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Feud in the way of Diallo case

March 1, 1999

There's this feud between the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the flamboyant Queens Boulevard attorney Marvyn (note the "y" on Marvyn) Kornberg that is already affecting their clients in at least one of the city's two most visible police abuse cases - Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima.

No one professes to know the feud's origins - whether money, ego, jealousy or philosophy. (Not too many believe it's philosophy.)

We do know that last year Kornberg sought the PBA's multimillion-dollar legal contract after its former lawyers, Lysaght, Kramer, Hartman et al., were convicted of extortion. Instead, the PBA offered its legal gold mine to a firm cobbled together by the somber Stephen Worth, who, like Kornberg, represents cops in both the Diallo and Louima cases.

Acting PBA president Doc Savage savaged Kornberg in the union's recent newsletter under the heading, "He Wanted to Be a PBA Lawyer - These Days He Sues PBA Members."

Savage accused Kornberg of suing police officer Jaqueline Haaland for arresting a nurse, Ellen Kane, who had offered assistance to an 89-year-old woman struck by a car in Bayside in December.

"How do you like the nerve of this guy?" Savage said in the newsletter of The Flamboyant One. "First, he tells us how much he'd like to defend cops and now he's suing one of our members just for doing her job. Kornberg is the kind of lawyer that has given attorneys their undeserved bad name."

Except that Kornberg - who defended citizen Kane until charges of harassment, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest were dropped - never sued officer Haaland. His attorney pal Joe DiBlasi did. (Maybe it's suing people that gives lawyers their bad name.)

"Kornberg has nothing to do with this case," DiBlasi said, explaining that he's known Kornberg for years, ever since Kornberg defended Mark Davidson in the notorious 1985 "stun gun" case and DiBlasi then sued the cops who stun-gunned him.

And guess what? Two years ago, Worth filed a $30 million suit against two cops who fatally shot Carmine Capone, a penny-ante, John Gotti wannabe, during an undercover weapons purchase. Somber Steve bailed out when he obtained the PBA contract, explaining to Newsday he was "merely acting as a lawyer."

So far the Kornberg-PBA feud hasn't affected decisions in the Louima case, where Kornberg's client Justin Volpe - accused of ramming a wooden stick up Louima's rectum - has a different defense from his three co-defendants, two of whom are represented by PBA attorneys.

But in the Diallo case (where three of the four cops are represented by PBA-vetted attorneys), Worth has sought a united defense front while Kornberg has bashed his tactics, most recently refusing to join Worth's motion filed Friday to delay the grand jury proceedings.

After this column reported that the PBA would reimburse police officer Sean Carroll (at least partially), who hired Kornberg in the case, Kornberg said, "I would never accept payment from the PBA as things stand now."

The Mystery Chief.
Amid Police Commissioner Howard Safir's public racial breakdown of the NYPD following the Diallo shooting - except the numbers for the street crime unit, which Safir refuses to divulge - Safir mentioned the department had three black and three Hispanic chiefs, out of a total of 50. He identified the black chiefs as James Lawrence and Douglas Zeigler, but couldn't recall the third.

"James Tuller," piped up one of the empty suits in his entourage.

"No, he's Hispanic," said Safir, who promised he wasn't counting Tuller twice as both a black and a Hispanic chief.

So who's the sixth mystery chief? And what of Tuller, who didn't return calls about a subject some feel is nobody's business?

Jim's Farewell.
Jim Morrisroe supposedly threatened his sergeant in auto crime in 1994 and was transferred to patrol in the Bronx. Neither the attempts of his father, Deputy Inspector James Morrisroe Sr., nor a federal lawsuit against the department could right things, despite the commendations Morrisroe won in the Bronx for integrity and aggressiveness, including rescuing a couple held by two gunmen, and capturing one of them.

On Wednesday, Morrisroe, 32 - who'd been transferred to the 105th Precinct in Queens - quit the department, saying he'd just had it. That night, the precinct's community council awarded him a plaque, citing him and his partner Christine Ade with rescuing three abused children in December and, after one of them remarked that Santa wouldn't know where to find him, purchasing 30 Christmas presents for them.

The plaque read: "In appreciation for your outstanding police service and the humanitarian concern you . . . showed the children of our community . . . "

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.