Saturday, October 21, 2006

 

This canary must sing

Daily News - Editorial 10-12-06

A big player in the Brooklyn Democratic Party's judge-making machine won a get-of-jail-free card yesterday from District Attorney Joe Hynes in a plea-bargain deal that will, it is fervently hoped, pay big dividends.

In dismissing three-year-old extortion charges against party Executive Director Jeff Feldman, Hynes said Feldman would cooperate with corruption probers, making him potentially one of the most valuable witnesses around here in a long time. Feldman will live up to his billing if he delivers former boss Clarence Norman to prison, along with naming every other name in the Democratic rackets.

Given the rogue's image that Feldman had cultivated, the news that he had turned was nothing less than stunning, but the specter of a stretch in Attica does have a way of knocking the starch out of you. Equally remarkable was Hynes' depiction of Feldman as a mere messenger boy for Norman, as someone who "did not possess or share Clarence Norman's intent to commit these crimes."

Specifically, those offenses included strong-arming would-be judicial candidates into hiring favored consultants. The deal was simple: Do as you are told or forget the bench. Such was the message Feldman delivered, allegedly at Norman's behest, and it is patently clear that he understood the felonious nature of his conduct. Feldman is, after all, a 30-year veteran of judicial politics, and he has long been a key figure in deciding who becomes a judge in Brooklyn, including his own wife, Supreme Court Justice Marsha Steinhardt.

So now Hynes says Feldman will sing. It better be loud and clear.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Feldman Makes a Deal?

New York Daily News -
Norman aide to talk vs. boss, sources say
BY NANCIE L. KATZ
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Dethroned Democratic Party Chairman Clarence Norman's top aide was cleared of wrongdoing yesterday, and sources said he had agreed to testify against his former boss.
After pursuing Brooklyn party Executive Director Jeffrey Feldman for two years with charges that could have landed him behind bars for 15 years, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes did an about-face yesterday, summarily dismissing a 22-count indictment and declaring that Feldman did nothing wrong.

In exchange, Feldman, who never resigned from his party post, has provided key information in Hynes' judgeship-for-sale probe, sources said.

That cooperation could likely lead to an indictment against Supreme Court Justice Howard Ruditzky, sources said. Indicted Supreme Court Justice Michael Garson has claimed Ruditzky paid Norman $100,000 to buy a seat on the bench, sources said.

Ruditzky declined to comment. But such an indictment would be a major victory for Hynes, who has been trying for four years to prove that party leaders strong-armed judicial candidates into paying for their endorsements.

Norman lost his Assembly seat, his post as Democratic Party chairman and his law license after being convicted of felony campaign corruption charges last year.

In the current indictment, he and Feldman faced charges of grand larceny by extortion, attempted grand larceny by extortion, coercion and conspiracy for allegedly ordering two judicial candidates to pay favored vendors $100,000 or lose their support.

"We have concluded that Jeff Feldman was nothing more than a messenger who delivered demands to judicial candidates," Hynes' rackets chief, Michael Vecchione, told presiding Justice Marty Marcus in a five-minute proceeding.

"These demands ... were at the behest and on behalf of his boss, Clarence Norman. Jeff Feldman did not possess or share Clarence Norman's intent to commit these crimes," he said.

Vecchione announced his office had signed an agreement with Feldman, acknowledging he is "fully cooperating" and agreed to testify in "this and other ongoing investigations."

Feldman described himself as "relieved."

Neither his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, nor Hynes' office would discuss the agreement.

But Hynes has been focusing on Ruditzky, whom Garson claimed had told someone he paid $100,000 to get the party's 2001 endorsement after he lost a Civil Court election.

Garson, 61, now suspended from the bench, faces charges of looting nearly $1 million from an elderly aunt. He has been trying to make a deal with Hynes to avoid jail in exchange for providing proof Norman had offered judicial endorsements for a price, sources said.

"We are preparing for trial," said his attorney, Ron Aiello, yesterday. "There is no deal."
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Daily News - Editorial 10-12-06
This canary must sing

A big player in the Brooklyn Democratic Party's judge-making machine won a get-of-jail-free card yesterday from District Attorney Joe Hynes in a plea-bargain deal that will, it is fervently hoped, pay big dividends.

In dismissing three-year-old extortion charges against party Executive Director Jeff Feldman, Hynes said Feldman would cooperate with corruption probers, making him potentially one of the most valuable witnesses around here in a long time. Feldman will live up to his billing if he delivers former boss Clarence Norman to prison, along with naming every other name in the Democratic rackets.

Given the rogue's image that Feldman had cultivated, the news that he had turned was nothing less than stunning, but the specter of a stretch in Attica does have a way of knocking the starch out of you. Equally remarkable was Hynes' depiction of Feldman as a mere messenger boy for Norman, as someone who "did not possess or share Clarence Norman's intent to commit these crimes."

Specifically, those offenses included strong-arming would-be judicial candidates into hiring favored consultants. The deal was simple: Do as you are told or forget the bench. Such was the message Feldman delivered, allegedly at Norman's behest, and it is patently clear that he understood the felonious nature of his conduct. Feldman is, after all, a 30-year veteran of judicial politics, and he has long been a key figure in deciding who becomes a judge in Brooklyn, including his own wife, Supreme Court Justice Marsha Steinhardt.

So now Hynes says Feldman will sing. It better be loud and clear.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




NORMAN PAL DEAL


By ZACH HABERMAN and ALEX GINSBERG

October 12, 2006 -- Brooklyn prosecutors dropped all charges yesterday against the right-hand man to disgraced Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman, ending their nearly three-year-old case against Jeffrey Feldman in return for a promise of cooperation.
The surprise move fueled speculation that Feldman, who had a front-row seat to the backroom deals of the Brooklyn Democratic machine for more than a decade, was offering up plum details of judgeships bought and sold.

Feldman, 52, the executive director of Norman's Kings County Democratic County Organization, had been charged, along with his former boss, with forcing judicial candidates to hire favored consultants in exchange for party backing.

He'd faced up to seven years in prison on the 22-count indictment.

"We have concluded that Jeff Feldman was nothing more than a messenger who delivered demands to judicial candidates," said chief prosecutor Michael Vecchione.

"These demands, which are the subject of this indictment, were at the behest of and on behalf of his boss."

Vecchione told the presiding judge, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus, that the DA's office had inked an agreement with Feldman to cooperate on this and future investigations.

"Relieved," was all Feldman would say following the barely five-minute court appearance.

"I am grateful that this personal ordeal has terminated with the dismissal of all criminal charges," he added in a written statement.

"I look forward to continuing my efforts to advance the causes and principles of the Democratic Party and to enable the election of its candidates in all branches of government."

The move was highly unusual in that prosecutors generally do not reward cooperators until after they've testified.

Nevertheless, Feldman's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, promised that his client would appear when called.

"Mr. Feldman has agreed to fully cooperate with the Kings County District Attorney's Office and if called as a witness will testify truthfully," he said.

Feldman's sweet deal, paired with prosecutors' mention of future investi- gations, all but confirmed suspicions that Feldman was ready to assist in the DA's ongoing probe into judgeships for sale.

"Jeff was in the middle of everything," said one Brooklyn courts insider, adding, in reference to judges suspected of buying their way onto the bench, "I'm sure when they read about this, they won't be too happy."

Another source familiar with the DA's probe said one of the main targets of the investigation was Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Howard Ruditzky, who The Post reported last year ponied up between $50,000 and $100,000 for his spot on the bench.

Ruditzky did not immediately return a message left at his chambers and courts spokesman David Bookstaver declined to comment.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NY TIMES

October 12, 2006
Deal in Brooklyn Corruption Case
By MICHAEL BRICK
Nearly four years into a broad inquiry seeking to expose the sale of judgeships in Brooklyn, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss all charges against the longtime executive director of the county’s Democratic Party, Jeffrey C. Feldman, in exchange for his cooperation.

The deal, announced yesterday at a brief hearing in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, cost prosecutors the second highest ranking target they have identified. But it gained them the most highly placed witness they have named.

So far, the investigation has produced guilty pleas by minor figures in a judicial bribery case and the conviction and resignation of Clarence Norman Jr., a 12-term assemblyman, deputy speaker and chairman of the biggest county Democratic organization east of Chicago.

There were accusations that judgeships were being sold by party leaders, who have considerable influence over the nomination and election of judges. Yet no one has been charged with selling judgeships. Separately, a federal judge has declared the system of selecting state judges unconstitutional.

Evidence from a case in which a judge who oversaw divorce cases was charged with bribery led the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to begin a broader investigation in April 2003 into corruption in the process of nominating judges. Mr. Norman has been convicted in two corruption cases and acquitted in a third. In the last pending case, he has been charged with pressing judicial candidates to hire certain election consultants to win favor with the party. Until yesterday, Mr. Feldman was a co-defendant in that case.

“We have concluded that Jeff Feldman was nothing more than a messenger,” said Michael F. Vecchione, chief of the district attorney’s rackets division. He added that Mr. Feldman “has agreed to testify on behalf of the people in this and other ongoing investigations.”

Mr. Feldman has signed a cooperation agreement, prosecutors say, though it is unusual to dismiss charges against such a witness before testimony is completed.

A lawyer for Mr. Feldman, Benjamin Brafman said, “The D.A.’s office looked at the case very differently afte

 

DA Drops Charges; Feldman To Testify Against Norman

NY Law Journal
by Tom Perrotta
10-12-2006
In a highly unusual move, prosecutors in Brooklyn yesterday dismissed all charges against Jeffrey C. Feldman, who was to stand trial for grand larceny next month in a case that accused him and former Assemblyman Clarence Norman of coercing two judicial candidates to hire favored vendors.

At a four-minute hearing yesterday before Acting Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus (See Profile), Assistant District Attorney Michael F. Vecchione said that Mr. Feldman, the longtime executive director of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, "was nothing more than a messenger" for Mr. Norman.

Mr. Vecchione said Mr. Feldman had agreed to testify against Mr. Norman and was "fully cooperating" on "other ongoing cases."

But unlike most defendants who reach an agreement with prosecutors, Mr. Feldman did not have to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Nor will he have to wait until the end of Mr. Norman's trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 6, before prosecutors ask that the charges against him be dismissed. His bail was exonerated at the hearing.

Mr. Feldman's attorney, Benjamin Brafman of Brafman & Associates, characterized the agreement as "a letter of understanding," not a cooperation agreement.

"He's not pleading guilty to anything," Mr. Brafman said.

He added: "I am delighted by the district attorney's decision to dismiss the charges and very pleased that after substantial effort by us on behalf of Mr. Feldman, they ultimately accepted the proposition that he did not, in fact, commit a crime."

Mr. Vecchione declined to comment outside the courtroom.

Neither side would address the ultimate question for those who have been following District Attorney Charles J. Hynes' investigation of the Brooklyn judiciary: Would Mr. Feldman be able to provide prosecutors with information or testimony to support Mr. Hynes' allegations that judgeships in Brooklyn were bought?

One source familiar with Brooklyn judicial politics, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Feldman knew every detail of the party's workings when it came to judgeships.

"Any judge who has done something they shouldn't have could be nervous," the source said. "Nothing happened that he didn't know about, good or bad."

In November 2003, Mr. Hynes' office unsealed a 22-count indictment against Messrs. Norman and Feldman alleging grand larceny, coercion and conspiracy.

According to the indictment, the two men demanded in 2002 that two party-endorsed Civil Court candidates each raise $100,000 to $150,000 to finance a joint, boroughwide campaign.

They also allegedly told the candidates, incumbent Judge Karen B. Yellen and Housing Court Judge Marcia Sikowitz, to pay thousands of dollars for a get-out-the-vote operation. The former candidates, who are expected to testify in the upcoming trial, complied to varying degrees. Neither was successful in winning a seat on the bench.

After the indictment was unsealed, Messrs. Norman and Feldman said through their attorneys that they had merely sought to impose discipline on the campaign.

Mr. Norman, the former leader of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn, has faced three previous corruption cases and has been convicted in two of them. He faces 2 to 6 years in prison if his convictions are upheld on appeal.

 

The Rat Turns on the Other Rats

October 11, 2006
Feldman's Testimony
The Law Journal is up first with details on the breakthrough in the Clarence Norman case that I reported earlier.


Hynes has agreed to drop all charges against Jeff Feldman, now seen as the "messenger" for Norman's wrongdoing.

Key quote:

"Any judge who has done something they shouldn't have could be nervous," the source said. "Nothing happened that he didn't know about, good or bad."

Posted by Ben Smith at October 11, 2006 10:06 PM

Comments
Good lawyering! When Feldman, so clearly targeted, gets to walk away, it seems to me that his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, has worked at least minor magic.

Posted by: Daniel Millstone at October 11, 2006 11:06 PM

now they can throw out the crappy indictment they have and get something real. supreme is where the action is

Posted by: Anonymous at October 12, 2006 09:20 AM

What will Vito do with Jeff now? He kept him on while under indictment since he had not been convicted. Now that the DA has declared him not guilty of any crime, can Vito fire him? But if he keeps him on, can anybody trust that Jeff isn't reporting everything back to the DA?

Posted by: anon at October 12, 2006 10:03 AM

Why would tie himself into Norman's corruption? Can Feldman be wired? Hynes has tried that before. Can Feldman blackmale Vito on Judge Herkim Torres?

Posted by: Anonymous at October 12, 2006 10:12 AM

Jeffrey Feldman will continue his job as County Leader oops I mean Executive Director. He is the ultimate confidant for a politican Vito.

Just look at how loyal he was to Clarence Norman and Marty Connor. Threw them both right under the bus when it served his interest.

One day he and his beloved Judge Steinhardt will be down in Boca enjoying their fat governemt pensions laughing all the way to the bank!

Posted by: Brooklyn's The Worst at October 12, 2006 10:27 AM

Jeff Feldman must go now. If Jeff cared he would pack it up and leave with a clean slate. Jeff for the of all involve including yourself. leave now. Or Vito will have no choice move on with your life, if you have one.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 12, 2006 03:46 PM


May 01, 2006
The More Things Change
The Brooklyn Democratic Party is circulating the blank forms elected officials can use to form their campaign committees and circulate petitions, and a reader was struck that the forms don't seem to have changed all that much since Clarence Norman's convictions.

Indeed, the party offers a helfpul head start on a candidates' Committee to Fill Vacancies, the body that chooses a successor in case of death or departure. Already typed into the form is the name of the party's executive director, who remains Norman's long-time deputy, Jeff Feldman.

I've uploaded a copy of the form here.

Posted by Ben Smith at May 1, 2006 04:28 PM

Comments
They still haven't cleaned house? That means everything remains the same, as Jeff Feldman is defacto county chair. He was under Norman and remains so today. What is happening with his trial? Why the procrastination on Hynes part?

Posted by: Brooklyn Girl at May 1, 2006 05:01 PM

Not really a big deal, except symbolically. The first name on the committee to fill vacancies is the person who is notified if any objections are filed at the Board of Elections. The Brooklyn
Party offers certain services to its incumbent elected and party officials in connection to the filing of nominating petitions. One of these services is to act as a clearinghouse when such petitions are challenged. This work is done by the Executive Director, Jeff Feldman. As such, his name usually appears first on petitions where the county organization is performing such services, thus expediting the notification process. There is usually not much more significance than that.

Posted by: Gatemouth at May 1, 2006 05:01 PM

As much as I'd love an opportunity to point out a deficiency on the part of Joe Hynes, this is really standard operating procedure. Not so much a big deal.

Posted by: pixie at May 1, 2006 06:30 PM

It is the lowering of standards and morality that allows people like Feldman remain in the Democratic Party. There is no behavior or act that would turn anyone on the inside of Brooklyn politics today against another insider. Even stealing from the dead widows and children is greeted with a wink by fellow insiders.

Why not the press almost never writes about the morality and lack of standards of a man under indictment running the Democratic Party in Brooklyn (second in command). Even Tom Delay was removed from his leadership position once he was indicted. The standard answer by the pol is that Feldman is on indicted not convicted.

Well this handy website show it is not only about the indictment is it about two decades of undemocratic behavior. Check out this website: http://feldmanmustgo.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Anonymous at May 1, 2006 09:29 PM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?