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Livoti fallout gets second look

July 6, 1998

The day last month that Francis X. Livoti was convicted in federal court of violating the civil rights of Anthony Baez, a top police official made an extraordinary announcement. The usually unforthcoming spokeswoman, Marilyn ("I have nothing for you") Mode, revealed the existence of a federal investigation the feds themselves have yet to acknowledge.

The office of U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, Mode announced without prompting, was considering perjury charges against the cops who testified for Livoti.

Last week, Police Commissioner Howard Safir announced he'd relieved the cops of their guns and placed them on modified assignment. He said he reassigned Sgt. William Monahan and police officers Mario Erotokritou and Anthony Farnan because of "information that came out during the federal trial that concerned me." He refused to say what information this was, adding, "I can't go into specifics."

You bet he can't - because The Livoti Three testified exactly as they had in Livoti's 1996 state trial in the Bronx. There, he was acquitted of using a department-banned chokehold that caused Baez' death, after Baez' football struck Livoti's parked police car. That was the trial in which Acting State Supreme Court Judge Gerald Sheindlin termed the conflicting testimony of the six cops "a nest of perjury." And, say police insiders, Sheindlin wasn't referring to Monahan, Erotokritou and Farnan.

Hearing of Sheindlin's remarks, officials from both White's office and the police department scooted up to the Bronx to obtain the trial's transcript to check out the allegedly perjurious testimony. White's checkout resulted in Livoti's recent conviction, Safir's in temporary amnesia.

Asked after Livoti's acquittal what he planned to do about the "nest of perjury," Safir maintained he knew nothing of it. "It's not something I have focused on," he added.

Or, as the Baez family's attorney, Sue Karton, described Safir's turnabout, "Safir finally woke up to the fact that there was perjury. Why didn't he do it before? He had the transcripts before."

Explained a law enforcement official familiar with the case: "They the NYPD want to appear pro-active now because in the past they were so slow to react."

Yet even today, Safir refuses to focus on the remarks of the department's top uniformed officer, Chief of Department Louis Anemone, who City Hall deems more essential to the NYPD than Safir. Six weeks after Baez' death, in December, 1994, the department's dark prince referred to Livoti at a Bronx public hearing as "doing the kind of work that the citizenry of the city and certainly this country are looking for."

Asked last week about those remarks, Safir said , "I repeat, I am not investigating Chief Anemone."

A final point: Anybody who's been around here the past couple of years knows Safir doesn't Printable versiondo much without direction from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani remained silent on Baez' death until Livoti's acquittal two years later, terming Sheindlin's decision "well-reasoned and thought-out." When the mayor then telephoned Baez' mother, Karten says she refused to speak to him.

Now Giuliani is said to be seeking higher office, perhaps even the presidency. Livoti's federal conviction has been national news. With Safir's new aggressiveness, the mayor apparently seeks to mirror his own, in a case both he and his police commissioner ignored in the past.

Safir Has a Heart. Sliver that it may be, the commissioner has signed off on the recommendation of police trial Deputy Ellen K. Schwartz, which saves William Stegmaier his job.

Stegmaier is the hapless lieutenant from the 110th precinct in Queens who failed to supervise the notorious Jay Creditor, dismissed last year for missing 200 hours of work over a four-month period. In one of the most corruptive acts under our self-proclaimed corruption-fighting mayor, Creditor in effect bought back his job by paying a $50,000 fine, then retired the next day with a tax-free, disability pension - lifetime worth $1.4 milion. He then sued the city for $50 million, claiming the NYPD violated his civil rights.

Earlier this year, Stegmaier went on trial for failing to supervise Creditor, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate. The troglodytic department advocate sought his dismissal, blaming him for the embarrassment.

Like the Russian purge trials of the 30s, where devout Communists recited their transgressions to avoid being shot by a firing squad, Stegmaier pleaded guilty, blaming his failings on his ex-girlfriend's "disruptive" 7-year-old son; attending college while off-duty; and his alcoholism, which he treated by seeing a private psychologist, paying without submitting insurance claims to avoid alerting the department.

Schwartz' penalty for Stegmaier: loss of 30 vacation days.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.