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State probing police surgeon

April 10, 2000

A Police Department surgeon who is the emergency room supervisor at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx is under investigation for allegedly releasing officers' confidential medical information, police sources have told Newsday.

Dr. Charles (Chuck) Martinez is accused of unlawfully informing the department of officers' confidential medical records at Jacobi without first obtaining their consent or the hospital's approval, according to the sources and documents obtained by Newsday.

Most of these cases involve drunk-driving accidents. In one case, Martinez demanded to know how much alcohol an officer had had before treating him for a head injury, then had him arrested.

A letter from Patrolmen's Benevolent Association attorney Gregory Longworth to Joseph Orlando, director of Jacobi Medical Center, accuses Jacobi's emergency room doctors of turning over cops' confidential patient information to the department "apparently upon a verbal request by police investigators."

A policy memorandum of the Health and Hospitals Corp.'s North Bronx Health Network, of which Jacobi is a member, states: "There is no statute or regulation currently in effect in New York State which requires a hospital to provide information to the Police Department concerning a diagnosis of a patient on police-aided cases. Therefore, the rules provide that in the absence of consent by the patient...information concerning the patient's diagnosis should not be disclosed."

A top Police Department official and a Jacobi spokeswoman confirmed that the state's Office of Professional Medical Conduct is investigating Martinez, who was said to be on vacation last week and unavailable for comment. Orlando declined to comment.

Longworth's letter to Orlando read: "To whom does the doctor owe the duty of confidentiality, the hospital, the NYPD or the patient officer..."

Capt. Ernie Naspretto, commanding officer of the department's medical division, then wrote Orlando: "To whom does the doctor owe the duty of confidentiality? The answer is the NYPD. From literally the first moment that a doctor is interviewed for the position of police surgeon, he is informed in no uncertain terms that his first professional obligation is to the NYPD...(Police doctors are civilians paid by the department to handle police health care.)

"Dr. Martinez's observation of an apparently drunken police officer who had been involved in a serious vehicular accident left him absolutely no choice but to make the appropriate notifications. Anything less would have been dereliction of duty."

Sweet Charity. You swindle an 80-year-old widow out of her $240,000 home. You steal $56,000 from the city's welfare department. You pass $17,000 of bad checks.

No problem if you're Simon Jacobson, a Brooklyn resident with political connections in the Orthodox Jewish community. First, District Attorney Joe Hynes allows his indictment to be dismissed for lack of evidence. Surely, it's coincidence that Hynes was running for governor and sought the Orthodox Jewish community's support.

Only the persistence of the police Special Frauds Squad and the outrage of Hynes' own staff, who contacted Your Humble Servant, caused Hynes to get Jacobson indicted last year.

Enter Abe Diamond, Jack Weinman, Hirsch Wulliger and Saul Perlstein, board members of the Brooklyn-based Keren Aniyim charity, operating out of the advertising agency of Mordy Mehlman at 1314 Ave. J.

Apparently, there aren't enough truly needy people in the world, so Diamond, Weinman, Wulliger and Perlstein solicited 10 donors-whom a spokesman for the charity refused to identify-to contribute money for Jacobson to make full restitution and serve the minimum sentence.

The money (the $313,000 plus $25,000 bail) was paid not to the victims but to Jacobson, who then gave it to the court for the victims, allowing him to obtain a minimum 6-month jail term, which began Friday. As Hynes' top aide, Dennis Hawkins, explained, "If Jacobson had to spend more time in jail, he may not have been able to repay the money."

Killing the Condor.
After Amadou Diallo was fatally shot by four undercover officers from the Street Crime Unit, Police Commissioner Howard Safir ordered the entire unit back into uniform, in effect disbanding it. Safir said his move was unrelated to Diallo's shooting.

Recently, after Patrick Dorismond was fatally shot by an undercover cop during Operation Condor, Safir ordered Condor's budget redirected to other units. A department spokesman, Deputy Chief Tom Fahey, said Safir's order was unrelated to Dorismond's shooting.

Safir issued his order around noon Thursday at a meeting his entire top staff was ordered to attend. The meeting occurred at the same time former police Commissioner Ray Kelly addressed the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, an event Safir and his staff attended for the past three years.

The week before, Kelly had criticized Safir's abandonment of community policing at a speech at the city Bar Association. Fahey said the timing of Safir's staff meeting was "absolutely unrelated" to Kelly's speech.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.