NEW ROCHELLE, NY — For many New Rochelle residents, the antics and theatrics of Vincent Malfetano at public meetings have become something of an amusing sideshow. Known to swing back and forth between lucid legal arguments and hysterical fits of red-faced anger, Malfetano has become a source of entertainment for some and fear for others.
What few know — although the information is readily available online — is that Malfetano has a history of domestic violence.
During a jury trial in which Malfetano was the defendant, a trial which took place between 1999 and 2000, his ex-wife testified to “various acts of verbal and mental abuse resulting in one incidence of a Family Court finding after trial that defendant committed a family offense ‘namely, in an act of harassment and menacing and trying to push (his then-wife) out of the window’”.
Malfetano’s now-ex-wife, sought and was granted a divorce on grounds of “cruel and inhumane treatment”. A jury was asked to determine whether the conduct of Malfetano did “so endanger the physical or mental well-being of his wife” as to “render it unsafe or improper for plaintiff to cohabitate with defendant”. The jury said “yes”.
The Court found Malfetano fostered a “hostile and antagonistic climate” which coupled with financial difficulties, employment demands and the stress of parenting, overwhelmed his now-ex-wife as she tried to raise their three children after she and Malfetano were no longer cohabiting.
The trials took place in New York Supreme Court, Queens County. Malfetano, an attorney, represented himself in the trial. The matrimonial action commenced April 4, 1994, and the issue was joined October 3, 1994. Malfetano married his now-ex-wife on June 14, 1986.
The jury trial took place on November 5, 9, 10, 12, 1998. The bench trial took place on November 18, 1998, March 16, 17, 18, June 11, October 13 and December 16, 1999 and February 2 and March 21, 2000.
While the proceedings were underway, Malfetano was ordered to stay away from his now-ex-wife while she was with their children.
“On January 11, 1999, the Family Court, Queens County, issued an Order of Protection that is effective until January 11, 2001, which directs defendant to stay away from plaintiff and children, when children are with plaintiff to refrain from assault, harassing, menacing…intimidation, threats, or any criminal offense against plaintiff.”
During the proceedings, Malfetano filed a motion regarding the pick-up and drop-off of the children upon which the Court ruled:
“At present, defendant has picked up the children for visitation at the local police precinct, pursuant to a Family Court order of protection. Pending before this Court is a determination of that branch of defendant’s motion…defendant proposed that he continue to pick up the children at the 103rd Police Precinct on every Tuesday and that plaintiff pick up the children for return at the New Rochelle Police Department”.
The Court accepted this motion.
In its Findings of Fact, following the Bench trial, the Court stated:
“The most troubling aspect of this case has been the issue of domestic violence. Prior proceedings, as well as testimony given during the jury and bench trials, established that the defendant notwithstanding his attempts to impress upon this Court that he has been victimized and falsely accused with respect to his alleged violent propensity, establish that the defendant is prone to violent eruptions, aggressiveness and barely controlled rage. During the jury trial plaintiff testified to various acts of verbal and mental abuse resulting in one incidence of a Family Court finding after trial that defendant committed a family offense ‘namely, in an act of harassment and menacing and trying to push (his ex-wife) out of the window’. Other testimony adduced during the jury trial showed evidence of physical abuse. Defendant’s witnesses during the bench trial were called to show that the academic performance of the children was deteriorating under plaintiff’s care. Much of the testimony of those witnesses, however, further highlighted defendant’s volatility”
“Ms. Sheila Huggins, the Principal of P.S. 98, was called to testify…(she) testified that there were concerns among staff about Mr. Malfetano’s behavior when he came to the school, and that she issued a directive that they were not to see him alone, that she should be with them…Similarly, Ms. Adele Armstrong, Principal of P.S. 118, testified that she spoke to the defendant on the day (one of his children) was transferred to her school and voiced his objection to the child attending that school, an objection that she deferred to the District Office. She described defendants’ demeanor as aggressive, ‘kind of frightening to be approached like that’.”
“The testimony elicited from employees of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, whom defendant called to testify, was as illuminating as to defendant was it was to plaintiff. Early in the proceeding, defendant filed a report charging that the plaintiff was neglecting the children. This complaint was based on (one of the children), now thirteen, being left at home alone at the time he was ten years old. Shante Chunn, a case worker for Administration for Children’s Services, testified she is a child protective specialist for the agency and investigates allegations of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment. She was assigned the (ex-wife’s) case in March 1997 based upon a complaint based upon (the child) being left home alone. She testified that after a few home visits, plaintiff refused to allow her to enter, starting that ‘she felt like she was being harassed by her ex-husband…and that children weren’t in danger’. Plaintiff permitted entry, after the witness filed a petition in Family Court. She recalled finding the ‘home in disarray’. She further recalled the defendant (Malfetano) persistently caller her, about ‘fourteen’ or ‘fifteen’ times, to inquire about the investigation”. The proceedings against the now-ex-wife were eventually dismissed.”
Dr. Michael Steinberg, a Clinical Psychologist specializing in psychological therapy and evaluating children, adolescents and adults began seeing (one of the children) in 1998, also testified with respect to his meetings with Mr. Malfetano. He testified that at their first meeting, ‘Mr. Malfetano’s mood and effect changed at a time precipitously and abruptly from being what I thought was common composed and truly concerned about his son to when speaking about (his ex-wife) becoming enraged, intensely accusatory.’ Dr. Steinberg further testified that he found Mr. Malfetano to be ’emotionally unstable’ and conceded that ‘he scared me’.
In describing his last encounter with Mr. Malfetano, Dr. Steinberg testified:
“And his voice became very loud. He had a look of rage in his face and I was scared and I didn’t meet the — I needed to preface the fact I’ve been in practice for 12 years and I worked with a variety of dysfunctions and violent dysfunctions and I really haven’t felt as frightened as I did last night to the point of my rushing to lock the door as soon as he left, to the point of thinking perhaps he was waiting for me to follow me home, since my car was the only one in the parking lot behind the office. Once I got to my block and arrived home, I was scared that he may have followed me. So I circled my block to ensure no one was following me. One could say I am paranoid. I don’t think that’s the case. That’s never happened to me before in 12 years. So he certainly elicited some anxiety in me that I thought was quite legitimate.”
The Court, in making its decision, noted of Malfetano:
“(Malfetano) is very skilled at manipulation. He consistently has demonstrated his volatility in his interactions with the children’s teachers, therapists and even in the court room. Moreover, this court questions (Malfetano)’s motivations. This Court is of the opinion that defendant has been more intent on discrediting and punishing (his ex-wife) and fulfilling his need to win than bring to closure the battle for custody that clearly has not been in the best interests of the children. There is an indication that he has involved the children in the court proceedings, relating to them what transpired, and that he has sought to undermine plaintiff’s relationship with her children.”
The Court found it was in the best interest of the children to award sole custody to (Malfetano’s ex-wife).
The Law Guardian assigned to the came recommended that Malfetano engage in individual counseling.
The Court warned the now-ex-wife:
“If plaintiff’s passivity precludes her from fighting for the well-being of her children, she can be assured that defendant will continue to fight to gain custody, although his motivation might be questionable. (Malfetano) successfully has prolonged this custody battle for six years, and successfully has caused plaintiff significant financial and emotional hardships.”