One Police Plaza

Venditti’s mom angry at PBA

June 16, 1997

The mother of a detective slain a decade ago in a celebrated and unresolved case has accused the police union's president of abandoning a cop recently convicted of killing an unarmed man on a Bronx subway platform.

"You looked for a sacrificial lamb, found one in the form of Police Officer Paolo Colecchia and fed him to the dogs," wrote Anna Venditti to Lou Matarazzo, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. She called his actions "an obvious move to absolve the department and your organization . . . for the aggressive defense of Police Officer Francis X. Livoti . . . "

"Paolo Colecchia is this city's scapegoat in an election year . . .," wrote Venditti on May 30, the day after Colecchia was convicted of fatally shooting 25-year-old Nathaniel Gaines, a Navy Persian Gulf veteran with no criminal record, in the back as he ran away from Colecchia on a subway platform a year ago. "It wouldn't do to be seen alongside him in a show of support. So you didn't do anything at all . . . "

Matarazzo never showed up at Colecchia's trial. Only a handful of PBA members did, but apparently never made their presence known to Colecchia or his parents. In contrast, Matarazzo, his predecessor Phil Caruso - who came out of retirement - and scores of PBA members attended the trial of Livoti, a PBA delegate acquitted last year of killing 29-year-old Anthony Baez in December, 1994, after Livoti used a department-banned choke-hold. He was subsequently booted off the force.

During Colecchia's trial, just down the hall from where Livoti's had been held, Anna Venditti was the only person from the so-called "police family" to appear for him. Her son Anthony was fatally shot 11 years ago in a case that still perplexes and embarrasses the department. Despite three trials, no one was convicted of his murder, while rumors have persisted that he was shot by his partner.

Venditti did not know Colecchia (and in her letter to Matarazzo misspells his name as Colecchio) before the trial. Yet she sat with his parents every day. "None of you had the decency to face his parents, who were scared to death and in a state of shock as they watched their son, reduced to blubber before their eyes," her letter to Matarazzo continued. "This was not a serial killer on trial. It was a police officer, whom you as representative of his union and his brother' cops failed . . ."

After the conviction, Colecchia's attorney Marvyn Kornberg said that Acting Bronx State Supreme Court Judge Ira Globerman, who decided the case instead of a jury, had been influenced by Gaines' supporters filling the courtroom while the PBA remained absent. Ironically, Anthony Baez' father agreed. Ramon Baez, who also attended Colecchia's trial, noted the absence of other cops and remarked at the outset to this reporter, "This means he could be found guilty."

The question now, says Kornberg, is whether Matarazzo will appear next month at Colecchia's sentencing. Matarazzo's spokesman, Joe Mancini, said Matarazzo didn't attend the trial "because of contract negotiations and preparations for arbitration." He said he didn't know whether Matarazzo would make the sentencing.

For the Record. Here's the department's version of its dealings with Bliss Verdon shortly before she was shot to death last week in Jackson Heights by her ex-boyfriend, transit Police Officer Rodney Dilbert. On May 29, Verdon filed a complaint at Queens' 115th Precinct of aggravated harassment against Dilbert, consisting of letters and telephone calls he'd recently made to her. Internal Affairs was notified, as were Queens Duty Capt. Kenneth Wegweisner and Duty Insp. Charles Gunther.

On June 4, Verdon informed Dilbert's superior, Capt. Stephen Savas, of Dilbert's harassment but added she didn't feel threatened by him. Savas notified the Transit Bureau's inspections unit and Dilbert's squad commander.

Here's what DCPI isn't saying. Sometime after Verdon filed her complaint, a sergeant was said to have visited her at home and tried to talk her out of pressing charges. He himself may now be facing them.

The Exclusive. That exclusive New Yorker magazine profile that got Jack Maple banned in the Daily News after he refused to grant similar interviews to News reporters has been serving as both the Jackster's resume and calling card. Note his introduction last week by attorney Alan Klinger at the city's Office of Collective Bargaining where Maple testified in favor of cop raises. After Klinger gave some of Maple's transit police history, including his historic meeting with ex-commissioner Bill Bratton, who was "taken with his theories," Klinger added: "For more of Maple's background, I refer you to the profile in the New Yorker which is Exhibit 6 to the . . . pre-hearing memorandum."

©1997 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.