One Police Plaza

DA’s office and a tale of abuse

April 17, 2000

We present yet another prosecutorial atrocity from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes.

On June, 24, 1998, Det. John Danna of the 75th Precinct detective squad in East New York was questioning Kalimah Wilson, an alleged chain snatcher who police suspected was part of a female robbery crew. The door to the stationhouse interrogation room was ajar. A one-way glass window enabled people to look in.

Despite all this, Wilson later asserted, Danna was unzipping his fly, exposing himself, asking her for oral sex, kissing her on the mouth and fondling her breast.

The district attorney's office apparently deemed it irrelevant that Danna passed a polygraph test or that Wilson had made similar accusations against her former employer at a Brooklyn clothing store and later against a group of 75th Precinct officers, none of which resulted in charges.

Based solely on her accusation-no one had corroborated the incident-Danna was indicted on Dec. 8, 1998, suspended for 30 days, then placed on modified assignment.

As the sexual abuse trial was about to begin on Oct. 22, 1999, the district attorney's office announced it was dropping the charges against Danna.

That, however, wasn't good enough for Danna's attorney, Joe Tacopina, who said he wanted the reasons for the dismissal placed on the record.

"Detective Danna spent a year under horrific allegations where he was put on modified duty. His family was put through tremendous stress," Tacopina told the court, according to a transcript. "I think the district attorney's office found her incredible ... in my opinion. They re-evaluated their case after it was learned that numerous other allegations by Ms. Wilson came up... very similar allegations."

State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges of Brooklyn, who was hearing the case in lieu of a jury, then spoke.

"I just want the record to reflect solely that I had suggested to the district attorney that they re-evaluate their case merely because of the information that came forth...that there were other allegations made by the same person against other officers and coupled with the fact that the defendant had passed the polygraph test," he said. "That seemed to say to the district attorney, 'Evaluate the case.'"

But Hynes' prosecutors could not admit their mistake. Here's the reason for seeking a dismissal that Assistant District Attorney Peter Calandrella gave to Gerges: "Ms. Wilson is six months pregnant...and she feels that, due to her current physical condition, she cannot undergo the rigors of a criminal trial, and therefore cannot testify in this case."

End of story, right? Wrong.

The Police Department, in an apparent case of bureaucratic mindlessness, now wants to try Danna on administrative charges based on Wilson's allegations. Trial date: June 17.

Update. Remember that wild and crazy sexual harassment suit from Staten Island that led to allegations of lying against two chiefs and the resignation of Deputy Commissioner Sandra Marsh after Police Commissioner Howard Safir ordered her to alter her report on the matter?

Well, with that case in federal court, here's an update from the S.I. home front.

Now retired former Officer Virginia Duffy, who filed the original complaint, maintains she was prevented from using the 122nd Precinct gym by a former family friend, Lt. Jeff Fortunato, under the pretext of the gym's being closed for cleaning. The gym is open to retired cops.

Duffy and Fortunato exchanged words. The result: Fortunato-who says he feels "hurt and terrible about being dragged into this"-filed a criminal harassment complaint against Duffy, which reads:

"Virginia Duffy began making threatening statements regarding the closing of the center for cleaning purposes. Specific statement was, '---him, I'll get him' several times."

The incident is now being investigated by the Intelligence Division.

Kelleher Countdown. The month of June. Mark it in your calendar.

That's when Charlie Connolly, director of security at Merrill Lynch, is getting married and wants to retire from what is considered the city's crown jewel of private security jobs.

His expected replacement: First Deputy Commissioner Pat Kelleher.

No one is saying this publicly, of course.

Connolly's not talking. Neither is Merrill Lynch's vice chairman, Stephen Hammerman, to whom Connolly reports. A Merrill Lynch factotum, Joe Cohen, refused even to confirm the dates that either Connolly or his predecessor, former first deputy Patrick J. Murphy, worked for Merrill Lynch.

Asked if Mayor Rudolph Giuliani-whose approval is necessary, practically speaking-had vetted Kelleher, Cohen said, "We have no comment."

Hammerman is also acquainted with Kelleher's boss, Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Safir and his wife, Carol, put the arm on him two years ago, seeking a contribution to Carol's police museum. Hammerman passed.

As for Kelleher, he did not return a call from Your Humble Servant.

A department spokesman Deputy Chief Tom Fahey, said, "I have no knowledge that Kelleher is leaving the job."

©2000 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.