One Police Plaza

Mystery Man Goes on Tour

August 19, 2002

Remember the mysterious black man who materialized out of the night outside 6 Cameron Place in the Bronx on Dec. 22, 1994 to assist Francis Livoti, the white cop whose choke-hold of Anthony Baez, a Hispanic man, led to Baez's death?

Your humble servant has long believed this was the same mysterious black man who appeared in Boston in 1989 and in South Carolina in 1994.

In Boston, Charles Stuart, a white man, accused him of murdering his pregnant wife. It turned out Stuart had murdered her.

In South Carolina, Susan Smith, a white woman accused him of kidnapping her two children. It turned out Smith had drowned them.

Well, Shazam! Alakazam!

Last Friday, the mysterious black man appeared in the NYPD trial room - at least in the testimony of Officer Alfredo Toro.

Toro, testifying in the departmental trial of Livoti's fellow cop Anthony Farnan, said the mysterious black man, wearing a baseball cap, had been helping Livoti hold Baez's feet down as Livoti and Baez struggled.

Farnan has been charged by the department with perjury. He testified at Livoti's federal trial in 1998 that he saw a pair of "black hands" around Baez after Livoti choked him. A second cop, Mario Erotokritou, is also on trial, charged with perjury. He testified that Baez took a few steps after Livoti choked him.

Farnan's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association attorney Stu London - who represented Livoti at the federal trial at which Livoti was convicted of violating Baez's civil rights and sentenced to 7 years in prison - said Toro, a 17-year veteran, was "no friend of Livoti" because Livoti had once branded him an Internal Affairs Bureau "rat." He added that through his testimony, Toro showed "extraordinary bravery" since he himself could now face perjury charges.

"It's easy to dismiss this guy as someone created by the cops," said London. "But it's not unusual for a civilian to assist the first officer on the scene. Many receive civilian awards for helping cops like this."

In this case, the mysterious black man, who disappeared into the night as mysteriously as he appeared, has never come forward.

The 9/11 Response [con't.] The letters following recent columns on the World Trade Center attack keep on coming, further evidence of how important a public airing of the Police and Fire Departments' response to the attack is to this city.

"I am a lieutenant with the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit," writes Nicholas Bavaro. "For the last 19 years ... To think that someone, somehow blames the Police Department for so many deaths on Sept. 11 is just plain disgusting ... Seventy cops from several departments died that day. Isn't that enough proof that we weren't hiding or keeping secrets from the FDNY?

"So much has been written about the Aviation unit and the ability of the FDNY to utilize its resources ... I do share the same frequency as Aviation. I recall many times when the high-rise plan was put into effect. FDNY Chiefs had no problem getting on a helicopter and observing fire scenes from the sky. Why didn't the FDNY initiate the plan that day? ... An equal amount has been written about communication between the two agencies. We have two different missions and sometimes our paths do cross. I do know that an ESU lieutenant reported to the fire command post in the North Tower and he was disregarded or blown off. I also know that when the South Tower collapsed, a radio transmission was sent out and our members were told to evacuate. They did not know what had happened but they OBEYED the order to get out ... And finger pointing does not answer the questions that are haunting all of us."

No News and Cookies Department. When he became police commissioner, Ray Kelly promised a more open department. More accessibility. Regular news conferences.

Kelly has kept his word. He is accessible. He hosts regular news conferences and even serves coffee and cookies.

The only problem is he usually refuses to answer questions. In the past month he has refused to comment on:

Last week's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association-sponsored demonstration seeking more money.

Donna Hanover's police security now that she and her ex-husband, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, are officially divorced.

The upcoming fourth trial of ex-cop Chuck Schwarz, who faces 15 years in prison in the Abner Louima sodomy case.

The recently completed corruption trial of Capt. Dennis Sindone, who faces dismissal.

Here is an except from Kelly's news conference two weeks ago.

Kelly: "I have no announcements."

Reporter: "I have no questions."

Kelly: "More cookies."

©2002 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.