Occupy Wall Street protester’s Tweets Must be Turned Over: Judge Sciarrino.

posted Jul 2, 2012, 11:09 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated Jul 2, 2012, 11:09 AM by Lou Bara ]

Police and protesters squared off on the Brooklyn Bridge during a march on Oct. 1, 2011. A judge has ruled that Tweets from the incident should be turned over to prosecutors.

A Manhattan judge ruled on Monday that Twitter has to turn over more than three months worth of an Occupy Wall Street protestor’s Tweets, which are expected to be used against him in a criminal trial.

In an 11-page ruling, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. said that he understands that social media and the law around it are evolving, but the right to post updates on Twitter comes with “consequences.”

“The Constitution gives you the right to post, but as numerous people have learned, there are still consequences for your public posts,” wrote judge Sciarrino. “What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you.”

From the Wall Street Journal.  See the entire story here:


Suspect in Etan Patz case arraigned by Judge Sciarrino on murder charge.

posted May 29, 2012, 4:48 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated May 29, 2012, 4:58 AM by Lou Bara ]

From Susan Candiotti, CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) – Pedro Hernandez was arraigned early Friday evening on a second-degree murder charge tied to the case of Etan Patz, the New York boy whose disappearance 33 years to the day spurred nationwide attention about missing children.

The suspect appeared about 6:25 p.m. Friday via video feed from Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, where he is being held for evaluation and is on suicide watch, according to a law enforcement source.

Judge Matthew Sciarrino presided over the proceedings from a New York courtroom, where people watched the arraignment.

Sciarrino denied bail for Hernandez after defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said the suspect has a “long psychiatric history” including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and hallucinations. The lawyer asked that Hernandez undergo a full psychiatric evaluation, a request the judge granted.

Photo from http://newshopper.sulekha.com/pedro-hernandez-matthew-sciarrino-jr_photo_2232035.htm

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and sitting at a brown table, Hernandez did not speak and showed no evident emotion during the proceedings.

The next major step in the legal process would be for a grand jury to hear prosecutors’ evidence against Hernandez for a potential indictment, after the defense waived its right to an expedited indictment on Friday. It is not clear when this might happen.

Earlier Friday, Hernandez was sent to the hospital “because he’s on medications, and we prefer to administer those in a hospital setting,” said police spokesman Paul Browne, who declined to elaborate on the medications.

“When Hernandez arrived at the hospital, he began making statements that he wanted to die, and a psychiatric evaluation was ordered, ” added the law enforcement source.

The former Manhattan stock clerk who lived in Etan’s neighborhood when the boy vanished was arrested the previous day by police following up on a tip.

Hernandez, who was 19 in 1979, told police he lured Etan to a store with the promise of a soda, choked him and placed his body in the trash about a block and a half away, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. The boy was killed in the basement of a Manhattan building, according to the charging document filed late Friday afternoon by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

“Detectives believe in the credibility of the statement,” Kelly said, although investigators had not uncovered any forensic evidence linking Hernandez to the boy’s disappearance.

Kelly said it is unlikely that Etan’s remains would be found.

“He did the right thing, you know, to confess,” Hernandez’s brother-in-law Jose Lopez told CNN affiliate KYW. “Get this thing over with for the people out there and the family over here.”

But Lisa Cohen, whose 2009 book, “After Etan,” is widely considered the definitive account of the case, said she’s not convinced that Hernandez killed the boy.

“No, I’m not, but that’s not necessarily because he didn’t do it,” she said. “That’s just because this has just happened. I’d never heard his name before.”

Hernandez has no criminal record and is the father of a teenage girl, Kelly said.

Etan, 6, went missing on May 25, 1979, a block from his home in Manhattan. He was walking to school alone for the first time when he vanished.

His disappearance helped spawn a national movement to raise awareness of missing children, including the then-novel approach of putting an image of the child’s face on thousands of milk cartons.

In the years after Etan’s disappearance, Hernandez told a family member and others that he had “done a bad thing” and killed a child in New York, police said.

While the motive remained unclear, Kelly described it as a crime of opportunity and said Hernandez was remorseful.

“The detectives thought it was a feeling of relief on his part,” he said.

Other employees of the store were interviewed after Etan disappeared, but not Hernandez, police said.

“I can’t tell you why,” Kelly said.

The police investigation continues, as does the FBI’s, the agency said in a statement Thursday night.

“The FBI’s investigation into the disappearance of Etan Patz remains active and ongoing. We remain determined to solve this case,” FBI Assistant Director Janice K. Fedarcyk said in the statement.

Thursday’s arrest came nearly a month after investigators searched the former basement workshop of carpenter Othniel Miller, who had given Etan a dollar the day before the boy’s disappearance for helping him around the shop. Etan had said before he disappeared that he planned to use the dollar to buy a soda.

The search produced no apparent clues.

“Mr. Miller is relieved by these developments, as he was not involved in any way with Etan Patz’s disappearance,” said Miller’s attorney, Michael C. Farkas. “At the same time, Mr. Miller is very pleased that those responsible for this heinous crime may be brought to justice, and the Patz family may finally have the closure they deserve.”

A separate law enforcement source said Thursday that Hernandez’s claims were being treated with “a healthy dose of skepticism.”

The tipster whose information led to Hernandez’s arrest contacted authorities months ago after news coverage of their renewed search. That contact, at least in part, prompted investigators to question Hernandez.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which reopened the case in 2010, declined to comment on the recent development.

Etan was officially declared dead in 2001 as part of a lawsuit filed by his family against Jose Antonio Ramos, a drifter and convicted child molester acquainted with Etan’s baby sitter.

A judge found Ramos responsible for the boy’s death and ordered him to pay the family $2 million, money the Patz family has never received.

Although Ramos was considered a key focus of the investigation for years, he has never been charged in the case. He is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania for molesting another boy and is set to be released this year.

President Ronald Reagan named May 25, the day Etan went missing, as National Missing Children’s Day.

CNN’s Ross Levitt and Jordana Ossad contributed to this report.

Hon. Philip G. Minardo, His legacy in the court: Efficiency and justice.

posted Jan 8, 2012, 10:44 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated Apr 4, 2012, 9:13 AM by Lou Bara ]

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (SI Advance) - Taking a case to court can be a taxing experience, one which most Staten Islanders hope to resolve as quickly as possible. 

And while trial-ready civil cases in state Supreme Court were disposed of at a record-setting pace during his six-year tenure as Staten Island's administrative judge, Justice Philip G. Minardo said those numbers could have been even better. 

"Even though we did well, I would like to have improved on the disposition of those cases," Minardo said last week in his new chambers in Borough Hall. "Justice delayed is justice denied. We don't guarantee an outcome, we just guarantee your day in court." 

For the complete story, visit the SI Advance
Published: Sunday, January 08, 2012, 12:00 PM
Frank Donnelly By Frank Donnelly 

© 2012 SILive.com. All rights reserved.

For 90-year-old Staten Island lawyer, thrill of trying cases keeps him going

posted Dec 18, 2011, 8:37 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated Apr 4, 2012, 9:15 AM by Lou Bara ]

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Five law firms, 53 years of experience and an innumerable amount of trials and cases later, George J. Siracuse of Castleton Corners is still doing what he loves. 

Siracuse, a trial counsel at the Ameduri, Galante and Friscia law firm, West Brighton, still works full time at 90 years old. He makes court appearances, conferences on cases and depositions, and is in the office five days a week. 

"He does all of it. This keeps him going. He doesn't do it for money, he does it because he loves the law. There's no question about it," said Anthony Ameduri, a partner of the firm. 

Twenty years ago, at age 70, Siracuse began thinking it was time to take a partial retirement. He left the Manhattan-based firm of Sutera, Siracuse & Sutera to the "younger lawyers" and joined the Ameduri, Galante and Friscia office. According to Ameduri, they thought Siracuse would only come in a few days a week, "but he just kept blazing away," he explained. 
For the complete article, visit the SI Advance
Published: Saturday, December 17, 2011, 11:50 AM     Updated: Saturday, December 17, 2011, 11:55 AM
Staten Island Advance 
By Marissa DiBartolo

© 2011 SILive.com. All rights reserved.

In Judge’s Brooklyn Courtroom, Made-for-TV Drama Without the Cameras

posted Nov 27, 2011, 11:22 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated Nov 27, 2011, 11:22 AM by Lou Bara ]

November 25, 2011

In Judge’s Brooklyn Courtroom, Made-for-TV Drama Without the Cameras


Wearing wide hoop earrings and an Italian gold costume ring that rested as heavy as a gavel on the bench, Judge Patricia Mafalda DiMango leaned forward to address the teenage defendant.

“One thing I will tell you,” she said, narrowing her eyes lined a thick, midnight black, “you will not get this plea after you leave today.”

Nigel Jordan, 18, was speechless. His lawyer took the plea deal — one year at Rikers Island for burglary — but Judge DiMango was not done.

“It takes a certain kind of person to go into someone’s home, rummage through their things and steal,” she told Mr. Jordan.

“Were you brought up that way?” she demanded, and he shook his head. “Then how dare you?”

Outside the courtroom, Hazel Jordan, his mother, was pleased with the judge’s scolding. “No, he was not brought up like that,” Ms. Jordan said. “She’s very right.”

It was just another busy morning in Judge DiMango’s 15th-floor courtroom in Brooklyn State Supreme Court, where justice takes a swift, personal, sometimes acerbic, turn, creating riveting reality-television drama rarely seen in mundane proceedings intended to move along an overburdened court system.

Judge DiMango marked another line on her desk calendar.

“I compete against myself,” she said, smiling, after court adjourned, stepping out of character and her robes. Out of 33 cases that day, 10 defendants took pleas. “My numbers tell me what I do works.”

Of the 1,543 arraignments in her courtroom between January and October — of the 4,782 in Brooklyn Supreme Court — she accepted 719 guilty pleas. “She has about the best intuitive street feel for a case I’ve seen in a judge,” said Joshua Horowitz, a veteran defense lawyer who tried three cases before her one recent week. “She is so quick on the uptake.”

Her no-nonsense approach, at times pugnacious and unpredictable, has earned her a pro-prosecution reputation in the hallways of the court and in the jail cells of Rikers Island.

One defendant, after thanking her for a plea, told her to be safe. “I will — you’ll be in jail, right?” the judge quipped. They both laughed.

Judge DiMango can display a hot temper, but she also has a soft heart, especially for juvenile offenders whom she admits she tries to scare into changing their lives.

“Sometimes I think they are more afraid of me and what I will do,” Judge DiMango said, “that there is a consequence for their behavior which they don’t get at home.”

Still, some defense lawyers leave her courtroom questioning whether her behavior is appropriate for a judge. Some feel that in her zeal for pleas, she berates defendants and can act in a threatening manner, sometimes giving their clients little if any time to consult their families.

A half-dozen defense lawyers who appear regularly before Judge DiMango would not comment publicly, for worry of being formally censured for criticizing a judge.

“She gets a plea out of intimidation and fear,” one lawyer said. “It’s undignified — it’s not a TV show.”

Of the cases in which a defendant is not maintaining innocence, Judge DiMango said, “I don’t think anybody lets any client take a plea that they don’t believe in.” Tanned, toned and blond at 50-something (long-divorced, without children), Judge DiMango speaks in a comfortable Brooklyn accent. She wears short knit dresses — black or fire-engine red — that show cleavage underneath a robe that casually falls off her shoulders; she drives an aqua Porsche.

She earned fame as a teenager in Dyker Heights in 1970, when she and her younger sister and mother appeared in a Life magazine ad, loading a Maytag dishwasher. She revered her parents’ professional successes; her father, Tony, was a prominent dentist and her mother, Mafalda, a longtime school board official.

Before she went to St. John’s University School of Law, Judge DiMango graduated from Brooklyn College and got her master’s degree in developmental psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University while teaching third grade at Public School 164 in Brooklyn.

She likes to employ those skills when determining the best approach to reach a defendant. She has criticized defendants’ appearances and attitudes, most notably last June when she blasted Chazmia Morrison, a 17-year-old charged with assault, for wearing torn jeans and a tight top that revealed tattoos.

When Ms. Morrison completed a total makeover for her next appearance, Judge DiMango drew letters and phone calls from around the world applauding her.

“That wasn’t even my most important case,” Judge DiMango said, laughing. “Most of the time, I’m just saying what almost everyone is thinking.”

Judge DiMango was appointed to the bench by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in 1995. Because of her efficiency in disposing cases, she was called on three years ago to handle arraignments involving felonies (not homicides) or move them to pretrial hearings. (About 95 percent of all cases in Brooklyn Supreme Court do not go to trial.)

Her court’s name, PD85, is as unconventional as her style. Court clerks chose PD for “pending decision” (not “possible disposition” or Pat DiMango). She chose 85 because her friend, the former New York Jets wide receiver Wesley Walker, wore that jersey number.

Like her court’s namesake, she sprinted off the bench several weeks ago, robes flying, when she heard there was a commotion in the hall with a defendant on the docket.

A detective was arresting him for another crime and he resisted. Judge DiMango demanded that the detective remove his shackles. “If you don’t, I will!” she shouted. She ended up getting a plea.

Before a defendant pleads guilty, Judge DiMango asks the standard question: “Did anybody threaten you, force you or coerce you” into taking the plea?

Minutes of a 2009 case show that a defense lawyer, Robert Marinelli, told Judge DiMango that his client, who was charged with burglary and did not know much English, felt pressured into accepting a plea deal on the spot. She later vacated the plea. When Mr. Marinelli questioned her fairness in the courtroom, she told him that he would no longer be trying cases before her. Mr. Marinelli, now specializing in civil rights law, said he did not want to discuss the case.

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has never investigated or disciplined Judge DiMango, according to the office’s chief administrator.

In addition to handling arraignments, including crimes against children, Judge DiMango also presides over a handful of trials each year. She was the judge in the Nixzmary Brownchild abuse case in 2008 and is now sitting on the high-profile trial involving workers from the city’s Administration for Children’s Services who are charged with negligently criminal homicide in the death of 4-year-old Marchella Brett-Pierce, who weighed 18 pounds when she died. Last week she wrote a 22-page decision denying a motion to dismiss the unprecedented case.

“When you’re doing something that’s novel,” she said, “you want to do the right thing.”

During the daily proceedings, she is heartened when her strong words can provoke a change.

In her office overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, where she often walks to clear her head, Judge DiMango has a framed, handwritten poem from a former 16-year-old defendant. She ordered him to sit in her courtroom for one week in 2009 to see how his life could be.

Next to a woman so stern, I see a smile now and then.

Some people call her mean, but I can see her as a friend.

Once a boy filled with hatred, and a heart filled with gloom

But through this I can bloom.

Your Honor, you have made me bloom.

“I cried when I got it,” she said.


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