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A constant amid sea of politicking

May 14, 2001

Doris Busch Boskey and Iris Baez each arose at 4:30 a.m. to make last Thursday's breakfast at the Sheridan hotel to kick off Norman Siegel's campaign for public advocate. Joining them at the breakfast was Amadou Diallo's uncle, Bobo Diallo.

As the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Siegel supported each of the families after the killing of their children by the police.

Boskey, whose emotionally disturbed son, Gideon Busch, was shot by a circle of officers in August 1999, described how Siegel tried to obtain the Brooklyn grand jury minutes, after the officers were cleared.

Baez recalled meeting Siegel on the steps of the Bronx county courthouse after her son, Anthony, died in a department-banned chokehold administered by officer Francis Livoti in December 1994.

"If there is anything you need, I'm here for you," Baez said Siegel told her.

Diallo said of Siegel: "He has always been there. We trust him."

Siegel is one of the few constants in an election year where the players have all reinvented themselves.

Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who admits he "didn't get" the significance of the Diallo shooting when it occurred in February 1999, now criticizes the Police Department for "profiling."

Mark Green, an anti-cop liberal his entire career, now appears with former police commissioner Bill Bratton, posing as a shtarker.

Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, a machine politician and protege of disgraced political boss Stanley Friedman, now runs as an outsider, fashioning a black-Latino coalition of the disenfranchised.

Siegel's breakfast followed an announcement in The New York Times by the Rev. Al Sharpton that he would offer his eagerly sought endorsement of Ferrer only if Ferrer backed Sharpton's black candidates, including William Thompson for city comptroller.

Sharpton, too, has reinvented himself, albeit with the help of white writers and politicians who over the years have proclaimed his "growth."

Sharpton has succeeded so well that Ferrer apparently forgot, as this newspaper reported a decade ago, that the reverend was for years a federal informant. What that means, as Ferrer painfully learned, is that anyone who embraces him had better watch his back.

While Sharpton may serve as a voice for the dispossessed, so far as is known his support of political candidates has never helped any of them and may have in fact only caused them harm.

In the brouhaha after his announcement in the Times, Sharpton amended his remarks and cited Siegel as a white candidate he could support (while pointing out that Siegel was also Jewish).

Sharpton and Siegel had teamed up in the past at, of all places, One Police Plaza. In 1998, Sharpton appeared in the police trial room to testify for Siegel's client Joseph Locurto, a white officer fired by the department for appearing on a racist Labor Day float in Broad Channel that a police trial judge had said "depicted African-Americans in a demeaning and offensive manner."

So offensive did Locurto's actions appear that even the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association-at least officially-refused to defend him.

At his breakfast last Thursday, Siegel said he had invited Sharpton.

Perhaps as a favor to his white, Jewish friend, Sharpton didn't show.

Questions, No Answers. The corroboration the feds have in its investigation of Dennis Sindone, the deputy inspector accused of taking money from a drug organization while working a Bronx homicide-narcotics task force for six years, is the statement of another officer who worked in the unit.

Police sources say that officer is connected to the drug dealer and is himself facing serious charges.

Question one: If that's all the feds have, why did Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik remove Sindone's badge and shield and demote him back to captain after having appointed him to deputy inspector only last month? And why is no one at Police Plaza rushing to defend him?

Question two: Who pushed Kerik to promote Sindone to deputy inspector when he had been a captain barely a year? A list of the 269 officers who passed the exam for captain in February 2000 shows Sindone was number 25. While this placed him in the top 10 percent, it does not explain why he jumped over the other 24.

Question three: When did the allegation against Sindone first surface? Was it only after Kerik had promoted him, as the feds told the Police Department? What of the unwritten protocol whereby the feds notify the department of officers they are investigating to avoid such embarrassments?

Sindone, meanwhile, unhappy that his union, the Captains' Endowment Association, could not prevent his demotion, has hired Jim Culleton, the attorney who defended Richard Murphy, one of the four officers who was charged in the fatal shooting of Diallo.

Culleton says Sindone "categorically denies the allegations."

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.