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#2935: File Release Furor Grows City defends move... (fwd)




From:nozier@tradewind.net

File Release Furor Grows  City defends move, but experts  call it
illegal; probes urged 
 By TRACEY TULLY and BILL HUTCHINSON Daily News Staff Writers 03-21-2000

The city's top lawyer yesterday defended releasing thejuvenile arrest
record of an unarmed man fatally shot by police, saying the victim's
right to privacy "died with him." But City Corporation Counsel Michael
Hess' contention was  disputed by legal experts amid calls for probes
into the release of security guard Patrick Dorismond's arrest record.   
The 26-year-old Brooklyn man was killed in midtown early Thursday during
a confrontation with an undercover cop. Hours later, the city released
his adult arrest record and his sealed juvenile record, which contained
an arrest for robbery and assault at 13. The move sparked criticism
from  Dorismond's family and some political leaders and activists.The
mayor wasn't available for  comment yesterday, but he has
 called the information relevant  an argument backed by Hess.       
"Once he had passed away, the city has the right to disclose those   
records," Hess said. "This was an attempt to have an evenhanded       
approach to the public, to let thepublic know about the police officer
and about the decedent. It was an attempt to balance out the
information." But Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor
and expert on legal ethics, disputed that argument and said
disclosing the sealed records is a violation of state law. Gillers, who
cited the state Family Court Act, said the only way the record could be
released is with a judge's okay."It should never see the light of day
unless the court allows it,"  he said. "The Legislature has spoken, and
the mayor violated what the Legislature said." David Bookstaver,
spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, said:
"Absolutely no information was released about the Dorismond case by the
court system."   "Family Court records concerning this case are sealed,"
he  added.  Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields     
called for state court officials to investigate the mayor's actions. The
Legal Aid Society called on state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to
launch a probe. A Spitzer spokesman said the request would be reviewed. 
"The mayor's release of Patrick Dorismond's juvenile record was not
simply reprehensible, it was illegal," Fields said.First Lady Hillary
Rodham Clinton also weighed in last night, accusing her presumed U.S.
Senate rival, Mayor Giuliani, of leading a "rush to judgment."        
Giuliani campaign spokesman Bruce Teitelbaum charged Clinton with
exploiting the issue "for political purposes."City Controller Alan
Hevesi, one of the Democrats lining up to run for mayor next year, said
the mayor was trying "to turn the public against Mr. Dorismond by
putting the worst possible spin on his minor police record."           
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) wrote a letter to Attorney General Janet
Reno asking her to impose a federal monitor of police-brutality cases in
New York."In view of the danger to which all New Yorkers are exposed  in
the absence of new management policies and training procedures, we are
left with no recourse but to appeal for federal action," Rangel wrote.  
The Rev. Al Sharpton met with Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch and
asked that the federal government take control of the NYPD. "Giuliani
and [Police Commissioner Howard] Safir must be removed from being in
charge of  policing in this city," Sharpton said. Also in Brooklyn,
police-torture victim Abner Louima joined other Haitian New Yorkers in
calling for a day of mourning on Saturday  the day of Dorismond's
funeral.  "This makes me feel all my suffering was in vain by seeing all
 the brothers losing their life," Louima said.In addition to releasing
Dorismond's juvenile record, police officials also divulged that he had
been arrested twice as an adult, in 1993 and 1996. Both arrests resulted
in convictions for disorderly conduct.Police claim Dorismond took
offense when an undercover cop approached him early Thursday and pressed
him about where to buy drugs. Dorismond, who was offended by the
question,allegedly threw a punch and then lunged for the gun of a     
backup undercover detective, Anthony Vasquez.Manhattan District Attorney
Robert Morgenthau yesterday  announced he is conducting an independent
investigation of the shooting. Morgenthau said he has assigned four
senior assistant district attorneys and a staff of investigators to
interview witnesses and gather evidence to be presented to a grand
jury.My office will do a complete and independent
investigation,"Morgenthau said.