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No Serpico, but no clear truth

April 7, 2003

Has Louie gone loco?

Here last week was the former highest uniformed officer in the city, Chief of Department Louis Anemone, running to The New York Times with his sidekick, former first-grade detective Nick Casale, claiming to be whistle-blowers.

They said they had discovered evidence of bid-rigging, payoffs and multimillion-dollar cost overruns at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where Anemone had been hired in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks as deputy executive director and director of security.

Anemone and Casale said top MTA officials had impeded their investigation, undermining efforts to protect the transit system from terrorism.

Before you think of these two as Frank Serpico and David Durk - whose allegations of police corruption 32 years ago revolutionized the department - think again.

This is the same Louie Anemone who is known to readers of this column as the Dark Prince. This is the same Louie Anemone who praised Officer Frank Livoti after the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate used a choke-hold that led to the death of Anthony Baez in the Bronx.

This is the same Louie Anemone who so humiliated Rudy Giuliani's apartment-sharing buddy Howard Koeppel at a police funeral that Koeppel burst into tears.

This is the same Louie Anemone who while questioning former chief Tosano Simonetti at a CompStat crime control meeting put up a picture of Pinocchio on the screen behind Simonetti.

As for Casale, what more is there to say about someone who spent a few months living out of his car?

So what's really going on here? Is Louie nutso? Or is he the victim of his own spectacularly poor judgment, caught in a downward spiral that he can't seem to break?

"You know my reputation. I've been receiving calls of support from all ranks of the department," Anemone said in a telephone call Friday.

"I know I'm no Serpico. But I want to put it out in the open. We're at the point where they left me no option. They are such liars. What are they afraid of?"

As might be expected, MTA officials have a different take on Anemone and Casale. So do Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Daniel Castleman.

Let's start with Castleman, chief of the investigation division. He says Casale did find serious corruption that was brought to his attention by the MTA's executive director Katie Lapp, and that the district attorney is investigating.

But Castleman confirmed it was he who told Lapp not to release documents to Anemone because of the district attorney's investigation.

Now let's turn to the MTA's inspector general, Matthew Sansverie and his report of March 31, the day after Anemone made his accusations.

Sansverie accuses Anemone in the report of "obstruction and intentional frustration of an MTA Inspector General's Investigation ... aided and abetted by his deputy and longtime co-worker, Nick Casale."

According to Sansverie's report, on Feb. 25, Lapp notified him about misconduct allegations by Anemone against recently retired LIRR president Kenneth Bauer. Anemone told Lapp that Casale had learned of the allegations from a "confidential informant."

"In this same conversation," Sansverie wrote, "Anemone gratuitously raised the issue that Casale was reluctant to cooperate ... citing the fact that Casale was already the subject of an [unrelated] misconduct investigation."

The investigation concerned allegations he had improperly ordered an MTA lieutenant to access information from a confidential database.

Meanwhile, unknown to Sansverie and other MTA officials, Casale contacted the Queens district attorney about Bauer in late February.

On March 27, three days before he made his allegations public, Anemone testified under oath before the MTA. According to Sansverie's report, Anemone said he had "made a mistake and that no confidential informant existed."

The next day, Casale also testified.

"While he did admit under oath there never was a confidential informant," Sansverie's report stated, "he maintained he never said there was one."

On April 1, Brown responded to questions about Sansverie's report by issuing a news release. "In spite of the repeated assurances of both Mr. Casale and Mr. Anemone ... it has now been acknowledged by each of them that no such informant has ever existed. I am disappointed - and quite frankly, somewhat bewildered - by the actions of Mr. Anemone and Mr. Casale."

Last week, the MTA placed Anemone and Casale on paid administrative leave. On Friday, Anemone told this reporter he did have a confidential informant, and identified him as a longtime MTA labor official, Gary Dellaverson.

Dellaverson, said MTA spokesman Jim Bono, has denied under oath being an informant, confidential or otherwise.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.