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The seeds of the alleged bribery conspiracy involving Brooklyn Justice Gerald B. Garson were planted when he was presiding over the divorce case of one of four people who are now his co-defendants, a law enforcement source said. The man was Nissim Elmann, whom Justice Garson has denied knowing. His divorce was decided in the judge’s court three years ago. In another development in the case, Mr. Elmann’s attorney, Gerald B. McMahon, acknowledged to authorities that he gave Fox 5 news a videotape that was broadcast on Tuesday evening. The tape showed Justice Garson receiving $1,000 in cash from the prosecution’s cooperating witness, lawyer Paul Siminovsky. The airing of the tape had set off a storm of protest from Justice Garson’s camp and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. At a hastily convened conference Wednesday in the chambers of Queens Justice Stephen W. Fisher, who is presiding over the bribery case, the judge had said he would ask all lawyers in the case whether they had given the tape to Fox 5. In a letter faxed to Justice Fisher yesterday, Mr. McMahon acknowledged having provided the tape. He was responding to a telephone inquiry from the judge’s chambers on Wednesday asking whether he had done so. In the letter, Mr. McMahon said he was unaware of any prohibition of the release of discovery material in the Garson matter. In an interview yesterday, Mr. McMahon said his experience in 22 years of criminal practice has been that courts seal material collected in the investigative phase of a case and then routinely lift the orders. Once an indictment is issued, grand jury material generally can be given to the defense in discovery, he said. Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, said that Justice Fisher would be asked to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the circumstances surrounding the release of the tape to Fox 5. Justice Fisher “has an array of options and is considering all of them,” said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. Mr. Bookstaver also confirmed that Mr. Elmann’s divorce case was before Justice Garson. The case was assigned to him on April 23, 1999, and concluded with a settlement during trial on May 31, 2001. As recently as Monday on oral argument of a defense motion to dismiss, Justice Garson’s lawyer, Ronald P. Fischetti, told Justice Fisher that Justice Garson did not know Mr. Elmann and would not recognize him if he was in the same room. Mr. Fischetti said yesterday that at the time he was not aware that Justice Garson had presided over a case involving Mr. Elmann. But, he said, that Justice Garson had since advised him that he had handled hundreds of divorces since then and had no memory of Mr. Elmann. Mr. Fischetti also said that his statement that the judge would not recognize Mr. Elmann if he was in the same room had proved true. Justice Garson had indeed not recognized Mr. Elmann when he had encountered him during court proceedings in the bribery case. According to Mr. McMahon, who also represented Mr. Elmann in the divorce, Justice Garson presided over three or four days of trial testimony, each lasting between one and three hours, as well as four or five conferences. The prosecution has accused Mr. Elmann, a seller of electronics equipment, of roaming the Brooklyn courthouse boasting that he could fix cases before Justice Garson. The seeds of the conspiracy were planted during the Elmann divorce case, the prosecution source said, when Justice Garson’s clerk, Paul Sarnell, suggested that things were not going well in the divorce for Mr. Elmann. The clerk said Mr. Elmann could use “a friendly face” and recommended that he contact Mr. Siminovsky, the lawyer who is now a cooperating witness in the bribery case. At one point he too was a defendant in the case. This was the first time that Messrs. Elmann, Siminovsky and Sarnell had been in contact with one another, the law enforcement source said. Mr. Sarnell is now one of the co-defendants. He has left the court system. After the divorce, Mr. McMahon said, Mr. Elmann brought Mr. Siminovsky onto his legal team as co-counsel for a fee dispute between his wife and her counsel. Mr. McMahon said he had no comment with respect to what Mr. Sarnell may have told Mr. Elmann. Mr. McMahon said that prosecutors had reviewed the Elmann’s divorce and “found nothing untoward.” All the allegations of wrongdoing occurred after that time, he added, noting that in more than 1,000 clandestinely recorded audio and video tapes, prosecutors had not turned up one single conversation or face-to-face contact between between Justice Garson and Mr. Elmann. Dominic F. Amorosa, Mr. Sarnell’s attorney, criticized the law enforcement account of his client’s role, charging that the prosecution “gets all its information from Siminovsky and Siminovsky is not credible.” “The prosecution has given Siminovsky the courthouse � he’s the biggest crook in the whole scheme,” Mr. Amorosa said. Mr. Siminovsky’s cooperation agreement provides that, as long as he holds up his end of the bargain, the prosecution will charge him with a misdemeanor and recommend that he not receive jail time and that the disciplinary authorities treat him leniently. Mr. Fischetti said, “There may have been a conspiracy going on, but Justice Garson was not a part of it, and the district attorney knows that. “Siminovsky and Elmann may have taken money from litigants telling them that they were going to give it to Justice Garson, but they never did.” 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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