This is Part VI in a series. To read from the beginning, go back to Part I.
Days before her trial on eight criminal counts of harassment, contempt and criminal mischief — just two days before a pre-trial conference on October 29th — Suzanne Ribando stepped out her front door and found Detective Jeff Wilson lurking in the shadows across the street from her house.
Standing stock still on her front porch, Suzanne Ribando watched as Detective Jeff Wilson got out of a car parked along the street near her house on Stephenson Boulevard. Wilson walked into the street and stood under a street lamp. She could just make out an object in his hand. It appeared to be a video camera. Ribando said Wilson looked directly at the front of her house, right at her, then turned around, went back to his car and drove away. Having been told previously to call if anything unusual happened, Ribando called Michael Galluzzi who told her that if he came back again to try to get the license plate number of the vehicle.
The following night, at about 8:30 p.m. on October 27th, Ribando was leaving her house when once again she saw the same car driving down the street with its lights off. She knew it had to be Wilson. Sure enough, after the car came to a stop, Detective Jeff Wilson got out of the car and started to walk down Stephenson Boulevard. Ribando said Wilson walked past her house. After he had passed, she went to her car, and pulled out of the driveway. As she pulled her car out of the driveway she saw Wilson walking in the opposite direction down Lyons Place, the street that runs along the edge of Stephenson Park, perpendicular to Stephenson Boulevard. She then drove down Stephenson Boulevard, towards the parked car, and made a note of the license plate of the vehicle: CUC-4279. Talk of the Sound later confirmed that CUC-4279 is a license plate number for a car owned by the New Rochelle police department. Ribando then turned around and drove back to her house.
Ribando pulled into her driveway and parked her car. As she walked across her front lawn, back to her front steps, a marked New Rochelle police car with its lights flashing pulled up on the other side of the street. As she walked up the front steps of her house, the police car turned, crossed the street and pulled up next to her house. As the officer approached her, she asked if anything was wrong. The officer told her that there had been a report of loud music. Ribando said she asked the officer if he heard loud music and he agreed there was not and left. The responding officer, Vincent Marion, filed a police report labeling the incident “unfounded”.
Jury selection began on Monday November 9, 2009. Suzanne Ribando went to trial on November 10th, 2009 with Judge John P. Colangelo presiding. Michelle Calvi was the prosecuting attorney for the Westchester County District Attorney. The prosecution’s case was presented through the afternoon of the 13th. Witnesses for the prosecution were Patrick Hickey, Tracey Hickey, and Dana Ziogas; New Rochelle police officers Detective Jeff Wilson, P.O. Aguilar, P.O. Bota, Sergeant Enzio, P.O. Bornholtz and Sergeant Salerno; Jeannie Pace of the New Rochelle City Court; and, Daniel Rothenberg of the Westchester County Forensics Lab.
Pace works for James Generoso, the New Rochelle City Court Clerk. She is the person who prepared the unconstitutional Order of Protection signed by Judge Rice. During her testimony she admitted that in her more than twenty years preparing Orders of Protection in New York courts she had never seen one that restricted someone from going into their own backyard or using the side entrance to their house.
The only witnesses who claimed to have seen any of the behavior that was the basis for the Orders of Protection or the police complaints and arrests were Patrick and Tracey Hickey and Dana Ziogas, their neighbor on the other side of their house. Statements made by these three witnesses was either uncorroborated, contradictory or demonstrably false. Tracey Hickey and Dana Ziogas gave conflicting accounts of Suzanne Ribando walking her dog in Stephenson Park. Hickey said her child ran and hid behind a tree when Ribando entered the park but that Ribando did not look at her or speak to her while walking in the park. Ziogas said Hickey’s child never ran away but remained on the basketball court the entire time but that she saw Ribando looking at Tracey Hickey and exchange words or say something as she passed Hickey in the park.
When Detective Jeffrey Wilson took the stand, he was asked about the night of October 27th, 2009 when Ribando encountered him outside her house. Wilson accused Ribando of setting him up by playing music loudly knowing that he would be dispatched to investigate and that is why he was there that night.
During his testimony, Jeff Wilson revealed his connection to Patrick Hickey, clearing up what had been the biggest mystery of the case — why Wilson always accepted every statement by the Hickeys as true and never accepted anything Ribando said. Hickey and Wilson worked together at Beckwith Pointe Beach Club & Tennis at 700 Davenport Avenue in New Rochelle, NY where Hickey was, for all intensive purposes, Wilson’s boss. In 2005, Wilson had requested and received approval from New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll to work at Beckwith Pointe where Hickey worked as the “chief chef” or “catering manager”. Detective Vincent Mirabile also had a connection to Beckwith Pointe as did Detective Michael Messina. He had admitted that he never told his supervisors that he knew the complaining witness in the case or that he had a conflict of interest. Although Hickey described having a relationship with Wilson during his testimony, Wilson claimed that although they had both worked at Beckwith Pointe for years, he did not really know Hickey.
Daniel Rothenberg of the Westchester County Forensic lab testified. He said a knife was delivered to his office on December 9, 2008, the day after ADA Michael Borelli had sought to ban Ribando from her own home. The knife had been seized as evidence back in May but Wilson waited six months, until the felony hearing in December, to send the knife to the Department of Laboratories and Research Division of Forensic Science Valhalla, NY to be examined for traces of car paint on the basis that Suzanne Ribando had scratched the paint on Tracey Hickey’s car using the knife she had then put to her own throat.
In his testimony, Rothenberg admitted that he had only previously testified in higher courts, never in local courts. The county forensic lab is typically used for major cases like murder, rape, shootings, stabbings, and so forth. It is not common for the Westchester County forensic examiner to be involved in a case of alleged criminal mischief. Sending the knife out to the forensics lab was just another example of a disproportionate level of resources devoted to a relatively minor case.
During the felony hearing on December 8th, 2008, ADA Michael Borelli had referenced the knife as explaining how the car had been damaged and suggested it would prove that Ribando had scratched the car:
…the most instant allegation is after-and again, this is an allegation-after she allegedly damaged the vehicle of the victims in this case, the testimony you’re about to hear. The police arrived and arrested the defendant with a knife she had in her possession, at which time she drew it from her pocket, placed it to her own neck, and threatened to kill herself saying she wanted to die…If the Court wants I’ll bring the police officers in here that could testify to the fact that when they arrested her on this criminal mischief she had a knife in her pocket and you will see why that explains the criminal mischief in a little while…
As the lab report and Rothenberg’s reluctant testimony would later show, Borelli’s dramatic claim on December 8th, 2008 that the knife would “explain” the criminal mischief “in a little while” would blow up in his face about a year later during the criminal trial.
Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research Division of Forensic Science Case # F2008-2480
Examination documentation has been reviewed.
Case jacket is complete and ready for review.
SPECIMEN: I. envelope containing:
1. 1. one folding knife
Examine for paint.
New Rochelle PD
RESULTS / INTERPRETATIONS:
Gross and stereomicroscopic examinations were conducted and the following observations were made: No paint was observed on the blade
silver colored folding knife with yellow/tan inserts on the handle – the inserts have three rivets on each side
received in the closed/folded position
no paint-like mat. obs on outside
Pos “IK Co” on base of blade, rust like and dirt ilke mat. covering portions of logo
Rust like and dirt like mat. obs. on other portions of the blade
Examined blade and blade channel For paint like mat. – none obs.
Multi colored Flake like mat. obs in channel – pos makeup
no trace evidence collected
no further examination at this time since no paint obs.
The operative phrase in the report being “No paint was observed on the blade”. Wilson and Borelli bet the house on a roll of the dice that the knife would show paint matching Tracey Hickey’s car and come up craps.
Throughout the course of the trial, Ribando could see Wilson lurking in the hallway behind the courtroom, looking into the courtroom, staring at her in what Ribando believed to be an attempt to intimidate her. Witnesses in a trial are not allowed to listen in to court proceedings or otherwise linger in or near the court room. The problem with Wilson became so pronounced that John Mangialardi, Ribando’s criminal defense attorney had to ask the court officer to remove Wilson from the hallway.
After the defense rested, Mangialardi delivered his summation:
Editor’s Note: The court transcript is presented “as is” with occasional errors and phonetic rendering of words except where the error altered the meaning of what was said.
MR. MANGIALARDI: May it please the Court, Ms. Calvi, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury:
Good afternoon. It has been a long trial and I appreciate in advance your attendance and attention to this. You were probably the most prompt Jury that I have ever seen, we did not have to wait for you at all and the parties I am sure appreciate that.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what you are doing here is very important, and I am not just saying that in passing. If you have been watching the newspapers over last few days there are all kinds of trials going on. Probably the biggest talk about the trial is this talk about whether or not the 9 conspirators should be brought back to New York for a trial. That is how important what you do is. It is a different level because obviously we are not dealing with world issues we are dealing with a neighborhood issue which effects the Ribando family and the Hickey family, but what you do for society by being Jurors is every bit as important as anybody that sits as a Juror on any Jury case. We cannot do this without you. The Judge has his roll, you have your roll and without citizens justice.
That is why Ms. Ribando is sitting in that chair today. She told you on the stand that once before she took the easy way out, she pled guilty to something that she thought was a minor item and that began her nightmare. She does not see anyway else to get justice except to bring it here before you. So, again, I want to thank you in advance for your attention and your dedication in this case.
As I looked over my notes about what to say to you I have so much I want to say to you, and I do not want to keep you here any longer than we have to, so I tried to outline some things and think of some comments in compartments that I want to say to you. So first of all, I want to ask you a favor, any one of you that goes into the jury room, in the interest of giving Ms. Ribando a fair trial, because, you see, once I sit down I can not get back up again and then Ms. Calvi goes, think about what I would have said had I been given the chance to get back up and talk to you again about some of the points that Ms. Calvi is going to bring because I can’t.
I know I am not going to remember to say everything that I need to say. So in the interest of giving my client a fair trial please just think in the jury room what would Mr. Mangialardi have said about this point had he been given the opportunity to stand up again.
The other thing I want you to look at is what I view as thread that winds its way through the whole case. I want you too also think about the witnesses as they testified before you and their demeanor. I will submit to you that the one person in this case who had no acts to grind when he or she testified before you was the court clerk, Ms. Pace. She had a job to do and she came in to talk to you. She obviously is sort of more familiar with the prosecutor’s side then the defense and to a certain extent so aligned with that side, but did that impact her testimony, I submit to you that it did not. She told you that she was the court clerk, she maintained the records and this is what the records said, and what everything was that is what it was. She was not trying to help either side, she was here to report to you down the middle how she did her job. What did she tell you? Well, two court orders were issued one on 11/9/07 and a modification of that order on December 10, 08. When she looked at the order, when I asked her does it say in that order how far my client is supposed to stay away from somebody? She looked at the order and she was kind of shocked and she said, no, it doesn’t say that on either order. The second thing that she said was that she was a court clerk for twenty-seven years, that she worked in the city courts throughout the area, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, and that this was the first order that she has ever seen that prohibited somebody from using their own backyard or their own side door to their house. So that kind of sets the table for some of the comments that I am going to make to you as we go through the evidence in the case because there are other firsts that you are going to see when we talk about the evidence in the case. So think about and then think I am going to put her testimony against the chemist.
The chemist came in and really should have been the same kind of witness; right? The chemist does a job for the county. He is a criminalistic guy who examines evidence or trace evidence of things that he then comes back to court and reports about. The lab exists for that reason. They are not just taking shots in the dark saying, you know, see what you can find. They send him evidence to look at because they think it is going to be probative. If it is not he should come back in here and you I found no evidence, and that is the end of it. Did he do that, or did he try to think, well, possibly if it is and if that that’s why there is no evidence? That is not his job, that’s the District Attorney’s job to stand up like I am doing to you and explain to why there may be no evidence found on the knife. All right? But you might as well have asked and isn’t it possible that martians came down from outer space on a spaceship and wiped the knife clean before he examined it. He was (NOT) testifying, I submit, to you as a straight witness. He had a dog in the race, as they say sometimes. For some reason he felt that he had to give answers to try help Ms. Calvi if he could. He couldn’t just say to you we examined the knife, yes, I suspect that this was the knife that was used to gouge the car, I would expect to find paint trace evidence and there was none. His testimony should have been three minutes but it wasn’t because he couldn’t just bring himself to say that to you. So think about that. Compare the court clerk’s testimony that you heard against the chemist.
I submit to you, respectfully, that if you look at the testimony of all the other witnesses in the case, the police officers, the Hickey’s and Dana Ziogas and all these other people you are going see a bias showing. Would they give a report to you straightforward what they saw, or do they all say, well, we knew what happened because they had talked to the Hickey’s? That is what you are here to decide, not them. You are here to decide what happened. So I am going to ask you to look for that thread in the evidence as you go through the case. I am also going to ask you one more thing at the outset. When the lawyers selected you as a jury the Judge told you about certain principles of law. Well, (NOW) it is time or it is going to be time very soon for you to critique into those things. My client as she sits here is presumed innocent. We teach our kids that all the time in the school, but sometimes we have a hard time with it when we have to put it into practice. You put it into practice. That is why you are here. As she sits here today she is presumed innocent, and that presumption does not get changed unless all six of you deliberating Jurors decide that proof has been established beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, the Judge will tell you what beyond a reasonable doubt is and we will talk about it a little bit as I go on, but I am going to call in the promises we asked you to make in the beginning to hold the People to their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, to afford my client the presumption of innocence because if anyone of us were sitting in that chair that is what you would want a Jury to do.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the 14th Amendment of the United states Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. I submit to you that Ms. Ribando as she sits here today is entitled to the protection of that Amendment. I submit to you that if you examine the evidence in this case you will see that an order of protection was issued when she entered a plea of guilty to the violation of Harassment in November of ’07 and that it was changed in December of ’08 without any hearing or without any contest, and then she all of a sudden was told do not use your yard.
MS. CALVI: Excuse, your Honor, could we have a side bar please.
(At side bar conference outside the presence of the Jury.)
MS. CALVI: I am sorry and I apologize for interrupting your summation, however, I believe that what you are arguing in your summation is a fact of legal argument which is up to the Judge to decide and there was no legal argument brought to the Judge before the trial so now the order of protection is the way it is. It is not up to the Jury to decide whether this was an illegal order or not.
MR. MANGIALARDI: I think it was part of the charge that it has to be a legal order of the Court. I believe that is part of what the Judge is charging.
MS. CALVI: It should have been brought up to the Judge prior to this, but at this point the Judge is going to decide the fact if it was.
MR. MANGIALARDI: It is a fact if it was a legal order or not.
MS. CALVI: I do not believe that this or any Jury can make a decision on the law.
THE COURT: You are arguing that there was no hearing before the order of protection there was signed, but there is no legal requirement that there be a hearing in the sense of calling witnesses. If there was an application before the District Attorney’s office it was an application before the District Attorney, so the way that you are saying it is confusing. You are right there was no hearing, but there is no legal requirement that there be a hearing. As far as to an issue of an order of protection or as to revising an order of protection, if there was it was something that her attorney should have brought up at the time.
MR. MANGIALARDI: I believe that he opposed it.
THE COURT: He might have opposed it but not that there should have been a hearing at the time.
MS. CALVI: Now, Judge, it is misleading to them because they could be considering in their judgment whether or not they felt that the order was fair or unfair, legal or not legal, so I ask that you make an instruction on that.
THE COURT: I really do not want to interrupt Mr. Mangialardi’s summation, but I will add to my instruction that a condition of an order of protection does not require an evidentiary hearing, and Ms. Calvi is free to mention that in her closing as well and say that is what the Judge will instruct.
MS. CALVI: And that they are not here to decide the constitutionality of the order either.
THE COURT: Constitutionality is always applicable to judicial proceedings, but I do not believe that he is arguing that the constitution is unconstitutional.
MR. MANGIALARDI: That is fine, Judge.
(Whereupon, the matter reconvenes before the Jury in open court.)
THE COURT: Mr. Mangialardi, please continue.
MR. MANGIALARDI: Thank you, your Honor.
So you heard that the order was changed in December of ’08. Jumping ahead for a bit, you hear from Ms. Ribando that she tried to obey that order to the best of her ability except when at some point during May at some point when she entered the yard, but we are going to get to that when I discuss the testimony in order.
Sometime, folks, the truth is in the details as they say. I think that some of you when you were selected at Jurors I said to you this is not Perry Mason and I know I am not a good enough lawyer to get a witness to crack on the stand and say you are right and I made the whole thing up. So the law gives us the right to do this cross-examination and to scrutinize testimony to compare it with each other. I looked through my notes and I found several instances, which I submit to you are instructive if you are trying to get a handle on who is telling you the truth or not. The simplest one was you look at Tracey Hickey and Dana Ziogas and you ask them are you friends, both of them had a hard time saying yes. There is nothing wrong with them being friends but they could not admit it in front of you. Do you have any doubt that lady that you saw testify here Mrs. Ziogas as wasn’t friendly with Tracey Hickey? They were in the park together, they were on the street together, they lived next door to each other, she borrowed a cup of sugar from her or whatever she said, but she just couldn’t get herself to say that they were friends. Because why? She thought that would cast a bad light. Well, if they won’t admit that they are friends, what are they going to do when it comes to admitting the hard questions in the case? We saw that a couple of other times. Dana tells you that she sees my client in the yard in May of 2009 because she goes over to talk to her about the dogs barking and then at some point she goes to see the police about it. So here is this lady who wants to file a noise complaint and what does she do? Does she pick up the telephone? Does she go right to the police department? No, she waits until June 1st to go in and report this noise complaint.
Well, what do we know about Patrick Hickey? Well, guess what, he had a complaint about my client from that day too and what does he wait to do … He waits until June 1st. They both want you to believe coincidentally they meet in Detective Wilson’s office. This lady who has a noise complaint from May 28th all of a sudden on June 1st decides to go in and it is the same time that the Hickey’s are there with Detective Wilson. Do you think that is how it happened? Or do you think that Detective Wilson said to her after he spoke to the District Attorney who said we need another witness next time you bring a complaint in, go in, bring this lady in with you and Wilson sat down with the two of them? Which makes more sense to you?
You know, where I grew up we had a name for this, we used to call it giving someone the business. I can’t answer the questions for you why they are doing this to her. I don’t know. When we are kids and we are growing up in the school yard or on the street sometimes it is because people look different, sometimes it is because people act different, sometimes it is because people just don’t like other people for whatever reason. But when that happens and then the bullies get together and the gang converges they are going to give you the business, and I submit to you that is what happened in this case. I don’t know why. I respectfully submit to you when this is all over and you go home you are not going to know either. But we picture for a Jury because something does not smell right. If you walked into a restaurant and the waiter put down a dish in front of you to eat and you said something smells fishy about this and I am not eating it, that is the common sense that we are asking you to bring into this case. You may not know what is wrong with that dish that is in front of you but you are not going to eat it because it smells funny, and this case I submit to you does not pass the smell test.
Look at the chemist again, I know that I am jumping allover, but look at the chemist. He tells you that he testified seventeen or eighteen times in cases all in Supreme or County Court. You know why? Because at this level they are not sending him evidence to examine. That is why. Why did Detective Wilson send him this knife to exam in this case? What did he need to find? Everybody said she did it. You know, Mrs. Hickey said that’s the woman, she scratched my car. Why did he send it? Wilson, the case officer for life, the guy who came in afterwards to photograph the damage to the fence which I am going to ask you to take a look at. He came to photograph in People’s, I believe it is People’s 40, he came to photograph that damage that they call damage to the fence. He doesn’t bother to go back and photograph the damage to the hood of the Mercedes. Why didn’t Wilson photograph the damage to the Mercedes? You had three cops there on scene in uniform and nobody photographed the damage to the Mercedes. You have the Hickey’s photographing dog poop in the yard and no one is photographing damage to a Mercedes. Ladies and Gentlemen, this case does not pass the stink test.
Let’s look at Tracey Hickey’s testimony. Listen to some of the things that she said. By the way, as a Jury you have a right if either you do not agree with my interpretation or the District Attorney’s or you disagree amongst yourselves, we had an excellent court reporter here throughout the whole trial, I invite you if you do not know what the testimony said ask that the testimony be read back to you. If you think that something that I am saying is not right or something that the District Attorney is saying is not right or if you just want to hear it again, please tell the court reporter that you need the testimony red back to you. The other thing is that there have been a lot of exhibits introduced into evidence and as a Jury you have a right to see that. So ask the Judge if you can see the photographs or whatever else is in evidence if it will help you reach your verdict in this case. But I submit to you that if you go back over and you think about what Tracey Hickey said, she said things like she felt that the defendant was talking to her. Ms. Ribando at a time when she was not prohibited by a court order forbidding her to use her own yard is in her yard. Whatever she was saying to those dogs whether it was come here, good boy or even if she said, excuse the language, you fucker to her dog that is her business. If you are listening in on my fence to what I am saying in my yard you are now going to call the police on me? What is going on here, folks? If you call the police do you think that Detective Wilson would come and open an investigation? Do you think that a twenty year detective veteran would be camped outside your neighbor’s yard with a camera three nights in a row over this case? This is not landlord/tenant court. Did we walk into the wrong courtroom here? These people for whatever reason are not getting along with each other. Is this the proper way to handle this? Have this poor woman arrested all these times? Drag her into court? Subject to her to an order of protection? Do you think that they would respond that way to your complaints if you called the police? Critical incident unit trucks responding on a noise complaint? The first time when the officers responded to one of the first incidents they left, the uniform officers left. It wasn’t until later Wilson told her to come to the station and she later got arrest. The testimony is from Detective Wilson himself that the District Attorney’s office right here told him that the park incident was not a sufficient basis for a violation of the order of protection. Guess what? She is sitting here charged with that. The District Attorney’s office said it was not sufficient and she is sitting here charged with that.
Let’s look at that violation in the park. What did she do? For some reason although they are trying to convince you that she is always watching the Hickey’s, if you ask me it sure seems that the Hickey’s are always watching her. The Hickey’s say she is in yard so they decide to cross over to the park, she says, and into the park comes my client. Well, what do they want you to believe? Well, here comes the boogie man, the son yells down our neighbor is coming and he hides behind a tree because she is coming. Dana who is the park at the same time does not see that; right? Dana does not see this kid running, Dana does not hear the kid running. Dana hears her say something, she says she sees some sort of transaction. Well, Mrs. Hickey doesn’t tell you that. So you have Dana and you have Mrs. Hickey observing the same incident and it seems like it is two separate incidents. At the end of Dana’s testimony I said, well, could she have been saying something to her dog? Oh, yeah, I guess so. Is that why we are here? Because this lady talks in her back yard on her cell phone and because she talks to her dogs and because the Hickey’s don’t like that? Is that why we are here?
Ladies and Gentlemen, take People’s 40 in the back with you. It is a series of photographs. If you look at what has been marked 40-0 it shows the panel out. I submit to you this is useless. This shows what Mr. Hickey did to the fence when he was trying to fix it. If you want to see what my client is accused of doing to this fence look at anyone of the other ones because you will see it. I am standing now about three feet or four feet from the jury box and I don’t even know if you can see if there is damage to that fence. There is a slat there that you can kind of see light reflecting off of. That is the damage that she is accused of doing to this fence. He calls the police and has her arrested even if she did this? But this is what~she is arrested for?
Let’s talk a little bit about the car incident. Tracey Hickey tells you that she parks her car on the street because there was no other parking. You know what, minutes later or however long it took those officer to respond, they showed up and the three officers who testified took three different cars there and none of them had a problem parking on that block that day. Why am I bringing that up to you? Don’t you think that it is kind of suspicious that the Hickey’s who are so afraid of this young lady parked their car right outside her house so that she would have to walk right by it to go one way or the other. Ms. Calvi questioned my client, well, couldn’t you have gone to the left? You know what, we would still be here because if she went to the left and made the right it would be the same as if she made the right and then the left. Either way she would have to walk pass that car. And either way the lurking neighbors the Hickey’s were watching and would know that she walked pass their car and would be on the phone to the police. Why was that car parked their? Why would you park the car in front of the house of the woman that you are so afraid of? You are so afraid of her that your kids are running away from her in the street? I submit to you that was the set up. And what was that about when Detective Wilson said that she set him up? This twenty year detective, this veteran who investigates arsons, robberies, rapes and homicides and all kinds of other things he is spending all his time camped outside her house and he says she is setting him up. I assume that the District Attorney is going to get up and tell you that she plays the music loud because she knows that Wilson is going to come and that gets him there. Why would she do that? If she is playing the music loud how does she know it is going to be Wilson and not some other uniformed cop who is going to come and give her a summons? The District Attorney is going to say that she is watching to see when the police come so she can turn it down. So the District Attorney would have you believe that she place the music nonstop and then runs to the door and just appears out the window in both directions looking for police cars to come so she can turn the music down. Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a sick man in the house, there is an elderly sick man who has MS. How loud do you think that music is played? Might it be a little loud for you or me? I don’t know. We all have different standards. But I can tell you this, there is no evidence in the case that any police officer ever issued her a summons for playing music too loud.
Let’s talk about Dana again. Wilson goes to see the District Attorney’s office at some point, and apparently he is told it would be good if you get a neighbor from the neighborhood who can testify. So what happens all of a sudden the next time there is an alleged violation of the order we have a neighbor from the neighborhood. And this neighbor want you to believe that she is home with a sick child, and she knows that because she marked it in her planner. Well, apparently the only thing that she marks in her planner is the date that she thinks she wants you to believe that my client violates the order of protection because everything else I asked her, well, she didn’t mark that in her planner including when the police come to the block. So I guess that does not register on Mrs. Ziogas’ hip parade. But,
anyway, she wants you to believe that the dogs are barking, not the Hickey’s dogs because they don’t bark but my client’s dogs bark, and she has a sick child home that day and she is out in the yard with the other child. So what does she do? She leaves her yard. Now, this is a Thursday, May 28th the Judge told you is a Thursday, she leaves her yard. I don’t know, I guess, she leaves the child unattended in the yard and the sick child alone in the house. Instead of going to the Ribando house and going up to what you can see in any of the photographs is that gate that encloses the backyard and yelling out could you do something about the dogs, she doesn’t do that. Picture this in your mind, she enters the Hickey’s property, climbs up the stairs – and this is the person she is not friendly with goes on the deck and looks over so she can see. If that is not orchestrated testimony to prove to you that my client was in the yard that day so that they would have an extra witness here I don’t know what is. Does that make sense to you? Do you think that is really how this incident would have happened if it really did happened? Do you think that is the way that Dana Ziogas would have to ask her to keep the dogs down or is this fabricated testimony just put in here to fill in the blanks because that is what Wilson told her she needed to do?
Well, what else is interesting about Detective Wilson and the prosecutor’s case. Detective Wilson tells you that he knows Mr. Hickey and that Mr. Hickey is the beverage and food manager or whatever at the club, and he tells you that Hickey is one of the people responsible for giving him off duty work at the club. When Mr. Hickey comes in what does he tell you? Oh, he doesn’t give the off duty work, he doesn’t even really know Wilson very well except he says that he thinks that he works at the club. Now, let me ask you a question. In the New Rochelle Police Department Wilson wants you to believe that he is assigned this case randomly by his lieutenant. So the lieutenant has no clue that the complainant in the case is the chief chef at Beckwith Pointe where Wilson works off duty. That’s what Wilson wants you to believe. Now, even if that was true don’t you think that Wilson had some sort of obligation to say to the lieutenant to say, hey, lieutenant, I better pass on this because I know the complaining witness in this case, I better pass on this because the complaining witness is the guy who gives me work. But he didn’t do that; did he? He took over the investigation. And if you notice the uniform cops in this case go to her house and, I think, with the possible exception of the time that they are accusing her of having the knife they leave, they do what they do and they leave. Wilson is always the one who follows up with statements and photographs, except of the car, and all this other stuff. Don’t you think that Wilson should have told the lieutenant, Lieutenant, I have an interest in this, I know the complainant?
When we all grew up there were two kind of kids that became police officers, those that wanted to help people, thank God for them, and they became firemen and other things to, and then those that saw a fragile person and wanted to bully them. Sometimes those people become police officers too. I submit to you in this case, Ladies and Gentlemen, for whatever reason my client offended the Hickey’s. Was it the kind of music that she listened to, was it her lifestyle? I don’t know. Not everybody is cut out from a magazine with the perfect family, et cetera. My client struggles with everyday taking care of a sick father who is elderly. My client does not have the house with the picket fence in front of it and everything is perfect. Everyday for her is a struggle. She has to wake up and tend to her sick father, she has to deal with her mother who is eighty years old, she takes care of the pets and she does the best that she can. I don’t know what in that might have offended the Hickey’s but something did. Do you think it was because the ball hit the fence and my client
reprimanded the kinds? Maybe? Who knows? But whatever happened after that the relationship changed. Mr. Hickey stood up here and wants you to believe for some reason I guess that Betty and her husband had this lady in the basement for two years while he was living there and hiding her existence. Do you think that is what happened or do you think all Mr. Hickey remembers is the point in time when the relationship went south and when bad things started to happen. He testifies that she is caring a rock around in her yard and he felt threatened by that and they called the police. Now, you heard that my client pled guilty to Harassment in November of (2007). You heard that. And you heard that she felt that was a mistake now because in her mind by pleading guilty it would end the thing, that would be it, it would be over. But that was just the beginning because, you see, once you get an order of protection you are the king of the hill because once you get an order of protection the police come and they don’t want to listen to either side because this District Attorney’s office won’t entertain a cross complaint. Once you are labeled the defendant you are a defendant and no matter what you are telling them they don’t want to listen. Did she sue? You are right she sued because she had no other avenue except for you to bring this complaint to and that is why she is here today.
Let’s talk about the fence. Now, my client is on trial for a bunch of things but she is not on trial for being stupid. Now, if you are going to damage a fence are you going to damage it when the guy is outside with the recycling cans. This guy is telling us he goes to his can and, you know, Mr. Hickey I should have asked him how he did it because I know when I go to move my recycling cans the aluminum and the plastic and everything else it makes noise, no matter what you do it makes noise, but the way he lifts it, you see, there is no noise. And even though the spot lights are going on because of the automatic lights and even though he flips the light switch so that way he has to have a reason he could see this terrible damage to this fence he lights up the yard. If she is back there stooped in banging on the thing she would have to be crazy to keep banging knowing that he is out there. The other thing, you saw Mr. Hickey testify. He is telling you that he is afraid of her for his children and his wife because he is out a lot. Do you think that if this guy heard (bang, bang, bang) on his fence he was going to stand there looking at it or do you think that he would run over there and see what is going on? I submit to you he would be right over there if he knew that somebody was banging on his fence from her side. The other thing is, look at the photographs, look at where the damage is. The damage is done on the street side of the gate. All right, it is at the front end. Again, she would have to be stupid. Now, the District Attorney is going to say there is no presumption of intelligence there is just a presumption of innocence. But the bottom line is, why didn’t she go in the way backyard and damage that fence if she wanted to. She would have to be nuts to do it while she knew this guy was home and while this guy was out on the street and while he was out there moving the cans. She would have to be nuts. What does she tell you? Well, she is coming back from walking the dogs and he is again starring at her. She has told you a lot of things that this family has been doing to her, starring, trying to intimidate her, things like that. I submit to you that was one more act of him standing out there. She calls her mother, Betty, come look at this. Is that the act of somebody who thinks they are in the process of violating an order of protection or someone who is trying to do something wrong? She is calling her mother out to look at the complainant starring at her. Well, when the police get there, the uniformed officer, this is the damage he sees, and I think it was Officer Aguilar. I think when he was under direct examination by the People he almost had a hard time even saying that the fence was damaged. I think that he was trying to say it really wasn’t damaged. One of the slats look like they are a little bit ajar or whatever. And that’s the other thing, Mr. Hickey says that the banging continued (bang, bang, bang) as she allegedly walked down and then all of a sudden she clears the fence that is 6 feet that becomes 4 and he sees her face. Again, she had to know that he was out there. The lights are on, the automatic light is on, he is moving on this fence (bang, bang, bang) as she is walking along this fence and then he sees her. I submit to you what you heard was contrived testimony. I submit to you that when they appeared to court on the 9th and they were told that they were not going to get a modification of the order because there was no new criminal conduct that’s when this came into play, and on the lOth my client was confronted with charges of criminal mischief that she damaged the Hickey’s fence.
Now, this is all for you to decide. No one can tell you how to decide this, but I respectfully submit to you that is a reasonable view of the evidence. When the Judge talks to you about the law he is going to tell you that not only is she presumed innocent but proof has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. You have to be satisfied to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt, all reasonable doubt that she did this.
Do you have no reasonable doubt that my client caused that damage? I submit to you that this case is chock-full of reasonable doubt.
Let’s talk about my client in the yard. The People want you to believe that on May 28th with an intent to violate the order my client entered her own yard in violation of the court order that was modified in December of ’08. They have photographs here. My client had looked at those photographs and, basically, what she is saying to you as I submit that from December until present I was in the yard only once and that’s because my mother had a problem and I ran out and I tried to help her and when I brought her back inside and I ran back outside to get the dogs. Ask yourselves is that intentionally violating the court order? Was she doing that with an intent to violate the court order? I submit to you that with the Hickey’s being what they are with the camera at the ready you would have a lot more photographs of my client in that yard if she was in the yard as much as they say. Listen to what they are saying. The Hickey’s any time they hear anybody in that backyard are accusing my client of being back there. But there are no photographs of it. You know why? You can’t see through the stockade fence. Take a look at the pictures, you can’t see through it. Did they see blue going by through the slats? Maybe, but what do we know that sweat shirt is worn not only by my client but by her mother and her friends who happen to be over if they are going to go into the yard and walk the dogs or whatever. I submit to you that is perfectly reasonable. If anyone here has animals or ever goes out to shovel snow in the winter time a lot of families keep a general piece of clothing in the closet or general slippers or something on the floor of the closet so that way whoever goes out can use it. How are these people seeing through the stockade fence to tell you that it is Suzanne Ribando? But that is what this whole case is about. She is talking to her dogs but we feel that it is directed at us. She is in the park but we feel it is intimidating us. Excuse me for breathing Hickey’s. My client had a right to use her yard at that point until that court order was modified. She had a right to go into that backyard. She had a right to go into that park across the street. Now, the District Attorney is going to get up and say, well, she shouldn’t be walking the dogs there. That is not an issue in the case. The District Attorney is going to say, well, what other reason did she have then if she didn’t legitimately have a reason to go into the park, it was to intimidate these people. Believe me, if her intent was to intimidate these people then Dana Ziogas and Tracey Hickey would have been on the same page with their story. You would have to heard a cohesive story about what happened, because you know what, when two people observe the same event except for some minor points they usually are on the mark about the main things. But not here. One sees a transaction occurring, the other one doesn’t. One has a child running yelling out, the other one doesn’t see it. One has a child running and hiding behind a tree, the other one has him playing basketball and staying by the mother. Two different events you think you are listening to.
Now, the Judge is going to give you instructions on what the law is, and basically you are going to see there are a couple of offenses outlined and what you are going to consider. For the most part my client is accused of certain violations, Harassment and whatever, and some cases Criminal Mischief which is she is charged with damaging other’s property, and along with each one of those things is a violation of the order charge because if you believe that she broke the fence then that was a violation of the order, if you believe that she damaged the car that was a violation of the order too. So that is why for every charge that you see for the most part there is going to be a violation of the order charge that goes along with it. I submit to you when you look at all the evidence this case has not been proven reasonable doubt. I submit to you when you think about all the evidence you are going to realize that something smells in this case. Again, it is not my job to prove what that is. I don’t know. I can’t tell you what motivates the Hickey’s or what brought them here. All I can you is my view of the evidence and what I think the view of the evidence shows. I submit to you that the view of this evidence shows an orchestrated attempt on the part of the Hickey’s with the help of certain members of the New Rochelle Police Department to destroy my client’s life. And I submit to you that they almost came close to doing it that day when she held a knife to her throat, and we all have different thresholds to what we can take, but she has enough on her plate with a lot of other things that are going on her in her life and it was too much. Imagine yourself living in an environment where everything that you did was subject to someone calling the police and when the police came they didn’t listen to you. Just imagine that. Do you think that you would get to the point where it was enough, where she held the knife to her throat and said I don’t want to live anymore? If you look at that incident she is not charged with anything other than violating the order of protection by damaging the Hickey’s car that day. The officers did not charger her. She was not a threat to anyone else that day. She wanted to end her own life because she could not take the pressure
anymore from this. It was a constant pattern of intimidation and abuse, and Mr. Hickey knew what he was doing and how to align this and he had the connections to do it, and that’s what you saw I submit unfold before you in this courthouse.
I realize I forgot to address the one witness that also testified that I haven’t spoke about, Betty Ribando. Betty is eighty-years-old, Ladies and Gentlemen, and she is the mother of the defendant. Does she have all the answers for us? I submit that she doesn’t. She is being asked to testify about things in the past and does she have all the details here? No. What can she tell you? Do you think that she is here making up that her hand got caught in the door and that her daughter had to come out and help her? Do you think that she made it up that she was going into the yard to walk those dogs because the daughter couldn’t anymore and that is why she was going out into the yard? And maybe she shouldn’t have been handling those dogs that day because maybe she can’t anymore. But as you sit in a defendant’s chair what else are you supposed to do? What else should you do at that point? Your mother is yelling in the yard are you going to say, well, there is an order of protection that forbids me from going outside to help my mother? Now, she is in there already and the dogs are in the yard, what is she supposed to do? Leave the dogs out there? Dad can’t go. He is in a wheelchair or confined to a bed. He can’t go get those dogs back in the house. What are you going to do? Is the law so harsh that it does not allow Suzanne Ribando to do that to help her mother and get her dogs back in the house?
I submit to you, you saw this case play. Detective Wilson at her house three or four nights just in advance of the trial, God knows
how many other times he has been there. Where is the evidence that he went there for? Why wasn’t a summons issued that night if she was
playing loud music? Why haven’t other neighbors called the police if she is blaring her music to the point where it is disturbing? This is all about the Hickey’s. Whatever this woman does bothers the Hickey’s and they were going to teach her a lesson, and she wasn’t learning the lesson according to them and that is why they kept on filing reports. When you go back in the jury room and you deliberate please consider not only the evidence but the lack of evidence. Consider why there are no photographs of the scratches to the Mercedes. Look at the picture of the damaged fence and ask yourself, first of all, do you think my client could do that; second of all, look at where the damage is high up on the fence; third of all, does it make sense for somebody to do that while Mr. Hickey was outside? Think about the accusations of her in the park that day. Compare Dana’s story to Tracey’s story, and it is the words are right but the music doesn’t fit. If you take their two stories about the same incident and you put them over each other you are going to scratch your head and say that doesn’t make sense and that did not happen. Think about the day that she is accused of damaging the car. Think about that day. Now, she said she had a knife on her. Was the knife open? She was very candid, I submit to you, and said I don’t remember if was open or not. But if it was open, look at this knife, do you think that you could carry that in your pocket open and if you did and three police officers around you, you don’t think one of them would have seen something with that. Now, the logical question I am sure the District Attorney would love ask if my client remembered was, well, how did you get the knife open then if it wasn’t? But the bottom
line is how do you carry this open without anyone seeing you? Think about the unlikely story on the part of Mrs. Hickey about where she parked her car that day and why she parked her car in front of the house which left Suzanne Ribando no chance but to go to the right or left of that car. We will never know because it was never photographed, but who knows if there were scratches on the back if they would have blamed it on her too whichever way she went. Think about all of that. Think about the lack of evidence. Think about how this case does not smell right. I don’t have the answers for you, but I am not supposed to. The answers are supposed to come from this table and I submit to you, you have not heard the answers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, when we stood up in front of you, you had not heard any testimony yet so I didn’t ask you for a particular verdict at that point because you hadn’t hear the evidence. Now you have. Suzanne Ribando has been through enough. I am asking you to end this for her now. I am asking you to find her based upon the lack of credible evidence in this case I am asking you to find her not guilty of all charges.
Thank you all.
On November 17, 2008, the jury acquitted Ribando on 5 of the 7 charges; she was convicted on two counts of violating the order of protection:
Count 1: Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree based on shouting obscenities on Feb 23 or 24 2008. ACQUITTED AT TRIAL
This charge was based on a complaint that was never directly called in to the police by the Hickeys. There was no incident report. The police never went to Suzanne Ribando’s house and she was never asked about it. This allegation was first reported in a statement by Patrick Hickey on March 11th, 2008, a statement given days after Hickey’s unsuccessful attempt to have Ribando arrested for the brick near his car. At the time, Patrick and Tracey Hickey told Wilson who brought it to ADA Borelli who determined it was not a violation. The charge was added in after the May 24 2008 car scratch arrest as one of the “piling on” counts for incidents previously determined not to be a violation and not charged at the time.
Count 2: Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree based on Suzanne Ribando walking her dog in Stephenson Park on April 23rd, 2008. CONVICTED AT TRIAL
This charge was based on a complaint that Ribando entered Stephenson Park 15 minutes after Tracey Hickey and her children. No words were exchanged and no threats were made. Ribando was walking her dog about 20 feet away. There was no incident report. The police never went to Suzanne Ribando’s house and she was never asked about it. This allegation was first reported in a statement by Tracey Hickey one day after it happened. This was determined not to be a violation at the time the complaint was filed by Tracey Hickey. The charge was added in after the May 24 2008 car scratch arrest as one of the “piling on” counts for incidents previously determined not to be a violation and not charged at the time. Ribando testified that she often walks her dog in park and did not recall the incident and would have never knowingly followed them anywhere. Dana Ziogas testified she was in park and saw what happened.
Count 3: Criminal Mischief in the 4th Degree based on damage to a fence on December 9, 2008. ACQUITTED AT TRIAL
No evidence was presented that Suzanne Ribando was in her backyard or touched the fence.
Count 4: Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree based on violating the Order of Protection based on damage to a fence on December 9, 2008. ACQUITTED AT TRIAL
No evidence was presented that Suzanne Ribando was in her backyard or touched the fence.
Count 5: Criminal Mischief in the 4th Degree based on a car scratch on May 24, 2008. ACQUITTED AT TRIAL
No evidence was presented that Suzanne Ribando touched the car. A forensic examination of a knife later showed no evidence that the knife was used to scratch the car.
Count 6: Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree based on a car scratch on May 24, 2008. ACQUITTED AT TRIAL
No evidence was presented that Suzanne Ribando touched the car. A forensic examination of a knife later showed no evidence that the knife was used to scratch the car.
Count 7: Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree based on being in the backyard on May 28, 2009. CONVICTED AT TRIAL
Ribando admitted in her testimony to being in the backyard due to an emergency involving her mother.
Count 8: Harassment in the 2nd Degree based on throwing dog feces between January and April of 2009 and May of 2009. DISMISSED BY JUDGE
This charge was based on a complaint that Ribando threw dog feces in the Hickey’s backyard. There was no incident report. The police never went to Suzanne Ribando’s house and she was never asked about it. This allegation was first reported in a statement by Patrick Hickey as part of the fence banging allegation. Despite claims by Wilson and the Hickeys, this count was thrown out by the judge before the jury could deliberate. Wilson admitted that he never asked Hickey if the Hickeys owned a dog. They owned three.
The only two convictions came on violations of the order of protection. Ribando testified that she had gone into Stephenson Park (even though there was no court order preventing her from doing so) and gone into her backyard (due to a medical emergency). This was her “crime” — going in her backyard to help her mother and walking her dog in Stephenson Park. Every other allegation based on allegations by the Hickeys had been dismissed or rejected by the jury. In most cases, violations of an order of protection when the underlying allegations were dismissed or where the defendant was acquitted would also be dismissed. The order of protection itself would also typically be vacated. This was, however, no ordinary case. A motion to set aside the verdict on the two contempt charges was rejected by the court.
Ribando’s lawyers were disappointed but not surprised when the motion to dismiss the two violations of the Order of Protection were denied. They looked forward to appealing the two convictions and getting them thrown out on appeal. To appeal, however, Suzanne Ribando would have to be sentenced on the two convictions. A sentencing date was scheduled for February, 2010. None of Ribando’s lawyers could have imagined in 2009 that Ribando would still have not been sentenced by July, 2011. Yet, over and over again, the courts and the DA’s office kicked the can down the road with delay after delay, refusing to dismiss the charges against Ribando but refusing to sentence her either. Suzanne Ribando was left in legal limbo, an unprecedented unconstitutional Order of Protection hanging over her head, still banned from her own backyard by a court that would not dismiss violations of an order that should never have been granted or even sentence her so that she could appeal.
For Michael Galluzzi, the refusal to sentence Suzanne Ribando, was just another bizarre twist in a five year saga that could only be explained by a conspiracy orchestrated by Patrick Hickey. Ever since he had met with Suzanne Ribando at the Westchester County Jail, Michael Galluzzi had been trying to figure out the connection between Patrick Hickey and the New Rochelle Police, the New Rochelle Courts and the Westchester County District Attorney. Slowly but surely the pieces came together. From the testimony of Wilson and Hickey he now knew that Wilson worked at Beckwith Point with Hickey. He had additional information that other New Rochelle police officers, including Vincent Mirabile, worked at Beckwith Pointe.
As the scale and scope of the web of relationships connecting Hickey to the police, the courts and the DA’s office emerged, Galluzzi realized one important fact: Suzanne Ribando never had a chance.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Suzanne Ribando is due in New Rochelle City Court for sentencing on Wednesday July 27th (today). On May 23, 2011, Judge Anthony Carbone denied Suzanne Ribando’s motion to set aside the convictions on two counts of contempt for violating the Order of Protection. Judge Rice’s order is clearly unconstitutional and now without any conviction on any criminal count there is no longer a basis for the order. The question is whether one New Rochelle judge will vacate the order of another New Rochelle judge. Since Ribando was acquitted of all the underlying criminal counts which were the causes of or reasons for the order of protection in the first place, there are no victims of these crimes other than the court so the court should vacate the order of protection allowing Ribando to again go into her own backyard.
If you like to experience the next chapter in this story LIVE and IN PERSON come by the courthouse tomorrow. I will be there covering it as will many of the key players in the case. Ribando’s oft-delayed sentencing on the two criminal contempt charges may result in jail time for walking in a park and helping her injured mother in her own backyard.
Be there at 475 North Avenue at 10:30 AM.
This is Part VI in a series. More to come.