Feature Articles


By J. R. de Szigethy

     An unprecedented legal victory on behalf of a convicted cop killer has sparked outrage amongst members of New York’s law enforcement community and will likely have repercussions for many years involving incarcerated members of the Italian Mafia. On February 26, the 11th anniversary of the cold-blooded execution of NYPD officer Edward Byrne, a Rochester Federal jury awarded $660,000 to Byrne's murderer David McClary. Attorneys had argued that McClary’s 23 hour a day lockdown – the same conditions that Gambino Godfather John Gotti is subjected to – violated McClary’s 'civil rights.' McClary is serving life in prison for the horrendous crime in 1988 that shocked both New York City and the nation.

     Reaction to this verdict was immediate and unanimous; The PBA’s Jimmy Higgins told the New York Post; "Frankly, I am so angry, so flabbergasted, it is hard for me to respond to this outrage!" The New York State Attorney General’s office issued a statement, indicating U. S. Magistrate Jonathan Feldman will be asked to set the verdict aside. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani blasted the verdict as "absurd" while former Mayor Ed Koch, who was in office when Officer Byrne was murdered, indicated his belief that the award money could be seized under New York’s so-called "Son of Sam" law, which prevents a criminal from profiting financially from their crimes. However, a former New York State Prosecutor told this reporter last night that she did not believe the statute would apply in this case; it is also unclear if the law would allow a wrongful-death civil suit on behalf of the family so many years after Officer Byrne’s tragic murder.

     The events that set this tragedy in motion began in Queens, New York in 1988, when a resident complained to police about the brazen and open crack cocaine sales outside their home by a 20 member drug gang run by "Fat Cat" Nichols and his underling "Pappy" Mason. When Mason was arrested on February 24, an enraged Mason ordered his gang to murder a cop – any cop - to "send a message." Two days later, four members of the drug gang snuck up on the patrol car of Officer Byrne, a 22 year old Rookie fresh out of the Police Academy, who was guarding the home of the citizen who complained about the drug gang. David McClary pumped 5 bullets into Byrne’s head. All four drug dealers involved in the murder were quickly apprehended and convicted.

     The announcement of the monetary award to Officer Byrne’s murderer has rekindled interest in the cases of two other New York City members of law enforcement whose lives were devastated by drug dealers; DEA agent Everett Hatcher and former Immigration and Naturalization Service Agent Joe Occhipinti.

     On February 28, 1989, one year after the murder of Officer Byrne, DEA agent Everett Hatcher was murdered on Staten Island by "Gus" Farace, Jr., a drug dealer for New York’s Colombo crime Family. Farace’s Uncle Greg Scarpa, a top Colombo hitman, then ordered his crew to track down and murder Farace. Scarpa, who died of AIDS in 1994, had been able to escape prosecution most of his life because of his protected status as an FBI informant; thus he had obligations to those in law enforcement he had to honor. Scarpa’s crew eventually located Farace and murdered him. Members of the Media and law enforcement, noting the differences in the murders of Officer Byrne and agent Hatcher, then began to mount an unofficial campaign to focus law enforcement efforts on the new ethnic crime gangs instead of the more predictable Italian Mafia Families. Richard Moran, a Criminologist at Mount Holyoke College best expressed this sentiment in a Newsweek Magazine article entitled "Bring Back the Mafia!"

     Two years after agent Hatcher’s murder, Joe Occhipinti, the most decorated Federal agent in United States history, was accused by Dominican drug dealers of violating their ‘civil rights’ through alleged illegal searches of their drug locations. Occhipinti has always denied these allegations and claimed the Dominican drug cartel and their corrupt counter-parts in the government set him up. Despite the fact that Occhipinti was convicted on non-violent ‘civil rights’ abuses involving search and seizure, Occhipinti was sent to a maximum-security prison, El Reno in Oklahoma, where he was placed amongst the general population, including New York City drug dealers he had once arrested. In order to keep Occhipinti alive, sympathetic prison guards had no choice but to place Occhipinti in solitary confinement.

     Prison officials in the case of cop-killer David McClary similarly claim that the decision to place McClary in solitary confinement was in order to keep him from being murdered by Italian Mafia inmates or other inmates anxious to score points with members of law enforcement by murdering this cold-blooded cop killer who has never expressed remorse for his actions. Supporters of Joe Occhipinti point out that the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was never intended to be perverted into a weapon that drug dealers now use to gain convictions against members of law enforcement in regards to non-violent search and seizure allegations, nor the alleged ‘mis-treatment’ of convicted murderers in regards to 23 hour a day lockdown conditions. If this precedent is allowed to stand, attorneys for convicted Italian Mafia members such as John Gotti are almost certain to seize upon this new precedent in attempts to gain greater rights and privileges for their clients.

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