EDITORIAL: Kantrowitz Fix Will Leave Historic Black Eye On DA's Office And County
The fix was in. Yet some of us idealists really wanted to believe that justice would prevail over the old boy/old girl network that has polluted Sullivan County - and the DA's office - for decades.
While former District Attorney Jim Farrell - now County Court judge - played games with the families of Justin Finkel and Devin Zeininger - Meagan Galligan, his #2 at the time, played right along. (Note: Farrell famously said that he had no clue about the three prior auto accidents that Kantrowitz was involved in before June 2, 2019, including one six months earlier where a woman was nearly killed).
Farrell and Galligan (and senior ADA Lisa Bondarenka) were rarely straight with the families. They said they would pursue the stiffest penalties for his actions but they didn't. They said they would not negotiate a plea deal - but that is exactly what they did in the end.
Despite a half-hearted attempt to achieve real justice for the families when she took the oath to become District Attorney last January, Galligan either took direction from her two former bosses (Farrell and Steve Lungen, who is the defense attorney for Kantrowitz) to go soft on the former Fallsburg judge and Woodridge trustee - or, she ignored the laws that gave her latitude to pursue felony indictment with the grand jury. (Even the New York State Police report clearly noted that Kantrowitz could have been charged with felonies based on their analysis of the incident).
If Kantrowitz was not a man of influence who had a courtroom named after him in Fallsburg, he would have certainly had the book thrown at him if Lungen was DA. It was Lungen who sought the harshest sentences of any DA in New York State when he was in office. And, Farrell, who let the Kantrowitz case languish while he campaigned heavily to become a judge, wasn't far behind his former boss when it came to the harshest of sentences - including for some non-violent, young first offenders.
Galligan can save her fake speeches about "being a mother" because the public, and especially the families of the victims, are smarter than she gives them credit for. Then there's Bondarenka's chutzpah to tell the mother of one of the victims that the boys didn't suffer much when they were killed.
From here, we will continue to remind Galligan and Bondarenka that they need to answer to the families and the public about why Galligan stated at a press conference on August 25 that Kantrowitz was only traveling at 62 mph - when the State Police report said he was speeding at 70 mph in that 45 mph zone on Glen Wild Road. It's important because Galligan used that lower speed as an excuse NOT to seek stiffer penalties for Kantrowitz.
The Kantrowitz case is not the only incident that begs the question about people of influence and wealth getting special treatment in Sullivan County.
In August 2014, Alan Berman struck and killed six-year-old Rivka Weinman in August 2014 - at a time when Berman has admitted (on Twitter) that he was a drug addict. That incident happened in Fallsburg. Simmie Williams, Fallsburg's police chief, told The SullivanTimes in 2018 that Farrell demanded to take over THAT investigation from the Fallsburg Police Department. But Farrell took no action in the Berman case.
Why is this related in any way to the Kantrowitz case?
Berman is the son of Robert Berman, the former CEO of Empire Resorts, who in late 2020 paid over $1 million in back taxes and just happens to be seeking to develop a significant mixed use project in the heart of Rock Hill this year.
Alan Berman didn't receive a ticket and it's unclear if police found him driving under the influence on that day. But his very wealthy father helped him relocate out of Sullivan County and start life over out of state.
As for Galligan and Bondarenka, they have one last opportunity to do the right thing between now and March 25. That is to urge State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick to sentence Kantrowitz to the maximum amount of jail time allowed under the law, which is 30 days.