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Justice Steven W. Fisher pledged at a hastily convened conference in his Queens chambers yesterday to investigate the leak of a crucial video tape in the bribery case against Brooklyn Justice Gerald P. Garson that was aired on Fox Channel 5 news Tuesday evening. The video, which was subject to a court sealing order, showed Justice Garson accepting $1,000 in cash on March 10, 2003, from lawyer Paul Siminovsky, who was cooperating with the prosecution. Justice Garson’s lawyer, Ronald P. Fischetti, who attended the conference, said that Justice Fisher, who is presiding over the bribery case, said he would write to all the lawyers involved asking them to reveal what they know about the release of the tape to Fox 5. Mr. Fischetti added that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, who was at the session, pledged to conduct his own investigation. Mr. Fischetti said he and Oliver S. Storch, who represents one of the four other remaining defendants, told Justice Fisher that they had nothing to do with the leak. Mr. Hynes and five of his assistant district attorneys who attended the session also reportedly denied having anything to do with the leak. The three other defense attorneys, who did not attend the conference, were said to have scheduling conflicts they could not rearrange because of the short notice of yesterday’s meeting. Justice Fisher summoned the lawyers to his chamber yesterday morning for the on-the-record session. Mr. Fischetti said that he and Mr. Hynes told Justice Fisher that they were “extremely upset” over the leak. Mr. Fischetti said the leak could be particularly damaging because motions are pending to suppress the tape and to dismiss the counts of the indictment that relate to Justice Garson’s acceptance of the $1,000 from Mr. Siminovsky. Both sides have described the money as a referral fee Mr. Fischetti added that Mr. Hynes agreed � upon the urging of Justice Fisher � not to use the tape at trial if either the suppression or dismissal motions are granted. Justice Fisher also expressed concern that there would be prejudice should either motion be granted and the media should continue to broadcast the leaked tape as the trial gets under way, Mr. Fischetti said. Mr. Hynes’ office did not return a call requesting comment. First Deputy Administrative Judge Ann Pfau issued an order on June 30, 2003, placing under court seal all video and audio tapes collected by those investigating Justice Garson. Judge Pfau, who at the time was administrative judge of Brooklyn Supreme Court, approved the eavesdropping warrants sought by investigators, including one that permitted surveillance of Justice Garson’s robing room at 210 Joralemon Street. Detectives collected 67 video tapes and 1,009 audio tapes during the course of their probe. The tape showed Justice Garson accepting $1,000 in cash marked by prosecutors from Mr. Siminovsky. And while there was some minimal conversation before Mr. Siminovsky quickly left the room, the audio could not be heard during the newscast. The grainy image makes it hard to tell precisely what Justice Garson did with the money. The voice-over on the newscast states that he took some of the money, put it in his pocket, and then counted the remaining money, which he put in an envelope and placed in his desk drawer. The judge then is shown calling Mr. Siminovsky and asking him to return to the robing room. During the 10 minutes before Mr. Siminovsky returned, the tape shows Justice Garson taking the money out of his pocket and adding it to the money in his desk drawer, according to the voice-over. After Mr. Siminovsky returned, Justice Garson said he does not want the money and asks Mr. Siminovsky to take it back. At one point, he told Mr. Siminovsky “that was a lot of money . . . [inaudible, according to Fox News] . . . count it.” Mr. Siminovsky resisted taking the money back, and the judge then put all the cash in his desk drawer. Mr.Fischetti, who was interviewed in the news segment, claimed the taped showed that Justice Garson did not want the money and he had entreated Mr Siminovsky to take it back. Only Justice Garson’s recorded comments were visually highlighted in the broadcast. Tape Called Prejudicial Benjamin Brafman, who is defending pop star Michael Jackson against child molestation charges, said the release of the tape was “very prejudicial” to Justice Garson. Public officials, especially judges who are to avoid even an appearance of impropriety, are held to a high standard, he said, and video images of the judge taking cash are very damaging. It is exceedingly rare for a public official to be captured on tape accepting cash, Mr. Brafman added, noting that the last time he could recall that happening was in the Abscam scandal in the late 1970s, when congressmen were recorded accepting bribes. He added, however, that it was “unseemly” for Mr. Siminovsky to press Justice Garson to keep the money after the judge had called him back into his chambers and sought to return the money. That was especially so, Mr. Brafman said, because Mr. Siminovsky was acting as a government agent who knew that the encounter was being videotaped. Other lawyers doubted whether any claims the leak could contaminate the jury pool would get very far. With the trial still far off, any problems could be cured through the questioning of individual jurors during voir dire, said Martin B. Adelman, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Should more tapes become public and shown repeatedly between now and the trial, the issue could become more problematic, he said. Justice Garson was indicted last April on official misconduct charges. He is accused of having given Mr. Siminovsky, who frequently appeared before him, ex parte advice and other amenities such as favored access to chambers in exchange for free meals, drinks and, in one instance, a box of cigars. Justice Garson was also accused of accepting referral fees from Mr. Siminovsky, who appeared before him as counsel to parties involved in divorce cases. In many cases, Justice Garson appointed Mr. Siminovsky as a law guardian to represent children caught in the midst of bitter divorce proceedings. In August, the prosecution obtained a superseding indictment against Justice Garson and upgraded the charges against him to bribery. The bribery charge, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison, accused the judge of giving Mr. Siminovsky appointments as a law guardian worth tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for gifts such as meals and drinks worth thousands of dollars.

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