Friday, January 25, 2008

Return of Regular Bloggery

HANKERING. “I’m watching your posts intently,” says a Seeing Greene reader, “for something along the lines of ‘AWAKENED: The Town of Greenville, finally realizing that it is the only municipality in North America with three Dollar stores. Town Planning Board meetings were increasingly disrupted by the feverish buzzing of and entire plot of the Quackenbush family spinning in their graves’."


*Plans of the State Department of Environmental Conservation to make a multi-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded upgrade and expansion of the Belleayre Mountain resort in Ulster County. Protestors (from the Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain resorts, especially) complain, plausibly, about the prospect of unfair competition. County legislators have responded with calls for State study of the project’s social, economic and environmental impact.

*The Alden Terrace project, a big retail and residential development, in Cairo. Protestors foresee dire consequences for existing commercial establishments, in the old downtown area (already sunk) and in the Great American mall. Proponents foresee gains in local trade and in property tax revenues.

*Zoning revision in Coxsackie. Targeted particularly at a public meeting last Tuesday (1/22) was a Planning Committee proposal that would allow commercial enterprises of all kinds to occupy a 1200-foot-deep strip of land west of Route 9W and virtually surrounding, thereby shrouding and demeaning, the community’s (and the county’s) historic treasures. Those treasures are the Bronck Museum (a restored pre-Revolutionary house), the 13-sided Dutch barn, the artifact-rich Vedder Library, and grounds that include a venerable cemetery.

*The huge Destination Retail Project and Business Park that the county’s Industrial Development Agency proposes to develop at New York Thruway Exit 21B in New Baltimore. Misgivings have been expressed, chiefly out of concern for the project’s scale. Two kinds of responses to the local apprehensions have eventuated. One, led by Town Supervisor David Louis, consisted of abstaining from re-appointing a highly qualified, experienced, willing-to-serve James Coe to the Town Planning Board; Mr Coe had voiced some objections to the $100 million-for-openers project. The other response, emanating from the IDA, consists of sketching some ways of changing features of the project, and inviting public scrutiny of those variations. The intention, according to an IDA news release, is to facilitate “substantial additional public participation” as well as “closer coordination” with local authorities. A “supplemental review of the project’s destiny,” says IDA Chairman Paul Slutzky, “was needed in response to the community’s concern over size and overall impact.” Public meetings, all in Coxsackie’s high school or middle school at 24 Sunset Blvd, are scheduled for February 12 and 27, March 1 and April 7.

UNDER CONSIDERATION: Greene County use of Hudson Correctional Facility as a jail. Wayne Speenburgh, chairman of the county legislature, says our suggestion (S.G., 1/20) “has been discussed” and “on the surface seems like a good idea.” Mr Speenburgh has appointed a committee to review immediate security concerns at the present jail as well to explore long-term solutions.

FEATURED in the current roll magazine (“Creative Living in the Hudson Valley”) is Athens artist Sam Sebren. In the words of author Jay Blotcher, Mr Sebren’s specialty is transforming "critical thought about culture, poliitics and the environment into provocative paintings, sculptures and art installations.” Two new Sebrens will be part of a Bard College show in February. They exemplify a “signature style” composed of “raw brushstrokes in acrylic paint, chaotic collage and titles calculated to jar.” The titles in this case are “Breeding Zombie Consumers” and “Jesus Died for our Malls.” Mr Sebren moved to Athens eight years ago, after toiling in Manhattan for 15 years. The change softened his affinity for “claustrophobic chaos” but, what with “Wal-Mart and pollution and outdoor advertising,” he opines, “I’m watching the destruction of this place.”

DE-GISTED. Recuperating after surgical removal of a cottage cheesy, 11-pound, volleyball-sized GIST (gastro-intestinal stromal tumor) is Karl Anis, the celebrated sign-carver, Kay-lover and master of the Mid-Hudson's most startling method of putting. (Don’t bet against him).

TRAVEL NOTE. While visiting recently in the southwest, a GreeneLander met a young Briton who lives in Switzerland. When told that the traveler was from Catskill, the Brit asked “Isn’t that where Mike Tyson came from?”

Incidentally, the GreeneLand traveler did NOT visit the Divine Resonance Healing Center down there, or the Desert Milagros Mystery School, the Temple of the Presence, the Chopra Center for Wellbeing (endorses Zril, The Original Amalaki), the Bowenwork Integrative Healing Clinic, Allarah’s Holistic Alternatives, Sacred Healing (shamanic healing, holotropic breathwork, past life regression, hypnosis…), Tragerization, the Temple of Universality (Rev. Jan O’Kelly and Joe Morgan on Miracles Workshop), White Eagle Healing & Meditation center, Deeksha Circle, Desert Crones, Red Monkey Studio (Qigong specialists; ), or even the Ankali Yoga & Day Spa (mindfulness, meditation, deep journaling, heart poetry, expressive dance, embodied movement, biofeedback, guided imagery, visual art expression).

NOSTALGIA DEPT. ”Has age begun to throw its cold blue shadow across your path? Or is it grasping in its vise like clutch someone dear to you? At this stage the active recuperative powers of youth cannot longer be depended upon…. Come to the aid of nature by the liberal use of PABST EXTRACT.

"It is the staunch vigor of barley malt and choicest hops. Rich in the tissue building qualities of the former and the splendid tonic properties of the latter, it revitalizes the blood and rebuilds the muscles and nerve tissues. Glowing and sparkling with vitality it fortifies the system and strengthens the entire body. Physicians of repute everywhere are constantly vouching for the merits of Pabst Extract…by recommending it to strengthen the weak and build up the overworked; to relieve insomnia and conquer dyspepsia; to help the anaemic and aid the nervous; to assist nursing mothers and invigorate old age.”

All this, in a 1909 advertisement for a beer that was sold in drug stores as a tonic.

DAILY MAUL. The calendar of events in the Tuesday, January 22th, issue of GreeneLand’s foremost daily newspaper starts with Sunday, January 20th.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Obama?

The essay below does NOT fit the mold of a Seeing Greene installment. I post it here in order to achieve distribution. Feel free to disregard it. On the other hand, feel free to rebut, augment, denounce, salute....

Dick May

Because he has the best chance of winning the presidency, and because he has the best chance of being a successful President, Barack Obama would be the Democratic Party’s best presidential nominee.

That assessment, or hunch, stems from appreciating Senator Obama’s two advantages over Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and any other conceivable Democratic candidate: breadth of support, and absence of deep-seated animosity.

Mr Obama would get every vote that any other Democratic nominee could get from regular Democrats. He also would win—as opinion surveys, primary elections and caucuses have already indicated—a larger share of votes cast by independent (no-party) voters. He would surpass any other prospective Democratic nominee in support from disaffected, Bush-despising Republicans. He would pick up votes from people who define themselves primarily as Christians. He would win an overwhelming majority of votes cast by African-Americans and would attract a record rate of turnout by African-American voters. Similarly, he would win a substantial majority of votes cast by young voters and would evoke a record rate of turnout by young voters.

Thanks to the breadth as well as the scale of his electoral support, Mr Obama would be extraordinarily well placed to implement the changes that all the Democratic candidates have advocated. Adding greatly to his leverage, moreover, would be the public spirit generated by the character of his campaign. Thanks to his rhetorical emphasis on reconciliation, harmony, salutary change and hope—themes that other candidates have sounded, but less credibly—a President Obama would commence his White House occupation with a precious stock of good will, coming from both sides of the partisan divide.

Crucial to the success of a President, says Ted Sorenson, who was President John F. Kennedy’s chief speechwriter, is ability “to mobilize people, inspire them, galvanize them, arouse them to action.” Barack Obama’s manifest ability “to inspire and excite an audience on the campaign trail” is “one of the reasons” to believe that “Obama would be a success as president.”

By way of contrast, Hillary Clinton’s ability to win the November election, as well as to govern effectively, is hampered by widespread, deep-seated animosity. She leads the field in “negatives”: professed disagreements with her policies, along with adverse assessments of her character. And that aversion is not counterbalanced by manifest enthusiasm, as distinct from respect and admiration, on the part of her many supporters.

The hostility is the product, in no small measure, of diligent cultivation by “conservative” Republican operatives. It is nonetheless entrenched and based on long exposure. As commentator Frank Rich says, “Clinton-bashing is the last shared article of faith…that could yet unite the fractured and dispirited conservative electorate.” “With conservatives,” adds conservative commentator Rich Lowry, Senator Clinton “is caught in an inescapable trap of acrimony.” When she makes a “liberal” move, that reveals her underlying “Eurosocialist” proclivities. When she does a “moderate” thing it supposedly reveals an underlying poverty of principle. Her candidacy would be regarded by “conservative” ranters as a renewed license to smear.

For Republicans, the nomination of Hillary Clinton as Democratic presidential candidate would be, as conservative columnist George Will says, an electoral “gift.” And even if she were to win the election, her presidency would be crippled. Senator Clinton would not be able to draw strength from the popular sentiment that, as commentator Nicholas D. Kristof says, is inspired by Barack Obama: hope that his election “would heal divisions at home and around the world.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cold News

“CAIRO, NY” is the title of a poem that appeared in the January 7th issue of The NewYorker. According to its first 14 lines “The town near our house/ Isn’t fancy,/ But it is ripe./ At present,/ it is still on/ The wrong side of /The Hudson River./ But there’s potential./ What happened/ In Woodstock,/ What happened/ In Red Hook,/ What’s happening /In Catskill,/ Could easily Happen here.” Subsequent lines deal ironically with the prospect of gentrification. Author Cornelius Eady, a part-time Acra resident who has taught poetry in many colleges and institutes, currently runs the creative writing program at Notre Dame University. Victims of the Latest Dance Craze and Autobiography of a Jukebox are titles of two of his six collections of poems. A seventh collection, Hardheaded Weather, is on the way.

EXPEDITED in GreeneLand, modestly, during 2008: Youth theater, adult theater, Chinese brush painting, origami, poetry appreciation and composition, youth art, fiction writing, clay sculpture, stone carving, belly dancing, art history for children, digital photography, story-telling, Shakespeare, weaving, book illustrating, classical music-making, quilting, teen film-making, art for developmentally disabled children. These activities will be expedited, each in a modest way, by grants from the State’s Decentralization Program Support Project, as administered locally by the county Arts Council. Grants totaling $25,850 will go to 22 selected organizations, in amounts ranging from $750 to $1800. Among grantees or program managers:: Jeanne Heiberg, Bonnie Mion, Joseph Capone, David Woodin, Margo Muller, Vladimir Pleshakov, Cindy Putorti, Kevin VanHentenryck, Vera Gaidoch.

POSTPONED: sentencing dates for GreeneLanders James Pine and Michael Deyo, as given in our previous blog (“A Criminal Trial”). They will not get the news on St Valentine’s Day. Their dates have been changed to February 22 at 3pm for Deyo and to February 29th at 10:30am for Pine.

APPOINTED as secretary to the county’s new sheriff, Greg Seeley: former Daily Mail reporter Andrea Macko. No, she won’t be getting orders from her father, Sergeant Andy Macko.

CRIPPLED by a schoolyard bully last week, to the point of needing multiple pins inserted in a plate in his shattered hip: a GreeneLand boy, 9 years of age. He had dreamed of becoming a soccer star.

OPENED last Wednesday, by Deborah Braiman, in Athens (360 Warren St): a campaign office for Barack Obama. More information may be available to skilled cyber-trackers starting with the web site

CLOSED, not just for the winter: Bowerbird home furnishing shop on Catskill's Main Street.

SUGGESTED, by us, here & now, to GreeneLand legislators: explore the feasibility and costs of adapting a part of the Hudson Correctional Facility for use as Greene County jail. That historic minimum-security prison is located just across the Hudson River, a few minutes’ drive from the Greene County courthouse. It is slated by the Department of Corrections , along with two other facilities in the State, for closing by next January (because our prison population has dwindled). Couldn’t a piece of it be adapted readily for use as a jail? Wouldn’t that yield a saving of millions of dollars, many millions, compared with the cost of building an all-new GreeneLand jail?

MAULED lately, at a higher-than-ever rate, in the columns GreeneLand’s reigning daily newspaper: the English language. “The Athens Local Development Corporation’s project with the Athens village board to get small, job-creating businesses started on Second Street”--sentence ends here--seems to be a case of predicate-purging, as do

A number of interesting programs for those interested in a number of areas to learn about male trees and personal empowerment, according to the Agroforestry Resource Center.

The Monday announcement by the county of the grant’s arrival, preceded by a Governor’s Office for Small Cities declaration six days earlier, accompanies along with some statistics, seen as staggering by a county Planning and Economic Development Department statement.

as well as

This instruction coming after Speckman had attested to the fact that this ordeal has been going on for months and a resolution has yet to met, having given the property owners numerous opportunities to rectify the situation in a civil manner.

“An agreement outlining various issues discussed at this meeting will be introduced at the Catskill Village Board meeting on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m.,” published on January 14th, seems to be a case of backward forward-looking, or maybe forward backward-looking. The headline “One man’s prospective on things to come” exemplifies misnomer in 30-point type; and it happens to introduce a column whose author opines that a predicted personnel-type event “came to pass, the most prominent of who was…Barnhart.”

“IDA officials has adopted a statement…” and “one unique piece of equipment are the red and green lights D’Amato utilized…” demonstrate blunders in the matter of achieving numerical agreement between parts of a sentence. “ That may be the least of the pratfalls in dangling construction-pocked “He said that as a taxpayer himself the maintenance work and upkeep of the ‘not- for-profit’ facility has already been paid for.” For distinction in the Clear As Mud category, however, the foregoing sentence falls well short of

Louis said that the question was whether he ‘knew of a termination’ of newly appointed Planning Board member Joseph Caputo, not the ‘why’ of the termination and it was one associated with the public’s questions as to why the Town Board substituted Caputo for Jim Coe, who was not reappointed following the end of his term with the Planning Board on Dec. 31.

Got that? Now for this week’s Pukelitzer Prize-winner:

A wave of check scams has [sic.] been targeting residents of Greene County and beyond, which [sic.] continues to invade the homes of unsuspecting victims, warns Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley….The unassuming [sic.] winner of the scam [sic.] is directed to reply with a personal check covering processing fees and taxes, this may total in the thousands….The apparent authenticity of the check is sometimes mislead [sic.] by a bank name and telephone number on the back. When called, however, they [sic.] are actually calling a direct line to the con artist…. Similar incidents have been occurring all across the Hudson Valley region, one of which was recently reported in Hyde Park.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Criminal Trial

THE VERDICT. At 4pm on Friday, December 14th, twelve grim-faced jurors, led by their official keeper, Maurice Latimer, and flanked by their two alternates, filed out of the oak-paneled 195-seat courtroom on the second floor of the Greene County Courthouse. The seven women and five men took the dozen steps leading into the little chamber marked “petit jury.” There, sequestered, they began deliberating over the culpability of James R. Pine for the fatal beating, on October 31, 2006--Halloween--of Michael Formichelli Jr. There, for the first time, after eight days of trial, they could talk to each other about whether Pine was guilty, as charged, of the crimes of first-degree assault and first-degree manslaughter. At last they could voice hunches and conclusions they had formed, but had been forbidden to discuss with anybody.

At 4:55pm the jurors, at their behest, were back in the courtroom, seeking guidance from the judge, George R. Bartlett III. As a matter of law the judge could respond only in the open, on the record, in the presence of the prosecutor, District Attorney Terry Wilhelm; the defense attorney Richard Mott; the court clerk, Walter Becker; the court stenographer, Coleen Neal; two deputy sheriffs; and the defendant. Although Judge Bartlett had instructed them at length just before they retired for deliberation, the jurors sought clarification of the nature of the crimes for which Pine had been prosecuted. Though prohibited from indulging in interpretation, Judge Bartlett restated how those felonies are defined in the law: Manslaughter in the first degree occurs when an individual, intending to inflict serious physical injury on another, acting alone or in concert, does inflict serious physical injury, which leads to death. Assault in the first degree occurs when an individual, intending to inflict serious physical injury on another and, acting alone or in concert, does inflict such injury, and does so with the aid of an instrument. Sustained premeditation need not precede the attack.

At 5:30pm Judge Bartlett summoned the jurors back to the courtroom. Responding to an appeal from the prosecutor, he proceeded to review the legal formulation of the concept--ultra-sensitive in this case--of “acting in concert.” He re-minded the jurors that “your verdict on each count…must be unanimous. In order to find the defendant guilty, however, you need not be unanimous on whether the defendant committed the crimes personally or by acting in concert with another, or both.”

At 6:10pm the jurors asked for another refresher. They returned to the courtroom’s jury box for a replay of audiotapes of emergency (911) calls that had been made, as the fatal events were unfolding, by and to Pine’s acknowledged confederate.

At 9pm Judge Bartlett called the jurors back to their courtroom box. This time the subject was progress in deliberations. Did they wish to carry on, in the expectation of coming to an agreed conclusion that night? Or would they prefer to adjourn until Monday morning? They opted to continue.

At 10:10pm the foreman sent out word that he and his fellow jurors had reached a verdict. Back they filed, grim-faced as always, to their seats. Speaking in the presence of the usual court officers along with a dozen spectators, the foreman said “Guilty on both counts.” After polling the jurors, who affirmed their concurrence with that dual verdict, the judge thanked them for their service and sent them home.

Pine was led out, past seven relatives and friends, by his escorting sheriff’s deputy. Back he went to the jail cell, right next to the courthouse, where he had been incarcerated for 13 months.

Prosecutor Wilhelm said “justice was done.” Defense Attorney Mott said an appeal is “under advisement.”

THE LEAD-IN. Throughout the trial, the jurors looked pensive and sober. Perhaps they were vexed, some spectators speculated, about the many hours when they were not hearing the case—hours when they were sequestered, idle, while the lawyers talked with the judge in handled chambers, and hours, cumulatively, when they sat in the jury box while the lawyers and the judge talked in whispered sidebars. But after the lawyers had delivered their summations and the judge had given them his instruction, when they were free at last to talk to each other about the case, the jurors learned that their grim faces reflected shared feelings of strain driven by felt responsibility and uncertainty. So common was the feeling of anguish that the jurors made a pact to avoid discussing the case afterward, with outsiders, even though they were free at last to do so.

Some parts of the story were easy to assimilate. The parts that related most directly to culpability, however, must have been daunting.

The events that led to the death of Michael Formichelli Jr, at age 39, began with telephone calls. According to uncontradicted testimony in court, Formichelli had driven from Hudson early in the evening of Halloween, 2006, to 196 Dubois Road, a small apartment building in west Catskill near the Rams Horn/Livingston sanctuary. There he entered the apartment of a woman with whom he was well acquainted. Nobody was home. He started making calls. A dozen or more went in rapid succession to the woman’s cellular telephone. She received but did not answer those calls, as she was escorting her 14-year old daughter, Christina, on a Trick or Treat outing. Another call went to the mother of James Pine, who in turn alerted her son. Another went to Pine himself.

Pine got that call while he was towing a car, his grandfather’s, back home for repair work. When the caller identified himself as “Mike,” and when the ringtone indicated that the call came from the woman’s apartment, an exchange of pleasantries ensued. Pine recognized the name from what she had told him, as she and Pine were close friends.

THE WOMAN at the ‘center’ of James Pine’s trial, Mary Hyer Seeley, 41, is NOT related by marriage or former marriage to Greene County’s new sheriff, Greg Seeley, or to Catskill’s Village President, Vincent Seeley. She is the grand-daughter of a once-prominent Greene County attorney, and is the mother of three offspring, aged 24, 21 and 14. She has worked as a playground superintendent in the Catskill Elementary School (old campus), as a teacher’s aide in Hudson schools, as a waitress in the former Half Moon Club in Hudson, and as a pet groomer. Among the men in her past was Bruce Bart of Tannersville, the tattoo artist who was known professionally as “Black Bart.”

Ms Seeley testified that she and Formichelli were connected amorously, and to some extent financially, for some months in 2005-06. After the breakup, she said, they still communicated frequently, and the messages from his side were “not friendly.” Indeed, he had voiced threats which she took seriously enough to report to the Hudson Police. Meanwhile, with Pine in the course of some six years she had engaged in an intermittent, “non-exclusive” amorous relationship; and in recent months he had unfettered access to her apartment.

The call prompted Pine to race the rest of the way home. There he invited his friend, Michael Deyo, who had been steering the towed car, to accompany him to the woman’s place. He also took from his garage a three-foot-long breaker bar, which is normally used to pry tires loose from wheels. He put that iron implement on the back seat of his 1994 Lincoln Continental.

Pine and Deyo drove fast to 196 Dubois Road. They mounted the stairs to the woman’s third-floor apartment, found her door open, entered, and encountered Formichelli. A brawl ensued. It spilled over into the hall and then the three men tumbled, kicking and punching, down two flights of stairs.

After they crashed to the ground floor, Formichelli managed to get to his feet and start walking, zig-zag, away from the building. The two men started to follow on foot, then got back in Pine’s car. They caught up with Formichelli a few hundred yards away, outside 15 Abeel Road, where the second phase of the fight took place. It was there, in a flower garden in front of the house, that the breaker bar came into contact with Formichelli’s skull. Several blows were struck. They did not knock him out completely. They did--according to expert testimony--make the fractures that proved, three days later, to be fatal.

THE PROBLEM. Who swung that lethal breaker bar? For the jurors that question could not have been easy to answer.

No fingerprints or other physical evidence served to identify the weapon wielder.

No independent witness saw the fatal beating. Some residents of the 196 Dubois Road building, however, did attest to seeing Pine take the bar out of his car there, then put it back when he and Deyo drove off in pursuit of Formichelli. In addition, a late-arriving spectator at the Abeel Street site said he saw Pine put an object into the trunk of his car.

Dean Dow, who lived in the Abeel Street house, testified that he was home alone on the fateful evening, studying in his den after returning from a jog. At about 7:40pm, in response to “large pounding” he opened his front door and beheld a “chaotic” scene, occupied by a “young woman” on his porch and several youngish men nearby in his yard. One of the men came aggressively onto the porch and belligerently refused to identify himself (“I don’t have to tell you shit”). Dow ordered him--Deyo, he learned later--to “get off my property.” Dow also saw a man lying in the flower bed just off the porch. He approached the man, who was bleeding but conscious and coherent (“I’ve been beaten up”). With the help of a man who was standing nearby, Dow moved the putative victim to a more comfortable spot pending the arrival of an ambulance. The helper was James Pine. He was not, at the time, holding any instrument.

After Formichelli had been taken away by ambulance (he was still conscious, the driver reported; but after five minutes lapsed into a coma), Pine and Deyo were interviewed separately by policemen. Both lied. They gave separate signed statements depicting Formichelli as an intruder and as the initial aggressor in a brawl. While acknowledging that they pursued him and that he was punched and stomped on until he was subdued on the ground, each man explicitly denied using any weapon. Both were charged initially with suspicion of second-degree (weapon-less) assault. After Formichelli died, however, the charge was changed to suspicion of murder. The charge against each man said, awkwardly, that “acting in concert” he did “strike Michael Formichelli in the head with a metal pipe, punch him about the head and stomped upon the victim’s head, thereby causing skull and brain injuries which result in the death of Michael Formichelli.”

THE DEFENDANT who sat next to defense attorney Mott throughout the trial, clad in a conservative gray business suit, is a brawny mechanic of 38, single, never married but the father of two children, who at the time of the fatal fight was living with his parents at 346 Five Mile Woods Road, Catskill. His presence in the courtroom was not a novelty. Back in 1996 Pine had faced five criminal charges arising from behavior toward his then girlfriend, Carla Bagshaw: attempted sodomy, criminal possession of a weapon, assault (3d degree), unlawful imprisonment, and criminal possession of stolen property. Prior to the trial, and after negotiations with the District Attorney, he entered a Guilty plea to the criminal possession count. The other charges were dropped and he was sentenced by the presiding judge to five years’ probation. Twenty-two months later he was back in court for a judicial hearing over whether he had violated the terms of his probation. When an affirmative judgment was rendered, Pine was then obliged to serve the prison sentence for which he had been convicted in 1996: a term of between 18 and 54 months. Among witnesses at that probation-violation hearing were Ms Bagshaw and her friend Mary Seeley.

On both of those occasions, as well as on the present occasion, Pine’s trial was conducted by an outside judge. Greene County’s two home judges recused themselves on account of their friendship with Pine’s mother, a courthouse employee. And for those earlier trials the judge, visiting from Schoharie County, was George W. Bartlett III.

After serving his VOP sentence, Pine fell afoul of the law again, this time in Columbia County. He was convicted of fourth-degree grand larceny, sentenced to an 18-36-month prison stretch, and released in August 2005.

Carla Bagshaw, incidentally, was the older sister of Holly Bagshaw, who in 1998 was the sweetheart of Timothy “T J” Hall, 19, of Watervliet, who was being prosecuted, in the same courtroom where Pine appeared last week, for murder. Hall was charged with shooting to death Lesley (“Panther”) O’Connor, following a scuffle inside the Quarterback Club, a Catskill night spot, run by Catskill postmaster Donald Stegall, that has since become GreeneLand’s drug rehabilitation center. Summoned as a witness to that fatal event, Holly Bagshaw refused to testify. Her refusal evoked a 30-day jail term for contempt of court. Her paramour, in the teeth of strong evidence of guilt, was acquitted. His defense attorney was Richard Mott.

At that point Deyo changed his story. He had lied, he said in a second statement to police, “to help my friend Jimmy” at a time when he, Deyo, “didn’t think the guy would die.” Actually, he had urged Jimmy at the start not to bring along the breaker bar, had later urged Jimmy not to take that weapon out of the car, and finally had urged him (“I’m yelling at Jimmy that I can’t believe all this shit happened over Mary”) not to hammer Formichelli, prostrate on the ground but struggling, with that weapon.

In June, District Attorney Wilhelm took the case before the county’s grand jurors. They indicted Deyo for first-degree assault and Pine for first-degree manslaughter as well as assault. Deyo, advised by Chief Public Defender Dominic J. Cornelius, entered a plea of guilty. Pine, represented by Richard Mott, entered pleas of Not Guilty.

When called to the witness stand at the trial, Deyo again portrayed himself as Pine’s junior acting-in-concert partner. It was Pine alone, he said, who bashed Formichelli with the breaker bar.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Mott hammered against Deyo’s (and prosecutor Wilhelm’s) version of responsibilities. He called Deyo’s attention, and the jury’s, to the change of stories. He emphasized Deyo’s self-interest in putting the blame on Pine. And he concentrated on those emergency (911) calls that Deyo made and received during the second brawl. While summoning police help (and mentioning that his brother was a Catskill cop; and mis-naming “Vietnam Road” as the scene of action) Deyo put himself verbally in the midst of the fighting: “I think we just knocked him out cold”; “I fucking rapped him in the head and he’s fucking laying on the ground”; “if he gets up again I’m gonna fucking hit him again because he knocked me right down the stairs”; “You gotta hurry up and get here ‘cuz I’m gonna end up killing this guy.”

With regard to that incriminating verbiage, prosecutor Wilhelm argued that a feverishly agitated emotional state, gripped by concern over the potentially lethal turn of events, made Deyo “pronoun challenged.”

Then, on the final day of testimony, Mott put his client on the stand. Pine maintained that it was Deyo who swung the breaker bar.

Whether the jurors—all, some or none—believed the prosecutor’s version of events is not evident from their verdict. They had been instructed and reminded by Judge Bartlett that they need not agree unanimously on who wielded the weapon that made the attack on Michael Formichelli a first-degree assault. They accordingly could decide that Pine and Deyo both seemed to be guilty of the assault charge, having acted in concert, apparently with intent, when Formichelli incurred skull fractures from being beaten with the breaker bar. And even if they could not be sure that Pine alone inflicted the skull fractures, they could feel confident that it was Pine who had initiated the drive to Dubois Road, Pine who had brought along the breaker bar, Pine who apparently was seen putting that weapon in his trunk, Pine who had a history of felonies and stretches in prison. Similarly, since Formichelli’s injuries from the battering proved to be fatal, guilt on the assault charge paved the way for a finding of guilt on the manslaughter charge.

SENTENCING. Still to be decided by Judge Bartlett is the length of time both Pine and Deyo shall spend in prison.

For Michael Deyo, prison time will be in the range of five years to 25 years. That is the prescribed time of incarceration for an offender who has been convicted of first-degree assault and who has not previously been convicted of a felony. Deyo’s attorney, Mr Cornelius, will likely build his case for lenient sentencing--a short term--on the basis, of Deyo’s pivotal contributions (not preceded by a bargain with the prosecutor over what he would say at his friend’s trial) to the conviction of Pine. If he gets the minimum sentence, and if he earns credit for good behavior in prison, Deyo could be released in 2012.

For James Pine, the prison term will be longer, even though his two sentences for two crimes will likely be served concurrentoly. Previous felony convictions qualify him as a repeat offender. Consequently, the minimum sentence for his Halloween Night 2006 crimes becomes eight years. The maximum would be 25 years.

The designated date for sentencing of both men is next February 14th. Valentines Day.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Vietnam Revisited

Recently returned from a trip to Vietnam—his second to that country—is GreeneLand documentary film-maker Jonathan Donald. First time around, he told Seeing Greene in a lengthy interview, it was during the war and he was assigned to make a television documentary about Air Force helicopters rescuing American pilots who had been shot down and had ditched over the South China Sea. But “It wasn’t much of a program” because rescues were few—because crashes were few. That left him “plenty of time” to notice an “exotic, beautiful” country with “lush green wilderness of mountainous jungle,” with a “rich and turbulent history,” and with multiple religions, including the Cao Dai sect “whose saints include the Pope, Sun Yat-Sen (father of modern China) and the French novelist Victor Hugo.”

Second time around, the assignment was a documentary film about the Vietnam unit of Operation Smile, an international organization whose representatives, most of them volunteers, perform facial surgeries on children—“mainly cleft lips and cleft palates, a scourge in much of the developing world.”

The country to which Mr Donald returned after a 37-year interval “was a very different place.” While it is “still a nation of farmers,” Vietnam has experienced “an accelerating rate of industrial growth.” The two big cities still have open markets and colonial French architecture, but “the tree-lined boulevards are giving way to new banks and hotels…. There is also perhaps more traffic on the streets than anywhere else in the world: thousands upon thousands of motorbikes, scooters, pedicabs, cars and trucks….”

Vietnam also struck Mr Donald as “a very forgiving place. I never saw an angry person there, even in the maelstrom of Hanoi’s street traffic—a setting for road rage if there ever was one.” Although they have fought wars against the Chinese, the Japanese, the French, the Khmer Rouge Cambodians, the Americans and each other, today’s Vietnamese “are friends with all their old enemies.” They are models of “resilience, patience, and those family values that we invoke so often in the West.”


To cover the Vietnam operation of Operation Smile, Mr Donald and his wife Bodil drove to Hue, “the old Imperial City, with its ancient citadel and tombs,” where inin 1968 of the notorious battle called the Tet Offensive was fought. The occasion was the 25th birthday of OPSMILE. To celebrate it, volunteer surgeons, nurses and non-medical helpers in 25 countries performed, over two weeks, 4,000 surgeries—300 of them, under conditions that were sometimes dangerous, in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (“still popularly called Saigon”) and Hue.

The process of preparing the frightened Vietnamese children for surgery, Mr Donald recalled, “was ingenious. Nurses took the children and their mothers into a playroom where volunteers and then the children themselves would dress up as doctors and act out a mock surgery until everyone was laughing. Kathy Synders, an American speech therapist who must have also trained at the circus, dressed the children in surgical gowns, put masks on them, gave them toy instruments, and then lay down and played patient. They pounced on her shrieking and laughing. Tireless at putting on different faces until she found one that made the kids laugh, Kathy soothed the little patients until they were carried off with calm expressions to the OR.”

The surgery itself was “a masterpiece of relatively simple but transforming art: a series of cuts, pulling parts of the upper lip over and pulling parts down that had grown up behind the visible upper lip. There was almost no bleeding and the wound was closed in one straight vertical line on the newly restored upper lip.

“The operation took about an hour and sometimes less, but its effect was almost miraculous. The small child that had gone into the surgery with a mangled upper lip emerged whole and beautiful with no more than a tiny scar.” That “produced a wholesale change not only in the child’s appearance but also in the prospects for its life, and indeed for that of its family.”


The post-operative phase of Operation Smile, as witnessed by the Donalds, was “awkward.” “As children returned to parents who were waiting for them in hospital wards,” monsoon rains that had been falling steadily for six days began to swallow the landscape outside. The nearby Perfume River overflowed its banks, flooding the streets of Hue.

“At first it was fun watching people ride their heavily loaded motorbikes nonchalantly through rising water. Then the water got too deep for traffic.” At the hospital the young patients who had been released, and the parents who received them, could not leave.

“The wards quickly filled up and overflowed into the hallways. Surgeries had to be slowed, but the desire to continue was propelled by the two-week deadline and even more so by the imminent departures of visiting surgeons and nurses.”

Mixed into the crowd, moreover, were patients who had yet to have surgery. “The doctors worried about respiratory problems and dehydration produced by the crowding—potentially lethal for small children. The surgeries were halted.”

Before that, as surgeries were in progress, the lights went out. The hospital was not equipped with an emergency generator. Ongoing surgeries “had to be completed with flashlights.”

The Vietnam director of OPSMILE, Dr Nguyen Anh Thuan, “ransacked Hue for a standby generator.” He found one that was big enough and was available, “but no one could imagine how such a heavy piece of equipment could be delivered by truck through flooded streets.

“Then the rain paused. In the space of twelve hours the river caught up with the overflow and the streets began to drain.” The generator could be transported and people could move. “The rains came again and again, but always with a pause of several hours so that the water gradually drained away to the nearby South China Sea.”


After the Perfume River’s floodwaters receded and the roads were open, Jonathan and Bodil Donald followed one Operation Smile patient home with his mother and father. “Home was a tiny house and store run by the father’s parents in Hue,” Mr Donald recalled. “Inside, the furniture had been piled up, one piece on top of another, to escape the floodwaters. The grandfather showed us how high on the wall the water had come. Everyone was still wearing boots.”

The reception for little Ton That Nhat Binh “was joyous and marvelous to behold.” Aunts, uncles and neighbors gathered, waiting to inspect the little boy. “The grandparents’ smiles radiated on and on. With hands spread, the onlookers exclaimed ‘How good he looks!’”

Little Binh’s father “told us how they had feared for their son and now how much rosier the future looked. These were people with nothing except a frail shelter to live in, the clothes on their backs and a lifetime of work to look forward to. Yet they had no complaints…and were more grateful than many of us can imagine for the gift they had received.

“The miracle that a smile can achieve will never leave us. There are dozens of worthwhile medical missions around the world, but it would be hard to find any effort that, for the patients and for their families, are so redemptive.”

Have a great 'o8.