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Poor Officer Sobkowiak
Jury Challenges Put Another Choke-hold on Blacks in Buffalo
(re-print of a 2/12/12 column)
by Chris Stevenson
Tom Brady's Hail Mary in that Super Bowl last Sunday night had a better chance of being caught for a touchdown than this latest Neal Mack-jury catching the hard-pitched evidence by Attorney Anothony Pendergrass. Once again a Buffalo NY court has de-valued the very black taxpayers that make it possible to exist. As it is Mack, Pendergrass and former Buffalo Police Officer Cariol (Carol) J. Horne are 0-for-5 against these fighting whities, Paul Sobkowiak, Greg Kwiatkowski, Anthony Porzio, Ralph Skinner and they're then-Lt. Kevin Brinkworth, and they're not even giants.
This is the continuation of court dates that stem from a simple incident almost 6-years-ago, an incident which led to Mack being attacked inside of his home by 4 white patrol officers and one Supervisor, whereupon once the man was dragged outside he was repeatedly beaten while handcuffed, and topped off with a finishing choke-hold. Soon after, the unthinkable (at least in the minds of the white officers) happened; a black female officer told the officer applying the chokehold to stop, the man was turning red, he was unable to breath. The cop, on one knee for leverage, ignores her voice and continues applying the strangle. Officer Horne reaches down and grabs officer Greg Kwiatkowski's arm and forces it loose from around Mack's neck, for her troubles he punches her directly in her face "get the f**k off me you black bitch" he was heard to have snapped. It wasn't the first time Kwiatkowski was heard to toss epithets racial or otherwise while in the line of duty. Horne told me numerous times that she remembers being with Kwiatkowski during an arrest of a Hispanic female years ago, where while trying to walk her into custody, she ordered him to back off repeatedly while he was maneuvering around to kick her, and call her a "spic." Black officers noted his liberal use of the N-word whenever they were called to intervene on one of his drunken tirades, or incidents.
After the 11/1/06 Mack incident a racial line long drawn was painted over with loud colors in a town called the "City of Good Neighbors." The department could barely mask their unwillingness to support Horne, union protection that turned to iron around white officers, dissipated to mush over her. I guess there were those of us who expected a different outcome considering there was a black Police Chief and even a black Mayor. We simply refused to see the setup, never saw it coming. Instead of a court date, a Disciplinary Hearing was scheduled for the lithe woman just over 5' tall within the safe confines of Police headquarters. The town of Buffalo-knowing full well the spotty police record of the man who wanted his daughters to think he was Mr. Sensitive-tried to market the 6'2" Kwiatkowski as some kind of public hero, even while he was totally unable and unwilling to refrain from racially-motivated incidents and police brutality. In Buffalo sloppy works if you're white. Maalox if you're black.
Law firms and lawyers that are contracted out over the Corporation Counsel work too (not that the Corporation Counsel was ever of any use to blacks either), representing the city in City of Buffalo vs. Neal Mack was veteran attorney Michael Risman of Hodgson Russ LLC. Between both of them if they paid out the same amount of money they contribute to Mayor Byron Brown's campaign funds, to the victims of police misconduct that they fight so hard against, a lot of cases would be closer to seeing justice than they're rigged jury rulings. This doesn't include the money the city pays the firms to take the cases.
Figures from the Board of Elections show Hodgson Russ filling Brown's coffers on 10/20/05 ($300), and 4/15/08 ($1,5000). Mike Risman paid Byron on 12/16/05 ($100, this in addition to what he previously paid; $885). During Brown's re-election campaign he contributed on 7/3/08 ($500), 11/20/08 ($100), 8/1/09 ($25). In terms of law firms that do business with the city, and they're donations to our esteemed greasy-palmed Mayor, that's just a small example of what's going down. There are several law firms doing this, with their fleet of Risman-like lawyers contributing under their names, Buffalo's 2nd largest firm after Hodgson; Phillips Lytle LLP donated to "Brown for Buffalo" back on 3/26/08 ($500) and 4/10/08 ($1,050).
Most telling is another contribution listed to Brown's campaign on 12/16/05 from a Wayne Kwaitkowski, for the amount of $100. Hmmm... unless this is the greatest coincidence in the history of Buffalo, I think it's safe to assume this guy is related to Greg Kwiatkowski. Is it possible that Greg made more contributions through Risman, or another listed donor, or is just a yard enough for a cop to buy immunity from Byron?
Risman in particular does not project the presence of a strong trial-lawyer while in the courtroom. His strength is reliant on what he does before the trial, the aforementioned donations, and the jury-rigging. After that he may as well spend the duration of the trial filing his nails, it's up to the attorney on the other side to break his back trying to prove his client's point, and the deliberation of the jury. That Risman can still get away with his glaringly racist peremptory challenges in a city with a roughly 50% black population, in the year 2012, should be akin to parting the Red Sea. The urgency of new laws with safety-valves preventing this should be a priority. The jury of five whites and one black shows a good racial-juror-sifter pretty much puts a jury in auto-pilot, and gaurantees rulings like the 5-1 we got on a few of Mack's counts.
The huge question of whether or not blacks in Buffalo can win a case involving police abuse of the most glaring kind, and get the financial reward they deserve seems to be a dead issue. In reality drastic changes must be made in order to achieve this. Many of us remember the case of a school teacher that was roughed up in front of her students by a police officer only to come away with $1.6 million. The white school teacher Susan Doyle whose father is an attorney and former judge. Any questions? Black leaders in Buffalo will say they are defending blacks while subconsciously thinking blacks don't deserve anything. Or we get the delussionally-unbalanced black who really doesn't know or understand what we are up against. Many White Americans are the same people who can climb mountains like you climb up your porch. These are the same people who swim in waters with a giant sign saying "SHARK," get their leg bitten off, and go back a year later talkin' about they want "closure." My friends that's Kwiatkowski, that's Porzio, that's Ann Vanyo... and that's MOST OF THE JURY! Get it? Neal Mack is a tough guy, but he ain't jumping into a body of water with a shark sign, neither is Pendergrass, Horne, or myself.
This is not the same Pendergrass that defended Horne during her disciplanary proceedings, he is much more experienced, more seasoned, and it shows, he presented powerful arguments, was all over Risman with objections, and went nose-to-nose with some of Buffalo's worst, lying, and unapologetic officers around. But it may be that the jury only saw the dreadlocked man who accused the then-Police Commissioner of smoking crack without officially proving it, that may have carried over into their discussion in the chamber.
While Pendergrass used visual-aid, strong presentation and simulated reenactments to communicate to the steadily dwindling number of jurors, Risman quietly reached them which some white-talk he saved for his closing statements: "Poor officer Sobkowiak...," "Lt. Brinkworth, he's a Superviser, he doesn't have to be there...," Porzio has a son...," "Kwiatkowski has two daughters..." Code language appealing to "family values" and a sense of being imposed upon, feeling "put-out." Maybe Risman was born in the wrong place and time, it would have been interesting seeing him represent Hilter and his officers; "Herrmann Goering (1 daughter), Heinrich Himmler (4 children), Rudolph Hess (1 son), Alfred Rosenberg (2 children), Ernst Roehm (Homosexual). What words would Risman say to defend in Adolph's defense? 'Don't worry Hitler, Hodgson Russ LLP from Buffalo 2012 will clear all of you of this tribunal mess.' Of course Risman will read this and think 'Chris you're crazy, I am Jewish,' and he'd be correct, as was Rosenberg. Since Pendergrass was linked to black activists by Kwiatkowski's attorney Andrew P. Fleming during his defammation trial, I can mention Risman's membership on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo (since '07).
If you think my comparison of these Horne/Mack officers to the officers of the Third Reich is out of the way, then a brief history of the Police Department in their beginning should give you food for thought. I been hearing over the past month or two (I believe one of the times was on Pendergrass' own talk radio show "Buffalo On Fire" Saturday's at 2pm on WUFO co-hosted by the Rev. Kinzer Pointer) that the original job of the police was to catch runaway slaves, and return them to their masters or whatever punishment awaited them. Sheriffs and Deputies were the ones keeping "law and order." So in 2012 it's not a mystery how 4 officers and a Leutenant can be ruled innocent of brutality in spite of absurd testimony like one that said he doesn't know if he would need medical attention if he were repeatedly hit with a nightstick (Skinner), or another officer plainly admitting what should have been the back-breaker against the city; his admission to beating Mack and his bonus statement "I just didn't care," (Porzio) and enough lying and inconsistent testimony between them to lock them up for perjury.
In truth the Police Department was the Klan even before the KKK ever was. From 1704 to 1861 they're job was specifically to catch escaped slaves. The first official department was founded in 1844 in New York City. After Reconstruction was destroyed President Andrew Johnson authorized exteme police brutality and established black codes. This is not a case of Neal Mack not knowing how to "get over it" as many around the city of Buffalo are responding to Patrick Lakamp's, or Rod Watson's articles for the Buffalo News on the Mack verdict. I could have easily said that to the white firefighters and been closer to the truth than Mack's armchair-race experts. Yes there are instances where whites are really discriminated against, albeit few and much farther between, and yes they do deserve to be compensated. But saving a white firefighter from discrimination is like saving an 800 pound gorilla from the 2nd floor of a burning building Ok? It's virtually impossible because it rarely ever happens, and if it does it can save itself better than you can save him.
Were those same fireman black, Risman would have went up against them and their reward money would have been even less than the settlement he stalled and wittled-down to the families of the Grosvenor/N. Division St., wax factory propane explosion early in his career as a Corporation Counselman. Buffalo's reward to black victims of police misconduct is to blatantly create more Kwiatkowski's, Sobkowiak's and Skinners. Much less known is the common machinations of the Buffalo Police Department's racist hiring tactics. 44 recruits were recently hired, only two (2) of them were African American, both males. As I already mentioned, this is a city of a roughly 50% black population. (a police source told me the BPD is claiming they exhausted they're minority list). What seems to be AOK for the department isn't AOK for black applicants and those who took the exam. Most of the last names of those hired by the dept., end with those three letters, and are related to current or retired officers. The real stinker to this seems to be what happened under the radar, there were many young blacks who took the exam, and not only did quite a few of them have at least 60 college credits, but Bachelors and Masters Degrees as well and passed the police exam with very high marks.
As is with most things they do, the reason cited for this is based on personal departmental insecurity and less about securing public safety. This recent hiring wave is to make sure white officers will almost always have seniority over black officers. Reportedly a larger number of blacks will be hired later on in the year, the latest issue of their union paper "The Blue Line" reports out of 43 retiring officers for 2011, at least 16 are black. Don't think they don't notice this, or plan accordingly. 16 outgoing, only 2 incoming. Part of their reasoning I assume is to guard against the power of a future Carol Horne, what she did left an impression on some black law enforcement officers as far as directly interveining on white officers they see abusing others. What I admire most about her is that she has no regrets about the act of stopping a man from being strangled, possibly to death. Pummelling and choking a suspect is NOT "official police duty," or whatever they are trying to call it. Most people can spot and distinguish official police business from a group of jerk-offs within seconds. It's the fact that your plain sight can tell you this, is what the department deeply resents.
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to the Hampton Institute, his own blog www.thebuffalobullet.com, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him on the comment link below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.