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The mayor’s Bronx cheer

June 3, 1996

When Rudy Giuliani hears the word "Bronx," a bell goes off in his head, and like a punch-drunk fighter, no matter where he is, he yells the word "Guilty!"

Seven years have passed since Giuliani left the U.S. attorney's office, where he made his bones prosecuting Bronx Democratic Chairman Stanley Friedman. Yet his bullying of Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson resembles the manner in which his presence dominated the borough and his will prevailed against Johnson's predecessors, Mario Merola and Paul Gentile.

Merola, who'd feuded with Giuliani during Merola's investigation of then U.S. Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, had to bow to Giuliani to successfully prosecute the Wedtech military contracts scandal. When Gentile accused Giuliani of not properly investigating organized-crime allegations against Gentile's election rival, a Giuliani ally, Rudy denounced Gentile as "unfit to serve in law enforcement," and called on the Bronx Democratic party to drop him as its candidate. It did, and selected Johnson.

Giuliani's recent bullying of Johnson follows the death of Police Officer Vincent Guidice after he was pushed onto a broken mirror while responding to a domestic dispute. First, Giuliani offered to assist Johnson in trying the case. Then, while a Bronx grand jury indicted Guidice's assailant for criminally negligent homicide, Giuliani criticized Johnson for not having indicted him on murder charges. About the only person who attended law school and supported Giuliani's legal reasoning is Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who never graduated.

Last Friday, responding to district attorneys' support of Johnson, Giuliani suggested they help the Bronx DA's office "get the maximum protection for cops and the community. So far that hasn't happened, and and until it does, I will continue to speak out," he said.

On June 13, another case is on the Bronx court calender involving someone else charged with criminally negligent homicide. He is Police Officer Francis Livoti, a PBA delegate with 14 past civilian complaints, accused of causing the death of Anthony Baez by choking him after Baez' football struck Livoti's patrol car.

So far as is known, Giuliani has never criticized Johnson for not bringing murder charges against Livoti. Nor has Giuliani ever offered to assist Johnson in prosecuting Livoti.

About the Livoti case, Giuliani has said not one word.

Pushed, and Pull. While the news in the current top-level department shake-up is of Chief Kevin Printable versionFarrell's promotion to head Manhattan Detectives, note the name of Deputy Chief John Laffey, executive officer to Chief of Department Louis Anemone.

Traditionally, the position of exec to the Chief of Department has been a launching pad to success. Former First Deputy John Timoney served as exec to then Chief of Department Robert Johnston. Farrell served as exec to then Chief of Department David Scott. Patrick Harnett, Timoney's exec as Chief of Department, now heads the Narcotics Bureau.

But contrary to reports that Laffey was being bucked up to the No. 2 slot in Manhattan South, he is being transferred to the Housing Bureau.

Is this a slap at Anemone? Is it because Laffey was an ally of Timoney, whom Giuliani and Safir haven't forgiven for calling Safir a "lightweight?" Is it that Laffey's wife, who served as secretary to four previous police commissioners, now works for Giuliani's nemesis, ex-commissoner William Bratton?

And rumor has it that instead of Laffey, the man going to Manhattan South will be James Tuller, who is high on mayoral counsel Dennison Young's list of Hispanic officers passed over by Bratton and whom the mayor now wants promoted to aid his re-election.

Stormin' Norman. Civil Liberties Union head Norman Seigel has been telling people he favors (of all people) Bill Bratton for mayor. Siegel, saying his private conversations are "not on the public record," refused to discuss this other than to say "my conversations were in the context of who would be an interesting person running against the mayor." Note that Siegel didn't say Ruth Messinger of Fernando Ferrer, his philosophical allies. Instead, the word he used about Bratton, whom Seigel criticized for most of the past two years, was "leadership."

Tradition. All detective squadrooms have on their walls framed pictures of the NYPD's four top commanders: the commissioner, first deputy, chief of department and chief of detectives. In a certain Harlem squadroom, those four pictures on the wall are of the same man: Rudolph Giuliani.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.