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Two officers face perjury charges

April 9, 2001

Six years after Anthony Baez died in the Bronx following a choke-hold by Officer Francis X. Livoti, the Police Department has charged two cops with committing perjury to protect him.

The charges against Officers Mario Erotokritou and James Farnan recall the remark of State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Sheindlin, who, the day before acquitting Livoti of criminally negligent homicide in 1996, said a "nest of perjury" existed among the half-dozen cops who testified.

While the world believed he was referring to cops who testified favorably for Livoti, Sheindlin-the husband of television personality "Judge Judy"-acknowledged after the trial that this was not the case.

His "nest of perjury," he said privately, referred to one cop, Erotokritou's partner, Daisy Boria.

On the stand, Boria contradicted the other cops' testimony that Baez took a few steps after Livoti choked him and that a mysterious pair of "black hands" were seen in the vicinity of Baez's neck as he struggled with Livoti. She also described a midnight soiree in the parking lot of the 46th Precinct where she said the cops concocted their story.

Boria also testified at Livoti's federal trial in 1998, where jurors apparently believed enough of her tale to convict Livoti for violating Baez's civil rights. He is serving 7 years in prison.

But her courtroom history was not revealed at either of Livoti's trials.

In 1987, she was indicted on perjury charges by the Manhattan district attorney and was accused of lying about an accident involving a phony negligence claim. The Police Department suspended her without pay until 1990. She was ultimately acquitted in the criminal case, and in 1994 the department restored her back pay. She retired after Livoti's conviction with a $500,000 settlement for unrelated sexual harassment.

Farnan's attorney, Stu London, who represented Livoti at his federal trial, says the judge blocked questions about Boria's perjury indictment because she had been acquitted. He says there will be "no holds barred" at the officers' departmental trial at One Police Plaza.

More problematic is the officers' story of the mysterious "black hands," which moved from the vicinity of Baez's neck at the Bronx trial to his lower extremities at the federal trial.

Erotokritou even testified he'd seen this mystery man before.

"I knew him," he said.

Perhaps most mysterious of all, a police union attorney told Newsday last week that the man exists and could actually testify.

Silence Broken. For the past year, Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes and a top assistant, Michael Vecchione, have refused Newsday's attempts to get an explanation of the circumstances of a trip to Puerto Rico that Vecchione and a female prosecutor took together to subpoena a witness.

Newsday had sought the records and/or an explanation after allegations by office staffers that Vecchione's relationship with the woman and other female prosecutors led to their promotions.

Instead, last May, Hynes' press secretary, Kevin Davitt, wrote Newsday's editor, Tony Marro, saying: "In the event Newsday chooses to publish any of the contents or allegations ... we will be forced to pursue the matter with legal action."

Newsday filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law, seeking hotel records, expense reports and air fares. Hynes rejected the request without explanation. Newsday then sued in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. This time in rejecting Newsday's request, Hynes cited a 1999 court decision that he refused to identify.

Last month, Justice Edward K. Pincus issued a written order instructing Hynes to answer Newsday's questions. On March 29, Vecchione contacted Newsday, saying he was speaking with Hynes' approval.

Vecchione said that as chief of the homicide bureau, he and Assistant Brooklyn District Attorney Stacey Frascogna traveled to Puerto Rico in 1995 to subpoena a witness to testify against Jabbar Collins, a murder defendant.

Vecchione said he and Frascogna stayed in separate rooms at the San Juan Hilton and were accompanied by two detective-investigators. He said Frascogna, who speaks Spanish, had established a rapport with the witness and proved so "charming" the witness voluntarily returned to testify against Collins, who was convicted.

Vecchione said his actions during the trip were "perfectly proper" and added that some months later the two began an affair that lasted through 1998.

"I wanted to tell you all this then," Vecchione said. "Finally, I said, 'Enough is enough.'"

Frascogna did not return calls to her office.

Why had Hynes threatened to sue Newsday rather than provide this information a year ago?

"It wasn't my name on that letter," Vecchione said. "I can't read his mind."

Vecchione's decision to speak coincided with his transfer to head the Rackets Bureau, which Vecchione described as a promotion.

Others point out that instead of moving into his predecessor's office on the 19th floor, where Hynes and his top aides work, Vecchione was moved two floors below.

His office had been three doors from Hynes's.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.