One Police Plaza

Kelly, the FBI and the DA: Big Love

May 8, 2006

Big Love was again on display last week between the FBI and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown got in on it too.

Kelly, Brown and Mark Mershon, the head of the FBI’s New York office, all turned up at One Police Plaza to announce the arrests of a Queens-based motorcycle gang.

The sub-text was love — between the NYPD and the FBI, and between Kelly and Brown — specifically, how these three great branches of law enforcement cooperated in the gang’s arrest.

Recent Big Love began the week before when FBI Director Robert Mueller came to New York to tout the cooperation between the Kelly and the Bureau in fighting terrorism.

With such an overabundance of public affection, there is usually something amiss beneath the surface. And that appeared to be the case.

No one asked Mueller then — nor did anyone ask Kelly or Mershon last week at One Police Plaza — about the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David [007] Cohen who, according to a recent Post article, had so severely bad-mouthed the bureau that a recently retired FBI terrorism expert who’d just joined Cohen’s Intelligence Division quit on the spot.

Asked whether Mershon had spoken to Kelly about the matter, FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said, “Private conversations between the Assistant Director [Mershon} and the Police Commissioner are just that.”

Did that mean Mershon had spoken to Kelly about Cohen? Margolin declined comment. Nor did NYPD spokesman Paul Browne return a call seeking comment.

So we’ll ask the question: have Kelly and Cohen had a conversation about Cohen’s FBI remarks? If not, why not? If so, did Kelly, at least, reprimand Cohen?.

If the past is an indication, the public will never know. Kelly doesn’t acknowledge errors. Perhaps this accounts for his 70 per cent approval rating.

Two years ago, the same 007 Cohen was spotted tooling up the West Side highway with his lights and siren blazing — a pet peeve of Mayor Bloomberg. Kelly, however, maintained the lights and siren were authorized, without explaining for what.

Last year, Cohen allowed his buddy Mortimer Zuckerman, the owner of the Daily News, to convince him that people tailing Zuckerman were terrorists. Cohen took time out from fighting real terrorists to assign some of his Intel detectives to investigate Zuckerman’s pursuers. It turned out that the people tailing the Zuck were retired NYPD detectives with no connection to terrorists and working for a private interest that has not yet been disclosed. What, if anything do you suppose Kelly said to Cohen about that?

Now let’s return to Judge Brown and more Big Love and listen to a far-fetched sounding story that a person familiar with the motorcycle case insists is true.

He says the gang’s arrests had been delayed because Kelly and Brown couldn’t agree where to hold the newsconference announcing the take-down. Kelly became so annoyed that he pulled the NYPD cops from the task force that was going to make the arrests until the venue for the news conference was resolved.

Brown disputed this account, calling it “bull…” He said the reason the news conference was delayed was that all the motorcycles had not yet been recovered and that the reason the news conference was held at One Police Plaza was that there wasn’t enough space in his office to display all the motorcycles.

“Ray Kelly and I,” he said, “have a wonderful relationship, both personally and professionally.”

The NYPD’S Wild Blue Yonder [Con’t] Let’s sum up what’s doing in the NYPD’s Aviation Unit, the subject of two recent columns.

First, the good news: after a couple of weeks on the ground due to maintenance problems, two of the Aviation Unit’s four Agusta helicopters are back in service. No word on when the other two will be flight-worthy.

The four Agustas were purchased two years ago in a trade-in for three old NYPD helicopters the department had owned since 1994. Those three helicopters ended up with Mario Bernardini of Orange County, a licensed flight instructor and federal examiner, who then sold two of them to friends.

The third he kept and used for flight instruction. Last November on Veterans Day, the Aviation Unit’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Joseph Gallucci, passed up the normal free flight training in a department helicopter on department time at Floyd Bennett Field and took the training on his own time with Bernardini, presumably paying for the instruction and the use of Bernardini’s helicopter.

While flying over the Tobyhana army base in western Pa., he and Bernardini inadvertently violated the airspace of President Bush, who was speaking at the base as part of a Veterans Day celebration. In an embarrassing moment, they were grounded by the Secret Service for a few hours.

Fatal Encounter. Late Tuesday afternoon, Richard Rainey, a 6-foot-five-inch retired white NYPD detective, limped into an upstate Poughkeepsie courtroom.

“Good afternoon, Mister Rainey,” said Abdul Majid, a large black man in baggy dungarees, a knit cap on his head, his feet shackled together as he stood to question Rainey.

Majid was polite, almost deferential. Rainey said nothing. He glared at Majid. That glare spoke volumes.

Twenty-five-years ago, Majid, known then as Anthony Laborde, belonged to the so-called Black Liberation Army, whose stated goal was to assassinate cops. With his partner, James York, that was what LaBorde attempted to do to Rainey when he and his NYPD partner, John Scarangella, stopped Laborde and York in their van in Queens in 1981.

According to Rainey’s testimony, LaBorde and York walked up to their patrol car and opened fire from each side. They killed Scarangella. Rainey was struck eight times and left for dead. A bullet is still in him as well as paint chips from his patrol car door.

“I used to work out a lot,” he testified. Now...” he said, and simply shrugged.

Recently LaBorde — who with York was convicted of Scarangella’s murder.and the attempted murder of Rainey — was awarded $15,000 after prison guards in Sullivan County assaulted him.

But the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s long arm reached out to claim the money for Rainey and Scarangella’s family under the modified Son of Sam law, which prohibits a felon from profiting monetarily. PBA Queens South Trustee Tony Keller even drove Rainey from his home on Long Island up to the Dutchess County courthouse.

After testimony from Rainey and from Scarangella’s 33-year-old son Tom, a six-person jury decided Majid must forfeit the $15,000 — part of $42 million the jury ruled Majit owes both Rainey and the Scarangellas.