Attorney George Galgano, right, is escorted into Putnam County Court last Thursday by Carmel police detective Michael Russo. (The Journal News)
An attorney facing witness tampering and bribery counts contends that the Putnam County district attorney brought the charges to cover up his own corruption.
George Galgano, 41, of Westchester County said in an interview Monday that the charges lodged against him last week are false. He insists it was not him, but Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy, who tampered with a witness.
The dispute is rooted in Galgano’s representation of a local businessman and restaurateur Lani Zaimi, owner of Ariano’s Trattoria in Mahopac and Ariano’s II in Carmel. Zaimi is accused of the statutory rape of an employee.
Less than two weeks before the third-degree rape case went to trial in February, Zaimi was named in a new complaint with the violent sexual abuse of another woman. Galgano contends that the new charges, which were dropped when a grand jury refused to indict his client, were orchestrated by Levy to contaminate the jury pool in the rape case.
The rape case went to trial in February, but a mistrial was declared with the jury deadlocked. A retrial is slated for September.
In an interview, Galgano accused Levy of persuading the second woman to come forward on the evening of trial with false charges in an attempt to influence the jury in the initial case. Galgano said he investigated the new complaint when he learned of it 10 days before the rape case went to trial, but did not bribe or tamper with the witness.
“The indictment that was brought against me was, in my opinion, a strategic move on the part of Mr. Levy, who has systematically tampered with and intimidated witnesses in a connection with a case I am handling,” Galgano said. “The public is going to learn what Mr. Levy’s corrupt involvement was in manipulating and tampering with a witness for his own personal and political gain.”
Levy, through a spokesman, declined comment beyond a press release the office issued last week, in which Levy stated the arrest stemmed from “good old fashioned police work” that yielded evidence that Galgano “was involved in the bribing and tampering of a witness who had been sexually abused by one of Galgano’s clients.” According to the news release, “when Galgano’s plot became known,” the Carmel police and New York State Police joined Levy’s office in an investigation.
“Women and children in Putnam County should be permitted to go about their daily lives without being sexually abused and assaulted,” Levy said in a statement. “When an assault does occur, Putnam’s law enforcement community comes together to ensure the offender is brought to justice. When the offender’s lawyer violates the law by bribing and tampering with witnesses, my office will use every lawful tool to protect the victim and the integrity of the criminal justice system.”
Galgano was released on bail following an arraignment Thursday before Judge David Zuckerman, the Westchester County judge sitting in Putnam County.
Three other individuals were also named in the heavily redacted eight-count indictment alleging a conspiracy to prevent a witness from testifying against Zaimi.
Robert Altchiler of Manhattan is representing Galgano. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Andres Gil.
The indictment against Galgano was returned two weeks after Zaimi filed a lawsuit in the Southern District alleging that Levy and Carmel police falsely arrested him on the sex charges in retaliation for his political activity and support of a sheriff at odds with the district attorney (Zaimi v. Levy, 14-cv-6338). Galgano, who has an office in White Plains, is representing Zaimi in the civil case.
Levy, who is the son of TV’s Judge Judy, filed a $5 million defamation suit in August 2013, against Putnam Sheriff Donald Smith, after Smith accused Levy of interfering in a child rape case against Levy’s one-time personal trainer, Alexandru Hossu, who was acquitted of all charges in April.