- Rich Klein
EDITORIAL: Anniversary of Teens' Deaths Serves As Reminder About Unequal Justice In Sullivan
Today marks three years since the tragic deaths of two teenagers - Justin Finkel, 14, and Devin Zeininger, 16 - on Glen Wild Road in Rock Hill.
They were struck by a vehicle driven by Isaac Kantrowitz, who was speeding at 70 mph in a 45 mph zone five seconds before impact.
The driver was a retired Fallsburg judge, who died in April 2021, one week after avoiding any prison time for his misdemeanor reckless driving charge.
This was a story that did not start on that day or end on that day.
In fact, the more that The SullivanTimes learned - about the driver, his three prior vehicular accidents (two involving pedestrians) over four years, in documents like the State Police investigative report - it became increasingly clear that too many powerful people in local law enforcement and the judiciary did not do their jobs.
And we can't say three years later if it that was due to incompetence, corruption or both.
Here, we believe that the careers of former District Attorney Jim Farrell, current DA Meagan Galligan and State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick, in particular, will forever be tied to their collective efforts to protect Kantrowitz while ignoring and minimizing the excruciating pain of the victims' families and friends.
First, Farrell stalled on any attempt to prosecute Kantrowitz for more than six months from June 2019 through December of that year while campaigning for County Court judge.
All he would say during that period when asked by this media outlet was that he had to wait for the State Police investigation before deciding on any prosecution. But that never stopped him from previously seeking harsh prison sentences for other defendants who did not have the influence Kantrowitz did. (Note: Farrell's mentor, Steve Lungen, was Kantrowitz's defense attorney).
Galligan, upon becoming DA, then lied to the public in August 2020 about the speed that Kantrowitz was traveling five seconds before striking the two boys We know that because the State Police confirmed that the judge was traveling at 70 mph in a 45, not 62 as Galligan told the world.
Since then, she's never explained why her m.p.h. figure of 62 was different than the one (70) reported by the Troop F Collision Reconstruction Unit. It mattered because Galligan used the lower number to say the law didn't allow her to seek a stiffer, felony charge against the former judge.
Then, In April 2021, Schick used his courtroom on sentencing day, not to comfort the victims, but to praise Kantrowitz's career and to tell the victims' families that they basically should just forgive him and get on with their lives. Kantrowitz went home a free man that day but died exactly one week later.
We can only hope that the deaths of Justin Finkel and Devin Zeininger continue to remind Sullivan residents to speak out against those in charge of the justice system that has, at times, favored those of wealth and/or influence.
On every June 2, take time to remember Justin Finkel and Devin Zeininger.
But, consider using every June 2 to improve our justice system and holding its powerful leaders accountable to the public who they are sworn to to protect and serve.
More to the point, examine the records of those elected officials when they come knocking on your door for your vote. And remember what they did or did not do in the pursuit of justice.