One Police Plaza

Corrupt Cop Got Free Legal Help

April 11, 1994

Of the two dozen witnesses who appeared before the Mollen Commission on Police Corruption, none provided more shocking testimony than Bernard Cawley, a 230-pound bruiser from the 46th Precinct in the Bronx. He described how he had stolen drugs, raped a prostitute, burglarized residences and indiscriminately beaten up dealers and civilians alike for no discernible reason but to "tune them up," thus acquiring for himself the sobriquet, "The Mechanic."

What the commission never acknowledged was Cawley's payback. In return for his supposedly full and candid testimony, the commission found him some pricey legal talent - three lawyers from the Wall Street firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson - who represented Cawley in federal court pro bono, or in English, for free.

At issue before District Judge Kimba Wood was whether Cawley had violated his probation after his 1991 weapons conviction and deserved to serve another two years. That would be tacked onto the three-to-life he currently is serving for the crimes he testified to before the commission. While he was on probation, and before his next conviction, Cawley threatened to beat up his burglary accomplice because he feared the man would testify against him. Cawley omitted that incident from his supposedly candid Mollen Commission testimony.

Pro bono attorney Charles King argued that Cawley's testimony had proved "extremely valuable in publicizing the nature of police misconduct." Therefore, King urged Wood, Cawley deserved a break.

Wood, however, was not buying. She gave Cawley two more years - the max.

Taylor Departing. DeForrest Taylor, the head of the housing police for the past three years, is set to retire, say senior law enforcement sources.

A 36-year veteran of the New York Police Department who rose to the rank of chief of personnel, Taylor was appointed to head the Housing Authority police by former Mayor David N. Dinkins in December, 1990. His retirement leaves a $ 107,000 annual salary plum for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to fill.

Taylor was on vacation, said his assistant, Lt. James Fry. "The chief hasn't officially stated a position on that [his retirement]," Fry said. "The chief has not indicated to me that this was his intent at this particular time."

Double Play. It was not a good couple of weeks on the pension front for two former top police brass. On April 4, former Chief Robert Beatty, who headed the Internal Affairs Division, was rejected by the police medical board for a tax-free, accidental disability pension. He had applied under the controversial heart bill, but the board found insufficient evidence to establish Beatty had a heart problem.

Beatty still has a claim for a back injury he suffered 32 years ago when he was in plainclothes, but police sources say his chances don't look good.

On March 24, Inspector Donald Kuhn, who headed the Health Services Division, was similarly rejected by the medical board for an accidental disability pension based on a hand injury. Kuhn also has another application pending - for a knee injury. Sources say his chances based on that injury don't look good either.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, former Chief Aaron Rosenthal will apppear before the Police Pension Board. His application is based on shoulder and arm injuries he suffered in a fall near the Municipal Building. Unlike Beatty and Kuhn, his injuries were confirmed by the medical board.

New York's Finest. It was just a simple ceremony at Police Plaza last week, honoring a cop who was the target of gunfire in the line of duty, but it gave a sense of what the term "New York's finest" truly means.

The officer's name was Catherine Adonetto, a 10-year veteran of the 44th Precinct, who was shot at by a drug dealer on parole as Adonetto guarded four prisoners. She was not hit, but one of the prisoners was.

After the ceremony, Adonetto, the wife of a cop and the mother of a 3-year-old girl, talked not of herself but of Sean McDonald, also of the 44th, who was shot to death last month by two men as he interrupted a robbery.

"I didn't know him. I just knew him to say hello. But I feel terrible. I can't forget him. He was so young.

"Now his two small children will never know their father. My mother died when I was nine and I know what it is to grow up not knowing a parent. I understand his wife is very strong. But for the children, how can they ever make up for that loss?

"They shot him three times in the head. Why did they have to do that? It just was not necessary. Like the person who shot at me - he fired from the seventh floor of a building - cowards. They have a gun and they think they are men but they are cowards."

©1994 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.