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The Brooklyn Papers: 02/21/04: COURT TOLD: HYNES TARGETS Foes

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Posted by GET NY on 19:07:16 12/22/04


By Neil Sloane

The Brooklyn Papers

A lawyer who once challenged District Attorney Charles Hynes in a Democratic primary filed court
papers Tuesday charging him with a pattern of prosecuting political rivals.

Sandra Roper, who in 2001 garnered 37 percent of the vote against Hynes, filed motions in Brooklyn state Supreme Court seeking to dismiss criminal complaints against her.

Because of the contentious history they share Hynes had a special prosecutor appointed to try Roper. Amanda Fritz, formerly a prosecutor in the frauds bureau of the Manhattan DA's office and now a solo practitioner in Manhattan, secured an indictment last June charging Roper with third-degree grand larceny and forgery with respect to her former client, Mary Lee Ward, 73.

In his motion to dismiss the indictment, Roper attorney Raymond Baierlein charges Hynes with "discriminatory and selective prosecution."

The motion alleges a pattern of politically motivated prosecutions initiated by Hynes, starting with a former Brooklyn judge, John Phillips, who had intended to run against the district attorney in the 2001 primary.

"Judge Phillips was forced to withdraw based upon the fact that DA Hynes' office instituted a guardianship proceeding against him, seizing all of his extensive real estate holdings," the court papers charge.

Long Island-based attorney Frank Livoti instituted the proceeding against Phillips at Hynes' request, Roper's motion states, claiming that the former judge, then 73, was in danger of being defrauded of his property holdings.

In court testimony from Feb. 21. 2001, appended as an exhibit to the motion, Livoti states that assistant district attorney Steven Kramer requested he start the action because the DA's office did not have the jurisdiction to do so.

Hynes this week denied the allegations. He said the competency proceedings and move to freeze Phillips' assets came as part of a fraud probe in which Phillips had allegedly been a victim.
"When we contacted Phillips about the case, it was clear he was suffering from dementia," Hynes told the New York Post in the Feb. 19 edition.

But in a 2001 telephone conversation between Phillips and ADA Kramer, which Phillips tape recorded, the former judge sounds lucid and sharp as he questions the Hynes operative as to why his property and records had been seized.

In the taped conversation, a copy of which was obtained by The Brooklyn Papers. Phillips asks Kramer, "Do you know this guy Livoti? I think he's trying to take my buildings or something."
Kramer answers, "He's the guardian. co-guardian."

To which Phillips responds. "He's a guardian? My guardian?"

Phillips later says, "You said something to me about somebody being prosecuted I believe. And I wondered who filed the criminal complaint."

Kramer: "It hasn't been filed yet, but there was a defendant who was arrested who was associated with the person who - a Mr. Clark, there was a Mr. McAllister, Justice McAllister?

Phillips: "Oh. Justice McAllister."

Kramer: "Yeah. And he was associated with Mr. Clark and he was arrested for stealing buildings."

Phillips: "Did he steal one of my buildings?"

Kramer: "No."

Phillips: "Oh."

Krainer: "Je stole other buildings." Phillips: "Oh, I see." (Laughs) "I was wondering who stole my buildings." No one was ever prosecuted in the Phillips case.

Four years earlier, after he had begun collecting nominating petitions to run against Hynes, the motion states, Phillips was arrested outside his office for carrying a handgun. causing an early end to that campaign. His gun permit had expired a short time earlier, the motion states.

The motion filed Tuesday goes on to detail the case of longtime Hynes foe John O'Hara, an ally of Roper who encouraged her bid for district attorney and, before that, Phillips'primary challenge.

O'Hara, a perennial fly in the Brooklyn Democratic Party's ointment, who several times challenged party-backed candidates in primaries, was charged in 1996 with voting from an address that was not his primary residence. O'Hara was the first person prosecuted for violating Election Law since Susan B. Anthony in 1873.

"DA Hynes used the power of his office to uncover a reason to prosecute Mr. O'Hara and then, despite the fact that the charges amounted to only an 'E' felony, DA Hynes assigned the chief of his Homicide Bureau [to prosecute O'Hara]," the court papers state.

After three separate trials Hynes got a conviction. O'Hara, who was disbarred, lost several appeals and this year the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case. He is serving the remaining 3(X) hours of his sentence of 1,500 hours of community service.

"I'he prosecution of Mr. O'Hara ... was obviously a case of vengeful and selective prosecution," Baierlein states in the motion.

O'Hara, who says he knew Phillips well, said that while he was eccentric - Phillips was known as the "Kung-Fu Judge" because of his black belt in karate, packed a pistol and ran a political club that doubled as a martial arts studio-he was definitely competent.

"This was really bad. Phillips was planning to run for DA, and the DA's office steps in and says, `Well, we think he's the victim of a crime. This is now a crime scene.' Boom, his properties are all sealed up," O'Hara told The Papers.

"They seal up seven of his buildings, then they find out he owns five more buildings. They take them, too," said O'Hara. "Phillips, when he was going to run for DA was worth $20 million. The day they sealed everything up he wasn't worth two cents and he hasn't had a nickel since then."
The next case cited is that of Hynes' prosecution of the Kings County Democratic Party chairman, Assemblyman Clarence Norma Jr., which Hynes commenced last year.

"It is Ms. Roper's position that she, just as the persons discussed above, was selected for criminal prosecution by DA Hynes based upon the fact that she opposed him in the September 200l primary... " the court papers state.

Roper contends that her challenge was formidable enough to force Hynes to spend much more money than he had planned running unopposed.

She also charges that Hynes held her former client Ward's complaint against her in his office for "four to six months" before seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Ward filed a complaint with the DA's office against Roper in August 2001. Roper began collecting petition signatures to run against Hynes in June of that year and the special prosecutor was requested in December 2001, after the conclusion of the primary.

Asked why Hynes held onto the complaint so long, his spokesman, Jerry Schmettcrer, declined to comment.

Roper, who was cleared of the Ward charges in September 2002 by the Appellate Division's Attorney Grievance Committee, further charges in her motion that Hynes never pursued criminal charges against three other lawyers and a mortgage broker against whom Ward, in 1995, complained of fraud, forgery and filing false documents. In another complaint against a lawyer by Ward, the papers allege. Hynes merely referred the complaint to the grievance committee.

Roper is charged with allegedly doctoring her retainer to elicit $9,000 from Ward after agreeing to represent her free of charge in a dispute with a lending firm. Ward fired Roper in 2001 and charged that she had stolen fees deposited into an escrow account.

Roper's attorneys argue that she agreed to represent Ward for a flat fee of $9,000, and did so for six years.

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