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Fishy doings in DA’s office

July 20, 1998

More shenanigans from the office of absentee Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, off tilting at windmills as he runs for governor.

On Dec. 8, Det. John Ryan of the New York City Police Department's Special Frauds squad arrested 29-year-old Simon Jacobson - arrest number 101864197. Jacobson was charged with three counts of forgery and grand larceny in connection with stealing $24,000 in checks from a Crown Street neighbor in Brooklyn. Law enforcement sources say that when he was arrested, Jacobson had the checkbook of his landlady, 80-year-old Bessie Rosen.

In April, Rosen's daughter Ethel Pollack and a neighbor, Avrohom Wasserman, filed a guardianship application for Rosen in Brooklyn State Supreme Court seeking to protect her from Jacobson. In it, Rosen is described as lacking "the ability to make responsible financial decisions or to pay her bills."

Jacobson, Rosen's tenant since 1995, had "induced her to give away all her resources and income, resulting in her imminent financial ruin," according to the application.

Jacobson had in the past three years looted Rosen's entire life savings of $200,000, the application says. He had also persuaded her to re-mortgage her home - in which she had lived for 72 years and had owned free and clear - for $191,000. The home is to be repossessed by the Norwest bank this week because she can't repay the loan.

Shortly after Jacobson's arrest, however, interesting things began happening in Hynes' office. Law enforcement sources say Jacobson's mother telephoned Henna White, Hynes' $60,000-a-year so-called liaison to Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community. To appreciate the significance of White's position, her predecessor Charles Posner, a non-practicing prosecutor, was so well-connected to the Orthodox community that in 1996 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took the unusual step of appointing Posner to the bench to replace a sitting judge.

Jacobson's case, meanwhile - docket number 97K096-078 - ended up assigned to the supposedly elite Rackets Bureau, headed by Dennis Hawkins, a Hynes workhorse for two decades.

Jacobson ended up represented by none other than White's husband, Asher, an attorney not listed in the telephone directory. Henna White didn't return phone calls.

On Jan. 15, Jacobson's case was dismissed before Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jerome M. Kay. As the reason, Hawkins cited "lack of evidence."

A law enforcement official noted that prosecutors have 45 days from arrest to produce evidence for an indictment. "They didn't wait for the 45 days before dismissing the case," he said. "They made a conscious decision."

Printable versionHawkins added that attorney Michael Halberstam, not Asher White, represented Jacobson at his dismissal. Halberstam said he could not recall how Jacobson became his client.

Hawkins added that Jacobson's case was dismissed "without prejudice," which means, he said, that Jacobson can be charged again. That's unlikely, as Jacobson has moved to Florida.

Apparently unaware that the DA's office had dismissed Jacobson's criminal case, Rosen's guardian petitioners sent a copy of their April application to Hynes last week.

After delineating how shortly after moving into Rosen's home, Jacobson began securing $50 loans from her, then convinced her to turn over her checkbook and to take out the $191,000 mortgage on her home, the application notes, "The Kings County District Attorney's office has documentation in their files to substantiate much or all of the foregoing."

Unfiltered? It was hardly a stroke of public-relations genius that prompted the NYPD to call last week's bizarre late-night news conference to disclose a 15-year-old prostitution scandal in Midtown South precinct just hours before the Daily News broke the story. Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode explained that the department wanted to get out its messsage "unfiltered."

The poor dear. Whereas normal rivalries might have led the city's other newspapers to downplay or even ignore the News' hooker exclusive, the department's own news conference so legitimized la scandale that not only did the News play the story on page one, but so did the Post and even the Times.

Nice Guys? Lou Matarazzo, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, 1995-1998, broke his predecessor's boycott of Newsday because of its tough police coverage, enabling the PBA's 28,000 members to enjoy reading "One Police Plaza" without guilt, embarrassment or shame. Similar sentiments may soon dissipate on the 14th floor of One Police Plaza as well. On Friday, Police Commissioner Howard Safir - who hates to admit he reads this column first thing Monday mornings - actually telephoned this reporter to welcome him back after a two-week illness.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.