- Rich Klein
EDITORIAL: A 2014 FATAL INCIDENT AND WHY IT MATTERS IN 2022
Steve Lungen is a former District Attorney of Sullivan County, as is James Farrell, now a county court judge.
Criminal defense attorney Timothy Havas works closely with Lungen (now living in Florida) out of Lungen's Monticello office, a property that Havas owns.
And State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick, before becoming a judge, was a partner with Havas at their law firm called Schick and Havas.
So when The SullivanTimes began asking tough questions about and writing about the cases of Isaac Kantrowitz and Alan Berman - two influential people who were behind the wheel when they struck and killed a total of three people - the names above kept coming up.
Lungen represented Kantrowitz, who died last year, but he ALSO represented Berman when he struck and killed Rivka Weinman, age 6, in August 2014.
Yes, it's a small county and "everybody knows everybody."
But when Justice Schick last April in open court said how great a man Kantrowitz was over his long career and that he shouldn't go to jail, it was not only appalling to the families of the teenage victims who died on June 2, 2019 in Rock Hill - but reminded us of Schick's close connections to Havas and his partner, Lungen.
Now, the connections between Schick-Havas-Lungen and former DA Jim Farrell are coming into sharper focus.
How is that Lungen, the toughest prosecutor in all of New York State for years who offered little leniency to defendants in similar cases, was able to steer both Kantrowitz and Berman out of trouble? Is he THAT good a lawyer?
Or, is it possible - that as the former powerful and long-serving DA - his successors in the DA's office and others in local law enforcement might have been too intimidated to investigate/prosecute Lungen's high-profile clients like Kantrowitz and Berman?
Remember that Lungen and Farrell had no problem throwing the book at other defendants involved in similar driving incidents.
The Fallsburg Police report from that August 2014 incident says that Weinman ran into the car being driven by Berman and that's how she was killed. Sure, that could conceivably happen.
But guess WHO swooped in to take over the investigation of the Berman incident from Fallsburg Chief Simmie Williams? That would be Farrell, according to Williams, and Farrell never made a public statement about his supposed investigation of Berman. And then, coincidentally, Berman was represented by Lungen.
Why is all this important?
Well, The SullivanTimes late last week got hold of some documents regarding Berman, including the full report on his 2015 Department of Motor Vehicles' fatal crash hearing. It includes Berman's complete driving record. A transcript of that hearing, which includes testimony from Fallsburg Police, is expected next month.
In coming days, The SullivanTimes will produce reporting about Berman's record, along with some additional new reporting. We expect that it will be an eye opener to the public.
Sadly, nothing can bring back Weinman or Justin Finkel, 14 and Devin Zeininger, 16, the victims in the 2019 Kantrowitz fatal incident in Rock Hill.
But it's important for the public to understand, that, at times, the justice system in Sullivan can be unfair and unequal.
It's a system that is sometimes based on close-knit personal and professional relationships much more than the evidence gathered (or the absence of evidence gathered by local law enforcement) that we believe for too long has protected wealthy and influential defendants like Kantrowitz and Berman (never a defendant since he didn't even receive a ticket), the son of the former president and CEO of Empire Resorts.
In a prior editorial, The SullivanTimes has urged current DA Meagan Galligan to reopen the Berman case to make sure the investigation was handled properly by everyone involved.
Stay tuned for our reporting on all of this in coming days and weeks.