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NYPD: Terror Is For Real

June 19, 2017

At any one time, there are three or four cases of people actively talking about committing terrorist acts in New York City.

In 2015, the number expanded to four or five or six. This included talk of placing pressure cookers at July 4 celebrations, kidnapping and beheading a woman on Manhattan’s East Side, and blowing up a police funeral in the name of terrorism.

This stark description was provided by John Miller, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, who appeared Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to oppose a City Council bill on police surveillance.

Miller’s remarks followed testimony by him and other top brass before the council’s Public Safety Committee. They argued against a bill that they said forces the NYPD to disclose details of its surveillance technologies under the banner of transparency and oversight.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialMiller said the bill had been crafted by the American and New York Civil Liberties Union and The Brennan Center at New York University, a left-of-center, law-and-policy institute.

“I have a dual responsibility, to protect lives and civil liberties,” Miller said on ‘Morning Joe.’ “They [The Brennan Center and the ACLU] are not responsible for outcomes. When something blows up and when people get killed, no one calls The Brennan Center or ACLU. We [the NYPD] have to march down the middle of that line.”

The Council’s measure appears to be a reaction to the NYPD’s lack of transparency and oversight under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly — in particular,Kelly’s spying program on Muslim communities in NYC and other localities.

A Brennan Center spokesperson said Faiza Patel, who is co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program and was critical of Kelly’s Muslim spying, helped write the bill. She did not return an email from NYPD Confidential.

In an email, Chris Dunn, the NYCLU’s associate legal director, said: “The NYPD has accumulated a lot of ill-will and skepticism over its secrecy and surveillance, and that unfortunate situation is made only worse by alarmist invocations of terrorism in response to commonsense transparency proposals.”

Under Kelly, who sought to boost the profile of the Intelligence Division, virtually every terrorism arrest, no matter how minor, was heralded at a City Hall news conference with the national media present.

Since 2014, the NYPD has worked more closely with the FBI and taken a lower-key approach in publicizing terrorism arrests. Earlier this month,two alleged Hezbollah-trained terrorists were charged with undergoing weapons and explosives training, then surveilling potential targets and locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.Instead of a news conference, the arrests were announced in a joint NYPD-FBI news release.

Does this mean that the best way for the NYPD to gain public support is to ramp up its public relations operations a la Kelly?

Why does Kennedy-cousin Michael Skakel remain out of prison despite Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruling in December that affirmed his conviction in the murder of Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley?

Sources say the case’s prime mover is its senior judge, Justice Richard Palmer. His two prior rulings in this seemingly endless legal soap opera indicate he feels Michael Skakel might be innocent.

Skakel, 57, was convicted in 2002 of Moxley’s killing in 1975. Then 15, she was beaten to death with a golf club 12 to 15 times and stabbed through the neck with golf club’s shaft. Law enforcement officials termed such gratuitous violence “overkill,” indicating a personal rage and suggesting the killer knew his victim.

Skakel, who was also 15 at the time, served 10 years of a 20-to-life sentence. Always maintaining his innocence, he was released in 2013 on $1.2 million bail after retired Connecticut Appellate Judge Thomas Bishop ruled he deserved a new trial because his trial lawyer, Mickey Sherman, had been incompetent. In part, Bishop ruled, this was due to Sherman’s failure to focus on Skakel’s then 17-year-old brother, Tommy, as Martha’s killer, in what is known as “third-party culpability.” Instead, Sherman focused on Kenneth Littleton, a tutor, who had moved into the Skakel home the night Martha was killed.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittLast December, in a 4-to-3 decision, Connecticut’s top court overruled Bishop, affirming Skakel’s conviction. Palmer was one of the three dissenters.

Palmer was also the lone dissenter in the court’s decision in 2010 that rejected another motion, calling for a new trial for Skakel. That motion followed allegations by his first cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr., that two teenagers from the Bronx had killed Martha “caveman style.”

That allegation was made to Kennedy by Gitano Bryant, who claimed to be a cousin of the basketball star Kobe Bryant. At the time he contacted Kennedy, Bryant owed the government millions of dollars in back taxes from a fraudulent tobacco importing scheme. A decade before, he had been found guilty of participating in an armed robbery/kidnapping in California. More recently he had been fired by a Texas law firm after it discovered he hadn’t passed the Maryland and D.C. bar exam, as he had claimed.

Bryant gave Skakel investigators a recorded videotape in which said the two Bronx teens had confessed the murder to him but he refused to repeat his claim to Connecticut law enforcement authorities. And he refused to testify at a hearing in 2007 before Connecticut Judge Edward Karazin, who rejected Bryant’s claims, ruling they “lacked credibility” and are “absent any genuine corroboration.”

In 2010, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed Karazin’s ruling by a 4-to-1 vote. Palmer, the lone dissenter, wrote: “The record reveals nothing about Bryant or his background to suggest either that he is the kind of person who would provide testimony falsely implicating two innocent people in a brutal murder or that he had any reason to do so.”

Palmer added, “At the very least, it is likely that this new evidence, when considered in light of the state’s thin case [against Skakel] would give rise to a reasonable doubt.”

Following the court’s 4-to-3 vote in December, affirming Skakel’s conviction, Skakel’s lawyer, Hubert Santos, asked for a “reconsideration.” This is a legal procedure apparently so rare and obscure that Richard Colangelo, the state’s attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford, where Skakel would be prosecuted if he were somehow granted a new trial,said, “I’ve never dealt with it before.”

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialComplicating matters was the retirement of Justice Peter Zarella, who wrote the majority 4-to-3 decision affirming Skakel’s conviction. Santos is asking that his replacement, Justice Gregory T. D’Auria, be included among the judges to determine his reconsideration motion. Santos is seeking a seventh judge because if the six remaining judges, who split 3-3 on the decision to affirm Skakel’s guilt, split 3-3 on Santos’ motion, the reconsideration would be denied.

For D’Auria to familiarize himself with the 42-year-old case could take months.

Sources familiar with Connecticut’s courts say it appears to be Palmer who will determine whether six or seven judges rule on Santos’s motion. How long that would take is unclear.

Connecticut courts spokeswoman Rhonda Stearly-Hebert said,“Justice Palmer respectfully declines comment, as the Code of Judicial Conduct prevents him from commenting on a pending case.”

She added: “The consideration of the relief requested in the motion, like any relief requested in any motion, is presented to the court, and the court will issue a ruling on the motion in due course.”

Martha’s mother, Dorthy, who is now 83, said, “It is now 42 years since Martha’s death. Half of my lifetime I have had to live with this. Why can’t they [the court] make a decision consistent with their responsibilities?”

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