Newspaper head ducks out of suit
July 26, 1999
When last heard from, that great defender of freedom of the press Mort Zuckerman had just blindsided his fellow newspaper execs at the Times, Newsday and the Associated Press by sneaking down to City Hall and informing Mayor Rudolph Giuliani he was abandoning plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city.
The suit involved the First Amendment right of reporters and photo-graphers to cover the news without the interference of the New York City Police Department, which under Giuliani has repeatedly and systematically violated its own regulations, to say nothing of the Constitution.
About two weeks ago, on July 13, the newspapers attorney, Floyd Abrams, wrote the mayor's corporation counsel, Michael Hess, saying he was "deeply disappointed by the lack of progress in our ongoing and apparently endless negotiations," which had begun in May after Zuckerman, the owner of the Daily News, abandoned the federal lawsuit route. Abrams listed 32 examples of NYPD abuses over the past four years. These consisted of confiscating or threatening to confiscate press cards; physically covering camera lenses when no threat to public safety existed and segregating reporters and photographers into "press pens" when there was no security or law enforcement reason to do so.
Suddenly last week, both sides professed to be "on the verge of settling this thing," as one of the newspaper members put it. Hess assistant, Dan Connolly, echoed: "We're going to resolve this to everyone's satisfaction."
So why the rapprochement? Could it have to do with the mayor's negotiations on a second police front - the threat of a federal lawsuit by Eastern District prosecutors over the department's failure to respond to police brutality complaints? Connolly says those negotiations are now "on hold" until the newly appointed U.S. attorney, Loretta Lynch, settles in.
Or is there a connection to the deal, announced Friday, in which the city gives a $20-million subsidy to the accounting firm of Ernst & Young to build a Times Square office tower on a long-vacant site controlled by Zuckerman's Boston Properties.
Zuckerman could not be reached for comment.
Racial turnabout. Neldra Zeigler was appointed the Police Department's deputy commissioner for the Equal Employment Opportunity Office last year, replacing 19-year veteran Sandra Marsh, who was dismissed after she had refused Police Commissioner Howard Safir's order to rewrite her report critical of the Staten Island borough command over a sexual harassment complaint.
Like Marsh, Zeigler is a civilian. Like Marsh, she is black. She is also half of the department's power couple Zeigler and Zeigler. Her husband, Douglas, has been rocketed to the rank of chief of the Housing Bureau.
Well now, Marsh's longtime secretary, Patricia Nebel, who is white and who Neldra Zeigler shelved, has recently filed an EEO complaint against Zeigler for racial discrimination. "I have 18 years of above-standard evaluations," said Nebel, who now works for Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rae Koshetz, who is white. "I've worked under four police commissioners.
"I was secretary to Marsh for nine years. It's not a question of bringing in your own people. I also replaced someone. Rather, it's a question of treating people with the same respect."
Meanwhile, Marsh has filed her own EEO complaint over her dismissal.
And she has a point. Rosario had been arrested once, for attempted robbery, when he was killed in 1995 at age 18. The charge was plea-bargained down to disorderly conduct, which, according to the state penal law, is a violation, not a crime.
But Rosario's mom has not explained why when her son was shot by the detectives, he and his two buds - one of whom was also killed - each carried loaded guns, and big guns at that: a Colt .45 with a defaced serial number and seven rounds inside it; a second Colt with four rounds; and a Ruger 9 mm. with seven rounds.
The detectives had staked out a Bronx apartment believing that a robbery was about to be committed.
© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.