Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Trial date set for F. James Germano

The bizarre case of F. James Germano has a trial date of April 7, according to records from the Indian River County, Florida, clerk of the court.
According to the Vero Beach arrest report, the former longtime North Greenbush Democratic Party boss pulled up to a bus stop driving a black Cadillac and allegedly offered to pay a 12-year-old boy $50 for “sexual favors.” The boy called his mother, who lived some five miles away, and upon her arrival Germano allegedly solicited her for like favors before driving off.
Germano, 84, was arrested in November, 2012 on five charges – procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution, committing a lewd, lascivious or indecent act, solicitation for prostitution and two for stalking. All but the solicitation for prostitution, a misdemeanor, and the lewd, lascivious, indecent act felony have been dropped. Each stalking charge was a misdemeanor, while the procuring an underage person for prostitution is a felony. The last charge was dropped and he was re-arrested and charged with the lewd and lascivious act in December, 2012.
Germano, who plead not guilty, remains free on $65,000 bail – $50,000 after his first arrest and another $15,000 after he was re-arrested.
According to records, the case is working its way through the process with depositions completed and evidence has been shared under discovery.
Before stepping down in 2002, Germano had a colorful 40-year run with the Democratic Party. That same year he was indicted along with then Rensselaer County Executive Henry Zwack and three top aides on charges the five conspired to circumvent Civil Service Law to benefit Germano’s grandson in exchange for the elder Germano’s political support. A jury acquitted all five.
Prior to his downfall, Germano controlled all things political in North Greenbush- including the Democratic, Republican, Independence and Conservative party lines - and had considerable influence beyond the town’s border. Here is a column I wrote about some of his more amusing antics.  


Ethics Commission clears Wiltshire

By a unanimous vote, the Ethics Commission cleared Council President Rodney Wiltshire of any violations, Monday.
The commission was looking into social media reports that Wiltshire had a financial interest in Kokopellis, a Fourth Street bar where a melee occurred on Jan. 25 that ended with five arrested and eight officers injured, six severely enough to require hospital treatment. Since, three more have been arrested.
Wiltshire has staunchly maintained he did nothing wrong, has no financial interest in the bar and called the investigation a “witch hunt” by some members of the seven-member panel.
Parts of the melee were caught on surveillance and cell phone cameras and they appear to show an orderly crowd leaving the bar as police were entering. However, things quickly got out of hand when police attempted to arrest Roshwan Donley. Videos show a police officer beating him with a nightstick while others held him down. Outside the bar, police describe, and video show, a chaotic scene with people throwing bottles at officers and someone throwing a garbage can through the back window of a cruiser.
Police say they were justified in their use of force while many claim it was one more example of police using force to the excess. Racial tensions remain spiked in the Collar City, with a forum being held at the Missing Link Ministry Wednesday, and a third Public Safety Committee meeting slated for March 5. The first was for the public to voice its concerns about the police and during the second Chief John Tedesco had a chance to respond. Both hearings were packed and emotionally charged. 

The commission also is looking into a decision by Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, to accompany the owners of Kokopellis – Barry and Joe Glick – to the New York State Liquor Authority. Doherty, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said previously he only went to urge the SLA to not make any rash decisions regarding the bar, which is located in his district, until all the facts regarding what transpired on Jan. 25 is known.

The commission has not ruled on Doherty as of Wednesday morning.
More information as it becomes available. A press release by the commission is due out today.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Committee on Open Government: Give Mantello access to ballots (DOCUMENTS)

In an five-page opinion, the state Committee on Open Government said former Troy Council candidate Carmella Mantello can look at the 2013 election results secured at the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.
Mantello had questioned the razor-thin results of her At Large bid last year but the third and final spot went to Lynn Kopka by 65 votes out of nearly 7,000 cast after the absentee ballots were counted and a judge denied Mantello’s request for a recount.
Since, Mantello has maintained there were abnormalities in some Election Districts and wanted to conduct a manual recount herself but was, inexplicitly, denied access to the ballots by Rensselaer County Commissioners Ed McDonough, a Democrat, and his Republican counterpart Larry Bugbee.
She did request the ballots under the state Freedom of Information Law but it too was denied. The Committee on Open Government, however, said access to ballots did fall under the FOIL statute and while it’s only an opinion, said she should have access.
 “In sum, based on the preceding analysis, I agree with your contention that “the electronic ballot images and cast vote records created by the ballot scanners used to conduct our elections” are accessible to the public pursuant to FOIL and in accordance with subdivisions (1) and (3) of the Election Law,” said the letter written by Bob Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government and the state’s well-respected FOIL guru.
The committee’s decision and Mantello’s statement can be read below.
There are the facts as they stand now. Here are some questions and observations that immediately come to mind:
-While I don’t agree keeping any ballots from public inspection, especially from candidates who ran for office, I can see why McDonough would deny her access since he is a Democrat and Mantello is a Republican.
-But, why would Bugbee, a Republican, sign off on not granting her access? Here’s why: Some in the GOP don’t like Mantello. Plain and simple. And Bugbee takes his marching orders from those same operatives. It’s one thing not to like a candidate but part of Bugbee’s job, in addition to ensuring elections run fairly and properly, is to help Republican candidates and protect their interests whoever they are. McDonough does the same thing for Democrats – that’s why there is one commissioner of each party.
-Regardless of the public – and at least one time physical – confrontation between Bugbee and former commissioner Tom Wade, who is now the Rensselaer County Democratic Party chairman, they at least kept an eye on each other. Bugbee and Wade have too cozy a relationship in that they can easily turn a blind eye towards each other’s activities – like minor party ballots – or turn go so far as back each other up in the Mantello case. (Notice I didn’t mention voter fraud because Bugbee told other operatives about the inordinate number of Working Families Party absentee ballots that came in at the last minute but if they trickled in as they have in years past the two commissioners would likely have let each other’s party get away with whatever they wanted to get away with.)
-What happens now is anyone’s guess. If Mantello does get her hands on the ballots and has evidence she did win it’s too late to do anything about it but it would justify any attempted run at future office.

-And it means that people are watching the BOE and the commissioners, who ultimately work for the them and not the political parties.
-Despite all the political inside baseball, not giving a candidate, or anyone else, unfettered access to ballots is shameful. It’s just another scar on an already tainted BOE.
-Bugbee did not immediately return phone calls for comment.     

You go after the shooter

I think attorney Cheryl Coleman summed up voter fraud nicely when on Talk 1300 Sunday she compared it to a hypothetical murder case: “Why would you make a deal with the shooter to get the cab driver who waited outside the bank.”
Given that’s how the whole thing went down – evidenced by the fact former City Clerk Bill McInerney got on the stand and admitted to forging scores of Working Families Party absentee ballot and absentee ballot applications for the 2009 primary – I can see why former Councilman John Brown is upset by the fact he is the only one implicated in the scheme going to jail.
Late last year, Brown appealed his six-month sentence imposed by Judge George Pulver claiming it was harsh and excessive. Thing is, he waived his right to appeal when he pleaded guilty to possessing one forged ballot as part of the deal. Recently the prosecutor in the case, Trey Smith, replied to the appeal and the Appellate Division will rule one way or another.
As a kicker, as nothing is simple when talking about voter fraud, Brown also perjured himself in front of the Grand Jury so six months in jail to satisfy two felonies – plus who knows how many others he could have been charged with – so six months isn’t really harsh or excessive and he agreed to it. I’d be shocked if the court intervened in this one.
Of course, after seeing how everything else unfolded, with everyone who contested the charges getting off and the other three who pleaded guilty not looking at jail time, Brown is having second thoughts. Who can blame him for not wanting to go to jail while others are not?
McInerney admitted to doing far worse things than Brown but as Coleman said, McInerney was the first in line to cut a deal with Smith and Smith needed someone to spill the beans on Board of Elections Commissioner Ed McDonough and her client former Councilman Michael LoPorto.
But McInerney, who as part of his deal had to spend some time working on the Sheriff’s work order program picking up garbage or what not, was hardly the star witness Smith needed to convict McDonough or LoPorto. He admitted to committing the forgeries, but didn’t point the finger at anyone but himself, and he didn’t do that until he was granted a level of immunity that far outweighed the crimes he admitted to committing.
There are all sorts of conspiracy theories kicking around and one includes that Smith engaged in “selective prosecution” by going after McDonough, who is represented by attorney Brian Premo, and LoPorto instead of McInerney and those higher up in the Democratic Party who may or may not told him what to do in order to steal the WFP line for their candidates. It may or may not be true, but believing Smith was in the tank through all that voter fraud encompassed throughout the five-year ordeal is a tough concept to grasp and an even harder to prove. 
That’s the bottom line. I don’t see a grand conspiracy. I see a bunch of guys who desperately wanted to win the election – including Brown who was angling for Council president – wanted the WFP line that was routinely stolen by the GOP, had no idea how to go about it and the one who headed up their campaigns in the hopes of keeping his job or getting a better one – McInerney - ended up forging about everything in sight.
And then there was the less than stellar effort to prosecute them and in the end, McInerney was the proverbial shooter in Coleman’s analogy … and everyone else was driving the cab.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Facebook and ethics (DOCUMENTS)

It appears the Ethics Commission is moving forward with an inquiry into the actions of two Troy councilmen – Council President Rodney Wiltshire and Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4.
 It’s been a long time since the Ethics Commission in Troy did or said anything – the last time I remember was back in the 90s when questions arose about then Deputy Mayor Jim Conroy’ and his father’s estate – so I guess in that regard it’s a pleasant turn of events.
It’s been known they were taking a peak at Doherty for his ill-advised visit to the New York State Liquor Authority on behalf of Kokopellis. I’m not sure if he violated any formal ethical obligations he has as an elected representative, but it sure caused quite the stir since … well … the Jan. 25 incident caused quite a stir on a number of different levels.
The commission is looking at Wiltshire because of comments made on social media that said he has a financial interest in the Fourth Street bar. Now, this is just a guess, but if the commission took a look at everything that is said on social media they would be the busiest panel in City Hall history.
As to Doherty, the section of CityCode that deals with ethics is pretty comprehensive and applies to officials across the board – elected and appointed. It specifically states all those covered cannot advocate for another entity that has an interest in front of the city. For example, a Councilman could not appear in front of the Planning Commission on behalf of business looking to open its doors in the city. But, it doesn’t specifically say anything about appearing in front of a state agency.
Doherty told the Times Union he went with the bars’ owners, Barry and Joe Glick, because the business was in his district and to urge the SLA to not take any drastic action, such as close the bar down, until the number of investigations into what transpired on Jan. 25 are complete.
Plausible, I guess, but still ill-advised since there is so much controversy regarding the bar and because Doherty, as chair of the Public Safety Committee, was, at the time, holding hearings on the matter with the goal of reaching an objective conclusion. The SLA, I don’t think, cares too much about anything else – allegations of police brutality, racial tensions or political undertones – except if Kokopellis followed state law or not.
As far as Wiltshire goes, since he is covered under the Code of Ethics he has to disclose all outside business interests within the city and any interest within a mile of the city line. Below is his latest disclosure statement and I’m told the other two are similar and don’t include a mention of any financial interest he has in Kokopellis.
No, I guess it’s not a perfect system in that Wiltshire or anyone else could just not disclose an interest but why would anyone running for public office not want to tell voters he has a financial stake in a city business. I would think having a vested interest in the city’s future would play well to voters.

If I were more cynical, I would say Wiltshire got brought into the mix because of his decision to break from the Democratic Party proper and the administration too.
Anyway, I tip my hat to the Ethics Commission for meeting and actually doing something. Now maybe they will look into others stuff that has happened like the King Street demolition, the North Central sidewalk debacle, or the Scolite bid process. OK, they may not fall under the commission’s auspices … until someone throws it up on Facebook anyway.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Adrian Thomas case tossed (VIDEO, AUDIO and DOCUMENTS)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Troy cops – actually I wrote that same thing yesterday – they got another 2X4 upside the head Thursday when the Appellate Division overturned ordered a new trial for Adrian Thomas, the city man accused of killing his 4-month-old boy in 2009.
You really can’t hold the TPD responsible for this one because law enforcement can lie to and otherwise deceive suspects into giving a confession. But, the line has always been fuzzy between what allowable deception is, and what crosses the line into coercion and violating a suspect’s free will. This decision, which can be seen below, overturns a lower court ruling upholding the conviction and is sure to have wide reaching ramifications.
Without going into to much legal mumbo jumbo (listen to Troy defense attorney Greg Cholakis on Talk 1300 if you want the mumbo jumbo by clicking here and going to Jan. 19, hour 2) by far the most damaging piece of evidence prosecutors had at their disposal was Thomas, who weighed some 300 pounds at the time, demonstrating what he said he did to the child by using a clip board and slamming it against the ground.

Once the jury saw that, he was toast despite the fact the child had no broken bones and was suffering from sepsis – a sometimes fatal infection.
Basically, Det. Adam Mason and Det. Ron Fountain told him if he didn’t tell them what happened they were going to “scoop” up his wife for the crime. They also told him they needed to know what happened in order to save his child’s life – which is acceptable if it’s true, according to the court, but at the time the child had already been declared brain dead.
First Thomas said he would “take the fall” for his wife and that he dropped the baby or banged his head more than once in the days prior to his death. He was assured 67 times that what happened was an accident, told 14 times he would not be arrested and eight times he would be going home.
Thomas then said he slammed the baby onto a mattress prior to slamming the clip board on the floor. After doing it once, Mason told him the child had to have been slammed harder to account for his injuries so Thomas slammed the clip board on the floor with even more ferocity.
He was convicted of second degree murder and is currently serving 25 years to life in Auburn Correctional Facility. Longtime Rensselaer County Public Defender Jerome Frost argued the case on behalf of Thomas. When or if Thomas goes back to trial the jury will not see the confession, according to the court’s ruling.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UPDATED: Premo to Mayor Lou: Go back to Kindergarten

Here is an email exchange that started with Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, first criticizing the attorney for Chief John Tedesco, Brian Premo, for coming on my show Sunday and then criticizing the chief for being less than gracious with Mayor Lou Rosamilia for giving the chief his duties back.
I won’t defend the radio show or the station but anyone at any time is welcome to come on my show or call in on Sunday from 10a.m. to noon.
While Doherty may have been well-intentioned in his email, it’s evident – as I wrote – that Premo and the chief will not let bygones be bygones and are taking any chances on what the future may bring just in case the future does include another police commissioner.
In other words, Premo pulls no punches and the funniest part is when he implies Rosamilia should go back to kindergarten ... or even pre-K.
(Updated with Premo's response to Doherty's response at the end of the email exchange)

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Doherty [mailto:doherty4troy@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, February 16, 2014 7:45 AM
To: Bodnar Dean; Zalewski Ken; Wiltshire Rodney; Robertson Anastasia; James Gordon
Cc: John.Tedesco; Lou.Rosamilia

Subject: Public Discourse- Bob Doherty
Nice letter in the Record today about Police issues by Kimberly Mazor.  
Brian Premo is on Franco this morning. I hope the comments critical of Lou Rosamilia will be gone.  I was disappointed the Brian continued to review the old conflict in the press as the Chief was getting the reins back.  Conflict between the Mayor and the Chief is well known own and I hope resolved, given the recent direction of restoring full leadership to him.  I'm not sure a politicized talk show is a good venue for the Chief's advocate.
There has been a run discord fueled hyperbole on that station that seems to include denigrating a memorial because it was referred to as a "Celebration" and accusations that people were naked at the event of Jan 25th.  Makes no sense to fuel public anxiety.  The PBA member who loudly called the African American Pastoral Alliance a "Clown Circus" is of the same unhelpful position.
References to the KKK in discussing the Kokopellis event serves to reinforce defensiveness can contribute to dismissal and distraction.
Ever heard of the Four agreements?
The Four Agreements:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don't Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Don Miguel Ruiz

On Feb 18, 2014, at 2:44 PM, Brian Premo <bpremo@premolaw.com> wrote:
I send this welcomed response on behalf of Chief Tedesco, who is presently on vacation.  It is a communication concerning impending litigation as all past correspondence.  
Firstly, Councilman Doherty's comments are as offensive as those recently made by the Mayor and Mr. Magnetto concerning the many issues pending.  
Secondly, it is hoped that my recent statements have made clear Chief Tedesco's position: a resolution of his claims requires the execution of a Settlement Agreement which includes an enforceable term that no further action will be taken by the Mayor, any City Council member or other city official to cause his unlawful political discharge, usurp his authority or duty, or create a hostile work environment in violation of the City Charter, NYS Civil Service Law, and/or the U.S. Constitution.  
Thirdly, the violation of his rights does not concern an "old conflict" simply to be forgotten (see quotes below about hypocrisy).  In short, the issue has not been resolved simply because Chief Tedesco has successfully turned public opinion against Mr. Magnetto, the Mayor and the Administration through discussion of the facts and truth of the matter.  Nor has it been resolved because the Mayor was unsuccessful in his attempts to appoint a Public Safety Commissioner (or unlawfully appoint another Police Commissioner) to continue the effort in violation of Chief Tedesco's rights.  
Fourthly, any Agreement in settlement of Chief Tedesco's claims must be premised upon the fact that the Mayor unlawfully appointed Mr. Magnetto to usurp his authority and duty to institute police department policies and rules dictated by the PBA President, which they both tacitly admitted in recent public statements.  However, although not surprising considering his previous admission to Chief Tedesco that he did not want to vote for the appointment of Mr. Magnetto but "had to support the party line", Mr. Doherty's comments make clear that he now wants to ignore the fact that Mr. Magnetto's appointment was unlawful, that Mr. Magnetto usurped the unlawfully authority and duty of Chief Tedesco, that Mr. Magnetto countermanded Chief Tedesco's established policies and orders to implement those dictated by the PBA President at the direction of the Mayor, that the Mayor and Mr. Magnetto treated Chief Tedesco in an hostile, unprofessional, and undignified manner in denigration of his rights, and that the violation of Chief Tedesco's rights have caused him damages that must now be remedied.  
Fifthly, Mr. Doherty's comments do nothing to remedy the past violation of Chief Tedesco's rights or ensure that no similar action will be taken against him in the future, which come only by way of enforceable Settlement Agreement.   
I will send a related letter to members of the Council and others discussing the matter as soon as practicable.
In closing, since the issue concerns the remedying of rights violated by the unlawful acts of those who clearly have not followed The Four Agreements, I must say that I find the following quotes to be appropriate to the matter:
1.     "Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change."
Frank Lloyd Wright (Architect, interior designer, writer & educator)
2.     Man is the only animal that learns by being hypocritical. He pretends to be polite and then, eventually, he becomes polite."
Jean Kerr (Irish-American Author & Playwright)
3.     "You can't defend the indefensible - anything you say sounds self- serving and hypocritical."
Diane Abbott (Actress, once married to Robert DiNero)
4.     But, far better than all, I recommend the reading of "All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten."  If its tenets were followed by the Mayor, there would be no issue to remedy at this time. It is hoped that what should have been learned in pre-school days has now become clear: there is no place for politics in a police department, especially bad politics.  It is also hoped that all hypocrisy is left unspoken in any future related conversation, public or private.
Please forward this reply to Mr. Silverman.
Brian Premo.

From: Robert Doherty <doherty4troy@gmail.com>
Date: February 18, 2014 at 8:24:13 PM EST
To: Brian Premo <bpremo@premolaw.com>
Cc: Bodnar Dean <bodnard@hotmail.com>, Zalewski Ken <zalewski@troycitycouncil.com>, Wiltshire Rodney <wiltshirefortroy@gmail.com>, Robertson Anastasia <anastasiavoice4district2@yahoo.com>, James Gordon <jgordon003@nycap.rr.com>, Tedesco Chief John <john.tedesco@troyny.gov>, Rosamilia Lou <lou.rosamilia@troyny.gov>
Subject: Re: Public Discourse- Bob Doherty
Mr. Premo,
   I did not address any correspondence to you and will not continue argumentative correspondence with you.  I wish to correspond within the Council, Public Safety Committee and when appropriate, the Administration without your input or response.  Although you have a client among the addressees, I do not think that gives you entitlement to participate in our correspondence.
   To the other addressees: I had asked and was told that the restoration of the Chief to full responsibilities was accomplished and accompanied with his clear understanding of the Mayor's authority and role..  There is some irony that in an article where the Mayor choses to restore full authority to the Chief, the Chief's advocate is attacking the Mayor's allegedly poor decisions.
   At these times of focus on Public Safety, continued arguing is unseemly and undermines our ability to come together.  I was also told by council advocates of the Chief that he was quite willing to proceed to work with us all. I find it tiresome to be giving energy to this past conflict or such personalized responses from outside sources.  I also think it important to get on the team or off the wagon. "To give orders you need to take orders" was something I was told a long time ago. Bury the hatchet and drive the bus.
The Public Safety Committee was a strained activity for the Chief and the Committee in the last term.  I do not intend to repeat a conflict process.  As far as I know, neither does the Chief.   

Bob Doherty

Premo said he never got Doherty's last email and in response said:
"Funny, only in dealing with Mr. Doherty since the advent of the Internet this is the one and only email purportedly addressed to me that I did not receive," he said. "In any event, it's content is no more than further unintentional, self-effacing, water-spilling, fallacious, political rhetoric which warrants no further response."  



Not fair to paint the TPD with a broad brush

Wow, can it get any worse for the Troy Police Department?

Two more claims of excessive force, the FBI requested more files from Internal Affairs, more allegations of police brutality, the Kokopellis chaos continues with another arrest and yet another video, racial tensions show no signs of easing and the lawsuits keep piling up with, I am sure, more to come.
I won’t reiterate anything that has already been written, but click the links at the bottom to see the reports.
Terry Kindlon an attorney representing Archie Davis, who was allegedly beaten by Officer Isaac Bertos after he allegedly resisted arrest last October, said it best (and I paraphrase what Channel 13 said): “A few bad apples reflect poorly on all the good officers on the force.”
I know that to be true. The great majority of Troy cops don’t randomly beat people. The majority are not racists. The majority just want to show up and do their job to the best of their ability – and that doesn’t include beating people just because.
That said, for a city the size of Troy to see this many allegations of excessive force in a relatively short period of time also reinforces another of Kindlon’s comments: “Something is peculiar in the City of Troy Police Department.”
Despite what some have claimed, I don’t think there is a departmental policy of targeting and beating black people. Two of the higher profile cases prior to the Kokopellis melee – Brian Houle and Frank Fogarty – involved a cop, Kyle Jones, beating white guys.
I think there are a handful of rogue cops – out of a force 130 strong - who really had no one to answer to for the better part of two years so they went out and did pretty much what they wanted without any fear of repercussion. As Chief John Tedesco was quoted as saying, the department will be looking for patterns of behavior among some of the officers. I won’t be surprised if he finds a few. And I won’t be surprised if he takes swift and appropriate action against them.
If in fact it is determined that some officers did use excessive force then they should be punished accordingly and/or retrained. If that doesn’t cut it then they should be removed from the force. It’s as simple as that, really.
To paint the entire Police Department as a bunch of racist, out of control, nightstick wielding, renegades looking to bust heads every time they go out on patrol is simply not fair. It’s the same as saying every member of the Assembly is a pervert because six of the 150 got arrested for groping interns.
There was a time when I think the TPD engaged in racial profiling - like arresting people for not having a bell or a light on a bike and jaywalking and the entire Street Crimes Unit experiment - but even then it wasn't excessive force. Offensive and likely a violation of a person's Civil Rights, but it wasn't geared around random acts of brutality.  
Here are the links:
-The Times Union story about the FBI wanting more files.
-The Times Union story about the other two excessive force complaints.
-The Channel 13 story about the guy getting arrested for attempted robbery for trying to steal a cops nightstick - yes you read that right - including an interview with the arrested guy, a new cell phone video and an interview with attorney Terry Kindlon.
-The Channel 13 story about an officer, Isaac Bertos, throwing a guy head first into a patrol car and then charging him with a felony. Includes a video and an interview with the guy's attorney, Joe Ahearn.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chief is chief again; issues strong statement

Friday has come and gone, Police Commissioner Anthony Magnetto is now back in retirement and almost by default Police Chief John Tedesco is again in control of the day-to-day operation of the Police Department.
Since there wasn’t a bombshell Friday to dispute the Times Union story that was online Thursday evening with the headline “Troy police chief resumes command,” Rosamilia really had no choice in the matter. He was looking for another commissioner – Retired Capt. John Riegert and Deputy Chief Buddy McCavoy were mentioned - but it can’t be easy to find someone to take the job for $30,000 when the department is under so much internal turmoil and public fire?
That’s what I meant by default. And Tedesco and Premo must think it could be a tenuous position too because they issued a statement with some pretty strong language.
“Time will soon tell whether the mayor will truly cast aside his political ties to the PBA and abandon his agenda of placing its president in control of department department’s policies, command and discipline,” Premo said in the statement. “It is hoped that the abject failure of the PBA president’s effective control of the policies and discipline of the police department in direct countermand of the chief’s established “best practices,” have taught them all what was apparent from the start: an accredited police department must not be controlled by politics or a PBA president.”
Tedesco had questioned the validity of Magnetto’s appointment to police commissioner because the city charter clearly states there must be a public safety commissioner in place first to oversee both the fire and police departments. The chief had threatened litigation and the statement makes it apparent that he will proceed should the mayor opt to appoint another police commissioner.   
“The mayor essentially admitted he previously usurped Chief Tedesco’s authority and duties through the unlawful appointment of Mr. Magnetto, who now leaves when the Troy Police Department faces the public turmoil of recent events that are directly related to the ineffective policies he instituted at the behest of the PBA president which have resulted in a lack of proper command, control and discipline, according to the statement.
Tedesco was appointed by then Mayor Harry Tutunjian to implement some changes in the police department including restructuring some programs near and dear to the PBA’s heart like SOS and the ERT. Fitzgerald worked hard behind the scenes to first convince Rosamilia to appoint Magnetto, and then convince the Council to approve it. He succeeded and Magnetto has been running the department since.
It has been by and large a disaster, in retrospect, but things came to a head on Jan. 25 with the Kokopellis riot. Nobody can directly blame Magnetto for the melee that left eight officers injured, six requiring hospital care, five patrons under arrest and racial tensions in the city stretched to the breaking point.
It was an explosive situation, and despite many already drawing conclusions – and the police releasing bits and pieces of information attempting to justify the officers’ actions while many in the minority community have already indicted them – nobody really knows if police used excessive force or not. The videos seem to indicate it but even they are open to interpretation and there is no shortage of those bouncing around the Collar City.
Tedesco proved the voice of reason, however. He welcomes an independent investigation by the U.S. Justice Department to satisfy the community and the cops and offered up some structural changes in the department – namely a return to community policing and more defined disciplinary procedures. With the first, cops would get to know the residents and the second know if a cops screws up he will pay for it.


Again, it didn’t matter who was in charge on Jan. 25, but Premo is right in saying that the PBA had way to much influence on the day-to-day operation of the TPD under Magnetto. It doesn't work, you need a strong chief.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Councilwoman calls for class action lawsuit against the city she represents

I’ve seen officials accuse other officials of “working against the city’s best interest” before but it was usually from a mayor trying to stifle a member of the Council for one reason of another.
But, what newly elected Councilwoman Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, posted on Facebook is beyond any measure of petty political bickering.
She wrote: “Power in CLASS ACTION SUITS.....victims can band together and file in the federal courts.....POWER in CLASS ACTIONS SUITS......”
Her post was in response to one started by Rev. Willie Bacote, presumably addressing comments made by Tina Urzan during Wednesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting where the proprietor of Olde Judge Mansion said racism didn’t exist in Troy until Bacote showed up.
Bacote wrote:
Racism did not exist until I got here?
Tactics of the devil, We The Troy African American Pastoral Alliance are now more United than ever before because you attack one, you attacked Us All!!
Pastor Willie is not the Problem In Troy, NY
I suppose his post could also be in response to Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald, who on Wednesday called on Bacote to resign from the alliance.
Either way, urging alleged victims of police brutality to ban together and sue the city she was elected to serve – and swore an oath reflecting as much – is just beyond the grasp of any rational person.
If Robertson, who is black, believes racism exists within the TPD, there are ways to go about trying to fix it without urging the alleged victims to sue the city for what could be millions of dollars.
First, she can help find out what actually happened. Yes, the videos show a disturbing scene where officers enter the establishment when everyone seemed to be leaving in an orderly fashion. Then all hell breaks loose when they attempt to arrest Rashwon Donley. The officer clearly hit Donley with a nightstick while others were restraining him. Police claim Donley hit the officer first and force was justified.
Police also released video of the scene outside the bar and it did look pretty crazy. In the end five people were arrested and eight officers were injured, six needing hospital care. But, while Bacote and others claim police inflamed the situation, police say the situation was already an inferno.

I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I’m not sure if Robertson was there or not.
The only way to find out to the satisfaction of everyone involved is to have an outside entity examine the videos frame by frame and find and talk to some people actually involved in the ruckus.
Until that happens, Robertson would better serve her district and the by doing about anything but advocating for class action lawsuit.
I’m not saying she should just roll with everything that is going on by any stretch. She was duly elected to not be a robot, but to speak her mind and take a stand on things. She is doing that and for that I give her credit. (Though, she did pass on chairing a committee, which is part of being on the Council and all eight of her colleagues accepted that responsibility.)
She would be wiser, however, to march with Bacote, speak against any injustices she sees or has seen, work with Police Chief John Tedesco to implement the structural changes he was talking about Wednesday night or maybe even get to know some of the cops she and others have already indicted for heinous crimes.
Or, since many of the crowd at Kokopellis on Jan. 25 were black and are, for right or wrong, probably leery of police, she could even facilitate bringing the two sides together so the minority voice is heard where it matters rather than through papers filed by attorneys looking for a third of the settlement.   

Some high points of the Public Safety Committee meeting Part II

Some high points of the Public Safety Committee meeting Part II:
-Police Chief Tedesco was not there Tuesday for the city’s dog-and-pony press conference but was front and center Wednesday where he defended his guys, welcomed an investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, bashed Bacote and Kokopellis owner Barry Glick, recognized problems between police and the community and identified structural changes in the department – in particular community policing and disciplining officers - to address those problems and all in all said everything you’d expect him to say as the leader of 120-plus egos with guns. Anyone questioning whether or not he should be given back day-to-day control of the department should just watch his speech.

-While not commenting on the specifics of the Kokopellis incident, Tedesco defended his guys and said it was not motivated by racism.
-Police Commissioner Anthony Magnetto was not there Wednesday though he was at a press conference Tuesday.
-Rev. Willie Bacote was not there either though he led a march to the meeting the week before where he bashed the police. Tedesco referred to him as “Mister Bacote” rather than “Pastor Wilie” while calling him out on a number of inflammatory things he’s been saying for the past 18 months. Others on Wednesday just referred to him as “Willie.
-Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Doherty found it necessary to introduce Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald as representing the “PBA and himself but not the administration.” I found this odd since it’s the first time I’ve heard such a caveat, and I guess it’s the first time I’ve seen such a necessity.
-Fitzgerald then proceeded to bash Doherty for showing up at the SLA with the owners of Kokopellis and asked him directly how he could make an objective opinion on the matter while “walking hand in hand” with Glick.
-Doherty tried twice to cut off Fitzgerald although he allowed Glick to speak well beyond the allotted time limit last week. Fitzgerald ended up saying what he came to say and as expected defended the officers.
-Fitzgerald also took his shots at Bacote and called for him to resign from the Troy African American Pastoral Alliance, bashed Glick for likening the TPD to the KKK and took his shots at Ben Brucato - who he is I’m still not sure - for saying things like all charges against those arrested on Jan. 25 and calling on all police officers who even had a nightstick in hand should be suspended without pay.
-Mayor Lou Rosamilia did not speak last week or this week but did speak Tuesday alongside Magnetto at the dog-and-pony. Unlike Magnetto, at least the mayor showed up.
-At first I didn’t like the two-part meeting structure where last week was set aside for people criticizing the police and this week was for the pro-police faction of the community. Though, it didn’t work out that way because there were people bashing police Wednesday too.
-Olde Judge Mansion proprietor Tina Urzan proved why she is one of my favorite Trojans because not only does she speak her mind, she got in a verbal sparring match with some in the crowd who didn’t like it when she said something like “there wasn’t a racial problem In Troy until ‘Willie’ showed up.” I don’t agree with everything Urzan said … and I’m guessing she doesn’t care. She also quoted something from "her bible" that I assume was directed at Bacote: "Take your bullhorn and go home."



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chief proposes changes, bashes "Mr." Bacote and Kokopellis owner


If anyone has any doubts about who should head up the Troy Police Department after Commissioner Tony Magnetto steps down on Friday, they should just watch Chief John Tedesco’s speech at Wednesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.
He wasn't at the one-sided, dog-and-pony show Magnetto and Mayor Lou Rosamilia had on Tuesday where no new real light was shed on anything, but a day later he addressed the Kokopellis incident with a strength and common sense not seen by either side of the Jan. 25 incident that has spiked racial tensions.
Tedesco defended his officers, as he should, but did not comment on their guilt or innocence because, he said, all the facts are not yet reviewed. He did, however, recognize problems police have within certain communities and proposed structural changes including the need for stronger community policing and changes in how the department disciplines officers who screw up.
He said community police positions should come out of the contractually mandated bidding process so officers can stay on the detail for longer than a year without the threat of being bumped because someone simply has more seniority. That way, he said, stronger relationships can develop between the community and the officers.
Disciplining an officer who does screw up – and they are human so they do screw up – should be a swift, fair and consistent process to benefit the victims if they suffered harm and the officer should the claim be unfounded.  
He did take exception to some comments made by “Mr. Willie Bacote.” No, he did not call him “pastor.” Some, like Tina Urzan, the long time, well respected proprietor of Olde Judge Mansion in North Central, bypassed the “mister” and just called him “Willie.”
Bacote was not at Christ Church for Wednesday’s meeting, though he led a march through the streets of Troy prior to last week’s meeting.
“Here we have a man who for the past 18 months has repeatedly alleged that people of color, many of whom are in his congregation, have been mistreated at the hands of Troy police officers,” Tedesco said. “Last week, Mr. Bacote stated that he is ‘tired of mothers brining their children to him beaten by Troy police officers.’ He then went on to proclaim he would ‘no longer tolerate such abuse and hold city officials accountable.’ Mr. Bacote, I would ask if you were here, did you notify city officials? Besides the media did you notify anyone? I am publically challenging Mr. Bacote, when he hears of my remarks, to produce these victims so their claims can be properly investigated.”
The chief did tip his hat to Alice Green, of the Center of Law and Justice. Last week she agreed with Tedesco’s stance all along that an independent investigation is the only way to satisfactorily answer the question of whether or not police used excessive force.
“Your call for an independent investigation by the Unite Stated Department of Justice is welcomed not feared,” Tedesco said. “On behalf of the officers involved in the Kokopellis riot, we know an independent investigation is the only mechanism that will provide them relief for the stigma attached so unfairly attached to their actions that night.”
After Bacote, Tedesco laid into Barry Glick, one of the owners of Kokopellis, who last week compared Troy police officers to the Klu Klux Klan.
“Let me express my profound sense of repulsion at your analogy of Troy police officers acting in a manner akin to the Klu Klux Klan,” Tedesco said to a round of applause. “How dare you exploit one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history in attempting to deflect the blame from yourself for the outrageous conduct you permitted to take place in your establishment on Jan. 25.”
While last week Glick said Roshwan Donley, the man who got hit with a nightstick, was working two jobs and was looking for a third so he could we his fiancé, but Tedesco pointed out that Glick omitted the fact Donley has an outstanding weapons charge and is currently being prosecuted for failing to pay child support.
 Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald, who is rarely on Tedesco’s side of anything, also bashed Bacote and called on him to resign from the Troy African American Pastoral Alliance. Peggy Kownack said “just because you call yourself a minister doesn’t mean you’re one.”
“Bob is speaking for the PBA and himself and not representing the administration,” Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Doherty said while introducing Fitzgerald, which is odd since I can’t figure out why the president of the PBA union would represent the administration in anything. Fitzgerald then in turn bashed Doherty for showing up at the New York State Liquor Authority on behalf of the owners of Kokopellis.
“I don’t care if it’s your right, your constituent or your friend,” Fitzgerald said as Doherty tried to cut him off. “How can you make any objective decision on this case when you are walking hand in hand with this guy to the Liquor Authority? The members of the Troy PBA are demanding an explanation and an apology. And the chief of police and his staff deserves an explanation and an apology.”
He also criticized Glick for his KKK comments and the way he and his son Joseph operate the bar.
There were other speakers, but Tedesco did steal the show. It’s going to be interesting to see if Rosamilia tries to put someone else over the chief’s head. Then again, at this point in time, who would want if for $30,000.