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DA’s lament: Foiled again!

May 29, 2000

When an anonymous letter arrived alleging favoritism in Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' office, Your Humble Servant naturally tried to learn if the intrigues described could possibly be true.

On May 4 One Police Plaza asked a prosecutor named in the letter about these allegations. He refused to respond, referring inquiries to the office spokesman, Kevin Davitt.

Davitt, however, did not respond. Instead, he wrote to Newsday's editor, Anthony Marro, saying, "In the event that Newsday chooses to publish any of the contents or allegations of this 'anonymous letter'...we will be forced to pursue the matter with legal action."

Davitt's letter added: "I believe, upon being informed by Mr. Levitt of the nature and subject matter of said letter, you will understand why we have retained counsel to review the actions of Mr. Levitt and your newspaper in this matter."

Immediately after that, Newsday requested under the Freedom of Information Law the resumes, salaries and dates of promotions of two assistant district attorneys named in the letter. Newsday also requested records of an out-of-state business trip that several sources in the office said two of the prosecutors mentioned in the letter made.

But the wheels of justice turn slowly in Brooklyn.

On May 12, Assistant District Attorney Jodi Mandel, the records access officer, wrote to Newsday: "As you can no doubt imagine, this office receives a tremendous volume of FOIL requests each day. Accordingly, to be fair to all requestors, FOIL requests are generally answered in the order in which they are received. Since there are presently other outstanding requests that were received by this Office before your own, fulfillment of your request must wait until these others are answered.

"I hope that this delay will not cause you any undue hardship or inconvenience."

Davitt, meanwhile, said Friday that the counsel his office has retained would not receive any public funds and would serve pro bono, for free. The counsel, incidentally, is Harvey Greenberg, a former Hynes fund raiser, who served a tour as first deputy in the district attorney's office.

Asked whether instead of reviewing the actions of this reporter and of Newsday, Greenberg had considered reviewing the favoritism allegations, Davitt said, "We're only responding to your inquiries."

Sounds like "no."

Where Was Howard? "Where is Irene Silverman?" Police Commissioner Howard Safir used to ask Chief of Detectives William Allee at the start of every executive staff meeting after the East Side millionaire had disappeared and before Sante and Kenneth Kimes were indicted for her murder.

Last week, after five employees were executed and two others seriously wounded at a Wendy's in Flushing, Allee might have asked, "Where is the police commissioner?

After attending a City Hall news conference the day after the shootings, Safir went on the lam. Asked where Safir was, First Deputy Pat Kelleher, who ran the show in his absence, said, "No comment."

A top official, requesting anonymity, said, "He took the day off."

OK. So where was Howard?

Was he hobnobbing with celebrities as he did at the Oscar awards in Hollywood after the Amadou Diallo shooting? Was he spending a long weekend at the family manse in Southold after his recently discovered prostate cancer while Mayor Rudolph Giuliani hung out with Judi Nathan in the Hamptons after the discovery of his prostate cancer?

While his absence hardly approaches that of former commissioner Ben Ward - who disappeared for three days after the Palm Sunday massacre in 1984 - the department is supposed to know where the commissioner is, and shouldn't be afraid to say.

Safir, however, appears such a frightening figure that subordinates who should know are afraid to ask.

And while we're asking questions, Allee told One Police Plaza that Your Humble Servant was the first to inform Allee that detectives had allowed Patrick Castro, one of the shooting's two surviving witnesses, to return to his apartment after his release from the hospital without police protection.

Papering It Over:
The news conference at 10 p.m. Friday at One Police Plaza announcing the capture of the two suspects in the Wendy's massacre went off without a hitch.

Kelleher conducted it, with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at his side. Brown's spokeswoman, Mary DeBourbon, and the department's spokesman, Deputy Chief Tom Fahey, had even kissed each other on the cheek when DeBourbon arrived with Brown.

Who would have imagined that the news conference had been scheduled for 7 p.m. but had been pushed back three hours because Brown hadn't wanted to come? You see, there's a problem between him and the Police Department over who gets credit. That's why the department has held news conferences about Queens crimes - such as the arrest earlier this year of John Gotti's son-in-law Carmine Agnello - without informing or including Brown.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.