One Police Plaza

Settlement can’t change the past

October 5, 1998

The lawsuit filed by Anthony Baez family against the city and police officer Francis X. Livoti was settled last week with the city paying $3 million. But even members of the Baez family don't agree on what the settlement means.

Baez died in December, 1994, after a struggle in which Livoti used a department-banned chokehold.

Baez father, Ramon Sr., said in court Friday that the settlement had changed his outlook. Addressing Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon, who presided over the case, Ramon Baez said: "I was angry. I used to hate this court. Now everything has changed. You showed that not all judges are the same. You made me change all that."

Susan Karten, the Baez family lawyer, said Baez anger had been directed toward Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Sheindlin, who presided over Livoti's criminal trial in 1996. After describing the police testimony as "a nest of perjury," Sheindlin acquitted Livoti of criminally negligent homicide.

Outside the courtroom, Baez wife, Iris, spoke scornfully of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose first public comment followed Livoti's acquittal, two years after her son's death. Then, the mayor called Sheindlin's decision "a careful, well-thought out, legally reasoned opinion."

Asked whether the city's $3 million payment could be considered Giuliani's apology, she said, "He can never give me anything.

"Anemone knew from the beginning," she added, referring to Chief of Department Louis Anemone's decision a decade ago overruling Livoti's precinct commander William Casey, who had recommended Livoti's removal because of repeated brutality complaints. And at a Bronx public meeting three months after Baez death, Anemone praised Livoti as "doing the kind of work the citizenry of the city and certainly this country are looking for."

"My justice has not been served," Iris Baez said. "No one has been convicted of the murder of my son."

Judicial Politics. And what is the message for Justice McKeon, universally praised for his handling of the Livoti case - even by the city's querulous assistant corporation counsel Elizabeth Gross?

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct has censured him for supposedly abusing his authority by asking another assistant corporation counsel, Eugene Borenstein, to expedite the medical benefits for the sick child of a newly hired corp counsel employee. While calling him "an excellent judge," the court's Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman removed him from future city cases because of "perception."

The perception is that McKeon's removal resulted from someone's high-level judicial agenda.

Executive Privilege. After deep-sixing the forgery indictment of Simon Jacobson - whose family is well-connected in the Orthodox Jewish community Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes courted for support in his failed gubernatorial bid - Hynes is trying to re-arrest him. Law enforcement sources say they can't find him.

Meanwhile, Hynes deputy, Dennis Hawkins, who did the dirty work, is hurting. First, he gave up his window-view office to a senior executive after mistakenly giving that exec's office to the special friend of another top exec.

Last week, he was hospitalized for a recurrent nosebleed.

©1998 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.