Saturday, October 21, 2006

 

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."
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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.
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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.


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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

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