NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site

PBA and Times miss the boat

June 2, 1997

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and The New York Times - each in its fashion - failed to cover the trial of Police Officer Paolo Colecchia, convicted last week of fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back on a Bronx subway platform.

No PBA representative showed up for the first week of the trial while family and friends of the victim filled the courtroom. No reporter from the Times showed up at all.

Insiders say the PBA regarded Colecchia's shooting as an embarrassment, especially after the union - including President Lou Matarazzo and his predecessor Phil Caruso - turned out en masse last fall, just down the hall from where Colecchia stood trial, to support Francis X. Livoti, a PBA delegate acquitted of using a department-banned chokehold that led to the death of another unarmed man. The NYPD subsequently fired him.

PBA spokesman Joseph Mancini said transit-police trustee Mubarek Abdul-Jabbar and some other Colecchia police colleagues did appear later at the two-week trial - but only after newspapers noted their absences. None was apparently present when Acting Bronx State Supreme Court Judge Ira Globerman pronounced Colecchia guilty of manslaughter, so that it was into the arms of a virtual stranger that Colecchia's mother sobbed. Anna Venditti, whose detective son Anthony was shot to death a decade ago and whose killer has never been convicted, had read an article describing the lack of police support for Colecchia and said she didn't want his family to be alone.

The Times was the only city newspaper that didn't send a reporter to the trial, one of the few times in the city's history a cop has been convicted of an on-duty homicide. Only after the verdict, which came at 4 p.m. Thursday, did it begin its reporting.

But its Friday story made two errors: First, that the PBA paid the fee of Colecchia's attorney, Marvyn Kornberg; second, that Nathaniel Gaines, the victim, was returning from a fireworks display in Manhattan, a fact at odds with trial testimony. Not only was The Times forced to run a correction, it also ran a separate story, repeating Kornberg's claim made to other newspapers two days before that the PBA's lack of support may have resulted in Colecchia's conviction.

Apparently on the defensive because its law firm is under indictment for matters unrelated to the union, PBA president Matarazzo has refused to comment either on the verdict or the union's lack of support for Colecchia. Times Metropolitan Editor Mike Oreskes didn't return calls.

Return of The Judy. Former civilian administrative assistant Judy Laffey, the keeper of the secrets in the police commissioner's office from 1985 to 1996, was promoted to administrative manager at a ceremony at One Police Plaza last week, after she placed near the top on a competitive exam.

Printable versionOn leave for the past year as ex-commissioner Bill Bratton's executive assistant, Laffey appeared at the ceremony with Bratton and two of his cronies, who sat inconspicuously in the audience. Then, after Laffey crossed the stage and shook hands with the dignitaries - including Bratton's successor, Howard Safir - Safir began his speech. As he did, Bratton and his two cronies left the auditorium, supposedly so Bratton could catch a plane to Boston.

Laffey, meanwhile, won't be keeping any secrets for Safir. She's been assigned to the Motor Transport Division in Queens.

Louie and His Igors. Howard Koeppel, the Queens car dealer and fund raiser for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, turned up at the COMPSTAT anti-crime strategy conference last month, and the NYPD's dark prince, Chief of Department Louie Anemone, wasn't happy to see him.

Koeppel is the fellow Anemone chastised so vigorously for sitting in the wrong pew at a police lieutenant's funeral that Koeppel burst into tears. When Anemone saw him at the COMPSTAT (computerized statistics) conference, "his little Igors," as another chief refers to his aides, began asking who had invited him.

Suspicion focused on Queens North Borough Commander Gertrude LaForgia, seen leaving the conference with Koeppel for dinner. "Totally not true," responded the grandmotherly LaForgia, not specifying what was or wasn't true. "Louie and I are kissing cousins."

Hail to the Chief. Assistant Chief Bob Burke has called it a day after 40 years on the job. The former Queens Borough commander and top cop in the department's public-information office is not seeking a disability pension for a heart, knee or back problem like many of his mope colleagues. "All I can say," proclaimed the 62-year-old Burke, "is that it's been a great run."

« Back to top

Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.