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Our Time Press: November 11, 2004: SANDRA ROPER ON TRIAL: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!

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Posted by GET NY on 16:21:22 01/02/05


Our Time Press
November 11, 2004

Maurice Gumbs

The trial of People v. Sandra Roper in Brooklyn State Supreme Court ended on November 8 or 9 with a hung jury. Eight jurors found Roper innocent. Three felt she was guilty. One was undecided.

It just so happens that the three jurors who voted to convict were males. Maybe it means nothing. Except there was an interesting response from one of these 3 men when asked why he voted to convict. He explained that Roper was too aggressive. Is it possible that men still expect their women to be silent and submissive even when abused?

Roper is a Black attorney who had a popular Fulton Street law practice until 2002. Things suddenly went sour for Roper in the middle of a 2001 campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney.

A woman named Mary Ward filed a complaint with the DA's office charging that Roper had cheated her out of $8,000.

Ward had been the victim of "predatory lending" by a major bank, and went to Roper at the point when she was about to be evicted and lose her house. Roper states that Ward agreed to pay her $8,000 for what ended up being more than $40,000 of work on a time-consuming trial. At the time, Ward ran into trouble maybe tens of thousands of New Yorkers were similar victims of "legal" predatory lending. Ward lost at trial, but her eviction was post.poned indefinitely. Roper agreed to represent Ward pro bono at the appeal. The Roper appeal was a historic one which contributed to current legislation which eliminates the worst of previous predatory lending.

Just when and why Ward took this matter to the DA's office is uncertain. An Assistant District Attorney testified at the trial that Ward walked into the DA's Complaint room in August, 2001. The Daily News reports it was September 2001. But to the amazement of both defense and prosecution, Ward apparently testified at trial that she never went to the District Attorney until December 2002.

At the trial, it was revealed that Mary Ward had a long history of filing complaints against attorneys with the Bar Association Discipline Committee. In fact, Ward had already filed a complaint against Roper before going to the DA. That complaint was reviewed and dismissed by the Discipline Committee, as were the previous complaints Mary Ward had submitted against a series of previous lawyers.

It is useful to know that for a variety of reasons, neighborhood lawyers get reported to the Discipline Committee on a regular basis. The review of the Bar Association Discipline Committee is a thorough and exhaustive one. In fact, many neighborhood lawyers have left practice over what they consider the unfair and unconscionable rigidity of the governing group. Because of these harsh standards, it is rare to find any attorney being subjected to prosecution after being exonerated by the lawyers' Discipline Committee.

Roper claimed that the action taken against her subsequent to the dismissal of Ward's complaint by the Discipline Committee was an act sponsored by Hynes to punish her for running against him. But testimony from the DA's office insists that Ward never bothered to tell them that she had already filed a complaint against Roper, and that the DA was unaware that the matter was in the hands of the Discipline Committee at the time when it was referred to State Administrative Judge Joan Carey. In fact, Hynes has repeatedly claimed that his office never even investigated the matter before referring it to Carey's office for fear that he might be accused of conducting a biased investigation. The DA insists that the decision to prosecute Roper was made entirely by the State Administrative Judge.

It would be no surprise if Roper does not believe Hynes to be truthful, and sources close to Roper claim that Hynes and State Administra­tive Judge Carey have known each other for a long time. Roper is understandably bitter that she was indicted on the basis of a complaint that had been rejected by the Discipline Committee. She is distressed by the fact that she was fired from her job as a Law Secretary on the testimony of a "professional" complainant whose statement at trial differed from the testimony of the District Attorney's representa­tives.

The mistrial, and the lopsided vote in favor of Roper comes at the worst possible time for Hynes, who is about to launch his campaign for re-election. On November 2, hundreds of DUMP DISTRICT ATTORNEY HYNES posters sprouted up around polling sites in Clarence Norman's 43rd Assembly District. Judging from his behavior this fall, the Assemblyman was clearly more interested in hurting Hynes than in helping Kerry/Edwards. We expect that FREE SANDRA ROPER signs will soon be attached to the DUMP HYNES signs. Throughout the past summer, Clarence's supporters made the case that Ilynes was an enemy of Black leadership, and from time to time noted that Sandra Roper and Clarence Norman were both victims of malicious prosecution by the District Attorney. If Bob Liff, Clarence's consultant, can now "piggyback" on what appears to he another "setback" for Hynes, it could he the final nail in the District Attorney's coffin.

At this point, there is no evidence of growing love for Clarence corning from the Roper camp. Clarence openly indicated at the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus in Albany that State Senator John Sampson was his choice for Brooklyn District Attorney. The probability is that Roper will either run herself or will support a candidate Districts, Sampson could possibly sweep the DA.

All these matters aside, it is clear from the jury decision that there should be no further prosecution of Sandra Roper. Hynes set a record for retrials when he went after attorney John O'Hara seeking a felony conviction when O'Hara was accused of voting from a false address. That idiotic conviction remains hanging around the DA's neck like an albatross, tagging him as a vindictive, petty and cruel man. One albatross around a person's neck should he enough for a lifetime.

Although, theoretically, Hynes has no jurisdiction over the matter, justice and common sense cry out for him to make a statement in this matter. The blatant and dramatic inconsistency between the testimony of the Brooklyn ADA's and Mary Ward's testimony clearly renders the woman's testimony unreliable. Ward's long record of submitting frivolous complaints, and the fact that she concealed from the Brooklyn ADA that she had already filed a complaint against Roper also raises a question of the woman's integrity.

The seriousness or sanity of Mary Ward's behavior should also be questioned. Before the grand jury, Ward had reportedly testified tearfully and dramatically that Sandra Roper had threatened to murder her. But when confronted with this statement later on, Ward reportedly laughed. All of this is enough to cause the Brooklyn DA to express concern about the integrity of the documentation submitted by his office to the office of the State Supreme Court Administrative Judge. It is also enough to raise a question about the motivation and credibility of Mary Ward in this matter.

An 8/3/1 decision in favor of Roper leases little or no possibility of a future conviction. A retrial would be an absolute waste of public funds. There would be no excuse for a retrial except pure malice and harassment. Roper was fired from her job, had her reputation besmirched, and had to find money to pay for an expensive trial. Although it might have been a conflict of interest for Joe Hynes to prosecute this matter, there is never a conflict of interest for anyone, including the DA to step up to the plate and speak out for justice.

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