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Clueing in on mystery arrest

March 12, 2001

Let's play detective.

Let's help the Internal Affairs Bureau solve the Guy Molinari mystery: Who ordered the arrest of Terence Hunter for writing a letter critical of the Staten Island borough president?

The facts: Hunter, a budget analyst for the Brooklyn borough president's office, wrote Molinari protesting his closing of a Staten Island youth center in a black neighborhood. Hunter, who is black, called Molinari's action a "high-tech lynching" and enclosed three historical photographs of black men being lynched.

On Jan. 11, hours after Molinari received the letter, police arrested Hunter for aggravated harassment and jailed him overnight before the charges were dropped.

The suspects: Molinari, his chief-of-staff, Dan Donovan, Molinari's two police bodyguards-Dets. James Reyes and Joseph Pascone-and Sgt. Joseph Simonetti of the Intelligence Division's Threat Assessment Unit.

Their stories: Molinari maintains he knew nothing of the arrest and didn't want to prosecute Hunter. He blames the Police Department.

"Somebody in the department made a mistake," he says.

Donovan says he knows nothing about a police complaint against Hunter, although Donovan is listed on the complaint as the "reporter."

The complaint states that Hunter's type-written letter "contained material causing alarm to boro [sic] president Molinari." In a box that reads "will proceed" to prosecute, there is a check mark under "Yes."

"I was never interviewed [about the complaint]. I never consented to be a complainant," Donovan says. He says Pascone-Molinari's bodyguard on duty that day because Reyes attended a wake-showed him Hunter's letter around 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. He says that only a police officer could have filled out the complaint because it is a police document. Possible clue or red herring: Donovan's name is misspelled in the complaint as "Donavan."

Pascone has told police investigators he asked Donovan what he wanted done about Hunter's letter and was told, "Run with it."

"I understood that to mean, conduct an investigation and make an arrest," Pascone said.

Pascone's lawyer Phil Karasyk says: "I don't think anyone would believe a police officer would take a complaint from someone without first speaking with the complainant-especially where the borough president's office is involved."

Now we come to Simonetti and Reyes. Simonetti-who happens to be the nephew of former first deputy Tosano "Tough Tony" Simonetti-says he spoke with Reyes the evening of Jan. 11 and Reyes told him Molinari was frightened by the letter and wanted to prosecute.

Reyes, however, told investigators his only conversation with Simonetti followed Hunter's arrest, around 10:30 p.m.

So is someone lying?

Second possible clue: IAB should have telephone and beeper records to substantiate whether the Simonetti-Reyes evening conversation occurred.

Final point: What motive would Simonetti have to lie? Molinari is believed to have been Tough Tony's rabbi for the first deputy's job.

Prognosis: A chief has been overheard saying he fears IAB may never get to the bottom of what occurred. Already the word "misunderstanding" has been bruited about One Police Plaza. That's an easy word for all to hide behind.

A Morning in Brooklyn. Your Humble Servant spent a bizarre Wednesday morning in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Newsday was suing the Brooklyn district attorney's office for records of an alleged trip to Puerto Rico by Chief Assistant Michael Vecchione and Assistant District Attorney Stacey Frascogna to subpoena a witness.

The district attorney has refused to release records of the trip, citing an unidentified 1999 decision.

Although Newsday's hearing began before Justice Edward K. Pincus, the district attorney tried to move it before Justice Joseph Dowd.

Assistant District Attorney Jodi Mandel claimed Dowd had ruled in another case that the records Newsday sought were confidential. Dowd, however, refused to hear the case so it was returned to Pincus.

Mandel then argued that Dowd's ruling set a precedent for refusing Newsday's request. But she still refused to cite the precedent.

Pincus told her she had to. Outside Pincus' courtroom, Mandel produced a ruling from Dowd in a seemingly unrelated case that called for the release of hundreds of pages of documents. Later, back in court, Pincus ordered her to document her proof by March 21 when another hearing is scheduled.

Calling All Angels. Resignations of the week from The Finest Foundation. Directors Nelson Fleishman and Joe Dussich Jr. Fleishman is a Wall Street buddy of Steve Raphael, who resigned the week before.

Hanging tough is director Dennis Schnur, despite having been subpoenaed as a witness by the feds investigating the sale of badges, shields and parking placards by Miguel Garcia, a former federal official.

Recovered in a search of Garcia's West Side apartment were 135 parking placards, including some laminated ones marked "Police Vehicle Identification."

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.