“If any one case captures the stinking, spreading mess six-term Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes left in the office of the man who defeated him, Ken Thompson , it’s the ‘grid kid’ slaying [of Mark Fisher].” — Harry Siegel, Daily News
An attorney familiar with the case observes: “Gershman’s letter puts misconduct at Nicolazzi’s doorstep, and a DA spokesperson says ‘Nicolazzi is outstanding and respected prosecutor with exemplary record’. That’s what Hynes used to say about Vecchione.”
For those not familiar with this, the story goes like this. Nineteen-year-old football star Mark Fisher was supposedly making his first foray into New York City. The Fairfield University student met three male classmates for drinks in Manhattan, where he met another female student and there was some “flirting.” One thing led to another; and, drunk, Fisher went with the girl to a late-night house party in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Later in the AM, Fisher’s body was found wrapped in a blanket on another property not far from the party; his face bruised from a beating presumably delivered before being shot five times (See “Cleaning up Joe Hynes’ mess
Forget about it, John. This is Brooklyn” by Harry Siegel, 2/25/14, NY Daily News
The article in the News by Harry Siegel briefly mentions the case brought against Antonio Russo, which resulted in a guilty verdict against what Siegel described as that “known knucklehead”; however Siegel’s main focus was on the case brought against John Giuca.
The jury convicted both Russo and Guica of murder. John Giuca was sentanced to 25 to life, and will be first eligible for parole in 2029.
THE CASE AGAINST GIUCA COMING APART AT THE SEAMS
The close of the Guica trial left more loose ends than clear answers. One juror was reported afterward to have admitted that he knew Giuca, lied about that fact in jury selection and pressed others on the jury to find Giuca guilty. A trial witness repeatedly described as uncooperative with the initial investigation; was later more cooperative; and low and behold that witness was later hired straight out of law school as a Brooklyn ADA. Three witnesses against Giuca have since recanted their trial testimony, risking perjury charges to do so (the other two now swear they were pressed into delivering false accounts by the DA); on top of that, the lead ADA on the case Michael Vecchione’s reputation has been shredded by recent disclosures about his handling of other cases. All of that material is detailed by Harry Siegel as being contained in a letter from Giuca’s current lawyer, Mark Bederow, to the new Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson asking Thompson to revisit entire the case.
WRONGDOING BY PROSECUTOR HANDLING GIUCA CASE DETAILED IN LETTER TO THOMPSON BY FORMER ADA AND LAW PROFESSOR BENNETT GERSHMAN
In a second letter from Giuca’s attorney to DA Thompson, ex-ADA and law professor Bennett Gershman, who wrote the book “Prosecutorial Misconduct,” took specific aim at ADA Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, the trial prosecutor on the Giuca case. Gershman claims that “in order to win a murder conviction in a high-profile case [she] recklessly disregarded a prosecutor’s overriding responsibility . . . that only reliable and trustworthy evidence be presented,” and instead used “misleading, deceptive and inflammatory tactics.” Turning to one witness, who has since recanted his testimony, John Avitto, Gershman makes his strongest direct attack on Nicolazzi’s conduct during this trial. Avitto was Nicolaazzi’s “surprise final witness,” (for whom the defense was given no opportunity to prepare); not only was his testimony “almost certainly false,” Gershman writes, but “from the record it appears that ADA Nicolazzi knew it was false.” This is the witness whom she personally vouched for with the jury at least three times: “you know you could trust him.”
The News’ Harry Siegel sums it up this way: “It is complicated, and guilt and innocence may be lost behind the haze of the trial. But even giving Nicolazzi — who has had a sterling reputation in a sometimes troubled office, and is now leading the probe of 50 convictions tied to former Detective Louis Scarcella, like Vecchione a provider of suspiciously miraculous witnesses that led to bad convictions — every benefit of the doubt, [Professor] Gershman’s claims warrant a substantial response. *** Thompson has his work cut out cleaning up after Hynes. He could start with Giuca.”
PROBLEMS FOR SOME OLD BROOKLYN GOP AND CONSERVATIVE PARTY HANDS
The connection of the Brooklyn DA’s overzealous prosecution in the John Giuca case and the then-goings-on in the Brooklyn GOP was related in a prior recent post on this blog (See “Brooklyn GOP Wilson-Pakula to Hynes in 2005 at Center of Appeal of MURDER CONVICTION in 2003 killing” by Galewyn Massey, 1/31/14, The Brooklyn GOP Independent Fountainhead [http://galewynmassey.blogspot.com/2014/01/brooklyn-gop-wilson-pakula-to-hynes-in.html]).
There is an additional connection that had not previously been mentioned, this one with those at or near the top of the Brooklyn Conservative Party, which also negotiated its Wilson-Pakula to Hynes in 2005.
The News article by Harry Siegel discussed above contains this rather innocuous line: “The partying teens quickly lawyered up, leaving investigators frustrated and unable to press charges ....” There is a lot more behind that than meets the eye — and it directly tied-in to then-active Brooklyn GOP and Conservative Party operators.
Shortly after the killing of Mark Fisher, the Fairfield University football player, whose body was found on the property of Susan Cleary, a Brooklyn GOP Executive Member; both Cleary’s son, Al Cleary, AND John Giuca met with Philip J. Smallman, an attorney well-known to Susan Cleary. Smallman conducted at least one interview with Guica during which he discussed many details of the Fisher murder case. Soon afterward, Smallman told Giuca that he couldn’t be his attorney; instead Smallman picked Cleary as his client and made a deal with the DA for Al Cleary, which required Cleary to testify against Giuca.
In addition to his relationship with Brooklyn GOP Executive Member Cleary, Phil Smallman had a very close working relationship with leaders of the Brooklyn Conservative Party, most notably Gerry Kassar. Kassar and other Conservatives had worked very hard over the years to obtain a judgeship for Mr. Smallman, at least sometime in consultation with the DA’s office of Charles Hynes. Several times over the years Smallman ran as a judicial candidate on the GOP and Conservative lines. Whether Smallman was in any way involved in the deal for the Wilson-Pakulas to Hynes in 2005 is yet to be shown.