Wednesday, April 30, 2008


April 29, 2008

As The Reverend Al Sharpton pledged Tuesday to lead citywide civil disobedience in response to last week's acquittals for three police detectives, exact details and effects remained a mystery. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report. After a secretive strategy session, the Reverend Al Sharpton vowed Tuesday to lead a citywide response in Sean Bell's memory.

"There will be several actions within the next ten days," said Sharpton in a press conference. While Sharpton gave no specific details, some attendants had ambitious ideas. "We're gonna close down the George Washington Bridge at 5 o'clock in the evening or maybe 7 o'clock in the morning, when people are trying to get into this city," said Henry Singleton of the Local 1199 Service Emplyees International Union. "We must bring some attention to this."

Several committees met throughout the day to discuss to civil disobedience, boycotts and legal affairs. Among those attending were United Federation of Teachers' President Randi Weingarten and several city council members, and at least one of them expressed willingness to break the law for this cause. "I don't have a problem with doing whatever the majority of the community wants to do to show my disgust with what has happened," said Democratic Queens City Councilman Leroy Comrie.

Those gathered called it a quest for justice, after three detectives were acquitted of all charges Friday for shooting a barrage of 50 bullets at Sean Bell and two of his friends near a club in Jamaica, Queens. Sean Bell died shortly afterwards, on the morning of his wedding day. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said those intending to break the law will be punished. Michael Palladino, President of the Detectives' Endowment Association, said "The same legal system that grants people the right to lawful assembly has found our three detectives not guilty." Yet, for all the talk and very real emotion from all types of New Yorkers, some people questioned how effective any type of action would be.

A prior march on Christmas 2006 drew thousands of people, and after the acquittals people have called for more marches. The group also seeks federal charges, which the FBI and Justice Department are considering. "In the context of someone being shot 50 times and then the people who do the shooting are brought up on no charges civil disobedience seems a very minor way of addressing that issue," said George Gresham, President of Local 1199 SEIU. - Josh Robin


New Square fugitive arrested in London

One of two remaining fugitives accused in an $11.6 million swindle from federal subsidy programs was arrested yesterday in London.Avrum David Friesel, the son of New Square's mayor, was wanted from a 1997 indictment that accused him and six others of fraudulently obtaining federal funds for a variety of bogus educational and housing purposes.

Part of the scheme used Rockland Community College to funnel an estimated $5.1 million for several thousand students in a Judaic studies program that did not meet funding guidelines.Friesel was arrested by London's Metropolitan Police Service at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Details of his arrest and when he could be extradited to the United States were unavailable yesterday.

"It's a complex matter," U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Herbert Hadad said yesterday. "They've arrested him, and that's step one."A London judge ordered Friesel to be jailed pending a May 7 bail hearing.
Leave Comment ---This article posted by Chaptzem : 8:34 AM4 comments


DONALD TRUMP’S SOHO PROBLEMS Notwithstanding the actual construction dilemmas of Trump Soho, The Donald’s biz partners’ skeevy pasts are coming to light. There’s investor Felix Sater, the ex-con who might be tied to the mob, whose involvement in a pump-and-dump stock scam forced him to flee the country.

And now there’s German real estate tycoon Thomas Kramer, an investor in the building’s restaurant, Quattro, who was arrested last year for allegedly fondling a 13-year-old boy in the Rainbow Room’s bathroom, which added to reports of his allegedly raping his secretary, assaulting a homeless man, and fonding a woman’s breast at a party.


Racial slant in pot busts?
Updated Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 11:34 PM

Blacks are five times more likely than whites to get busted for marijuana possession in the city, according to a report released Tuesday by the New York City Liberties Union.
"The NYPD routinely targets young men based on their skin color and where they live," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. "Racial profiling is a fact of life on the streets of New York."

The study - which the NYPD blasted as wrong and misleading - used data provided by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to show that 52% of the suspects arrested from 1997 to 2007 were black, 31% Hispanic and only 15% white.
The NYCLU also said that nearly 400,000 people had been arrested during the past 10 years for carrying small amounts of pot - a huge surge over the 30,000 busted for grass possession between 1987 and 1996 and the 33,000 collared between 1977 and 1986.
The NYPD has long maintained that low-level drug arrests have helped spur the city's drop in serious crimes.

Top Police Department spokesman Paul Browne disputed the report's findings and rapped what he said was the NYCLU's effort "to mislead the public with absurdly inflated numbers and false claims about bias."


Sean Bell judge 'resents' media invasion
Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 4:00 AM

The Queens judge who cleared the Sean Bell cops unleashed his fury Monday on those who violated his privacy after the verdict.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman - whose decision last Friday brought him international headlines as well as the praise of police supporters and the scorn of the Bell family - lambasted reporters who descended on his neighborhood over the weekend.
"I resented the fact that people came to my home on the weekend, bothering my neighbors; I'm really very upset about that," an irate Cooperman said by phone from his chambers in the Kew Gardens courthouse.

"I haven't accused anyone falsely; I did not spend $4,000 on prostitutes," Cooperman added, in an apparent reference to the media blitz that surrounded disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. "That's not journalism."
The 74-year-old judge, who decided the verdict without a jury at the defendants' request, has declined multiple interview requests since the verdict.
In explaining his verdict in court Friday, Cooperman criticized the testimony of shooting survivors Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, along with other prosecution witnesses, saying their "credibility was seriously impeached."

The judge cited the witnesses' criminal convictions, motive to lie and demeanor on the witness stand, apparently referring to Guzman's hostile testimony.
Following the verdict, a phalanx of cops and court officers guarded Cooperman's Queens home.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who called Cooperman's decision "an abortion of justice," urged protesters to get arrested "whether it is on Wall St., the judge's house or at 1 Police Plaza."
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and lawyers for acquitted Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper praised Cooperman.

Oliver, who fired 31 shots, called the verdict "fair and just," and Brown called Cooperman "one of this county's most experienced and respected judges."
In prior interviews, Cooperman said he once considered becoming a journalist, but Monday he said: "I am so glad I did not go to Columbia Journalism [School] and I picked the law. I had misgivings about that,

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Cop whined at low pay - now he's accused of writing scores of bogus tix
Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 4:00 AM
Joseph Harmon won sympathy from fellow cops and the public, but now he's being probed for allegedly writing bogus tickets.
He was the poster boy for low-paid NYPD officers, but now he is under investigation for sticking it to the public with scores of bogus tickets, sources told the Daily News.

Joseph Harmon won public sympathy last May when he wrote The News about how he couldn't pay the rent on his cop's salary and how he, his three kids and pregnant wife were about to be evicted.
He said the letters "CPR" on patrol cars, which stand for Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect, for him meant: "Can't Pay Rent."

Fellow cops offered the rookie free apartments. Strangers offered money, and The News found him a financial planner to help him stretch the $1,247.47 pay check he got twice a month.
Now everyone is feeling burned.
Harmon was stripped of his gun last month and pulled from the Queens housing project he had patrolled, after investigators alleged the 30-year-old cop issued more than 80 bogus tickets over the past two years.

In some cases, Harmon allegedly made up names and addresses on bogus summonses for quality-of-life violations, such as public drinking, sources said.
More troubling, they said, Harmon stopped actual residents, took down their names and addresses and stockpiled their information for future tickets.
"He would keep the names and information in his memo book, and use them when he needed to meet a quota; at least that was his excuse," a law enforcement source said.
"The people he stopped had no idea that any summonses [were] ever written. It's loopy on this cop's part," a source said.

Investigators so far found at least two examples where Harmon used the names of actual residents on bogus tickets.
Harmon was flagged when a high proportion of his summonses came back to nonexistent names and addresses, sources said.
The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau opened an investigation, as did the Bronx and Queens district attorney offices, sources said.

"They are all allegations, just accusations," Harmon said in a brief telephone interview."I have been instructed not to talk about it, but they are just that - allegations."
When asked if his fellow officers, and those who opened their hearts and wallets, should feel betrayed, Harmon said, "It happened, you are absolutely right, but these are just accusations."
"The article last year shone a light upon me. I guess I made a name for myself and I guess some people didn't take a liking to it," Harmon said.



April 29, 2008 -- Dude, where's my car?
The Rev. Al Sharpton may have felt something like the stoners in the film of that title when he emerged from a meeting in Queens yesterday with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) - and found his 2007 Jaguar missing. Turns out it had been tagged for some $900 in tickets - and towed.
It isn't clear who owns the car.


Penis theft panic hits city..
Wed Apr 23, 2008 1:06pm EDT

By Joe Bavier
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.
Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.

Rumors of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.
Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.

"You just have to be accused of that, and people come after you. We've had a number of attempted lynchings. ... You see them covered in marks after being beaten," Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police arrested the accused sorcerers and their victims in an effort to avoid the sort of bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs. The 27 men have since been released.

"I'm tempted to say it's one huge joke," Oleko said.
"But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it'," he said.

Some Kinshasa residents accuse a separatist sect from nearby Bas-Congo province of being behind the witchcraft in revenge for a recent government crackdown on its members.
"It's real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny," said 29-year-old Alain Kalala, who sells phone credits near a Kinshasa police station.
(Editing by Nick Tattersall and Mary Gabriel)

Monday, April 28, 2008


Cardinal Egan criticizes Rudy Giuliani for taking Communion
Updated Monday, April 28th 2008, 5:39 PM

Hey Rudy: Taking Holy Communion at the papal mass was a sin.
An angry Edward Cardinal Egan pounded New York's former mayor Rudolph Giuliani from his Internet pulpit Monday for taking the Eucharist during Pope Benedict's historic mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
"The Catholic Church clearly teaches that abortion is a grave offense against the will of God," Egan said in a statement on the archdiocesan Web site.

"Throughout my years as Archbishop of New York, I have repeated this teaching in sermons, articles, addresses, and interviews without hesitation or compromise of any kind."
Egan said he had "an understanding" with the failed Republican presidential candidate "that he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion."
With his third wife Judith beside him, the twice-divorced Giuliani received communion from a priest standing near the Pope on April 19.

"I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the Papal visit here in New York, and I will be seeking a meeting with him to insist that he abide by our understanding," he said in a statement.
There was no immediate response from Giuliani.

Giuliani is not the only pro-choice politician who received Holy Communion during the papal visit. So did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and Edward Kennedy at Nationals Park in Washington.
Nevertheless, Pope Benedict remains adamant that Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be deprived of Communion.

Dean Says a Democrat Must Quit in June

Posted: 2008-04-28 11:49:20

WASHINGTON (April 28) - Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Monday that either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama must drop out of the Democratic presidential race after the June primaries in order to unify the party by the convention and win the election in November.

Split of Barack Obama, Howard Dean and Hillary Rodham Clinton
Getty Images

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, center, says voters needs to have "their say," but he wants either Barack Obama, left, or Hillary Rodham Clinton to bow out of the nomination battle within about five weeks.

But Dean didn't say which candidate should drop out, only that it should happen after primary voters have been to the polls.

"We want the voters to have their say. That's over on June 3," Dean said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Dean also said that while the party rules say Democratic superdelegates can wait until the party's August 25 convention to make up their minds, that would be too late to unify the party and defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain.

"We really can't have a divided convention. If we do it's going to be very hard to heal the party afterwards," Dean said. "So we'll know who the nominee is and that'll give us an extra 2 1/2 months to get our party together, heal the wounds of having a very closely divided race and take on Senator McCain."

Dean said he won't have to tell either Clinton or Obama when it's time to leave the race.

"Either of these candidates, if it's time for them to go, they'll know it and they will go," Dean said. "They don't need any pushing from me. You know when to get in and you know when to get out. That's just part of the deal."

"This is not about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama," Dean added. "This is about our country. It's about a better course for our country. ... We've got to move on and win the presidency."

Obama has more delegates and popular votes than Clinton, but she is also fresh off a big-state win in Pennsylvania.

Dean said that "none of the so-called party elders I talked to" think the contest should go until the convention. "I agree with that," Dean said.

"We've got nine more primaries ... Five hundred of the 800 unpledged delegates have already said who they are for. The remaining 300 will do that by the end of June and we'll know who our nominee is and that's what we need to do," Dean said on NBC's "Today" show.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

History Hints a Recession Would Hit City Hard

Published: April 28, 2008

Federal officials may still be debating whether the American economy will fall into a full-blown recession this year. But economists in New York City are pondering another question: If there is a national recession, how deep will it get here?

If the last two recessions are any guide, economists say, the city could be headed into a wrenching reversal that will last longer than the national downturn. Though by many measures the city’s economy is still chugging along even as the nation’s sputters, there are troubling signs: Business-tax revenues and the number of building permits are dropping while unemployment and office space availability are creeping up.

Perhaps most important, big investment banks continue to report losses on securities tied to mortgages, causing the elimination of thousands of high-paying jobs on Wall Street, with many more layoffs in the works.

James Parrott, the chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal research group, said he believed the city had been in a recession for months. Employment in construction has already started to decline, as it usually does at the start of a recession, he said. Retail sales would be following suit, he added, if not for the surge of foreign tourists taking advantage of the weak dollar.

Once the layoffs on Wall Street start rippling through the city’s economy, Mr. Parrott said, “it’s going to take something unforeseen to prevent us from having a massive job loss.”

The situation has worsened enough that the New York City Independent Budget Office, which said a month ago that it expected a brief and mild recession, is preparing a forecast that is likely to be significantly bleaker, said Ronnie Lowenstein, the director.

The local economy, she said, “will be considerably worse than it is now.”

Still, predicting downturns is risky work. Every recession has its own personality, and the city’s sprawling economy has reacted differently to each one. More dependent on Wall Street and more closely linked to the global economy than the rest of America, the city has been battered harder by recessions that started in the financial markets than by those that began in manufacturing.

Looking to history for clues about how New York might fare in a new recession, economists note that the city suffered more and for a longer period than the nation as a whole during the last two downturns — at the start of the 1990s and in the early years of this decade.

So far, however, no one is forecasting a recession that would rival the financial disaster that the city endured in the 1970s, when it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. That crisis was the most severe downturn in the city’s fortunes since World War II.

In 1973, the national inflation rate already was rising when the supply of foreign oil was disrupted. High interest rates, combined with falling productivity and rising unemployment, led to a condition known as stagflation.

New York City fared much worse than the rest of the country. Unemployment and the crime rate soared as 600,000 jobs were lost. Several large corporations, including General Electric, packed up their headquarters and decamped to the suburbs, or farther away.

By the spring of 1975, the city was on the verge of defaulting on its debts. The State Legislature created the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which borrowed billions of dollars to keep the city afloat. (Experts widely believe the city’s finances, even in a weakening economy, are much better today, with projections of a surplus of more than $4 billion this fiscal year.)

When the next national recession struck in early 1980, followed by another in mid-1981, New York City was still rebounding. Nationally, that downturn spurred thousands of business failures, many of them manufacturers. But the city’s manufacturing sector had already shrunk markedly, leaving it with less to lose, economists said.

As a result, those recessions were considered relatively mild in New York. In 1982, when the national unemployment rate had risen to 10.8 percent, it was 9.8 percent in the city.

The next two recessions, however, were largely about Wall Street and what it financed — and so New York felt the pain.

In the mid-1980s, the city and its growing financial sector were on a tear. The stock market was rising steadily, and big investment banks like Morgan Stanley and Salomon Brothers were growing from tightly held partnerships into big public companies. A building boom took root. Office buildings and condominiums sprouted across the metropolitan area, many of them financed by the aggressive lending of savings and loan associations.

By mid-1987, the city had added back about 300,000 jobs, and its unemployment rate had fallen below 6 percent. Personal incomes were rising along with the stock market. The city’s median family income increased by more than 15 percent during the ’80s.

Then the stock market crashed in mid-October 1987, wiping out all of the year’s gains in a single day. But its dire effects were not immediately felt.

The city’s economy continued to expand, along with the nation’s, for two more years. But the growth masked the cutbacks that had begun on Wall Street, where the banks had been eliminating jobs throughout 1988.

With Wall Street in a tailspin, a downturn was well under way in New York when the national recession officially began in July 1990. Two years later, the city’s unemployment rate had risen to more than 11 percent.

That national recession officially ended in 1991, but the downturn lingered in New York, for another year and a half by Mr. Parrott’s estimate. Corporations continued eliminating layers of management in what came to be known as the first “white-collar recession.” Before it was over, one of every 10 jobs in the city — about 360,000 in all — were lost.

The city did not begin to recover until 1994, when another financial boom began, this one culminating in the mania for dot-com stocks. The dot-com party came to an abrupt end in March 2000. This time, the job cuts started not on Wall Street, but in computer services. Employment in data processing and other business services fell fast, but overall employment in the city continued growing until the end of 2000.

Then came the devastating terrorist attack on Sept. 11. About 80,000 jobs were lost in the 15 weeks after the attack, turning what had been a mild downturn into a deep recession. Travel and tourism-related businesses suffered even more than financial services.

Officially, the national economy pulled out of that recession at the end of 2001. But the city kept shedding jobs until 2003, eventually losing more than 225,000.

What lessons, then, do those downturns hold for economists parsing the current economic troubles?

Economists say the post-9/11 recession is less instructive because of the anomaly of the attack and its localized impact on the economy.

But some economists see parallels in the current situation to the recession of 1990, as both were preceded by easy and abundant credit.

Although the current national slowdown began with the bursting of a housing bubble in Sun Belt states, the city could again remain in recession after the national economy recovers because Wall Street firms financed much of that lending, economists said.

Mr. Parrott described the borrowing of recent years as “excessive,” saying that aggressive mortgage lending and the leveraged trading of mortgage-related securities inflated the bubble.

Ms. Lowenstein said: “Even if it didn’t start on Wall Street, Wall Street is very much involved. Given the difficulties we’re seeing in the financial sector, it’s hard to imagine that we’re not going to see some fairly significant losses that could well exceed what’s happening in other areas of the country.”

Though job losses on Wall Street this time around may not rise as high as during the last two recessions, she said, the damage could be equally severe.

“There may be fewer financial-sector jobs lost, but each job is very much more valuable,” Ms. Lowenstein said. “The loss of those jobs has a much greater impact on the economy because they are so well-paid

Dysfunction at a Charity That Relies on Council Largess

Published: April 28, 2008

Hiram Monserrate, a city councilman from Queens, has supplied more than $400,000 in city funds in recent years to a nonprofit agency that has been run by some of his closest aides and whose financial records have devolved into what its current director calls “a mess.”

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Libre, a nonprofit group, had offices in Corona, Queens until November. In recent years, it received $400,000 in city money from Councilman Hiram Monserrate.

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Libre’s latest director, who says its records are “a mess,” moved it to Jackson Heights, above, where he runs Latin Technologies.

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times Hiram Monserrate

The organization, Libre, which offers a wide array of programs and services for the Latino community, has not filed a tax return for the past two years. It has never registered as a charity with the state attorney general’s office, as required. And its director says unpaid bills and poor record-keeping grew so problematic that he had to all but shutter Libre last year.

“Libre is a mess,” said Rodolfo Herrera, the director. “I don’t think it’s a mess because they were stealing money. I think it’s because they didn’t know what to do with paper.”

The millions of dollars that council members dole out to community groups each year rarely received attention until last month, when it was revealed that the Council had been using the names of fictitious groups to park money that it could later spend without going through the normal budget review process.

Now a spectrum of analysts, from auditors for the city comptroller to federal investigators to lawyers for the city’s Department of Investigation, are scrutinizing just what kinds of programs City Council members are financing with the discretionary funds they control.

Libre, whose name stands for Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment Inc., has not been identified as the subject of any special review. But it resembles, in its close ties to Mr. Monserrate, other organizations that have drawn scrutiny.

Mr. Monserrate, a former city police officer, negotiated the lease for Libre’s former office, according to the building’s superintendent, and one of the group’s former top executives says he was directly recruited for the job by the councilman. In recent years, its four principals included two women who worked as Mr. Monserrate’s chief of staff and his director of constituent services.

P. Wayne Mahlke, Mr. Monserrate’s legislative and budget director, said the councilman had no control of Libre and had believed that its finances and tax filings were “in full compliance.”

“The council member knows Libre provided services to the community and has been a strong organization,” Mr. Mahlke said. “Yes, they went through some difficulties, but that was all their own internal difficulties.”

Libre has told city officials that it provides recreation and education programs, assistance to immigrants and job training for people in Queens. A more detailed picture of the organization’s activities was unavailable because Mr. Herrera said he was not directly involved in program services and other staff members did not return calls.

Neighbors of Libre’s former office in Corona, Queens, said that the office was seldom crowded and that staff members generally seemed to be involved in dispensing advice on how to reach government agencies.

Libre has also served as something of a clearinghouse for city funds. Mr. Monserrate’s office said Libre dispensed a third of the money it received to other organizations that the councilman had deemed worthy of support, like the Corona Basketball League and the Colombian Parade Committee.

City Council officials said Friday that they knew the names of all the organizations that were the ultimate recipients of such “pass-through” appropriations. The Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, and the city’s Law Department made efforts last year to increase the monitoring of pass-through funds, which have been used for more than a decade.

But Council officials said they relied primarily on the city agencies that actually expend the money, under contract, to make any background checks on recipient groups. The checks can be cursory, however, as was made clear in an indictment last month.

The indictment accused two aides of Councilman Kendall Stewart of Brooklyn of embezzling $145,000 from a nonprofit group they ran. Prosecutors said in the indictment that officials at the city’s Department for the Aging had initially denied Mr. Stewart’s request to give money to the group, the Donna Reid Memorial Education Fund, after noticing that it was based at the home of his chief of staff. But a subsequent request was approved by the Department of Youth and Community Development.

Until November, Libre operated out of a two-story building on National Street in Corona, where neighbors said the organization sometimes held evening English classes but generally opened for only part of the day and rarely had more than three people working.

The building’s superintendent, Ismail Gaiby, said the office grew more crowded when Libre sponsored voter registration drives, which he said were often attended by Mr. Monserrate.

“There were a lot of people coming in and out,” said Mr. Gaiby, who also works at an Islamic book company and meat store on the block. “They would go out in the street and register the voters.”

Mr. Gaiby said Mr. Monserrate, accompanied by another man, personally negotiated Libre’s $1,100-a-month rent in April 2005 and delivered the security deposit, but Mr. Mahlke said the councilman “does not recall having any participation” in that process.

Libre was incorporated in July 2003, but it has filed only one tax return, which covered the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. That return showed revenues of $49,750 and expenses of about $25,000, made up mostly of $19,200 in rent and utilities and $3,520 for printing.

The return said the group provided “street activities, including music and cultural enrichment for youth and adults,” and “back-to-school equipment and activities for young adults.” It listed Yoselin Genao, who was Mr. Monserrate’s director of constituent services, as the contact for Libre.

The return listed Julissa Ferreras as chairwoman of Libre’s board of directors, and indicated it was an unpaid position. City records indicate that during the time period covered by the tax return, Ms. Ferreras was also serving as Mr. Monserrate’s chief of staff, a post she did not leave until August 2005. Ms. Ferreras returned to work as Mr. Monserrate’s chief of staff last September.

In an interview on April 18, Mr. Monserrate gave an account that differed from what the records indicate. He said Ms. Ferreras had not held positions in his Council office and at Libre at the same time. He said that she took the position with the nonprofit only after ending her first stretch with the Council, and that he had required her to leave Libre last year when she returned to work for his office.

Ms. Ferreras, Ms. Genao and Mr. Herrera’s computer services company have also been paid for work on Mr. Monserrate’s political campaigns, records show.

The bookkeeping issues with Libre surfaced last fall, according to Mr. Herrera, who said Ms. Ferreras recognized that there was trouble with Libre’s books. Javier Cardenas, who was executive director at the time, left shortly after, and Libre began to search for a new director. Mr. Cardenas could not be reached for comment, and Ms. Ferreras did not return calls.

Efforts to find a new leader for the organization last October put Mr. Monserrate in touch with Herman Mendoza, who now runs a community outreach program in Corona, Mr. Mendoza said.

“He offered me the position” of executive director, Mr. Mendoza said. “I was working for an insurance company, and he said, ‘Hey, there’s an offer if you want to work, since you do a lot of work with the community.’ ”

But Mr. Mendoza said he found that he was Libre’s only staffer and left after three weeks.

“They couldn’t pay me a salary, so I had to get another job quick,” he said. “I guess there was no funding.”

Mr. Herrera, who had been Libre’s treasurer since its inception, said Ms. Ferreras asked him to take over as director in November. He immediately moved Libre into the small office in Jackson Heights where he runs two other firms, a Colombian radio station and a nonprofit organization, Latin Technologies, that offers technology training.

Latin Technologies has received $120,000 in city funds since 2004, most of it in discretionary awards from Mr. Monserrate.

In a telephone interview on Friday from Colombia, where he was visiting, Mr. Herrera said he planned to file Libre’s delinquent tax returns by the end of May. He said Libre’s only existing city contract called for it to distribute $32,000 of a $40,000 award to other community groups.

Mr. Herrera said he was unable to access Libre’s records because he was out of the country. Though he was the treasurer during the years in question, he said he did not monitor the books, a job that he said fell to Mr. Cardenas.

“All we’ve been doing is paying bills from the past,” Mr. Herrera said. “Libre doesn’t have employees. We are just cleaning up Libre debt.”

Reporting was contributed by Daryl Khan, Sharon Otterman, William K. Rashbaum and Ray Rivera.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Indicted PR governor will seek 2nd term
Puerto Rico governor to seek re-election despite federal campaign-finance indictment

Apr 27, 2008 16:35 EST
Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila's party swiftly approved his candidacy for re-election on Sunday despite a federal indictment on charges of illegally raising money to pay off campaign debts.

After a vigorous, hourlong speech to ruling Popular Democratic Party members, Acevedo was overwhelmingly approved as the party's gubernatorial candidate for November elections.
"Four more years," chanted supporters who packed a stadium in the U.S. territory's capital. More than 4,000 delegates had been expected to vote on Acevedo's candidacy, but the party decided a formal ballot was unnecessary since strong support for him was so evident at the general assembly.

The embattled governor was charged last month with 19 counts that carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years. He denies the allegations, and accuses U.S. authorities of persecuting him for his opposition to the death penalty and because he criticized an FBI raid in which a fugitive Puerto Rican independence militant was killed.
"I am calm, my family is calm, my lawyers are calm and you must be calm," Acevedo told the crowd Sunday.

U.S. authorities "hoped that this party would kneel down and be destroyed — and here we are!" he said, sparking a sustained ovation.
The first governor to face federal charges since the island became a semiautonomous U.S. commonwealth in 1952, Acevedo has repeatedly stoked Puerto Rican nationalism and described the grand jury indictment as an attack against all islanders.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez and the head of the FBI in San Juan have each denied any political motivation for the indictment.

Acevedo and a dozen associates are accused of illegally raising money to pay off more than US$500,000 (euro320,000) in campaign debts from his term as Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to Congress from 2000 to 2004. No trial date has been set.
The November vote will pit Acevedo, who favors maintaining the territory's loose U.S. commonwealth status, against pro-statehood Republican Luis Fortuno, who has been Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate in the U.S. Congress since 2005.
Voting patterns in Puerto Rico have shown islanders are split nearly 50-50 on the question, which drives much of local politics.


Did Police UnionHarrass Family of Sean Bell's Fiancée?

The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating allegations that just hours after the not guilty verdict was issued in the Sean Bell shooting trial, a number of crank calls were made to the home of Nicole Paultre Bell's parents by someone connected to a police union. The calls were both hang-ups or someone laughing--"Ha ha ha"--on the other end of the line.

Caller ID identified their source as a line at the Sergeants Benevolent Association's Manhattan offices. Nicole Paultre-Bell's father Les said "The guy was taunting us, laughing. It was horrible because we had just come back from the court and the cemetery." And Paultre-Bell said, "It was just horrible."
Ed Mullins, the head of the SBA, told the Daily News "We'll cooperate with any investigation. If ... it came from here, I want to know."


As Rafael Martinez Alequin awaits a decision as to whether he should or should not be entitled to a Press card, a drama unfolds thousands of miles away. YFP brought you the story some weeks ago. At issue is the fundamental rights of bloggers the world over.

Reformist Saudi blogger freed and 'very happy'
10 hours ago
RIYADH (AFP) — A Saudi blogger and reform advocate, whose detention without charge four months ago sparked criticism from Washington, told AFP on Sunday he was "very happy" to be free and was "fairly" treated in custody.
But Fouad al-Farhan, who was released on Saturday from a prison in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, said he would not comment on the details of his case for the time being.
"I am very happy to be back with family and friends. I appreciate their help (while I was in detention)," Farhan said by telephone from the resort of Taef near Jeddah, where he was visiting his mother.

Farhan said that while in prison, "I was treated equally like everyone else, -- fairly."
It was "a good treatment," he said, adding that he was healthy and in good spirits.
Farhan, a 32-year-old father of two, said he would not comment on the reasons for his detention for now.
"Anyway, my main concern is to help our youth not become involved in terrorist activities and end up in prison," he said.

Saudi Arabia has been battling attacks by suspected Al-Qaeda militants for the past five years.
Farhan had been held since December 10 in a move which unnerved the blogger community in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia and drew calls for his release from international human rights watchdogs as well as the US government.

Washington said in January that it had raised Farhan's case with the authorities in Riyadh "at a relatively senior level."
"And our message to the Saudi government was pretty clear," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"And that is that the United States stands for freedom of expression... And wherever people are seeking to express themselves, via the Internet or via other means, whether that's in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere around the world, we stand for that freedom of expression," he added.
The Saudi daily Arab News noted on Sunday that official statements said Farhan was detained for "violating regulations," but no charges were ever pressed.

Farhan told AFP that despite four months in detention, "I will be back blogging" -- although he was not sure when.
According to earlier reports, Farhan wrote to friends two weeks before his arrest saying he expected to be detained for his writings about a group of reformists arrested in February 2007 for alleged links to terror funding.
Prior to his arrest, Farhan had also criticised a number of influential Saudi figures as well as religious extremism in the oil-rich Muslim kingdom.

In an article entitled: "No to terrorism, yes to dialogue in Saudi Arabia," and posted on December 3, Farhan wrote that Al-Qaeda had not been eliminated despite the calm prevailing in the kingdom.
He also slammed "the rejection of peaceful dialogue within Saudi society."
"When you are born and raised (in a society) marked by a discourse that excludes the other ... your spirit will be a fertile ground for the ideology of violence," he said.
A Saudi human rights activist welcomed Farhan's release, although he said he did not think that US intervention affected the case.

"It is a good thing that he has been released within the legal six-month period during which a person must be either charged and put on trial or freed," Mufleh al-Kahtani, vice president of the National Society for Human Rights, told AFP.
"We hope he was not detained for expressing his views as this would be a violation of rules granting freedom of expression to everyone."
But Kahtani, whose watchdog took up Farhan's case, said the NSHR was never informed of specific charges against the blogger.

The daily Al-Watan, in its report of Farhan's release, quoted Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz as saying the blogger had "wronged himself." It did not elaborate.



April 27, 2008 --
RECORDS show that City Councilwoman Maria Baez (D-Bronx) withdrew $668.35 from her "Baez for the Future" fund to pay for 13 gas purchases between July 21 and Dec. 4.
On three occasions, the fuel was bought on successive days: $40 worth on Oct. 29, followed by a $35 fill on Oct. 30, $60 on Nov. 20, and then $50.05 on Nov. 21, and $50 and $65 on Dec. 3 and 4.

This isn't the first time Baez has used contributors' checks to beat high prices at the pumps.
In 2005, Baez's re-election campaign spent $2,700 on 66 visits to service stations.
And that's when gas prices averaged $2.30 a gallon, meaning Baez's campaign went through more than 1,100 gallons over five months.
Records indicate that Baez owns a 2001 Ford SUV. Even if it averaged just 15 miles a gallon, she could have driven back and forth to California three times on the gas her campaign bought in 2005.

Considering Baez had no Democratic primary opponent that year, it's not clear why she needed all that gasoline in a general election in which she received 12,072 votes, while her two little-known rivals together got 672.
It's equally unclear where the gas is going this election cycle.
Baez is term-limited, so she can't run for the council again. The only possible opening in The Bronx would come if state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez, under federal indictment for stealing $37,000 from a non-profit, loses his job.

Elected officials can do just about anything with their campaign funds, so authorities aren't likely to go poking around Baez's account.
"The bottom line in the city, state and Washington is that campaign funds are often used as personal piggy banks," said Baruch College's Doug Muzzio, a veteran political observer. "The laws governing their use are extraordinarily lax, and the oversight is extraordinarily lax."
Campaign records don't indicate how many vehicles were gassed up from Baez's campaign account or how they were used. Baez didn't return repeated calls.

In Bell Case, Black New Yorkers See Nuances That Temper Rage

Published: April 27, 2008

There was anger on the streets of Jamaica, Queens, where Sean Bell was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets in 2006 — both before and after a judge on Friday acquitted three detectives who had been charged in the shooting. But many black men and women in Jamaica and elsewhere in New York said their anger was tempered by the complicated case that unfolded in a city less racially divided than 10 years ago.

Jacob Silberberg for The New York Times

Elliott Clark of St. Albans, Queens, said he disagreed with the judge’s verdict, but felt more resigned than angry about it.

In Harlem, Willie Rainey, 60, a Vietnam veteran and retired airport worker, said that he believed the detectives should have been found guilty, but that he saw the case through a prism not of race, but of police conduct. “It’s a lack of police training,” Mr. Rainey said. “It’s not about race when you have black killing black. We overplay the black card as an issue.”

Even near Liverpool Street and 94th Avenue in Jamaica, the very spot where Mr. Bell was killed, Kenneth Outlaw stood and spoke not only of the humanity of Mr. Bell but of the police as well. “A cop is a human being just like anyone else,” said Mr. Outlaw, 52. “If I had to be out here, facing the same dangers the cops face, I’d be scared to death too.”

New York controversies have a way of playing out along racial lines in a city that is diverse but often seems stratified. When Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant, was killed by the police in a blast of 41 shots in the doorway of a Bronx apartment building in 1999, his death became shorthand for excessive police force against minorities.

Yet in the aftermath of the verdict in the Bell case, many black New Yorkers reacted not with outrage but with a muted reserve, saying that the city felt like a less polarized place in 2008, nearly a decade after the Diallo shooting and with a different mayor and police commissioner. Some also said that after a seven-week trial, the picture of what happened the night Mr. Bell, a black man, was killed was still murky, and so they left the public outcry to a relatively small group of black activists who had been closely monitoring the case.

There were those, however, who spoke of losing faith and trust in both law enforcement and the judicial system, and who saw the Bell case as a vivid example of how little has changed. “How many shots have to be fired for things to change?” asked Torell Marsalis, 35, of South Jamaica.

The verdict set off visible outrage. There were scuffles outside the Queens Criminal Court building, a few marches and rallies in Queens on Friday night, and later, angry denunciations among some black activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton. But elsewhere, the reaction was more nuanced, even subdued.

Among the dozens of black men and women interviewed in recent days, many said they sympathized with Mr. Bell’s family, but also with police officers who must make life-and-death decisions in tense, uncertain moments.

Ayana Fobbs, 27, a pharmacy worker who lives in Jamaica, a few blocks from the Community Church of Christ, where Mr. Bell’s funeral was held, said she could identify with people on both sides of the Bell shooting. One of her cousins was killed by the police in a shooting in the Bronx in the early 1990s, she said, but she also had close friends who were police officers.

“I’m just concerned about what kind of message it’s going to send on both sides,” Ms. Fobbs said on Saturday. “The community here is going to feel like anybody is fair game, if something like this could happen to an unarmed man and nobody was held accountable. And then, with the officers, it sends a message to them that they can do these types of things and get away with it.”

Others said that had they been on a jury during the trial, they would have found the officers not guilty based on what they felt was the flawed case prosecutors put forward. Still others said that they did not know what to think, after weeks of following contradictory testimony in the news. “If I was the judge, I wouldn’t know what to do,” Paul Randall, 22, a college student, said on Thursday. “From following the case, it’s kind of hard to say one way or the other.”

Some of this uncertainty and ambivalence was on display on Liverpool Street immediately after Justice Arthur J. Cooperman found the three detectives not guilty of all the charges against them. One hour after the verdict, no crowd had gathered at the tattered memorial to Mr. Bell. Someone had placed a blue votive candle on the sidewalk, and there was one old, brittle bouquet of flowers and one fresh one. The water-cooler jug someone had placed there for donations contained just a few bills.

A man who approached was not there to protest the verdict. He was only walking by, on his way to pay a parking ticket around the corner. The man, Elliott Clark, 54, had seen the news of the judge’s decision on television, and though he disagreed with the verdict, he was more resigned than outraged. This was not 2000, when Rudolph W. Giuliani was mayor and Howard Safir was police commissioner and the four officers indicted in the killing of Mr. Diallo were acquitted, he said.

“The times have changed,” said Mr. Clark, a case manager for H.I.V. and AIDS patients who lives nearby in St. Albans. “People have been so disappointed by the outcome of the judicial system. Every five years something crazy happens, and people are people. They move on with their lives.”

Mr. Diallo was unarmed when he was shot while reaching for his wallet. The officers who shot him were all white. In the Bell case, two of the detectives who were on trial are black, including the one who fired first. The third, Michael Oliver, the one who fired the most shots — 31 — is white.

And this time it was Detective Oliver — who fired 16 rounds and then reloaded — who bore the brunt of the criticisms of those interviewed.

“That was his time to be a cowboy,” said David Jones, 49, a limousine driver who was walking by the memorial on Thursday with his fiancée, Nicole Hodges. “I think it’s repulsive. It’s demeaning to African-Americans and their community.”

For Mr. Jones and other young and middle-aged black men, Sean Bell has become a symbol of what they describe as police aggression and racial profiling in black neighborhoods. Had Mr. Bell and his friends been white, they said, the police would have responded less aggressively, and Mr. Bell might still be alive.

“My mother always has to look outside her window and worry about us because of the cops,” said Ray Powell, 23, a Queensborough Community College student who was at the memorial on Friday. “If it was me, if I shot a gun 30 times, I would get the death penalty.”

And even those who noted that two of the officers involved in the Bell shooting were black said their race was less important than their badges. “Some would argue that these were not black cops,” said Kaleem Musa Keita, 49, who was outside the courthouse in Queens when the verdict was announced. “They’re black in color, but they didn’t represent their community. They were representing the police.”

But even as some condemned the behavior of the police, other black men and women interviewed praised Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

“He’s got people who are at least willing to communicate with the black community,” said Salaam Ismail, 50, a youth coordinator, standing outside the Harlem headquarters of Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network on Friday. “The mayor has done a lot of pre-emptive strikes with that kind of stuff, meeting with community leaders.”

On Nov. 27, 2006, two days after Mr. Bell was killed, the mayor convened a private meeting of black religious leaders and elected officials at City Hall. One of those at the meeting was the city’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, who a month after the shooting set up a panel to review the rules and tactics of undercover operations in response to the Bell case.

Saturday morning, Norma Wait was inside the Arising Barber Shop in Jamaica, talking about the change over the years.

“I must give it to the younger generation,” said Ms. Wait, 62, a bank worker originally from Belize who lives in South Jamaica. “They got a more level head. They know you don’t get justice by breaking windows and burning and looting. You get justice by presenting yourself, demonstrating, calling on the politicians.”

Dorothy Omega, 70, a retired drug counselor, sat in the audience at Mr. Sharpton’s headquarters, waiting for him to speak about the verdict. Even there, in the Harlem building known as the House of Justice, Ms. Omega sought the middle ground. She said she understood the anger expressed by Mr. Sharpton, but at the same time, she said, “The Police Department needs our support, too.”

Her thoughts turned to Mr. Bell, and then back again to the police. “The police have families, too,” she said. “They have to live with this.”

Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Jennifer Mascia, Mathew R. Warren and Karen Zraick.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


By Ian Johnston and Photini Philippidou
Sunday, 27 April 2008

It's an open secret in the fashion industry: black models rarely get jobs on catwalks, in magazines and on billboards. According to executives, they do not inspire women to spend money.
Apart from Naomi Campbell in one Louis Vuitton advertisement this season, it would be difficult to find a single black model in a prominent position in a magazine. Carole White of the Premier Model Agency says she has received casting briefs requesting "no ethnics" and adds: "According to magazines, black models don't sell."

The leading British photographer Nick Knight says: "The fashion industry and the advertising industry are steeped in racism. You just have to look around at the number of black girls you see in ads – virtually nil. Among the main fashion brands, they are completely under-represented. It's shocking and atrocious."

Mr. Knight blames business people at the top of the industry. A common attitude among them, he says, is that black models are "not aspirational" or "don't sell in Asia". He goes on: "I have tried to redress the balance. It is enormously important to use black models and models of different ethnic backgrounds."

Now a counterattack to the racism of the fashion industry is coming from an unlikely source: Vogue Italia. The July issue of the fearsomely cutting-edge quarterly will feature black models almost exclusively, shot by the photographer Steven Meisel.
Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, told The Independent on Sunday: "We are using a lot of black models, like Iman, not only the models of today – a lot of different girls." Asked why she had decided to do this, she said: "Because nobody is using black girls. I see so many beautiful girls and they were complaining that they are not used enough."

Ms Sozzani admitted the issue could yet prove to be unpopular among some in Italy, where the xenophobic Northern League is part of the new coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi: "Maybe in our country it is not the best idea. But I don't care. I think it is not my problem if they don't like it – it's their problem."

Sarah Doukas, managing director of model agency Storm, says: "There has been frustration over the years from a lot of ethnic models, stylists and editors who have felt that they were not working as much as some of their Caucasian counterparts."
But she added: "There has been a shift recently: supportive media coverage has had an impact on the fashion industry."

Nick Knight welcomes the prospect of Vogue Italia's all-black edition but adds a note of caution: "I hope all the advertising goes in that issue."

Yankees Bury Bernie Williams Under New Stadium For Good Luck

April 17, 2008 | Onion Sport

NEW YORK—Citing a need for physical and spiritual cleansing after a Boston Red Sox fan entombed a David Ortiz jersey in the floor of the new facility, the New York Yankees buried former centerfielder Bernie Williams under 4,650 pounds of concrete Wednesday in the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium for good luck.

According to team sources, the instant the 39-year-old Williams was completely submerged in the rapidly setting structural material, stopping his voice as his lungs and mouth filled with concrete, the sun broke through the clouds and shone on the yet-incomplete field. Yankees part-owner Hank Steinbrenner called the occurrence a sign indicating that the "Curse Of A Red Sox Fan's David Ortiz Jersey" had been reversed, and that God was once again on the Yankees' side.


"Any attempt to put a hex on the New York Yankees has been successfully averted," Steinbrenner told reporters while standing over the still-wet concrete slab beneath which, judging by the sluggish ripples and lopsided bubbles in the hardening agglomerate, Williams still struggled. "Not that this organization believes in curses. We're the Yankees. We believe the success of our team is based purely on our players and their on-field performance. And we act accordingly."

"However," Steinbrenner continued, "Bernie was on our last World Series team in 2000, so we figured burying him under our new home certainly couldn't hurt. Also, he was available, and his appearance fee was quite reasonable."

The burial ceremony, which delayed the completion of the stadium approximately three weeks and cost roughly $1.5 million—$1,000 of which will go to Bernie Williams' family—involved placing Williams into a six-foot-deep concrete hole directly where the tattered Red Sox jersey was found.

Dressed in his full Yankees uniform and batting helmet, and clutching an autographed ball signed by all members of Yankees' 1996 World Series team, Williams was lowered into the ground and then covered with a combination of concrete, fly ash, slag cement, and coarse aggregate consisting mostly of gravel limestone.

Though Yankees officials did not allow Williams' family to attend the burial, citing the fact they were not "true Yankees," they permitted the former centerfielder to take with him a picture of his wife and three children after Williams provided video evidence proving that all of his family members were present and cheered during the Yankees' championship run between 1996 and 2000.

"Now, we're not necessarily hoping that having him in the foundation will mean our outfielders will start throwing like Bernie, our hitters will begin hitting like him, or our faster baserunners will start running like him," Yankees first-year coach Joe Girardi said. "Most of our guys are already better than he was. We just know—and this is what I told Bernie's family—that the good deed of letting a former Yankee permanently come home will be recognized by the baseball gods and will translate into Yankee victories, which will be good for the entire human race."

Williams, who was smiling from the moment he arrived at the new stadium until his face could no longer be seen, was grateful for the opportunity.

"I would do anything to help this ballclub win another World Series," Williams shouted up to reporters while standing in rapidly filling pit. "Just to be part of this organization again in some capacity is an honor and privilege. And even though I haven't received a thank you from the Steinbrenner family, I know they are appreciative."

"This is what it means to be a lifelong Yankgluh [sic]," Williams attempted to add.

According to Yankees president Randy Levine, the organization had been discussing various ways to exorcize the curse of the buried Red Sox jersey, under which the Yankees went an "unacceptable" 4-4. Levine said that it was Hal Steinbrenner who suggested submerging a former or current player in concrete as a good luck charm.

Interoffice e-mails confirm that players who made the short list were Yogi Berra, Paul O'Neill, and current Yankee outfielder Shelley Duncan.

"Truth be told, we didn't even think of Bernie," Levine said. "But then we got a call from his agent. It took a bit of convincing on their part, but in the end it seemed like this fulfilled both of our needs."

"By giving Bernie this chance, we have once again proven why we are the classiest organization in all of sports," Levine added. "Lesser teams would have overreacted to this whole curse thing and buried Derek Jeter."

When asked if burial in the new stadium guaranteed that Williams' No. 51 would be retired in the new Monument Park, both Steinbrenners had no comment, saying only that they appreciated Mr. Williams' commitment to the team.

Godlike judge delivers Sean Bell verdict

Denis Hamill

Saturday, April 26th 2008, 4:00 AM

After eight grueling weeks, more than 50 prosecution witnesses, blistering courtroom confrontations and radioactive racial tension crackling in the courtroom and hallways, Judge Arthur Cooperman enters the courtroom in his usual unceremonious way, insisting that no one stand.

He takes his seat on the bench.

Then he calls for one final sidebar with the lawyers, who assemble on the steps to Cooperman's bench like disciples at the Sermon on the Mount.

In this instant, in this windowless, oaken realm of jurisprudence, in a nonjury trial, Cooperman is indeed godlike.

He holds in his 74-year-old hands alone the fate of three young police officers faced with manslaughter and reckless endangerment, two of them facing 25 years in prison.

Tension percolates.

At the defense table, the three cops are fidgety, coiled, like jacks in this courtroom box that is ringed with 18 no-nonsense court officers.

Scores more line the hallways; others secure the front and back entrances. Police helicopters circle the baby blue skies over Kew Gardens. Cops clog Queens Blvd.

The city waits.

This is the center stage of New York City, and here in the courtroom these three police officers will momentarily learn their fate when the judge delivers his verdict.

The very word verdict falls from the lips like a marble tablet. Official, final, heavy with joy or doom. A word derived from the Latin verum dictum, or true word.

Now the granite-faced lawyers return to their respective tables. The tension resembles that anxious nanosecond before the timekeeper hammers the opening bell of a heavyweight championship fight. Only this is a thousand times more dramatic.

Then Cooperman begins to read his true word in a precise, professional, unemotional tone appropriate for the tragedy in which an unarmed man was killed and two others wounded in a lead storm of 50 police bullets in the shadow of a poultry slaughterhouse on a miserable side street in South Jamaica.

The judge never loses sight of the human loss at the core of the case, which is also a hole in the soul of the city.

His tone is stentorian, but Cooperman is not verbose. In about a dozen minutes, he quickly determines that:

There was a confrontation about a gun in front of Kalua Cabaret on Nov. 25, 2006, and an undercover cop followed Bell, Guzman and Benefield around the corner. The undercover ordered them to freeze. Instead, Bell slammed his car into him, backed up and raced forward again, hitting a police van. Then the shooting started, but it was not unlawful or excessive.

Cooperman also determines there were too many inconsistencies from the prosecution witnesses, especially Trent Benefield and Joe Guzman. Therefore, he says, the prosecution's case simply does not establish proof "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Cooperman then utters the words: "NOT GUILTY." Clank, clank, like hammer hitting chisel, forever etching the words into the history book.

A warble rises in the courtroom.

The court officers methodically usher out the press, then the police supporters, then the Bell supporters, avoiding confrontation.

Out on sun-splashed Queens Blvd., birds chirp in budding trees, helicopters hover in the blue sky and people express outrage over the verdict.

A young girl carries a sign: PEOPLE'S JUSTICE: PIGS ARE GUILTY AS HELL.

Police break up a brief scuffle, but there are no major confrontations.

Could it finally be over?

My first e-mail after the verdict is from a black man named Stephen Bellinger from South Jamaica.

"What faith can a person have in a justice system that can see no wrongdoing with this incident?" he asks. "Yeah, everyone will say the DA's office dropped the ball, but I believe they played their part very well. And I'm telling you as sure as the sky is blue, and that the sun is out today, within two years, this will happen again!"

Let's hope his is not also a true word.

Sean Bell verdict sticks to script

Juan Gonzalez

Updated Saturday, April 26th 2008, 1:23 AM

It is the nightmare that keeps recurring.

Whether its Amadou Diallo and the 41-shot barrage in the Bronx, or Timothy Stansbury opening the roof door of his public housing building only to be gunned down without warning, or the 50 shots unleashed on Sean Bell.

It's all become predictable - after much public fanfare, sometimes even a trial, our courts say no crime was involved in these heart-breaking shootings of unarmed black men.

Anyone who spent time in the Sean Bell trial knows the prosecutors were only going through the motions. The absymal New York Knicks had a better game plan this season, and far more desire, than the prosecutors of Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper.

You couldn't help feeling they mailed it in, and Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman only stamped it.

It does not matter whether Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield were choir boys or thugs. The simple fact is they had no guns.

There was an altercation outside a strip joint. Words were exchanged. Bell and his two friends were clearly filled with alcohol, but they walked away. Whether one of them said he was going to get a gun or not was never conclusively proved.

As they got into their car, they were confronted by a man waiving a gun at them. Witnesses, even cops who took the stand, contradicted each other as to whether Isnora identified himself as cop.

An unmarked police van with no lights flashing drove up the street into the path of Bell's car. Ask yourself for a moment: If you had just left an argument with some stranger and you suddenly see a man rushing at you with a gun, and then some van drive up and block your exit, what would you do?

Would you wait around and ask some polite questions? Or would you try to speed away from the scene as fast as possible - even if it meant your car hitting the stranger with gun?

I know what I would do - and I'm not trained to react instantly in life and death situations.

Neither was Sean Bell, who was drunk, and who no doubt wanted to be alive for his wedding.

The only ones on Liverpool Street that morning who had professional training in such situations were Isnora, Gescard, Cooper and the other members of their team.

Isnora claimed he thought Guzman was reaching for a gun, only there was no gun. Diallo was reaching for his wallet. Stansburry was merely opening the door.

The people who are trained made a mistake. The civilians who are not trained ended up dead.
Throughout the black and Latino neighborhoods of this city, the anguish has been mounting for years from these periodic "mistakes."

That anguish is made far worse by a court system that always seems to devise some legal wording or excuse to declare there was no crime.

Now everyone is speculating about violence or rioting. Just another way of blaming the victim.
The greatest threat of all is loss of faith in our judicial system.

In some parts of this city, many are more convinced than ever that there is one law for them and another for the police.

At least with the Knicks, we can hope the nightmare will end next season.