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Commish's about-face on Finest event

April 15, 2005

Can it be true? Will Police Commissioner Ray Kelly attend the Finest Foundation's annual "Chief's Night at the Plaza," as Finest members tell Newsday?

Is this the same Ray Kelly who two years ago killed the foundation's annual black tie dinner at the Pierre because invitations advertised a $50,000 "commissioner's table?"

Seeking then to present himself as purer than the driven snow, he said the wording implied that access to him could be purchased - and pulled out at the last moment. The heroes of the department's top brass followed.

The Finest - a poor man's Police Foundation with individual rather than corporate donors - paid dearly. The group had to refund the tens of thousands of dollars it raised. It also forfeited its $40,000 down payment to the Pierre, said its current president, Shelly Goldfeder.

For the past two years, the top brass were forced to pass up the foundation's freebie steak dinners. "They were afraid to come to our events," said former Finest chairman Hank Seiden.

So what changed this year? Why has Kelly agreed to attend the April 25 "Chief's Night?" Kelly wasn't talking, but Finest founder Rodney Ettman says it had to do with a letter he wrote Kelly.

"I believe our founder has some history with him," said Goldfeder.

This year's dinner invitations have no commissioner's table. Instead, they advertise a "Prime Platinum Page" in the souvenir journal and "Prestigious Table of 10" for $25,000; a "Platinum Page and Premier Table of 10" for $15,000; and a "Prime Gold Page and Prime Table of 10" for $10,000. Individual tickets sell for $500.

Referring to Kelly's expected attendance, a board member said, "This is his way of apologizing to us without apologizing."

Nick and Louie (contd). So are Louis Anemone and his sidekick Nick Casale legitimate whistleblowers, fired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2003 to cover up corruption within the agency?

Or did they lie to the Manhattan and Queens district attorneys about a phony informant Casale claimed to have unearthed?

You can judge for yourself when one of this burg's longer-running soap operas opens next week before State Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler of Manhattan, who has ordered a "name-clearing" hearing for the two

Jack Ryan and Dan Castleman, corruption heads in the Queens and Manhattan district attorneys offices, respectively, whom Anemone and Casale contacted about their allegations, are expected to testify.

If there's doubt about their position, here is the text of a news release by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown from April 1, 2003:

"This office has sought to aggressively investigate the allegations brought to us by Mr. Casale in late February. In spite, however, of the repeated assurances of both Mr. Casale and Mr. Anemone that those allegations were based upon information received by them from a confidential informant, 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."

Welcome home, Frank. Ex-cop Francis X. Livoti is free today, having served seven years in federal prison in the death of Anthony Baez, in one of the Police Department's most notorious brutality cases.

Livoti, a union delegate protected at the highest levels of the department despite a half-dozen civilian complaints for excessive force, was praised after Baez's death in 1994 by then-Chief of Patrol Louis Anemone, who said Livoti was "doing the kind of work that the citizenry of the city and certainly this country are looking for."

Livoti placed Baez, an asthmatic, in a banned choke-hold that led to his death.

Livoti's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association attorney Stuart London said Livoti is to be picked up from federal prison in Butler, N.C., by family members today. On Tuesday, he is due at the probation office in the Southern District.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.