One Police Plaza

Law’s the law

July 24, 1995

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes recently announced the conviction of police Sgt. Robert Santana for harassing his neighbor and falsely accusing her of possessing a handgun.

Hynes' announcement omitted specifics of the crime - that Santana's actions against the 31-year-old neighbor, who speaks no English and whose apartment was directly below his, came after the neighbor accused Santana's 13-year-old relative of sexually molesting her 9-year-old son.

Two months ago, Hynes made no announcement whatsoever when another charge against Santana - providing information and protection for drug dealers - was dropped. The reason: Acting State Supreme Court Judge Alan Marrus ruled the DA had failed to give Santana a speedy trial.

Marrus ruled that Hynes' office - which had six prosecutors on the case at different times - had exceeded the six-month limit of 186 days that the state allows in bringing a defendant to trial. The clock began running May 26, 1994, when a criminal complaint was filed. Marrus' decision quoted prosecutor Neil Doherty as saying, "The problem is I've been doing many cases since we got back from vacation."

Hynes says he's appealing Marrus' decision because the judge took "a strict constructionist view" of the case instead of giving the prosecution the benefit of the doubt. "When you have a restrictive statute that puts the [government] at risk, the statute should be interpreted in the best light for the prosecutor," he said.

Marrus said: "Except for murder, which is exempted, no matter how bad the defendant, no matter how bad the crime, this is what the speedy trial statute requires."

No matter how the Appellate Division rules, Santana's Police Department days appear numbered. A lawyer and former sergeant at arms for the department's Hispanic Society, Santana was suspended without pay when drug charges were brought against him a year ago. With his conviction for harassing and falsely accusing his neighbor, he faces dismissal after a departmental trial.

Check's in the mail. The two-month slowdown by the Police Department's pension board doctors may be over.

The doctors, in the department's medical division in Lefrak City in Queens, determine whether cops qualify for line-of-duty disability pensions. But they haven't been paid in five months because of city cash-flow problems. One doctor is owed $10,000.

So since May, they've all refused to sign the minutes of their examinations. The result: Cops who would be retired with pensions remain on the department payroll, costing the city an undetermined amount.

Mayoral spokeswoman Colleen Roche said Friday that City Hall was on the case. "Checks are being issued. They're in the mail as we speak."

Rudy comes home. No more late-night dinners with a bottle of red wine at table 40 at Jim McMullen's restaurant with communications director Cristyne Lategano and whoever else accompanies him on official business. That had been Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's style until news reports said he was spending most waking hours with Lategano. Now, say sources close to his security detail, after his official nightly functions end, the mayor goes directly home for dinner at Gracie Mansion.

College, not cops. The Police Department is set to hire a batch of civilians for its depleted Public Information Office. Police sources say the same Lategano recently vetoed adding cops to the office.

The office, known as DCPI, had 28 officers answering reporters' round-the-clock inquiries until the mayor and Lategano decided earlier this year that Police Commissioner William Bratton was receiving more favorable publicity than Giuliani. Lategano told Bratton he needed a "reality check" and Giuliani forced the resignation of DCPI's deputy commissioner and Bratton confidant, John Miller. Now DCPI has fewer than a dozen officers: a captain, three sergeants, two detectives, three cops and a couple of temps.

A high police official says DCPI is now seeking to replace the former cops with civilians, possibily college students."Our job is to get information out," he says. "We have to respond in a timely fashion. We're unable to put police officers in administrative functions. So we have to look to civilians."

Mayoral spokewoman Roche says Lategano "has been urging them for a long time to hire qualified people."

A great advocate. The Patrolman's Benevolent Association and other line organizations intend to support Guy Molinari for Staten Island district attorney. He's been a "a great advocate of police officers for all the years we've known him," says PBA President Lou Matarazzo, who actually spoke to Newsday after a four-year boycott begun by his predecessor Phil Caruso, who maintained the newspaper was unfair to cops.

Lone exception to the Molinari bandwagon: the Detective Endowment Association. Reason: Some 20 detectives work for incumbent DA William Murphy.

"They've both been extremely good friends to this organization," says DEA President Tom Scotto. "I told them I'm wiggling."

©1995 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.