This is Part VII in a series. To read from the beginning, go back to Part I.
Judge Anthony Carbone today sentenced Suzanne Ribando to Conditional Discharge, a highly unusual and light sentence based on an equally unusual recommendation from the Westchester County Department of Probation. Carbone also vacated an unconstitutional Order of Protection imposed on Suzanne Ribando by Judge Gail Rice in 2008, lifting a ban on Ribando entering or enjoying the use of her own backyard. Patrick Hickey, one the complainants in the case, glared at Ribando as he stormed out of the courtroom.
“I am happy,” said Ribando’s attorney John Mangialardi about the sentence, “Given the fact that she was convicted of what she was convicted of this was a good outcome.”
Ribando was facing up to two years in prison and three years probation as well as fines, community service and other punitive measures. Other than a mandatory New York State surcharge of $250 there was no punishment.
Despite the victory today, Ribando is determined to clear her name. She told Talk of the Sound after the hearing that she intends to appeal the two misdemeanor convictions for criminal contempt for violating the Orders of Protection.
The recommendation of Conditional Discharge was a surprise. Mangialardi said that in all his years of practice he had never seen a recommendation of Conditional Discharge. He said the report indicated that Ribando’s prognosis was good and that probation was not needed.
“It’s the best probation recommendation that I have ever seen,” said Mangialardi.
Judge Carbone, in pronouncing his sentence, commented on the recommendation noting that Conditional Discharge was “unusual” before basing his sentencing on the recommendation. Conditional Discharge basically means if Ribando stays out of trouble over the next year nothing will happen to her.
The June 2011 sentencing hearing was postponed when the New Rochelle City Court file did not contain the sentencing recommendation report. The updated report provided by the Westchester County Department of Probation for today’s hearing indicated that the original recommendation report had been sent to the New Rochelle City Court in February 2010, 17 months previous. Mangialardi chose not to make an issue of the missing report to Judge Carbone.
The sentence was a stunning defeat for Patrick and Tracey Hickey who, by tapping into a web of contacts within the local justice system — the New Rochelle Police Department, the New Rochelle City Court and the Westchester County District Attorney’s office — had been able to harass and torment Suzanne Ribando for years. Every count based on the testimony of Patrick and Tracey Hickey and their friend and neighbor Dana Ziogas has been thrown out and the only two remaining counts have resulted in no punishment for Ribando. The Hickeys are now facing a million dollar civil lawsuit brought by Suzanne Ribando.
Patrick Hickey was accompanied to court by an older man in a salmon-colored polo shirt who repeatedly stared over at Suzanne Ribando and her mother. The man got up from his seat next to Hickey and spoke to several other people, all of whom then turned around and glared over at Suzanne Ribando. As the hearing ended, Hickey and the man in the salmon-colored polo shirt abruptly stood up and slowly walked to the door, staring intently at Suzanne Ribando. She was oblivious to their angry stares as her attention was focused on Judge Carbone. As he reached the door, Hickey stopped, stepped back into the courtroom, leaned forward, looking towards Ribando like he was about to say something then, thinking better of it, walked out of the courtroom.
Judge Carbone modified the “temporary” Order of Protection issued by Judge Rice in 2008 under which Ribando was not allowed to exit the back door or side door of her house or enter or enjoy the use the backyard of her home at 106 Stephenson Boulevard. One of the two convictions in the case were for violating this order when Ribando went to help her mother who had been injured in the backyard. The other conviction was for walking her dog in Stephenson Park.
“He took out conditions that were illegal conditions in the first place,” said Mangialardi.
Carbone left in place the “permanent” Order of Protection and added the Hickey’s neighbor, Dana Ziogas to the Order. The permanent Order of Protection will remain for five years pending Ribando’s appeal.
After the sentencing hearing ended, Suzanne Ribando and her mother, Betty Ribando, went home. For the first since December, 2008, Suzanne Ribando was able to legally walk into her backyard, sit down and enjoy the sunshine on a beautiful summer afternoon.
“It feels great,” said Ribando. “Something I have been looking forward to a long time. I’m ready to move on, to move forward.”
This is Part VII in a series. More to come.