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SDNY Judge Hellerstein Asks Why Jane Doe Has No Name And How Much Settling 6 Cases Will Cost

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 13 – A woman suing anonymously for being barred from buying a condominium in West Harlem based on her sexual orientation had her case heard among a half dozen others on the morning of September 13 before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

   Judge Hellerstein asked, Why is she Jane Doe? Why doesn't she use her name? More on Patreon here.

  While the courtroom was open, there was no court reporter transcribing this. Judge Hellerstein was not on the bench but sitting at a working table next to the gallery, calling forward lawyers on cases one after the other. Some of the cases were listed on PACER and others were not. Some were listed on PACER in the morning but disappeared from the day's calendar by noon, like Dedewo v. CBS Corporation, 18-cv-09132.

 In that case, Judge Hellerstein asked the plaintiff's lawyer to provide a spreadsheet with exactly how much she was earning. ("About $55,000," the lawyer was heard to say. Judge Hellerstein shot back, "About is not precise.")

 To several groups of lawyers Judge Hellerstein flatly asked, What does it take to settle this case? Money? How much? There was a case called Newmans, another about which also disappeared from PACER called Zeng v. New York City Housing Authority, 18-cv-12008. Hard to wheel and deal on that one. But if anyone can do it...
More on Patreon here.

Nine days before in front of Judge Hellerstein: a registered sex offender who pled guilty to using cocaine while on Supervised Released was sentenced to his thirty days time served and the same continuing amount of supervised released on September 4 by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

  While the Assistant US Attorney sputtered that a time served sentence would merely encourage other supervisees to relapse, Judge Hellerstein ended up saying he would grant exactly what Patrick Townzen's Federal Defender Julia Gallo wanted. Many in the courtroom were surprised.

But there's more. It turns out Townzen was arrested on August 3 and not presented in SDNY Magistrates Court until days later on August 6. Assistant US Attorney Jacob R. Fiddelman recounted that "the Marshals were turned away from the MCC when they tried to lodge the defendant overnight. They therefore brought the defendant to the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla, New York, where he was lodged" - for days.

 As Inner City Press has previously reported from the Mag Court, defendants when in Valhalla cannot for example place calls to Venezuela. Stranger and more detailed to things become in the SDNY. Watch this site.

On April 29 before Judge Hellerstein, a defendant out of bail awaiting trial on racketeering charges was accused by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the South District of New York of domestic violence, for the second time in nine months.

But the Office's request to revoke Eugene Castelle's bail was denied by SDNY Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, who instead advised Castelle to keep the twice abused woman away from him.   

As recounted by Assistant US Attorney Jason Swergold to a courtroom in which Inner City Press was the only media present, Castelle strangled a woman such that her throat showed red marks. Swergold said the same thing had happened in August 2018, with the same woman.   

Castelle through his lawyer Gerald J. McMahon said that the woman had been drunk both times. He said the woman, Castelle's girlfriend for five years, had called him to said that her father had died. But when Castelle arrived with condolences at 8 am he smelled liquor on her breath, and learned that the deceased was in fact her girlfriend, Nicole Fontana. Castelle returned at 1 pm to take his car back from his girlfriend.   

While AUSA Swergold asked rhetorically how it was OK in all of this for the woman to be strangled - he said that the 121st Precinct had photographs - Judge Hellerstein said he was not going to modify Castelle's bail conditions. "I don't think I should do anything," Judge Hellerstein said, adding "I wish I could draw up a perfect world."    

Then Judge Hellerstein questioned or instructed Castelle directly, asking, Are you still together?   

"Not really," Castelle said.   

"You have to resist," Hellerstein said, advising Castelle to have someone with him if, as the judge put it, the woman came over and tried to be close with him or touch him. Judge Hellerstein asked if Castelle has any close neighbor to do this.   

Castelle replied that there is "a kid who takes out my garbage." Hellerstein shook his head. Castelle also said that family members could reach out to the woman and tell her to stay away.   

Judge Hellerstein asked Castelle, Her family or yours?   

Mine, Castelle said. "They'll make sure she'll stay away from me."   

Judge Hellerstein said he couldn't have Castelle's family threatening the woman. He said, "You have to resist."   Afterward Inner City Press asked one of the participants about what he just happened. Judge Hellerstein is sometimes like that, was the response. He says these things.   

The trial, something of a follow up to the US v Cammarano trial that Inner City Press covered earlier this year that resulted in acquittal, is set to begin in May. More here, on Patreon. Watch this site.

More than a year ago, Sajid Javed pled guilty to $7 million of Medicade fraud through seven pharmacies, charging for prescription drugs never dispensed to customers. Usually the gap between a plea and sentencing is far less. But in this case Javed contested the loss amount, and his doctor wife was continuing in a medical residency. This last arose on April 26 in the U.S. Southern District of New York courtroom of Judge Vernon S. Broderick.

  Javed's lawyer said his client stood out in his support of his wife's career because, he said, there is resistance to female doctors in their native Pakistan. Then he asked that actually going to jail be put off into the summer... of 2020.

  Judge Broderick wondered if this was even possible, and said he did not like long gaps between imposing sentence and it beginning to be served, since things can change. While called it unusual, he allowed Javed's doctor wife to speak from the gallery. She said due to her age, 39, she is already old for the residency. By next year, she said, her four year old son will be in soon. He meanwhile was eating Lay's potato chips and looking up smiling over the gallery bench at Inner City Press, the only media present (which joked back).

  Eventually the sentencing was put off. The Assistant US Attorney said she would speak with Javed's lawyer. [More including on backround and counsel and index number here on Patreon.] Somewhere else in the SDNY, a nineteen year old was being sentenced to four years to begin this and not next summer.

  When Robert Espinel who pled guilty in the NYPD gun license scandal appeared for sentencing on April 26, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York courtroom of Judge Edgardo Ramos was full of Espinel supporters, some of whom cried.

Espinel spoke, but much shorted than his co-defendant Paul Dean who received an 18 month sentence from Judge Ramos back in January. Espinel did however mention both Nine Eleven and super storm Sandy.

Judge Ramos praised Espinel for attending his daughters' sports events - something he said he wished he'd made time to do - but called Espinel's betrayal of his position "confounding" before imposing a sentence of a year and a day, followed by two years of supervised release.

Here's from the US Attorney's January press release (for some reason the Office did not publicize Friday's Espinel sentencing) -- "Robert Espinel was a member of the NYPD from 1995 through his retirement in 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2011 through 2016.   From at least 2013 through 2016, multiple NYPD officers in the License Division serving under DEAN’s command, including David Villanueva and Richard Ochetal, solicited and accepted bribes from gun license expediters – including Frank Soohoo, Alex Lichtenstein, a/k/a “Shaya,” and co-defendant Gaetano Valastro, a former NYPD detective – in exchange for providing assistance to the expediters’ clients in obtaining gun licenses quickly and often with little to no diligence.  In 2015 DEAN and Espinel decided to retire and go into the expediting business themselves.  In order to ensure the success of their business, DEAN and Espinel planned to bribe Villanueva and Ochetal, who were still in the License Division, to enable their clients to get special treatment.  They also agreed with Valastro to run their expediting and bribery scheme out of Valastro’s gun store.  According to the plan, Valastro would benefit from the scheme because DEAN and Espinel would steer successful applicants to Valastro’s store to buy guns.  They also tried to corner the expediting market by forcing other expediters to work through them.  Specifically, DEAN and Espinel attempted to coerce Frank Soohoo, another gun license expediter, into sharing his expediting clients with them by threatening to use their influence in the License Division to shut down Soohoo’s expediting business if Soohoo refused to work with, and make payments to, DEAN and Espinel. "

 As if in a parallel universe, Roberto Sanchez pled guilty to narcotics offensed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Pennsylvania in 2017 and was to appeared to sentenced, with a mandatory five year minimum.

  Then he disappeared.

  On April 24 he reappeared in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York arraignments courtroom, presided over by this week by retiring Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman. Unlike most here, including Michael Avenatti, he was not asking for a free lawyer. His retained counsel Angelo Antonio Castro III told Judge Pitman that Sanchez is supporting three children in The Bronx and had never, in reality, fled.

  Judge Pitman said that one can as surely flee in a metropolitan area as to Timbuktu, and that in any event, remand to the MCC was mandatory.

 But Sanchez' lawyer simply would not give up, insisted first that the Pennsylvania plea was been based on coersion - Judge Pitman said the warrant was valid on its face - then finally asking that under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure the delayed sentencing now be moved to the SDNY. Chaos ensued.

  Judge Pitman to his credit - we say this in light of yesterday's reporting - did not dismiss this Hail Mary out of hand, saying it was a case of firs impression. The AUSA said there was no consent; Judge Pitman replied that neither Office has been asked. Finally reference was made to "Part I" as an appellate remedy, something about which Inner City Press the only media in the courtroom asked about on the way out. Watch this site, and @SDNYLIVE.


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