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Morgenthau's Cursed Feud

November 6, 1995

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau may be to the manor born, but he can curse like a boilermaker.

When asked last week whether his feud with Judge Milton Mollen led him, as Mollen suggested, to force the resignation from the Police Department of the Mollen Commission's star witness Barry Brown, Morgenthau, a graduate of Deerfield Academy, Amherst College and Yale Law School, hurled four-letter gutturals at this reporter, ending with the sentence, "There never was a feud."

Oh, there was a feud all right. Confirmed by a law enforcement official outside the DA's office, this is how it began:

In late 1992, before Brown hooked up with the Mollen Commission, the Manhattan DA's office had targeted as corrupt the 30th Precinct's midnight tour and Brown's former partner George Nova. The commmision's counsel Joseph Armao and his two investigators, Brian Carroll and Frank O'Hara, had come to a similar conclusion about targeting their investigation. In December, 1992, they met with the DA's Chief of Offical Corruption Bill Burmeister and the then-chief of the DA's investigation division, Mike Cherkasky.

The DA's people had discovered a bodega where drug dealers paid off Nova. The Mollen people had discovered an informant who knew the dealers. So the two agencies hatched a plan: The informant would buy drugs, using the DA's money and electronics to record the buys. The object: to make him credible enough so that the drug dealers would introduce him to the bodega owner, who investigators suspected was also dealing drugs. The investigators hoped to parlay this into a drug deal inside the bodega, then arrest the owner and turn him against Nova.

In January, 1993, the informant began buying drugs outside the bodega. But the investigators were not comfortable sending him inside to buy drugs. O'Hara then told the DA's people the informant had left town. Instead, the Mollen people devised their own plan, getting the informant inside the bodega not to buy drugs but to fence stolen food stamps.

After getting the bodega owner to fence the food stamps, the Mollen people informed Burmeister. But without telling him or anyone else in the DA's office, they took their case to federal prosecutors in the Southern District, never informing them they had begun it with the Manhattan district attorney.

When the DA's prosecutors found out, they severed relations with the Mollen Commission and informed the feds that if they worked with the commission in future cases, the DA's office would not assist them but would pursue its own investigations independently.

The plot thickens. Announcing his resignation from the NYPD last week, Officer Barry Brown, the Mollen Commission's star witness, admitted committing pejury as a cop but said he had informed his commission "handlers." When asked who those handlers were, Brown said, "I had numerous conversations with Joe Armao and with Brian Carroll and Frank O'Hara."

Printable versionO'Hara, who works for the state attorney general's Organized Crime Task Force and who appeared two weeks ago on CBS television's "60 Minutes" in support of Brown, said: "I'd love to respond but I just can't. The attorney general doesn't allow us to speak to the press."

Attorney General Dennis Vacco's Deputy Press Secretary Lonni Miller said, "The attorney general has no such policy. He [O'Hara] can talk to you if he wants to."

Armao said: "He [Brown] was asked about his criminal background and never told us about any prior perjury." He promised more details but never called back.

Carroll said, "I was present when Barry Brown was asked, no, was told, 'If you have any problems in your background, tell us now because when this case comes down, whatever happened will come out.' " Brown, Carroll continued, said he had no problems.

No smoking in the boy's room. Someone made a complaint last week of smoking in common work areas of the 13th floor of One Police Plaza, and Ingrid Ramlakhan, a "sanitarian" of the Department of Health, responded.

Last week she posted the following on the 13th floor elevator bank.

"1. 'No smoking' signs are not posted in smoking prohibited areas in that no signs were observed in conference rooms, lunch / coffee rooms, toilet facilities and common (open) work areas.

"2. Ashtray observed in smoking prohibited area in conference room on 13th floor.

"3. Ash and cigarette butts were observed in a garbage can."

"Reinspection on or after 11 / 9 / 95."

Seen: Chief Wilbur Chapman, Man of the Year of the 6,000-member Policewomen's Endowment Foundation. After saying he'd received flak (from Chief of Department Louis Anemone) for having a female driver, Chapman told the audience that policewomen provide the department with "a new sense of intelligence and respect."

Seen yet again. Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple last Tuesday in charcoal wide-pinstriped suit with three-peaked white handkerchief but without his bow tie. Said Maple: "It's Halloween."

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© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.