Justice delayed

One of the more difficult decisions editors make every day is which stories to place on Page 1. Presumably, the most important story “leads the paper” (top of the front page.) Readers have their opinions, as in “how did that story make page one,” or “how come the story they buried on page 6 didn’t make the front page?

The worst possible situation for editors is not an embarrassment of riches but no good stories at all. Thus, the expression “don’t screw up on a slow news day.” Watergate was an example: A police reporter sitting bored in a courtroom wondering why anybody would break into Democratic Party headquarters in Washington. The rest is history.

We’ll deal today with stories that drew front page coverage when they broke. The death of an 11-year-old girl on the Thruway about two and a half miles north of (Kingston) Exit 19 is a tragedy, compounded by conflicting information, withholding of some facts by police and an unacceptable delay in government investigation of the case.

Monica Goods, 11, was riding in the back seat of her father Tristan’s SUV on Dec. 22 with her mother and sister when her father, who was driving, was pulled over by a state trooper for an as yet undisclosed traffic violation.  Words were allegedly exchanged between the officer and the driver. The father claimed the trooper went back to his patrol car and returned with pepper spray. The father, feeling threatened, took off. The trooper chased him, hit the rear of his car twice within a mile which caused it to strike a guardrail and flip over on its top. Monica, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed. The parents, represented by local liability lawyer Joe O’Connor, have initiated legal action against the state police.

By a curious quirk in state law, the attorney general, not the Ulster County district attorney where the incident took place, conducts these kinds of investigations when police are involved.

According to published reports, the attorney general took this case on Dec. 28, barely a week after the incident. More than eight months later, the AG has still not reported out.

In the meantime, battle lines have been drawn. “Justice for Monica” banners are on display around town. Each side tells a somewhat different version of a story which in truth is still under investigation. Verily it is required that witnesses at trial swear to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Advocates in highly-charged cases like this rarely do.

Time is the enemy of truth. As time goes by witnesses forget details, paperwork can get lost. Justice delayed is justice denied is no mere cliché.

Last week county executive Pat Ryan addressed a Monica Goods rally in front of the county office building. He called for a swift investigation and swift punishment for the guilty, justice for Monica.

Few would disagree, but I think he should put a call in to the attorney general’s office and urge them to get off their bureaucratic butts. At the very least, Monica and her family deserve justice as does a state trooper whose career, reputation and perhaps his very freedom are at stake.

  

                                                         
GALLO TOWER – Murphy’s Law of Politics states that everything, everything in government always takes longer than the initial announcement suggested. Thus, some two years after Kingston officials approved some $700,000 to complete restoration work on the tower at city hall on Broadway scaffolding has gone up.I call it Gallo Tower in memory of former mayor T.R. Gallo, a visionary who led the effort to restore city hall after his forebearers abandoned it to the elements in 1972.

Gallo, who died at 41 in 2002, was initially reluctant in 1998 to take on what would be a years-long restoration of a pigeon-infested hulk to uncertain expense or outcome.  For one thing, Kingston already had a functioning city hall in Rondout. Why spend untold millions to restore the old one?

Eventually, with the urging of historic interests and promises of federal and state support, Gallo took the plunge. He estimated the project would cost $4 million and could be paid for with revenue freed up by the expiration of a series of long-term bonds during the length of construction. “Free money” he called it. Sound familiar?

But as any homeowner can attest, once you get behind the walls of old buildings, strange things can happen. Ultimately, it cost upwards of $6.5 million, a 60 percent overrun that in percentage terms far exceeded the county jail debacle, completed some four years after Gallo’s death. Federal and state aid closed the gap between expenses and actual construction costs.

In fact, Gallo never completed the project in his lifetime. While he loved to conduct tours of newly-refurbished city hall reopened to rave reviews in May of 2000, being afraid of heights, he never went into the tower. I think he just ran out of money. Thus, the tower restoration is due for completion in May of next year on or about the 150th anniversary of the founding of Kingston.

I often think of T.R. when I drive by city hall at night, as I look up at the lights shining brightly in the tower above this national historic landmark he was never in. I’ve rear-ended 47 cars since he died. (Just kidding.)

As part of next year’s celebration, might city officials consider (finally) naming it after him?

Next:  Attorney Trish James comes to town to meet privately with local Democrats. But says she’s not running. Can Gov. Hochul be far behind?  And, things turn ugly between the county exec and a local car dealership. Will he be driving a Kia anytime soon?

Program note:  Me and Mario will host the three candidates running for county legislature in Kingston’s midtown Dist.-6 on WGHQ-A.M. 92 Friday from 7 to 9 a.m. Democrat Phil Erner, Republican Suzanne Timbrouck and Good Government Party’s Dave Donaldson will field questions from hosts and call-ins.

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