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You call that benevolent?

July 21, 1997

Sergeants, beware.

If you have a problem, you might best avoid the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

If you don't believe that, listen to the story of ex-Sgt. Thomas Fursa.

A seven-year veteran of the Police Department with a master's degree, Fursa helped arrest former New York Knicks star Anthony Mason last July in Times Square after Mason allegedly threatened to punch another cop who'd ticketed his car.

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Mason was charged with second-degree assault, a felony, resulting from a shoulder injury Fursa claimed Mason caused.

Fursa urged Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Edward Gilbert not to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, as Gilbert wanted to do.

Meanwhile, Fursa decided to sue Mason, and he sought an attorney through the SBA. Its law firm, Cerrone and Geoghan, recommended Dennis Geoghan's brother Sean. As they say in Ireland, Oy veh!

Sean Geoghan telephoned Mason's criminal attorney, Frank Rothman, who, sensing trouble, taped their conversation.

Geoghan told Rothman the NYPD didn't like its sergeants beaten up by people 6 foot 7 and 250 pounds, and would push the assault charge. This meant Mason could receive as much as 7 years in prison if convicted.

Geoghan added the sweetener. In return for $100,000, he said, "we'd be less inclined to go all the way." Fursa would "back off completely."

Rothman told Geoghan he wanted confirmation of the deal from Fursa himself. So Geoghan put Fursa on the line. "Nothing is etched in stone," Fursa told Rothman in a three-way call, according to trial testimony. "I could say it the shoulder injury is a pre-existing conditon . . . I could say it wasn't intentional."

Rothman then took his tapes to the Manhattan District Attorney's office and to the Police Department. While the district attorney concluded the scheme didn't rise to the extortion level, the department charged Fursa with shaking down Mason for $100,000.

As the Department's Advocate Sgt. Gil Alvarez argued at Fursa's trial last week, "He tried to influence the outcome of a criminal case for $100,000."

Confronted at the trial with his remarks to Rothman, Geoghan termed them "a white lie" or "seller's puff" - a common tactic in civil cases, he said.

Printable versionBut when asked why he allowed his client to speak on the phone to Rothman, Geoghan said, "It was a split-second decision that I will forever regret" and for which "I am eternally sorry."

And well he might be. The department has already busted Fursa back to patrolman. He may well be fired.

Meanwhile, the department's Internal Affairs Bureau has written to the bar association asking that Geoghan also be disciplined - a prospect, given the ways of the legal profession, far less likely.

Grace for Grace. A couple of months ago, officials of the Guardians, a fraternal organization of black officers, held a news conference with a Latino fraternal group, claiming that black and Hispanic officers were punished more harshly than were white officers.

Last month, the NYPD found former Guardian president Sgt. Grace Ridley guilty of stealing souvenirs and possessing stolen property from last summer's Olympic Games in Atlanta, where she'd voluntered for a private security detail.

The recommendation was dismissal. Instead, she's been transfered to an NYPD backwater, the Queens Court Section and placed on a year's probation.

So was she discriminated against? "My punishment," Ridley said cryptically, "is as fair as I expected the system to be."

Heard At last week's meeting of COMPSTAT (the regular grilling of top police commanders on crime strategies) for selected captains of precincts where felonious assaults have risen: Deputy Commissioner Ed Norris quoting Police Commissioner Howard Safir's threat that unless the number of such assaults comes down, "One of you captains will be made an example."

Rumored: That Chief of Department Louis Anemone was nowhere near Queens the day his nemesis, Queens car dealer and Honorary Police Commissioner Howard Koeppel, had hundreds of cars vandalized on his Woodside lot. Police arrested three teenagers in the crime.

Rumor Persisting: That, petty as it sounds, Deputy Inspector Dan Mullin's recent transfer to Brooklyn North Strategic and Tactical Command resulted from his having been seen at a dinner with WNBC-TV star reporter John Miller. Miller is the former deputy police commissoner under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's nemesis, ex-commissioner Bill Bratton. Miller also was an intimate of Giuliani's Communications Director Cristyne Lategano. He is now her nemesis, as well.

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.