One Police Plaza

Saint Morg Never Forgets

March 9, 2009

An irate Robert Morgenthau says this column erred last week when it implied that fourteen years ago the Manhattan District Attorney indicted a Mollen Commission informant as pay back for Mollen poaching a Morgenthau corruption case and turning it over to the feds.

“We didn’t have a clue he was working for the Mollen Commission,” said Morgenthau of the informant, who provided information about the 30th Precinct, where 33 cops were convicted of drug-related crimes. “We indicted him for perjury because a lot of innocent people went to jail.”

Morgenthau made his complaints [there were others, including this column’s depiction of the 1990 Palladium case in which two men were wrongfully convicted, which we won’t get into here.] in a telephone call to Your Humble Servant.

Anyone who thinks that the Morg, at age 89, has lost a step should consider himself lucky he wasn’t on the receiving end of that phone line, which crackled with his controlled, white-hot fury.

The last two weeks have been trying for the nation’s foremost prosecutor. He announced he would not seek reelection after 34 years, prompting the resignation of his chief aide Dan Castleman, one of whose supporters called Morgenthau a “Judas” because he refused to anoint Castleman as his successor.

Still, Morgenthau was concerned enough over the Mollen incident that occurred more than a decade ago that he wanted the record set straight. Or at least in the direction he wanted it set. [Despite his protestations, there are those who continue to feel he acted malevolently towards Mollen.]

One of Morgenthau’s more [or perhaps less] saintly qualities is that he never forgets. [Better listen up, Dan. That Judas crack sticks in the Morg’s craw.]

With that in mind, let’s move on to the race for Morgenthau’s successor, where the three candidates, sans Castleman, appeared together on WABC yesterday morning

First up, former Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder, who ran against Morgenthau in 2004 and made an issue of his age [He was 85 then.] She kept up her attack, maintaining that 34 years was too long for a person to remain in office and that over the last decade the D.A.’s office had become “stale.” Said Snyder: “At a certain point, you need fresh ideas from the top.”

Is it any wonder that the Morg is supporting the candidate who can best defeat her?

That brings us to Cyrus Vance Jr., son of the former secretary of state in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, whom Morgenthau reportedly favors.

Vance’s problem is that he has spent most of his career in Seattle, returning to New York in 2004. Though back in town for five years, he may still not fully appreciate the lay of the land.

On WABC he mentioned that he wanted to apply the police department’s accountability concept of COMPSTAT to the D.A’s office. That sounds like he has reached out to COMPSTAT’s founder, Bill Bratton, now police chief in L.A. [Yeah, yeah, its actual founder was Bratton’s deputy, the late Jack Maple, but COMPSTAT couldn’t have been instituted without Bratton’s imprimatur ]

Perhaps Vance was unaware that Bratton is close to the third candidate, Richard Aborn. Perhaps Vance is also unaware of the first lesson of New York City law enforcement: You can’t be friendly with Bratton and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at the same time. Just ask the folks at the Manhattan Institute about their fifth anniversary 9/11 terrorism conference.

Lastly, there’s the dark horse Aborn, who has spent his law enforcement years in New York and whose campaign says raised more money in January than Snyder and Vance combined. Like Vance [and Snyder] he’s a veteran of the D.A.’s office and shares Vance’s [and Morgenthau’s] positions on such matters as term limits and the death penalty. [They’re opposed to both.]

Death Penalty
. Unless Leslie Crocker Snyder gets some help fast, the death penalty issue is going to swamp her candidacy. In 2005, when she ran against Morgenthau, she supported it. Now she opposes it.

This is what she said yesterday: “My position was distorted. I feel I got smeared. … I am completely against the death penalty. I modified my position. Shouldn’t people evolve?”

Press Pass
. Nearly two years to the day that the police department denied Your Humble Servant a press pass, it has finally granted me one. DCPI’s Lieu. Gene Whyte actually helped facilitate the application. In Whyte’s defense [Trying to save your reputation here, Gene.] there was nothing personal in his helpfulness. Two years ago, the same Lieu. Whyte denied my application.

So what’s changed? First, reporter Raphael Martinez and his attorney Norman Siegel threatened to sue the department. Second, Chris Dunn of the Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue on my behalf.

Lesson: You can fight — and beat — the NYPD [sometimes].

They Don’t Give Up.
Under Rudy Giuliani, this column described the police department’s censorship as resembling that of the Soviet Union under Stalin because copies of this column were secretly passed around Police Plaza like samizdat.

Under Kelly, censorship more closely resembles that of Beijing. Sources say that access to NYPD CONFIDENTIAL is now blocked on all NYPD computers. Stated reason: "Social Networking and Personal Sites are filtered.”

We emailed Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne to ask if this was true. He did not respond.