Don’t bet on Feds in Diallo
March 6, 2000
Bill and Hillary may say race influenced the Amadou Diallo shooting, but Mark Pomerantz calls the possibility of federal civil-rights indictments against the four cops who shot Diallo 19 times "very unlikely."
Who is Mark Pomerantz? He is one of the three assistant United States attorneys from New York's Southern District who prosecuted ex-officer Frank Livoti for civil-rights violations after he was acquitted on state charges in the 1994 choking death of Anthony Baez.
Some have cited that prosecution as a precedent for indicting the four Diallo cops on civil-rights charges.
But, says Pomerantz: "The two cases are totally different. First, unlike Livoti's confrontation with Baez, the Diallo shooting was over before it started. Everything happened within a blink of an eye.
"Second, Livoti's confrontation with Baez began over a touch football game. The Diallo cops, if you can believe their testimony-and there was no witness to refute them-were in a situation and in circumstances that were unknown to them. To indict for civil-rights violations, you have to prove intent to violate Diallo's rights."
While people have been traipsing down to Washington to meet with Justice Department officials over a possible civil-rights indictment-Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch and attorney Steve Worth are flying down today-they appear to be on a fool's errand. Although the Justice Department would have to sign off on a federal civil-rights prosecution, the decision will be made not in Washington but in New York, by Pomerantz' former boss, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White.
This is not to suggest that White is shy about bringing an indictment. It was White who prosecuted Livoti when the Justice Department was reluctant to, said a source familiar with the situation.
"The Justice Department thought the case was a flat-out loser," the source said.
Gotcha! We all laughed at Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he installed video cameras around City Hall as part of security measures to help protect against a terrorist threat. Little did he suspect that the first terror apparently caught on tape would be wrought not by Osama bin Ladin but by First Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota.
So far as is known, Lhota has no ties to bin Laden. But he does acknowledge having shoved the gnat-like reporter Rafael Martinez Alequin on the portico of City Hall and then having to be restrained inside the lobby by Juvenile Justice Commissioner Tino Hernandez.
City Hall sources note that security cameras are focused on the portico and inside the lobby and that City Hall's intelligence crew, headed by Lt. Don Henne-you remember him for ratting out Chief Michael Scagnelli, who supposedly tried to crash the mayor's Yankee parade celebration with police widows and their children-has been nervously reviewing the tapes. But don't expect them to be released.
The Police Department is already crying "national security."
Tuesday afternoon: Kornberg is seen at One Police Plaza, reading a hand-written denial from Agnello of the Post story.
Friday: The Daily News reports that Agnello has fired Kornberg and replaced him with Jay Goldberg.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Howard ("Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect") Safir was his usual charming self. While speaking with two New York Times reporters who cover the department, he turned to a group, including his wife, Carol, and said, "These are two slimes from the media."
© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.