RUMORS AND LIES: Fair and Balanced in the Hamptons

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

—Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004)

Just when you thought the smell of corruption coming from Suffolk County seemed to have drifted away, like the crab shells on a Hamptons beach, the bonfires erupted again.

It’s not enough that Southampton Village Detective Lamison got a piece in the New York Post and a full article reading by Howard Stern on his show. But, since the “Millionaire” Detective with 18 properties seems to have had his share of foreclosures that begs the obvious questions about qualifying for that financial empire. Civil Service apparently pays well in the Hamptons. But, who filled out those applications? His former attorney, DA Thomas Spota, was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, as a result of years spent in the County Legislature fighting corruption, former Legislator George Guldi is spending some time in Riverhead jail. As he describes it, he is now the recipient of a “free meal plan, medical plan and subsidized housing” and instead of being a practicing attorney, he now has a librarian job in the facility’s law library. He no longer is bothered by constant cell phone interruptions and has an armed guard wherever he goes.

Of course, his conviction, aided by a dubious understanding of insurance transactions which is a civil dispute everywhere else in the United States – was deemed to be fraud by the court in Suffolk County. It appears that his criticism of what Bob Olsen and Marty Tankleff call the “Injustice System” spurred a group of powerful politicians to rally to the cause. D.A. Spota brought on his best prosecutor, A.D.A. Thalia Stavrides, and a jury, which only had two insurance adjusters sitting on it – and brought in the guilty verdict in this civil matter.

Which brings us to the Marty Tankleff case. Tankleff spent 17 years in prison for murdering his parents but was exonerated and released several years ago. The SoHo Journal wrote extensively about this case several years ago and now the actions of the D.A.’s under Catterson and Spota are being questioned. A Federal Magistrate recently ruled that the NY
Attorney General’s office must turn over documents as to whether Tankleff’s release (due to the work by the Innocence Project and many activists like Bob Olson) was intentionally impeded for three years to avoid some embarrassing revelations about the identities of the real killers. AG Eric
Schneiderman quickly complied. The Tankleff civil trial against the Suffolk D.A. is now moving forward.

Then, of course, we come to the deal involving Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and his mysterious announcement that he will no longer run for a third term. Since Levy was considered a very serious contender for Governor – in the last election and in undoubtedly in three years against Cuomo – this matter was not taken lightly in Suffolk politics. D.A. Spota investigated and no “personal” wrongdoing by Levy and all were smiles after the news conference.

During the recent and much celebrated Guldi trial, Levy’s former roommate in college, Ethan Ellner’s testimony about meetings with Guldi turned out to be what ordinarily would be considered perjury (but not in Suffolk County). Ellner described a pay-to-play arrangement to the Grand Jury, which allegedly exchanged title work for campaign contributions with Levy. During the actual Guldi trial, “he who must not be named” became the Levy moniker, as Guldi defended himself against charges of insurance fraud. All of his money was seized by the D.A. so he represented himself and, despite the fact that Guldi had alerted the D.A. about Ellner (their “confidential informant”) and his connection with Levy – which resulted in the resignation/retirement of the County Executive – the trial went forward and Guldi was convicted. Expert insurance attorneys confirm that at worst, Guldi was guilty of what would normally be considered a civil matter. The fact that Guldi had contemplated a run for D.A., had attended meetings with Manhattan D.A. Bob Morgenthau and Spota about eliminating corruption in the Suffolk D.A’s office many years ago, and had alerted them about the pay-to-play allegations involving Ellner, they “threw him under the bus.” Jury instructions are key in this type of situation and there were witnesses who apparently contradicted reality, and misundstandings of legal interpretations finished Guldi off.

The Levy/Spota deal did have one bright spot though. Levy’s $4 million campaign kitty went to the D.A.’s coffers for eventual disposition. Apparently, those who feel that they are entitled to some of this need simply apply.

Lastly, as if the above weren’t enough, the SentosaCare nursing home scandal exploded again – involving the questionable indictment of 10 Philippino nurses who had resigned en masse over working conditions – and, which has now arrived in Federal Court for further investigation subsequent to the dismissal of all charges. Spota may be required to testify in this matter over allegations of “improprieties” that may have benefited a large campaign supporter, the owner of the nursing home.

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