimes confused with a former FBI agent of the same name currently facing Mafia murder charges in Florida.
In the Summer of 2005 those Court-authorized wiretaps also intercepted phone conversations between Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and her old friend Bernard Kerik. Jeanine Pirro is a tough-as-nails former Judge and Prosecutor whose résumé is replete with numerous "first-female-to-ever" citations. The intercepted conversations between the two revealed an anguished Ms. Pirro venting her anger over her belief her husband of many years was having an affair with another woman. Kerik and Pirro discussed whether it would be ethical to plant a bug onboard a boat the Pirro’s owned upon which her husband was believed to be meeting with the young woman in question. After a conversation in which Ms. Pirro revealed her innermost private concerns regarding her marriage, the two concluded that no such action should take place. The information regarding the conversation between Ms. Pirro and Kerik was Sealed by a Judge and that should have been the end of the matter. However, a crime was committed when someone with access to that information leaked that secret information to the Media, notably Channel Four News, the local NBC affiliate station. The result was yet another Media circus.
The letter that John Connolly received from the Bronx District Attorney’s office is typical, standard procedure given such matters. By the same token, Federal Prosecutors by custom will usually send a similar letter to an individual informing them they are a target of a criminal investigation. In Ms. Pirro’s case, however, she received no such letter. Instead, the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York sent two FBI agents to approach Ms. Pirro at 10 p.m. outside her home to inform her she was a target of a Federal wiretapping investigation.
Pirro fought back, calling a press conference denouncing such tactics and the investigation, which revolved around conversations she had with Kerik over a year previous, the investigation of which should have been concluded long before. Coming just weeks before her candidacy in the race for Attorney General of the State of New York, Pirro denounced the investigation as being politically motivated and claimed the timing of the public disclosures were extremely suspect. Pirro also fired off an angry letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, demanding the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to take over the "investigation" and issue a report before Election day in November. Ms. Pirro, one of the toughest persons to ever have served as a Judge and Prosecutor in the State of New York would then have to tell the Media, with uncharacteristic tears in her eyes, that she decided to stay married to her husband for the sake of their two children and that her decision in her personal life was not the legitimate business of the U. S. Attorney’s Office nor their agents of the FBI.
The 2006 race for the position of Attorney General of the State of New York has been one of the most shameful cases of dirty politics in American history. Both candidates for that office have been the subject of rumor and innuendo that are at odds with the traditions of Democracy upon which this country was founded. Both Ms. Pirro and her opponent Andrew Cuomo have been the subjects of rumors and Media reports linking them to an association with members of the American Mafia, none of which has been substantiated. In Pirro’s case, the New York Daily News has run stories linking her husband to Mafia figures through double - sometimes triple - hear-say of reputed Mafia associates. In Andrew Cuomo’s case, members of the Media have relentlessly pursued allegations that his father, when Governor, had ties to the Mafia. Jeanine Pirro’s record as a Prosecutor of members of the American Mafia is a matter of public record. As for Andrew Cuomo, when he was head of the Housing and Urban Development agency during the Clinton Administration, Cuomo was vocal in his condemnation of Youngstown, Ohio Congressman James Traficant, refusing to grant HUD funding to Youngstown in the belief that such funds would likely be compromised by the Mob. Traficant, an associate of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family, was convicted of bribery and racketeering charges in 2002.
What is occurring in the Attorney General’s race in the State of New York is a reminder of the legacy of a former Prosecutor for the Southern District of New York who, decades ago, made a career for himself by engaging in just such tactics. It has been over 70 years since Assistant U. S. Attorney Roy Cohn engaged in such tactics, 70 years since Cohn and his co-horts J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy launched their politically-motivated witch hunt and smear campaign against fellow Americans, some guilty, but most innocent; it has been over 30 years since the death of Hoover, and 20 years since the death of Cohn.
Still, the evidence presented herein suggests that nothing has changed during this passage of time, and that some citizens of New York continue to be the victims of "Politics as usual," and the "Politics of Indictment."
Related Features by this author:
Bernard Kerik, The Feds, And The Mob Part Three: The Final Chapter
Death on the Waterfront
Crime Scene - World Trade Center
Copyright © 1998 - 2006 PLR International