Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Feldman Indicted Extorting Money From Judge Yellen

"Mr. Feldman demanded that unless both candidates paid $10,000 for an effort to get out the vote on primary day, all party workers would be pulled off operations on the judges' behalf.

Ms. Yellen ultimately paid $9,000 for the get-out-the-vote effort shortly after the primary, according to prosecutors, because she felt that she had a political obligation to do so. Judge Sikowitz never paid for the campaign effort because she did not raise enough funds to make the payment, they said."
Law Journal, November 19, 2003

"The mistake of Messrs. Feldman and Norman was to assume that duly elected judges, some with a decade or more on the Brooklyn bench, need not be exempted from this formula. Thus the meetings listed in the indictment, in which funds were demanded, threats issued, and sitting judges rudely informed of just where they stood in the pecking order."
New York Sun, Novermber 19, 2003

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Indictment Against Jeffrey Feldman



Brooklyn, November 18, 2003 -- Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced the indictment of Kings County Democratic County Committee (KCDCC) Chairman Clarence Norman and Jeffrey Feldman, Executive Director of the KCDCC, for coercion by extortion of two candidates for county-wide Civil Court judgeships in 2002. They are being charged with multiple counts of extortion, Grand Larceny, Attempted Grand Larceny and Conspiracy.

In May 2002, district leaders of the Kings County Democratic party met at the Park Plaza Restaurant (with Norman and Feldman present) and voted endorsements for the three county-wide judicial seats for the Civil Court of the City of New York subject to election in 2002. The district leaders endorsed the re-election of Civil Court Judges Margaret Cammer and Karen Yellen, and the candidacy of Housing Court Judge Marcia Sikowitz. Soon after, Judge Cammer decided to withdraw from the race, and she was replaced as endorsee by Robin Garson.

The indictment charges that in the summer of 2002, there were at least three meetings in which the candidates, along with some of their supporters and consultants, met with Norman and Feldman at their KCDCC offices to discuss their campaigns. Norman and Feldman set forth a proposal for a joint campaign for the three candidates. An ambitious program of newspaper ads, mailings, lit. drops, palm cards, and TV ads were discussed, with an estimated price tag of $100,000 to $150,000 per campaign. Most of the negotiation was between Norman and Feldman on one hand and Yellen’s consultants from The Advance Group on the other. Ultimately, the KCDCC made a non-negotiable demand of three joint mailings via Branford Communications.

Although the Advance Group felt it could find a cheaper alternative to Branford, the Yellen campaign agreed to the proposal after Norman allegedly stated that any candidate that did not agree to the Branford mailings would be “dumped” or functionally disendorsed and otherwise not supported by his Party. The candidates testified that they felt that the Party’s endorsement was very valuable as they had access to a ready workforce, they could provide legal assistance, and they could use the club’s workforce to distribute literature and palm cards on Primary Day, which was all crucial to their campaigns.

The agreement by the Yellen campaign to the joint mailings via Branford, upon pain of being “dumped” by the Party, gives rise to the first set of charges against Norman and Feldman: Attempted Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (attempt to extort more than $50,000) and Attempted Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (attempt to steal by extortion).

Of the three joint mailings agreed to, only one actually took place. That was in August 2002. The plan for the two additional joint mailings fell apart because Robin Garson successfully challenged the ballot petitions of her opponent (and thus, was assured the nomination for one of the three seats), and Sikowitz simply ran out of money. The Yellen campaign paid Branford approximately $7,600 for the one mailing. This payment, resulting from the agreement coerced by Norman and Feldman, is the basis for the second set of charges against Norman and Feldman: Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (extortion of more than $3,000), Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (larceny by extortion), and Coercion in the Second Degree (a misdemeanor coerced under threat of harm to business, calling, career, etc.).

The second part of this case concerns Norman and Feldman’s demands that Yellen and Sikowitz fund street operations in central Brooklyn (Norman’s assembly district and adjacent ones), budgeted for $16,000. This expense did not make sense to either Yellen or Sikowitz, who preferred to focus the use of their limited resources in other parts of Brooklyn. But here, Sikowitz said she felt bullied. Norman allegedly threatened that the Party would not do anything on Primary Day for the candidate who did not agree. Sikowitz agreed, but ultimately never actually paid the money because she simply did not have it. The Yellen campaign, however, after stalling, paid $9,000 in a check payable to William Boone (a political operative of Clarence Norman Jr.), after Feldman reiterated the demand and threat in early September, on the eve of the Primary.

The “central Brooklyn” proposal is the basis for the third and fourth set of charges against Norman and Feldman: as to the Yellen campaign, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, and Coercion in the Second Degree; and as to the Sikowitz campaign, Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Attempted Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, and Attempted Coercion in the Second Degree.

Sikowitz and Yellen lost the Primary on September 10, 2002, to their opponents, Civil Court Judge Margarita Lopez Torres and Housing Court Judge Delores Thomas.

Feldman and Norman Indicted In Judicial Corruption Case

“prosecutors have obtained the first criminal charges directly related to suspected corruption in the selection of Brooklyn judges: an indictment of the borough’s top two Democratic officials on charges that they tried to strong-arm judicial candidates into hiring consultants favored by the party.” The Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman, Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., and party executive director Jeffrey Feldman surrendered “to face charges of attempted grand larceny, a felony, and other charges.” Two unsuccessful Democratic candidates for Civil Court have told investigators that Norman and Feldman “threatened to withdraw the party’s support during the 2002 race unless they hired the party’s choices to print brochures and work to get out the vote.” -- New York Times, Nov 18, 2003

"Brooklyn Democratic party boss Clarence Norman and his top aide surrendered last night on charges they made $100,000 the going rate for a Brooklyn judgeship.
Norman, who was indicted last month on separate grand larceny charges, carried buttermilk cookies and joked with reporters about spending his second night on a cot in Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' office.

"Since I've been here before, I knew to bring my cookies and magazines," said Norman, who arrived on foot just after 9 p.m. with a half-dozen friends and supporters. "Why should I be angry? How many times do you have a second chance to spend the night in the district attorney's office?

"We all know this is nothing more than a bunch of nonsense."

Norman and Jeffrey Feldman, the party's executive director, are expected to be arraigned today on charges they shook down three judges up for reelection in 2002 after the party had endorsed them.

They were indicted on 22 counts Friday. The indictment was set to be unsealed today. Each faces up to seven years in prison, if convicted on the top count of grand larceny.

Feldman arrived about 15 minutes before Norman, accompanied by his attorney, Ronald Aiello. "We are at a loss - a total loss - as to what crimes could have been committed by Mr. Feldman," said Aiello.

A source said Feldman allegedly told Civil Court judges Karen Yellen, Marcia Sikowitz and Margaret Cammer they each had "to come up with 100 grand or we're going to take this away from you."

The indictment also charges the pair warned Yellen in a separate incident that she would be thrown off the ticket if she did not pay certain favored consultants, another sources said.

Sources close to the case said all three women as well as a Brooklyn district leader are expected to testify against Feldman and Norman, who also is a longtime state assemblyman and controls judgeships in the heavily Democratic borough.

The dual surrender came a month after another grand jury declined to issue a formal charge on the alleged scheme to sell seats on the bench."
-Daily News, November 18, 2003

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Will Feldman Rat on His Friends?

"For months, prosecutors have dangled the prospect of "favorable treatment" in front of Feldman in exchange for his giving information on Norman, a source close to Feldman said. The grand jury has been looking into allegations that Norman forced judicial candidates to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get on the Democratic line."
Daily News October 4, 2003

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Controlling Judges Decisions

"The final dagger was wielded by state Supreme Court Justice Gloria Dabiri, who, through her misunderstanding of the law and lack of common sense, not only knocked Eisenberg off the ballot but created a monster that will haunt New York politics. Dabiri ruled that residence can be used as a weapon against candidates.
Recchia wanted his opponent barred for using the Americanized Tony Eisenberg rather than the Russian Anatoly Eyzenberg. Recchia also said Eisenberg wasn't registered at the right address.
The Dems put Dabiri on the bench, so when Brooklyn party honcho Jeff Feldman showed up in her courtroom to observe the proceedings, she got the message. She bought the whole package and bounced Eisenberg on both his name and residence" - Daily News, September 9, 2003

Monday, September 8, 2003

4 Judges Feldman About Feldman Extortion Racket

"Since then, the only people to be indicted are Mr. Norman and the executive director of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Jeffrey C. Feldman. Both are accused of threatening to withhold the party's support from judicial candidates unless they hired the party's favored consultants to print brochures and work to get out the vote." - New York Sun, October 25, 2005

"Political analysts said if the district attorney wins again, he will also be able to use his success as a warning to others, including the executive director of the party, Jeffrey Feldman, who, like Norman, is charged with extortion and coercion.
That indictment accuses them of demanding that two judicial candidates, Karen Yellen and Marcia Sikowitz, hire the party's go-to vendor, Branford Communication, to print campaign literature, and to hire a political consultant favored by the Brooklyn Democratic Party, William Boone, in exchange for the party's endorsement in 2002.
Many who are following the case say one of the big outstanding questions is whether Mr. Feldman, who has a pending appeal, will cut a deal with prosecutors if his case heads to trial. According to published reports, Mr. Feldman has not had those discussions with prosecutors."
New York Sun, November 7, 2005

"But it is essentially the opposite. Mr. Norman and Jeff Feldman seem to be politicizing crime. At least that is what the four judges and several of their campaign workers are telling prosecutors. They testify they felt extorted into hiring particular consultants, who weren't even in their best interest, if they want the endorsement of the Brooklyn organization."
New York Sun, September 8, 2003

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Endorsements and Payoffs

"Messinger said she regrets not having kept the bill presented to her by Norman and Jeffrey Feldman, executive director of the county Democratic Committee. She said the endorsement's price was "several hundred thousand dollars."
"There was no discussion of anything else," recalled Messinger, who said the leaders never talked about her chances of winning the general election or her stand on issues as conditions of an endorsement. "We were told this is what it will cost you."
New York Post, June 19, 2003

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Judge Gleason Rules: Judicial Screening Panels Controlled by County Leaders

"TWO MEMBERS of the committee that screens judicial candidates in Brooklyn quit the panel Monday night, saying it did not live up to their expectations.
Panel member Robert L. Begleiter announced his resignation and that of Jane N. Barrett at the start of a meeting of the newly restructured Kings County Democratic Judicial Screening Committee.

A letter from the pair to panel Chairman Martin Edelman was distributed to its members yesterday. . .

We resign with regret, as we both had high expectations that the Panel, as reconstituted this year, would further merit selection of judges in Brooklyn and would restore the perception of integrity to a process that has been severely criticized," it said. "Unfortunately, our experience with the Panel has convinced us that it will not, under current procedures, be a vehicle for that reform. . .

We strongly urge the Panel be charged with providing short lists of recommended individuals for judges' positions," rather than rating candidates as "qualified" or not qualified," the letter says. The pair urged that the committee identify "the most merited among the qualified." That is similar to the New York County Democratic Party's method and the process for selection of U.S. magistrate judges. . .
They claim the panel reached the same conclusion by consensus at its first meeting. Ms. Barrett and Mr. Begleiter said in their letter that the indicted pair participated in a June decision about the panel's charter. However, Robert Liff, the party's spokesman, said Mr. Norman has presided over executive committee meetings without voting and Mr. Feldman is not a member."
Law Journal, July 22, 2004

"The executive director of the Brooklyn party, Jeffrey Feldman, declined to give a reason for the two lawyers' resignations, and said they would be replaced after the panel has finished its business for this year. "The panel is in the middle of the process," Mr. Feldman said. . .

"They just got cold feet from all the press," said one Brooklyn Democrat. They resigned without any formal letter, he said. "These are not letter-writers."
New York Sun. May 7, 2003

"Though three judicial screening panel members resigned, none of the others followed suit. And Jeffrey Feldman, executive director of the county organization, said Brooklyn is still a leader in judicial reform. "We're one of only about five organizations to enjoy the input of the screening panel," he said. "We've always been on the leading edge."
Newsday, May 21, 2001

"The First District's selection process is the best in the state because of its screening panel, which is discussed further below, and because of the intense involvemnet of Manhattan Democratic Clubs in judicial politics. . . Nevertheless, even in the First District, New York County's Democratic leader controls the process. Farrell assembles a package of candidatges for presentation to the convention and the delegates approve it. Candidate who Farrell decides should be nominated get nominated. . .

More specifically, the overwhelming majority of these disputes involves rival Democrats clubs in Manhattan. These clubs' members, who must pay dues, represent approximately 1.3% of the registered Democrats in Manhattan. That there are occasional frights for control at the upper levels of the political structure of an AD or a county does not mean the delegate selection process is open to a challenger candidate who seeks her party's nomination. To the contray, it is yet another window into how closed the process is to the ordinary voters. "
From Judge Gleason' Decision

Thursday, May 1, 2003

State Commission on Judicial Conduct leaks?

"More on leaks: The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is seeking to remove Brooklyn elected state Supreme Court Justice Reynold Mason for abusing an escrow account (using it to pay for child support and political donations). Mason, who is appealing to the state's top court, presented an affidavit last month alleging that the commission leaked word to Brooklyn Democratic Executive Director Jeff Feldman that the judge would be ousted. Feldman denies it, but if true, it would be a breach of the panel's duty to conduct its affairs in confidence and evidence of a pipeline to the party. Information is power."
Daily News, May 1, 2003