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Blue Shield at Hospital?

January 17, 2000

A heavyweight battle is brewing in Queens between the borough's chief law-enforcement official, District Attorney Richard (Duck Down) Brown, and its boldest-if not loudest-mouthpiece, attorney Marvyn (the Magnificent) Kornberg.

At stake is the fate of five Queens detectives, one of whom, Kornberg's client, Bobby Bolson of the 105th Precinct, has been charged with manslaughter and drunk driving in the death of Federico Hurtado, 62, on April 26, 1998.

Last week, the police department charged the four other detectives, including Bolson's ex-boss, Lt. Stephen Camardese, and detective union trustee Rick Tirelli, with blocking Assistant Queens District Attorney Josh Mandel from interviewing Bolson at a Long Island hospital.

Bolson was rushed there after he went through the windshield. Also charged were two other 105th squad detectives, Michael Zampella and his partner, Michael Failla, whom Kornberg also represents.

Top department officials have questioned why, if the detectives blocked him from questioning Bolson, Mandel did not inform Insp. Gerald Nelson, Deputy Insp. Gary Foote or Capt. Frederick Schwartz, all of whom were at the hospital.

Kornberg has an answer. The lawyer, whose defense of convicted cop Justin Volpe was that his victim Abner Louima was sodomized during consensual gay sex before his arrest, now charges that Mandel "is covering up for Brown."

Mandel's charge that the detectives blocked him from interviewing Bolson, says Kornberg, is an "invented story" to prevent Kornberg from questioning Brown, who both Kornberg and Bolson say spoke to Bolson at the hospital but made no mention of Bolson's alleged intoxication.

"I was lying on a gurney on the way to get a CAT scan," Bolson said in an interview last week. "He placed his hands on the rails of the gurney and wished me good luck."

Brown, as is his custom, rushed to the crime scene, then drove to the hospital to check on Bolson. He maintains that although he saw Bolson wheeled in for a CAT scan, he never spoke to him.

An unnamed hospital nurse who, according to a police-department memo from Lt. Frederick Radzewsky of the Accident Investigation Unit, noticed Bolson had "a very strong odor of alcohol on his breath...and that his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred." The memo, made available to Newsday, says the nurses took a blood sample from Bolson and found a blood-alcohol level of .16 percent. A level of .10 percent indicates intoxication.

Kornberg says the city's medical examiner tested Bolson's blood three other times. One indicated a blood-alcohol level of .15, another of .02 and a third of zero. Neither Kornberg nor Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, could explain the discrepancies.

Another police department memo from Schwartz, the duty captain the night of the accident, quotes a Lt. Roode of Highway #3, who administered an "alcho- sensor" test to Bolson at the hospital. "Due to the severity of his facial and chest injuries along with the emergency treatment he had undergone, the could not be properly administered," the memo reads.

"It should be noted," Schwartz' memo concludes, "that there was no indication, either by smell or actions, that Det. Bolson had consumed any intoxicant."

Finally, the DA's preliminary Accident Reconstruction Analysis prepared for Integrity Bureau Deputy Chief James Liander says although Bolson's 1986 Ford Mustang "was traveling above the speed limit, the major cause of this accident was the failure of Federico Hurtado to yield the proper right of way at the stop sign."

Brown said: "I am not going to be drawn into a public discussion about this case. It will be tried in court."

Never Complain, Never Explain.
Here, in his own words, are the reasons Police Commissioner Howard Safir never informed the public of the discovery in 1998 that Capt. Charles P. Dowd, commanding officer of the 88th Precinct in Brooklyn had, in Safir's words, been "playing with the statistics."

From a colloquy at Thursday's news conference in Safir's office:

Your Humble Servant: How come you didn't tell the public about it? How come you didn't tell the people in the precinct there was a problem?

Safir: We discovered the problem. We fixed it.

Your Humble Servant: But you didn't alert the public.

Safir: It's not a public issue.

Your Humble Servant: You don't think it's a public issue to the people of the 88th Precinct?

Safir: I've answered the question.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.