Monday, April 30, 2007

Brooklyn judge on hidden video found guilty of receiving bribes

A good friend of mine (Nora Renzulli) wrote a letter to the Editor on this article and was published (See below)

Brooklyn judge on hidden video found guilty of receiving bribes
4/20/2007, 2:07 a.m. ET
By TOM HAYS The Associated Press for the Staten Island Advance

NEW YORK (AP) — The relationship between the judge and the lawyer was cozy enough to be a crime, according to prosecutors.
Jurors agreed Thursday, convicting former Brooklyn state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Garson of accepting expensive gifts in exchange for helping fix divorce cases — crimes captured on hidden-camera videos made in his chambers.

The jury deliberated two days before finding Garson guilty of receiving bribes and accepting rewards for official misconduct. He was acquitted on four lesser counts.

Garson, 74, showed no reaction as the verdict was read. He faces up to seven years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for June 5.

During the five-week trial, jurors viewed surveillance videos showing a divorce lawyer, Paul Siminovsky, giving Garson a $250 box of cigars and $1,000 in cash.

Prosecutors alleged the judge was being bribed so he would award the lawyer lucrative guardianships in child custody cases and give him advice on winning divorce cases.

The videos "were the most convincing evidence in my mind," Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione told reporters outside court.

Defense attorney Michael Washor insisted his client was framed by Siminovsky and promised an appeal. He said his client was disappointed by the verdict.

"It's very painful, both emotionally and physically," he said.

The Garson case arose from a broader investigation into allegations that civil judgeships were being bought and sold for up to $50,000.

Hard evidence of such brokering never materialized, but the scandal did bring down the longtime head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party and resulted in convictions of courthouse staff and other lesser figures.

At trial, prosecutors said the judge violated his neutrality by letting the lawyer buy him thousands of dollars worth of meals and drinks.

The relationship was exposed in 2002, when a woman reported that a courthouse crony told her that her husband, a client of Siminovsky, had arranged to bribe Garson, who was overseeing the couple's divorce.

Investigators arrested the lawyer, who agreed that day to wear a wire while having lunch with the judge. Jurors heard an audiotape of Garson sharing strategy with Siminovsky over matzo ball soup, prosecutors said.

On another tape, Garson questioned why Siminovsky slipped the box of 25 Dominican cigars into the judge's desk. The lawyer responded, "Because you have my head together. You know, you gave me little pointers."

Garson was "no better than the health inspector who turns the other way for 20 bucks when the rats have infested the restaurant," Vecchione said in closing arguments.

Washor, in his closing, accused prosecutors of setting up his client by using a shady lawyer to tempt him with cash and gifts.

"This case started with a lie," he said, "and ended with the prosecution creating the illusion of criminality."

Nora Renzulli's Letter to the Editor of the Staten Island Advance -


Sunday, April 29, 2007

In your April 20 article "Brooklyn judge guilty of receiving bribes," the prosecutor declared that Judge Gerald Garson [who handled divorce cases] "was no better than the health inspector who turns the other way for 20 bucks when the rats have infested the restaurant."

The defense attorney, on the other hand, admitted his client "had probably violated ethical rules, but that his client had never agreed to give out courtroom benefits for the largess he received," as reported in The New York Times.

The defense's strategy and resort to a custom and practice of the trade appeared to say the only real rule broken was by the cooperating witness. That rule was never rat out a judge. A pitiful defense.

Now, finally, shall we take the focus from our revulsion and fascination with the rats and turn it to the price of justice, the welfare of the mother and children, and learn from the press where this legal rodents' nest has left them and what the courts have done, if anything, to heal and restore them?



Maritime Lawyer said...

Besides the fact that is against the law to take bribe, it is also morally wrong. And when a judge do that the consequences can be catastrophic. I`m sadly reading about your story and hope that all gets well. Keep up this blog and spread awareness.

Chris, a maritime lawyer

Louise Uccio said...

Thank you!