$licing Up Judge's Pie
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California April 25, 2003NEW YORK POSTApril 25, 2003$LICING UP JUDGE'S PIE
By KATI CORNELL SMITH, MURRAY WEISS and TODD VENEZIA
April 25, 2003 -- A Brooklyn divorce court was corrupt right down to the bailiff's badge, officials charged yesterday - as a Supreme Court justice, his court officer, a retired clerk, a lawyer and several court litigants were charged with a scheme to fix divorce cases in return for huge payoffs.
Judge Gerald Garson - who allegedly turned his chamber into a marketplace where justice was traded for cash, trips and dinners - stood silently in Brooklyn Criminal Court yesterday as he was slapped with misconduct charges that could net him up to four years in prison.
Garson, 69, was suspended with pay and will continue to receive his $136,700 annual salary, court officials said.
Also arraigned early yesterday were:* Lawyer Paul Siminovsky, 46, who allegedly bribed Garson on behalf of clients.
* Nissim Elmann, 43, a store owner who allegedly combed the courthouse corridors soliciting clients for Siminovsky.
* Court officer Louis Salerno, 50, who allegedly assured that bribe cases were heard in Garson's court.
* Avraham Levi, 48, a Brooklyn man who allegedly tried to pay $10,000 to have Garson fix his bitter divorce.
All were freed on $15,000 bail by Judge Alan Meyer at an 11 a.m. hearing at which Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes appeared as prosecutor.
"Gerald Garson, a sitting Supreme Court justice, has been captured on videotape accepting gifts and cash in his chambers," Hynes said in court.
Garson's retired clerk, Paul Sarnell, was arraigned later in the day. His bail was set at $15,000.
Last night, prosecutors finished the sweep by arresting a Brooklyn rabbi, Ezra Zifriani, and his daughter, Esther Weitzner.
Zifriani allegedly tried to get the judge to fix his daughter's custody case. Father and daughter are to be arraigned today.
Two people in the matrimonial clerk's office - Donna Anderson and Janet Ricevuto - were suspended without pay for allegedly routing cases to Garson.
The charges against Garson list a $1,000 payoff he allegedly got from Siminovsky for funneling a client to him - and a box of cigars Siminovsky gave him in return for guidance on what to say during a divorce trial.
According to court papers and law-enforcement sources, the veteran of the Brooklyn bench also allegedly took cash and gifts to fix at least five cases. The swag included cash payoffs of $5,000 and $10,000, a trip to Bali, bottles of Scotch and dinners at Manhattan restaurants such as Nino's and Campagnola.
Sources said Siminovsky may have been fixing cases with Garson for the entire four years Siminovsky appeared in his court.
The alleged bribe ring was busted after an eight-month investigation by the DA's office that began after a woman in a messy divorce reported that she believed her case had been fixed by her husband's lawyer, Simonovsky.
A hidden camera in the judge's "robing room" at 210 Joralemon St. let investigators videotape Garson taking gifts.
Sources in the DA's office said every case over which Garson presided will be examined.
Additional reporting Dareh Gregorian and Denise BuffaNEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc. NYPOST.COM, NYPOSTONLINE.COM, and NEWYORKPOST.COM are trademarks of NYP Holdings, Inc. Copyright 2003 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.J.A.I.L. is an acronym for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law
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