Tuesday, April 18, 1995

Case of Kenneth Gribetz - Rockland County District Attorney

Case of Kenneth Gribetz
(AKA: Ken Gribetz)
Rockland County District Attorney - Rockland County, NY


Plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of defrauding the government in a deal he worked out with the U.S. Attorney.

Although married, a father and grandfather, Gribetz was partly done in by his former mistress, who went to the media with information about him.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, Gribetz's longtime rabbi, said in an interview that he had often cited Gribetz in his speeches to illustrate how a devout Jew can remain faithful to the laws of kashrut and Shabbat while pursuing any career --even in law and politics.

But evidence police collected from Gribetz's ex-lover's home included whips, a dog collar, sex toys and pictures of Gribetz modeling women's clothing. Their three-year affair apparently included trips they took together funded by taxpayers' dollars.

Tendler, who organized a meeting of community rabbis to levy social sanctions against Gribetz just before his breaches became public, described the former politician's behavior as a "chilul haShem," or a desecration of God's name.

His behavior "emasculated our Torah. It reduces or minimizes the claim of Torah, that this is the divine law fit for the human experience. If someone who has been exposed to Torah does these things, what will people say?" said Tendler.

It is the reverse of what a religious Jew is supposed to do, that "the name of God shall be loved by your actions in Kiddush HaShem," said the rabbi,who is also a professor at Yeshiva University and a respected expert on medical ethics.


Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:  

  1. METRO DIGEST  (04/18/1995)
  2. Rockland Official Denies Misuse of County Funds  (04/18/1995)
  3. Politician Under Fire; Rockland County Prosecutor Faces Criminal Inquiry -- and Sex Scandal (04/19/1995)
  4. Rockland Prosecutor's Friend Assists in Investigation of Him (04/20/1995)
  5. An Associate Of Gribetz Talks Before Grand Jury  (04/22/1995)
  6. Prosecutor in Rockland County Resigns Post After a Guilty Plea  (05/04/1995)
  7. Fighting Prosecutor Stopped Fighting for Himself (05/05/1995)
  8. Let Kenneth Gribetz Have Simple Justice (05/05/1995)
  9. Too Much, Too Soon? After Scandals, Rockland County Reflects on Change  (05/05/1995)
  10. Mr. Gribetz's Misdemeanors (05/06/1995)
  11. Gribetz Successor Named  (05/27/1995)
  12. Focus on crimes involving religious Jews sparks debate  (06/16/1995)
  13. Disgraced, Ex-Lawman In Rockland Avoids Jail  (09/14/1995)
  14. In a Fallen District Attorney's Many Mea Culpas, Traces of Ire (09/16/1995)

  1.  Kenneth Gribetz representing Ryan Scott Karben

  1. Kenneth Gribetz representing Shaul Spitzer (10/27/2011)

  1. Gribetz & Lowenberg, Attorneys at Law (12/31/2012)

 Also see:

New York Times - April 18, 1995

Kenneth Gribetz, the Rockland County District Attorney, denied a woman's allegations that he spent county money taking her to hotels and restaurants during a three-year affair. B4. A company that wants to build a casino in Bridgeport said it would replace any money that Connecticut would lose if the Pequot tribe is stripped of its casino monopoly. B5 Chronicle B2


Rockland Official Denies Misuse of County Funds

New York Times - April 18, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, April 17 - Kenneth Gribetz, the longtime Rockland County District Attorney, denied a local woman's allegations, published today, that he spent county money taking her to hotels and restaurants during a three-year love affair.

Through his lawyers, Mr. Gribetz called the woman "a very disturbed person" and said she had been harassing him.

The Daily News quoted the woman, Constance Taylor, as saying that on several occasions Mr. Gribetz's aides drove the two of them to Albany for stays at local hotels and that another aide drove them back several days later. Ms. Taylor was also quoted as saying that on another occasion, an aide drove her to Newark International Airport for a flight to Washington, where Mr. Gribetz was also traveling.

The Daily News quoted Ms. Taylor as saying that some of the bills for travel were paid with a county credit card issued personally to Mr. Gribetz. But George W. Renc, the county's Finance Commissioner, said the county does not provide personal credit cards. And one of Mr. Gribetz's lawyers, Leon H. Charney, said Mr. Gribetz "unequivocally denies that he used county funds for any personal matters."

Mr. Gribetz was not available for comment today. But in a three-sentence statement, another lawyer for Mr. Gribetz, Andrew Maloney, said: "Mr. Gribetz has long since reconciled with his wife yet continues to be harassed by a very disturbed person and will have no further comment."

For two years, Mr. Gribetz has been the target of an investigation by the United States Attorney for the Southern District, Mary Jo White.

The New York Times reported in March 1994 that a Federal grand jury had been investigating whether Mr. Gribetz had improperly used a credit card supplied by his re-election campaign to pay for jewelry, hotels and restaurant meals during personal trips and whether he had accepted several thousand dollars from a former law partner for referring a negligence case to him. The Times article said that a former friend, who declined to identify herself, said she had told Federal agents about trips Mr. Gribetz took and credit-card purchases she witnessed, including gifts of a gold watch and earrings.

Last month, Murray Appelbaum, a neighbor of Mr. Gribetz in Monsey, N.Y., and a close friend, was indicted on perjury charges growing out of the negligence referral part of the inquiry. Without identifying Mr. Gribetz, the indictment said that Mr. Appelbaum had lied about receiving a $3,200 check from a law firm in Pearl River, N.Y., that has since been dissolved.

The indictment did not say what Mr. Appelbaum did with the check, but it said he had given money to an unidentified lawyer for making a referral. It also said that the grand jury was investigating whether the lawyer had failed to report cash received from Mr. Appelbaum and others on his income taxes. The payments totaled $9,200.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Taylor, who directs activities at a shelter for homeless families in Pomona, N.Y., refused to comment other than to say: "Who cares about me? I'm not the story. The story is whether Ken Gribetz is guilty or not."

The Rockland County Executive, C. Scott Vanderhoef, said today that he had asked Mr. Renc to do a spot check of expense vouchers that Mr. Gribetz submitted in the years he was purportedly seeing Ms. Taylor.

Mr. Vanderhoef said Mr. Gribetz called him today. "He sounded disturbed, and obviously he's concerned about his reputation," Mr. Vanderhoef said. "He just simply told me he never misused any county funds or employees."


Politician Under Fire; Rockland County Prosecutor Faces Criminal Inquiry -- and Sex Scandal
By JOSEPH BERGER (NYT) 898 words
New York Times -  April 19, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 18 - For his two decades as District Attorney, Kenneth Gribetz has been such a towering figure on Rockland County's political landscape that the Republican opposition meekly endorsed him twice for re-election.

Even a year ago, when Rockland's newspapers and The New York Times reported that the county's chief prosecutor was himself the target of a Federal grand jury investigating whether he was taking kickbacks from lawyers for referring negligence cases and was using campaign funds to make personal purchases, Mr. Gribetz seemed to weather that storm.

Indeed, his masterly prosecution last winter of a Bronx college student, Edward L. Summers, for a carjacking and murder seemed a new high in a distinguished career.

"He was Rockland's biggest hero when he got that conviction," said Vincent D. Reda, Rockland's Republican chairman. "The people of Rockland would have given him a ticker-tape parade."

But today the 50-year-old Mr. Gribetz's political career has never been so imperiled. The county newspaper, The Rockland Journal-News has called for him to step down, and his close political ally, Vincent J. Monte, the county Democratic chairman, acknowledged that "it will be difficult for him politically" to overcome the allegations.

As for so many politicians, the catalyst for the reversal in his fortunes has been a sexual scandal.

A woman who claims to have had a three-year affair with Mr. Gribetz, and had privately confided her tale to newspapers before, decided to go public on Monday and tell the Daily News of her assignations. The article's impact was heightened by a front-page photograph of her and Mr. Gribetz snuggling at a 1992 Christmas party, a photograph the woman usually kept on an antique chest in her home in the upscale hamlet of Sneden's Landing.

The woman, Constance Taylor, is a graduate student in human sexuality at New York University and a $29,900-a-year shelter worker for the county's Department of Social Services, a job she says Mr. Gribetz helped her get. She protests that newspaper and television accounts are focusing on sexual paraphernalia she turned over to Federal investigators rather than on what she says is the core of her grievance: that Mr. Gribetz abused his power.

When she spoke to The New York Times a year ago -- demanding anonymity, a request she has recently withdrawn -- she said that Mr. Gribetz bought her earrings and a gold watch with a credit card arranged for by his 1993 campaign. She said the two of them traveled together to Washington, Albany and Boston, and he would pay the hotel and restaurant bills with the same credit card.

She said that after she broke up with Mr. Gribetz on Aug. 26, 1993, she received two threatening phone calls warning that "Kenny wanted me dead." On the night of the breakup, she said, Mr. Gribetz exhorted her to drive from Albany back to Rockland County even though it was late and she had been drinking.

Albany police records show that Ms. Taylor filed a complaint on Sept. 1, 1993, that she had been a victim of a third-degree assault on Aug. 26, a charge she never pursued.

So frightened was she, she said, that she finally told her story to Assemblyman Sam Colman of Chestnut Ridge, a pivotal moment for Mr. Gribetz's fortunes. Mr. Colman was for a time the subject of a Gribetz investigation and in recent years has been no fan of the Rockland prosecutor. After their meeting, she spoke to Federal prosecutors.

Ms. Taylor even sent an audiotape confirming the relationship to Mr. Gribetz's wife, Judith, explaining in the 1994 interview, "I didn't know how to fight the man."

"I was deeply in love with him," she said, picturing herself as a "vulnerable" divorcee. "I honestly thought if I disappeared, no one would care or know where to look."

But whether Ms. Taylor's allegations are true or not, Mr. Gribetz faces a Federal criminal inquiry that could have far more serious consequences than the deep embarrassment he has suffered in recent days. He denies he improperly spent county or campaign money, but the investigation is focusing on another area: fees he is accused of receiving for negligence cases he referred to private lawyers and whether he reported them on tax returns.

That inquiry got a step closer to Mr. Gribetz last month, when Murray Appelbaum, a neighbor of the Gribetzes in the community of Monsey and a close associate, was indicted for perjury. He is charged with lying to a grand jury about a $3,200 referral fee he received in a negligence case and is accused of passing on to an unnamed lawyer. Another friend, Murray Bauer, was charged with perjury in a Federal complaint in January about money he received for a negligence case that he passed on to an unnamed lawyer.

While not named, local newspapers have identified Mr. Gribetz as the ultimate beneficiary of the fees, and Mr. Gribetz's lawyers have not denied that he is the inquiry's target.

Mr. Gribetz's lawyer, Leon H. Charney, said today that Mr. Gribetz has "rebounded," has reconciled with his wife and is "ready to fight." But the large question mark hovering over Mr. Gribetz, a man who in 20 years has prosecuted such high-profile cases as the 1981 Brinks armored car robbery but has also made more than his share of enemies, is whether either of his two friends who are now in trouble with the law will open up to the United States Attorney's Office.


Rockland Prosecutor's Friend Assists in Investigation of Him

New York Times -  April 20, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, April 19 - In a major step forward for the two-year-old Federal investigation of Kenneth Gribetz, the longtime Rockland County District Attorney, a close friend of Mr. Gribetz's has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and has begun cooperating with prosecutors.

The friend, Murray Bauer, a 45-year-old private detective, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Federal court here to submitting inflated bills for investigative work he did in a negligence suit. Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bauer inflated those bills and passed on a $30,000 share of the negligence case's legal fees to an unnamed lawyer.

The lawyer suspected of receiving that $30,000 as a referral fee is Mr. Gribetz, according to two lawyers close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity. While taking a referral fee is not in itself illegal, Assistant United States Attorney Kerry A. Lawrence is investigating whether Mr. Gribetz failed to report the money as income on Federal tax returns.

During a 15-minute hearing on Tuesday, Judge Charles L. Brieant said that Mr. Bauer would be sentenced under guidelines that offer leniency for felons assisting in other prosecutions. Mr. Bauer's lawyer, Jared J. Scharf, declined to confirm whether his client was cooperating.

One of Mr. Gribetz's lawyers, Leon H. Charney, said today that Mr. Gribetz is "not planning to resign," though other close associates expressed doubts that he could continue in office given the damage to his effectiveness caused by recent revelations.

The past week has been a particularly dreadful one for Mr. Gribetz. On Monday, a 45-year-old woman who said she had a three-year affair with Mr. Gribetz went public, accusing him of using county workers to drive the couple to assignations and paying the hotel bills with county credit cards. When the woman, Constance Taylor, privately confided her tale to a reporter for The New York Times a year ago, she said Mr. Gribetz paid the bills with campaign credit cards.

Mr. Gribetz's associates have described Ms. Taylor as disturbed and are accusing her of harassing Mr. Gribetz since their breakup in August 1994.

In October 1994, Ms. Taylor was stopped by a sheriff's deputy at 1:30 A.M. for attaching a poster to a bus stop shelter that asked "Who is Kenneth Gribetz?" and depicted a cartoonish Mr. Gribetz dressed in woman's clothes and flailing a whip. Chief Harry Stewart of the Rockland County sheriff's office said Ms. Taylor was given a traffic violation that night for parking her car in the wrong direction.

Ms. Taylor was hospitalized on May 11, 1992, in the Westchester County Medical Center for a nine-day psychiatric evaluation after she swallowed large amounts of Valium and alcohol, the Clarkstown police said. The F.B.I. in Washington said today that Ms. Taylor worked for the agency in 1970 in a job it would not disclose.

Reached this week, Ms. Taylor refused to comment on the assertions.

The negligence case Mr. Bauer was involved in stemmed from a head-on collision between a bus and a car driven by James Koenigsberg. Mr. Bauer investigated the matter and urged the widow, Karen Koenigsberg, to retain Richard Weiner as a lawyer, a referral strengthened by a recommendation from Mr. Gribetz, a lawyer familiar with the case said.

The eventual settlement totaled roughly $800,000, and Mr. Bauer submitted a bill for $137,280, saying he had done 1,549 hours of work. Mr. Bauer was charged with mail fraud for using the mail to send inflated time sheets.

Correction: April 22, 1995, Saturday

An article on Thursday about a Federal investigation of Kenneth Gribetz, the Rockland County District Attorney, referred incorrectly to the 1992 settlement of a negligence case in which Mr. Gribetz is suspected of having received a $30,000 referral fee. The settlement was $3.2 million, not $800,000. The smaller figure was the legal fee paid to Richard J. Weiner, the plaintiff's lawyer.

An Associate Of Gribetz Talks Before Grand Jury

New York Times - April 22, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, April 21 - A close associate of Kenneth Gribetz, the longtime Rockland County District Attorney, has testified to a Federal grand jury looking into allegations that Mr. Gribetz paid no taxes on referral fees he received from private lawyers, a lawyer close to the Gribetz case said today.

At the same time, lawyers for Mr. Gribetz met this week in Manhattan with Mary Jo White, the United States Attorney for the Southern District, to forge a deal that would head off a possible indictment, another lawyer close to the case said. Both lawyers disclosed recent developments on the condition that their identities be concealed.

On Tuesday, Murray Bauer, a 45-year-old private detective and a friend of Mr. Gribetz, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud growing out of inflated bills he submitted for investigative work on a 1990 car accident. That same day, it was revealed today, Mr. Bauer testified for half an hour before a grand jury that has been investigating Mr. Gribetz for almost two years. He is expected to be called back to testify again.

While the lawyers declined to provide details about Mr. Bauer's testimony, one of them noted that Mr. Bauer has already told Federal investigators that in June 1992 he delivered $30,000 in cash to Mr. Gribetz, in two $15,000 batches. The money was paid to Mr. Gribetz by a Nanuet lawyer whom Mr. Gribetz had recommended to the widow of the man killed in the 1990 accident.

Mr. Bauer could prove to be a problematic witness for the prosecution if Mr. Gribetz were brought to trial. He has a history of gambling and financial troubles. Two years ago, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion in an unrelated matter and admitted in court that he was a compulsive gambler whose finances were in a shambles.

Any deal for Mr. Gribetz would have to be approved by the tax division of the Justice Department and it appeared likely that Mr. Gribetz's lawyers, Andrew J. Maloney and Gustave H. Newman, would soon be going to Washington to find a formula to avoid a trial.

"The process is punishment itself," said one lawyer close to the case. "Any lawyer would be remiss not to try to avoid an indictment."

Kerry A. Lawrence, the assistant United States attorney here heading the Gribetz investigation, acknowledged that "dispositions in tax cases generally require the approval of the tax division of the Department of Justice."

In an interview, Mr. Maloney, the former United States Attorney for the Eastern District in Brooklyn, declined to confirm that negotiations were taking place. But in corruption cases involving government officials, lawyers typically offer to have a client resign or repay money before entering into discussions about guilty pleas. In some cases, they also try to show federal prosecutors that their case is a weak one.

One close associate of Mr. Gribetz acknowledged that a resignation was a possibility even if there was no guilty plea. "How effective can he be after all this stuff," the associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. But another close associate who spoke to Mr. Gribetz on Monday, said Mr. Gribetz was a fighter and "I don't see Kenny resigning as D.A."

For two years, the 50-year-old Mr. Gribetz, who has often commanded a national stage with such prosecutions as the 1981 Brinks armored car robbery, has been the target of an investigation into allegations that he took cash kickbacks for referring legal cases and that he used a campaign credit card for personal purchases.

Mr. Bauer's involvement stems from a head-on collision in 1990 between a school bus and a car driven by a Rockland County man, James T. Koenigsberg. The case was settled in 1992 for $3.2 million and Mr. Koenigsberg's widow, Karen, paid her lawyer, Richard J. Weiner, about $800,000.

According to Mr. Bauer's lawyer, Jared Scharf, Mr. Weiner had promised to award Mr. Bauer 20 percent of the legal fees both for his detective work and for referring the Koenigsberg case to him.

But, Mr. Scharf said, instead of taking the money from his legal fee, Mr. Weiner tried to get Mrs. Koenigsberg to pay Mr. Bauer $137,000 out of her settlement proceeds, asking Mr. Bauer to submit an inflated investigative bill. That bill was challenged during estate proceedings in Surrogate's Court, which approved only $20,000 for Mr. Bauer. Mr. Weiner has declined to comment.

Mr. Gribetz's role, Mr. Scharf said, was to vouch for Mr. Weiner when Mrs. Koenigsberg was initially reluctant to retain him. According to the case, Mr. Weiner repaid Mr. Gribetz in June 1992 by signing a check for $30,000 to Mr. Bauer, who deposited it in his bank account then twice passed on $15,000 in cash to Mr. Gribetz.

Prosecutor in Rockland County Resigns Post After a Guilty Plea

New York Times - May 4, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, May 3 - Kenneth Gribetz, the District Attorney of Rockland County, resigned today and pleaded guilty to two Federal misdemeanor counts, one for failing to disclose $36,000 in taxable income and a second for using county investigators on personal errands, like delivering copies of a book he wrote.

It was the first time in 22 years that a District Attorney in the New York metropolitan area had been forced out of office for committing a crime, Federal authorities said.

It was the more remarkable because the 50-year-old Mr. Gribetz, in his 20 years as Rockland's chief prosecutor, had become one of the best known law enforcement officers in the region, as adept at grabbing headlines as he was at winning convictions. In the early 1980's, he successfully prosecuted five radicals who held up a Brinks armored car in the Nanuet Mall and killed two police officers and a guard.

In a spare courtroom here, Mr. Gribetz took up the unaccustomed role of the accused with visible tension, standing stiffly behind the defense table, his jaw clenching repeatedly, his head bowing at times.

"I knowingly did use county employees for personal matters," Mr. Gribetz told Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr. of Federal District Court in an uncommonly hushed voice. "I knowingly failed to make known information to the Internal Revenue Service which I was required to make known to it."

In New City, where Mr. Gribetz had his office, there was sadness as Mr. Gribetz's intensely loyal staff learned of the guilty pleas.

"It is a sad and tragic day for Kenneth Gribetz, his family, friends, staff of the office and the people of Rockland County," said John K. Grant Jr., the chief assistant district attorney, who will take over until Gov. George E. Pataki appoints a replacement. "Kenneth Gribetz is a gifted, talented and brilliant prosecutor."

Even Mary Jo White, the United States Attorney for the Southern District, whose office brought the case, said Mr. Gribetz was "a public official who in other ways has rendered valuable service to the citizens of Rockland County for many years, but whose crimes betrayed that same public's trust."

The plea was a result of last-minute negotiations Tuesday between Mr. Gribetz, his lawyers, Ms. White and her aides, which were completed just hours before a grand jury was expected to agree on a felony indictment. The plea deal forced Mr. Gribetz from office, but it is unlikely to yield more than a few months of jail time, if any, and will probably mean that Mr. Gribetz, after a brief suspension, will be able to resume working as a lawyer in private practice. Mr. Gribetz did not promise to cooperate in other cases.

At the 35-minute hearing, Mr. Gribetz's lawyer, Andrew J. Maloney, sought to minimize the seriousness of the charges, saying that the misuse of county employees cost less than $100 in Federal money and included such well-known events, with no attempt to conceal, as the annual building of the Gribetz family's succah, a wooden booth put up during the eight days of the Jewish holiday of Succoth. Mr. Maloney emphasized that Mr. Gribetz did not acknowledge other elements in the complaint.

The additional taxes that Mr. Gribetz owed, he said, totaled only $1,980 in 1988 and $9,582 in 1992.

Prosecutors submitted a four-page complaint -- a Government document short of an indictment -- that spelled out acts to which Mr. Gribetz did not specifically plead. The document, read in court by Kerry A. Lawrence, an assistant United States attorney, said Mr. Gribetz used county investigators and other employees to chauffeur him and "one or more of his companions" to and from events unrelated to work. Constance Taylor, a 45-year-old Rockland County social services worker who said she carried on a two-year affair with Mr. Gribetz, has told Federal investigators that Mr. Gribetz used office personnel to pick her up for assignations with him.

The documents also calculated the total employee time involved in improper tasks for Mr. Gribetz at $23,000, not just the $100 subsidized by Federal money and thus prosecutable by Federal authorities.

During his arraignment, Mr. Gribetz asked if he could keep his passport so he could visit his daughter Vicki, who is expecting his second grandchild, in Israel. Magistrate Mark D. Fox said he would consider the request but ordered him to surrender his passport for now and restrict his movement to the New York region.

Federal officials said the last District Attorney to be forced from office was Thomas J. Mackell, who resigned as the Queens District Attorney in 1973 after he was indicted on charges of hindering prosecution in a get-rich-quick scheme.

The two misdemeanor counts, theft of Federal funds and willful failure to supply information on tax returns, each carry penalties of one year or less in prison and fines of $100,000 each. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

Two of the most important considerations for Mr. Gribetz were that jail terms are often waived in misdemeanor cases and that misdemeanors, unlike felonies, do not result in automatic disbarment.

"Generally speaking, in misdemeanor tax cases there is a limited period of suspension imposed at the discretion of the Appellate Division," said his lawyer, Mr. Maloney, the former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Mr. Gribetz and his lawyers thought they could forge a deal to avoid a grand jury indictment for felony counts because one of the witnesses against him was expected to have credibility problems. The witness, Murray Bauer, is a private investigator who pleaded guilty to tax evasion two years ago and admitted in court that he was a compulsive gambler whose finances were a shambles.

The core of the two-year Federal investigation of Mr. Gribetz stems from his taking referral fees from lawyers to whom he recommended clients. One case involves $6,000 that was given Mr. Gribetz by a former law partner, Herschel Greenbaum, in the settlement of a 1985 accident case and passed through a Gribetz friend. Another involved $30,000 passed to Mr. Gribetz by Mr. Bauer after the settlement of an unrelated 1990 car accident case.

The legality of referral fees is murky. But the documents produced in court today say that such practice is illegal if no actual services are performed to deserve a payment. Large prosecutorial offices like Manhattan's forbid assistants from doing any outside legal work and from accepting referral fees.

The investigation of Mr. Gribetz began in 1993 as a result of a Federal inquiry into whether gamblers in Rockland County were receiving warnings about police raids. The inquiry soon touched an investigator in Mr. Gribetz's office, and a grand jury began questioning assistants and former assistants in his office, some of whom cooperated, according to James K. Kallstrom, assistant director of the the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York field office.

At a news conference, Ms. White rejected suggestions by some reporters that Mr. Gribetz was treated too leniently. She said that if Mr. Gribetz had been indicted for a felony, "the sentencing guidelines would have been the same." The point, she said, was that "law enforcement in Rockland County can be put back on a regular, stable plain."

Correction: May 5, 1995, Friday

A picture caption yesterday with the continuation of an article about the resignation of Kenneth Gribetz, the Rockland County District Attorney, misidentified the man accompanying him into court. The man was Mr. Gribetz's uncle, Lester Gribetz, not his lawyer, Andrew J. Maloney.

Photo: Kenneth Gribetz yesterday, before he was forced to resign. (Chris Maynard for The New York Times)

Fighting Prosecutor Stopped Fighting for Himself

New York Times -  May 5, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, May 4 - Until two weeks ago, Kenneth Gribetz, the Rockland County District Attorney, and his lawyers were prepared to fight any indictment the Federal Government might bring.

As a shrewd prosecutor, Mr. Gribetz knew that the case against him -- charges of taking fees for referring negligence cases and not reporting the money on his income taxes -- was hobbled by weaknesses, said associates, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Yes, there were two witnesses who were talking to prosecutors about $36,000 in cash he received. But, one, Murray Bauer, was a convicted tax evader and compulsive gambler who might not be credible to a jury. And the other, his former law partner, Herschel Greenbaum, had cancer and might not be able to testify. Other possible charges involving Mr. Gribetz's use of aides for personal services bordered, legally speaking, on the petty, the kinds of crimes juries might shrug off, his lawyers told him.

Yet, two weeks ago, Mr. Gribetz decided to throw in the towel, and, his associates say, the law had less to do with his decision than a baleful turn in another area of his life that had always sustained him: newspaper headlines. Suddenly, the newspapers that had once trumpeted his triumphs, like the Brink's armored car robbery of 1981 and a recent carjacking at the Nanuet Mall, were now full of accusations from a former lover.

There were front-page stories in The Daily News that Mr. Gribetz had used aides to chauffeur the woman, Constance Taylor, to assignations at hotels in Albany, Washington and Boston. These were followed by uncomfortable details of sexual paraphernalia and television interviews of Ms. Taylor.

After a while, Mr. Gribetz simply lost heart. He told his lawyers, who always thought his case was winnable, that he was willing to resign and plead guilty to a misdemeanor, a charge that could mean less than a year in jail or no time at all.

"The whole landscape changed with all the publicity and that putting great stress on him and his family," said one close associate. "He just didn't have the stomach."

Mr. Gribetz's lawyer, Andrew J. Maloney, acknowledged as much in an interview today.

"One of the factors in considering to plea to a misdemeanor was the strain that this and other matters were putting on Mr. Gribetz and a strong desire to put these things behind him and get his life in order," said Mr. Maloney, a former United States Attorney.

"For me this whole matter is a tragedy, that an otherwise outstanding District Attorney, and one of the most outstanding in the state, had to have this happen after 20 years," Mr. Maloney said.

The damaging publicity may also have changed the landscape for Federal prosecutors, who were submitting evidence to a grand jury for a felony indictment, not a misdemeanor. Once the personal price of the headlines became obvious, Mr. Gribetz's lawyers were able to make their case that their client had suffered enough, that a resignation and a plea to a misdemeanor -- which unlike a felony might allow him to keep working as a lawyer -- was punishment enough.

"The guy has been destroyed professionally and personally in what is normally a Mickey Mouse tax case," said the close Gribetz associate.

By Tuesday of this week, Mary Jo White, the United States Attorney for the Southern District, seemed to accept the Gribetz team's argument. She said as much when reporters asked her why she was so lenient with Mr. Gribetz. She noted that there was a certain sting to being "subjected to personal and professional disgrace."

"If this is beating the system, remind me never to beat the system," she said.

All that was left were the details of the plea, though that, too, had its intriguing wrinkles.

Mr. Gribetz was willing to admit he took referral fees and did not report them on tax returns. Indeed, his lawyers had argued that the amounts of taxes he did not pay -- $1,980 in 1988 and $9,582 in 1992 -- were comparatively small.

He was even willing to admit that he used aides for personal business, like delivering copies of a book he wrote in 1989. After all, many public officials with chauffeured cars find the line between the personal and professional blurred.

But Mr. Gribetz was not willing to admit in court that he used aides to chauffeur a companion, a reference to Ms. Taylor.

So an elegant, if unspoken, compromise was worked out.

In court, Mr. Gribetz pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes and to the generic misuse of his aides. Yet, Kerry A. Lawrence, the lead prosecutor, was able to read a complaint in court that explicitly mentioned the use of aides to chauffeur "one or more of his companions."

It was one more lash for Mr. Gribetz, but one he had to take to leave the courtroom with good prospects of eluding jail time and a professional license intact.

Photo: Kenneth Gribetz, left, with his uncle, Lester Gribetz, before entering court on Wednesday. He quit as Rockland County District Attorney. (Chris Maynard for The New York Times)


Let Kenneth Gribetz Have Simple Justice
New York Times - May 12, 1995

To the Editor:

Re "Mr. Gribetz's Misdemeanors" (editorial, May 6):

The sentencing judge will and should mete out punishment consistent with the particular crime(s) of which Kenneth Gribetz, former Rockland County district attorney, has pleaded guilty -- all in accordance with Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The misdemeanor is a relatively minor crime for which generally, where there is no prior criminal record, as here, prison time is rare.

Therefore, if such be the sentence pronounced on Mr. Gribetz, it will not be unusual or preferential. On the contrary, the prison time you advocate would be vengeful rather than judicious.

Furthermore, if external facts should be evaluated, the 20-plus years of Mr. Gribetz's exemplary public service should be a consideration.

When the guilty plea of baseball's Darryl Strawberry for failing to report $500,000 in income does not result in jail time, and the mob informer Sammy Gravano, after admitting to participating in 19 murders, serves less than five years, justice should weigh on the side of leniency for Mr. Gribetz. DANIEL N. ZASLOWSKY New York, May 8, 1995 The writer is a lawyer.

Too Much, Too Soon? After Scandals, Rockland County Reflects on Change

New York Times -: May 7, 1995

NEW CITY, N.Y., May 5 - In the close-knit village atmosphere that still prevails in much of Rockland County, people aren't sure what to make of the downfall of District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz and scandals that preceded it, involving the local utility company and the community college. Do they reflect something about Rockland itself and its rapid transformation from rural enclave to New York City suburb? Or is it more a question of the particular people involved?

As Mr. Gribetz's stunning resignation on Wednesday begins to sink in, there are those here who feel there is an inbred quality to Rockland's politics that when mixed with the rapid growth helps explain much of the troubles here.

Geographically, Rockland is an insular place, locked between the Hudson River and the Ramapo Mountains. Three decades ago it was mostly small farms and settlements of quarry workers.

Residents speak loyally of the area as a tranquil spot blessed with a scenic countryside and good schools. But many say that as the government has grown, it has become honeycombed with unqualified political appointees and needless bureaucrats.

"I tried to put up a diner and it's taken me three and a half years and $50,000 to get the paperwork done," said Archie Ligeras, 43, a Greek immigrant who has lived in Rockland for a decade and runs Cafe Neon, a coffee shop across from the county courthouse here.

He wonders, for example, if the town of Clarkstown had to spend millions of dollars for a spacious police headquarters, which he calls the Taj Mahal. Others wonder why developers in overbuilt Rockland have been toying with building yet another mall -- the Pyramid -- with the threat it could pose to small village merchants, and they suggest its purpose is to profit landowners and politicians.

Another school of thought, however, contends the scandals have nothing to do with Rockland's evolution. They emphasize the urban refugees from places like the Bronx who have imported a clubhouse brand of politics, with its trading of favors. This school argues that the ancient flaw of hubris lies behind the troubles of Mr. Gribetz and the half-dozen executives of the local gas and electric company, Orange and Rockland Utilities, who have been accused in recent years of using utility money for personal expenses and political donations.

"People become entrenched in a position of power and they become complacent and feel they have almighty power and can get away with anything," said a lawyer, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used, sitting in the graceful Art Deco county courthouse here. Like many others in this genial county seat, he is personally acquainted both with Mr. Gribetz and with officials touched by the Orange and Rockland scandal.

In yet another scandal, questions have been raised about possible fraud, theft and conspiracy involving financial-aid payments at the county's community college.

Few people here say anything harsh about Mr. Gribetz, and they still seem to respect him for his successes as a prosecutor. Even Mr. Gribetz's guilty plea to two misdemeanors -- one for failing to report $36,000 in referral fees on his taxes and the other for deploying county workers for personal errands -- draws a kind of admiration.

"I think he tried to get out of a bad situation," Mr. Ligeras, the coffee shop owner, said. "He has respect for the people of Rockland and he tried to cut their suffering."

Before the 1950's, Rockland was, in the words of Keith Henderson, the 33-year-old owner of a copying shop, a place where "you could leave your bicycle on the lawn without worrying about it getting stolen."

For better or worse, that small-town flavor began fading irreversibly when the county was tethered to New York City and Westchester with the opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge, said Debra Walker, executive director of the Historical Society of Rockland County.

Skilled factory workers, merchants and New York City civil servants like police officers and firefighters, who had been frozen out of the suburban dream by prices in Westchester and Nassau, could buy a house in Rockland for $25,000. Rockland's population rose from 89,276 in 1950 to 229,903 in 1970 to 265,475 in 1990.

Until 1985, Rockland did not even have a county executive, but was ruled by a part-time legislature and part-time boards for its five towns. There were not enough government planners to stem the tide of shopping strips, cookie-cutter homes and overdevelopment, said Ms. Walker, who notes that the current County Executive, C. Scott Vanderhoef, is working to professionalize government.

Those boom-town days, with the opportunities they created for lawyers, developers and politicians, sometimes gave Rockland's politics a grasping edge. Suburbanization also began breaking the county up into ethnic enclaves that along with the existing sharp divisions among the towns and villages, further deepened the political infighting.

"People say, 'I care what happens in Nyack, but I'm not so sure about what happens in Rockland,' " said Ms. Walker.

The Irish settled in Pearl River, the Orthodox Jews in Monsey and New Square, the Haitians in Spring Valley, Hispanic people in Haverstraw. (Rockland's population is 86.9 percent white, 8.54 percent black, 2.75 percent Hispanic, 1.47 percent Asian and 0.39 percent Indian.) Residents began carving out new villages with more restrictive zoning. In one case, a group of Orthodox Jews contended that the village of Airmont was carved out of the town of Ramapo to keep out the home synagogues they need to walk to for Sabbath worship.

Paradoxically, the small village atmosphere dovetailed with the neighborhood politics of New York City from which most new residents fled. Leslie Michael, an expatriate from Forest Hills, Queens, who owns a New City lamp shop, said few people are dismayed that a public official like Mr. Gribetz would receive referral fees.

"I'd say every lawyer everywhere does it," said Mr. Michael.

Like many others, Mr. Ligeras believes the case against Mr. Gribetz had its roots in a political vendetta. According to this theory, Mr. Gribetz was angry that Assemblyman Sam Colman challenged John T. Grant in the Democratic primary for county executive in 1993. Mr. Gribetz investigated Mr. Colman, then indicted an aide for misreporting a political contribution. Mr. Colman fought back by helping law-enforcement authorities investigate Mr. Gribetz. Mr. Colman has denied any vendetta.

Mr. Michael believes that one relatively recent trend contributing to the scandals is the county's rising affluence. Taxes have been raised and average home prices are now above $200,000, making many people a little needier or greedier.

"I'm selling lamp fixtures for $1,000," he pointed out. "They're not firemen who are buying those things."

Barbara G. Sampson, 38, who was waiting for a bus that would take her from her Spring Valley home to her job at a pet supply store, said Rockland officials could learn a thing or two by studying the lives of people like her.

"They could look at me," she said, "and say 'Hey, you're the low man on the totem pole, but you're not living beyond your means. Maybe I can do that, too.' "

Photo: Rockland residents complain of change, including bureaucracy. Archie Ligeras, manager of a coffee house near the courthouse, said it has taken "three and a half years and $50,000" for paperwork for a new business. (Susan Harris for The New York Times)

Mr. Gribetz's Misdemeanors

New York Times - May 6, 1995

As the successful prosecutor in a number of prominent cases spanning his 20-year reign as the District Attorney of Rockland County, Kenneth Gribetz became one of New York State's best known law enforcement officials. But that bright career collapsed in disgrace this week as Mr. Gribetz resigned his office and pleaded guilty to two Federal misdemeanor counts, avoiding imminent indictment on more serious felony charges.

With his brief admission to the court, Mr. Gribetz sought to downplay the theft of public funds and the kickback scheme that led to his downfall. But his arrogant betrayal of public trust cannot be disguised.

Prosecutors charge that he used county investigators and other employees to perform a variety of personal tasks, including gardening and chauffeuring. Public interest in the case was heightened last month when Constance Taylor, a 45-year-old social services worker, publicly accused Mr. Gribetz of subsidizing their three-year affair with taxpayer and campaign funds.

The more serious second count involves Mr. Gribetz's collection of referral fees from lawyers to whom he steered clients, and his hiding of that income from the I.R.S. The kickback scheme showed contempt for state law and ethics rules.

By relinquishing his job and pleading to the misdemeanors, Mr. Gribetz clearly hoped prison time would be waived and automatic disbarment avoided. But the plea deal does not foreclose the sentencing judge from making him serve at least part of a possible two-year jail sentence. Nor does it relieve the state bar disciplinary committee of doing its duty to punish Mr. Gribetz's breach of professional conduct.


Gribetz Successor Named
New York Times -  May 27, 1995

Gov. George E. Pataki today named a temporary replacement for Kenneth Gribetz, the former Rockland County District Attorney who resigned after admitting to Federal corruption charges.

The Governor appointed Michael Bongiorno, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, to take over the District Attorney's post until Dec. 31.

As part of a plea bargain, Mr. Gribetz pleaded guilty earlier this month to failing to disclose $36,000 in taxable income and to using county employees on personal errands.

Mr. Gribetz got in trouble after a former mistress who was unhappy about her breakup with him complained to the authorities.

Mr. Bongiorno, a resident of New City, has been a prosecutor in Manhattan since 1981. He received his bachelor's degree from Yale and his law degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va

Focus on crimes involving religious Jews sparks debate
Jewish Telegraphic Agency - June 16, 1995

NEW YORK -- Is it right to expect more moral behavior from those who present themselves as religious Jews than from those who do not?

The answer depends on which rabbi you ask.

The question arises in the wake of the indictment on sex crime charges of an aide to a prominent Chassidic rabbi and several instances of alleged breaches of ethical behavior by Jews who call themselves religious.

Among those whose morality has been called into question is a Reform rabbi, who has been the focus of community suspicion in the murder of his wife, though he has neither been arrested nor formally ruled out as a suspect.

On the other end of the religious spectrum are two leaders of a Chassidic community, who were arrested on charges of sexually molesting a teenage girl, and an Orthodox district attorney, whose financial abuses of his office and marital infidelities were recently exposed.

Such crimes are not limited to members of the rabbinate and Orthodox world, of course, but there is much greater interest in such cases when these individuals are involved.

Recognizing that even rabbis need explicit guidance about behaving ethically in financial and sexual matters in complicated times, the Reform movement updated its rabbinic ethics policy in 1991.

And a few months ago, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly adopted its own rabbinic ethics policy on similar matters.

The Conservative movement has no formal policy, though its rules for filing and dealing with a complaint against a rabbi are in the process of being clarified, said Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the movement's Rabbinical Assembly.

For the mainstream Orthodox rabbinical group, the Rabbinical Council of America, the ethics policy is "the laws of the Torah," said Rabbi Steven Dworken, the group's executive vice president.

"We presuppose that an Orthodox rabbi doesn't need more of a policy than that," he said.

But the current case involving allegations that a rabbi of the Pupa Chassidic sect and his assistant sexually abused a teenage girl while flying from Australia to Los Angeles suggests that not every Orthodox Jew follows the Torah closely.

Rabbi Israel Grunwald, the leader of Congregation Toldos Yakov Yosef in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, was charged with the federal crime of sexually touching a minor, while his assistant, Yehudah Friedlander, was indicted for sexual abuse.

The court was told the rabbi had admitted to federal agents that he had committed some of the acts, which the girl said included forcing his hand under her clothing and repeatedly touching her breast and her vagina despite her pleas not to, according to news reports.

Friedlander reportedly pleaded guilty in 1991 to the charge of third-degree sexual abuse in a Monticello, N.Y., case.

A federal magistrate, in initially denying bail, called Friedlander "a danger to the entire community." The rabbis' attorney told reporters that both denied the charges.

The case is clearly getting more attention in the media than it would have had the alleged assailants been non-religious.

Rabbis of several denominations interviewed said the attention is justified.

According to one Orthodox rabbi, Irving "Yitz" Greenberg, "It is legitimate to expect more" moral behavior from the observant. Still, "no system, no matter how good, will not have individual failures."

That Friedlander had allegedly pleaded guilty to sexual abuse several years earlier, yet retained a position of importance within his community, was also cause for concern, said Greenberg.

"Was that behavior treated with the seriousness it deserves, or did the `oldboys' close ranks behind him? It raises that question," said Greenberg, president of CLAL -- the Jewish Institute for Learning and Leadership.

"In the Orthodox community there is too much closing ranks and a `no one rock the boat' mentality. There is authoritarian leadership, and dissent is not tolerated. Criticism is seen as disloyalty," he said.

The spokesman for an ultra-reglious group, Agudath Israel of America, said he was not so certain that the focus on religious Jews' failings is legitimate.

"The attention paid to them because they're Chassidim is understandable but lamentable," said Rabbi Avi Shafran.

"What results from it is the reinforcement of the stereotype that Chassidim are hypocrites. The overwhelming majority of the observant world is people determined to keep to the stringencies of their faith," he added.

"For people to think Chassidim are this way, hiding a darker self, is embarrassing to all of us who wear beards and yarmulkes."

In another high-profile New York case, Rockland County District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, an Orthodox Jew, quit his post last month shortly before pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of defrauding the government in a deal he worked out with the U.S. Attorney.

Although married, a father and grandfather, Gribetz was partly done in by his former mistress, who went to the media with information about him. Gribetz aspired to being a congressman and was admired by many of his area's religious Jews.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, Gribetz's longtime rabbi, said in an interview that he had often cited Gribetz in his speeches to illustrate how a devout Jew can remain faithful to the laws of kashrut and Shabbat while pursuing any career --even in law and politics.

But evidence police collected from Gribetz's ex-lover's home included whips, a dog collar, sex toys and pictures of Gribetz modeling women's clothing. Their three-year affair apparently included trips they took together funded by taxpayers' dollars.

Tendler, who organized a meeting of community rabbis to levy social sanctions against Gribetz just before his breaches became public, described the former politician's behavior as a "chilul haShem," or a desecration of God's name.

His behavior "emasculated our Torah. It reduces or minimizes the claim of Torah, that this is the divine law fit for the human experience. If someone who has been exposed to Torah does these things, what will people say?" said Tendler.

It is the reverse of what a religious Jew is supposed to do, that "the name of God shall be loved by your actions in Kiddush HaShem," said the rabbi,who is also a professor at Yeshiva University and a respected expert on medical ethics.

When a pulpit rabbi is implicated in a breach of ethics, as was the case with Rabbi Fred Neulander, the spiritual leader of Congregation M'kor Shalom, a Reform temple in Cherry Hill, N.J., it can shed light on the congregants' expectations of rabbinic behavior.

Neulander resigned from his position in March, four months after his wife Carol was bludgeoned to death. He has not been arrested, but the police have not ruled him out as a suspect in the ongoing investigation.

In addition, the widespread coverage it has received in the local media "has brought to light Neulander's involvement in marital infidelities," according to the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.

His congregation is reportedly still reeling in shock from the brutal murder and subsequent upheaval.

Should people be more profoundly disappointed by rabbis' failings than those of lay people?

According to Reform Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, "all Jews are expected to behave to a high standard of human conduct."

But "if that's true of all Jews, it's certainly true of clei kodesh," or holy vessels, said Borowitz, meaning that religious Jews have a responsibility for representing the highest ethical standards.

Borowitz is a professor of Jewish religious thought at Hebrew Union College, the Reform movement's seminary in New York City. He also authored a booktitled, "Reform Jewish Ethics and the Halacha."

Leila Gal Berner, a Reconstructionist rabbi and expert on Jewish ethics, said all religious Jews, and especially rabbis, have to guard against "the hubris that comes with the moral authority that people give them."

"When we allow ourselves to fall into a sense of self-importance, moral lapses can happen. In this situation, those involved could have thought that `no one would believe I would do such a thing,'" said Berner, director of the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa.

"Part of the baggage that comes with being a rabbi or religious Jew is the kavod [honor] people give you," she added. "It's very nice, but also aburden. With that sense of hubris, then anything goes."

Disgraced, Ex-Lawman In Rockland Avoids Jail

New York Times - September 14, 1995

WHITE PLAINS, Sept. 13 - In a ruling that brought him and his family visible relief, Kenneth Gribetz, for 20 years the flamboyant District Attorney of Rockland County, was sentenced today to five years of probation and 500 hours of community service for not paying taxes on referral fees he received from negligence lawyers and for using investigators for personal errands.

"I'm deeply, deeply sorry for my acts," Mr. Gribetz, his voice breaking, told the court before the sentence was pronounced. "I'm deeply sorry for what I've done to the people of Rockland County; I'm deeply sorry for what I did to my family. I was wrong. I let the people of the county down and the people of the state down and I'm deeply sorry."

Up to the last minute, Mr. Gribetz's lawyers feared that the sentence might include jail time, and the prosecutors, who negotiated a guilty plea with Mr. Gribetz, persisted in arguing for jail time to send a stern message to public officials.

But Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr. said in Federal District Court here that he could not be harsher because the prosecution, after a four-year-investigation, had agreed to a mild plea of two misdemeanors, which carry a six-month sentence for each count but rarely result in prison time for first offenders.

Nevertheless, Judge Parker condemned Mr. Gribetz for letting greed blemish a distinguished career.

"There is an unmistakable odor and taint of corruption surrounding this case and the defendant," he said as the slender Mr. Gribetz, dressed in his trademark navy blue suit, repeatedly clenched his jaw.

Mr. Gribetz, who gained fame in the early 1980's by prosecuting five political extremists for the fatal holdup of a Brink's armored car, resigned on May 3, then stood in an unaccustomed spot at the defense table to plead guilty to the misdemeanors. It was the first time in 22 years that a district attorney in the New York metropolitan area had been forced out of office after being charged with a crime. The last one was Thomas J. Mackell of Queens, who in 1974 was found guilty of hindering a prosecution, a conviction that was overturned on appeal.

Mr. Gribetz has been suspended from the practice of law until a formal hearing before the Appellate Division, Second Department. For tax violations, lawyers say, the Appellate Division usually demands a suspension of one or two years.

In addition to probation, Judge Parker fined Mr. Gribetz $10,000, ordered him to repay $32,900 -- the money involved in the misdemeanors -- and required him to reimburse the Probation Department $11,718 for the cost of its services. He has already started 100 hours of community service, delivering meals to AIDS patients in Manhattan, but that will not be credited against his 500-hour sentence.

Despite an outcome that pleased the Gribetz family, the half-hour court session was a painful drama. Present were Mr. Gribetz's wife, Judith, and two of his three daughters, Tamara and Lisa. They had endured months of newspaper stories about Mr. Gribetz's assignations with a Rockland County woman, dates on which county aides were sometimes used as chauffeurs. It was that publicity that spurred Mr. Gribetz to resign and seek a plea bargain.

Mindful of that embarrassment and his resignation, Mr. Gribetz's lawyers argued that he had been punished enough.

"The tragedy is he stands before you disgraced, vilified in the press, vilified by the prosecution, a broken man," said Andrew J. Maloney, his lawyer, who is a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District. "I submit there is no sentence that can match the pain he has brought upon himself and his family."

His other lawyer, Deborah Wolikow Loewenberg, who had worked as a prosecutor for Mr. Gribetz for 15 years, pointed out that Mr. Gribetz had "lost his ability to work within his profession," and had been "embarrassed beyond words by reports of personal conduct which are not relevant to his convictions." She described the charges as a "single aberration in an exemplary 51-year lifetime of dedication."

After the sentencing, Mr. Gribetz's friends went over to pat him on the back and he and his wife embraced, with Mr. Gribetz letting his head linger on her right shoulder. His daughter Tamara wept on her sister's shoulder. After a turbulent period, the Gribetzes have reconciled and are in marital counseling.

"He's obviously relieved," Ms. Loewenberg said in an interview. "But he's not the same person you know from the halls of the D.A.'s office. He's really broken. Hopefully he'll be able to find work somewhere and get a life."

In his comments to the judge, Kerry A. Lawrence, the assistant United States Attorney, argued that "although the crimes are misdemeanors, they are serious breaches," especially so "since the defendant was the highest law enforcement officer in Rockland."

But the specific charges to which Mr. Gribetz pleaded were slim and did not materially involve his prosecutorial duties. He admitted failing to report on his tax returns $36,000 he received from referring two accident cases to lawyers he knew. And he acknowledged using his investigators to deliver copies of a book he co-wrote about his career, "Murder Along the Way," and to help him build a succah, the ritual hut that observant Jews construct during the Succoth holiday.

Mr. Maloney complained that the prosecutors, after conceding they could get no more than a misdemeanor conviction, were now "gilding the lily" and expanding the scope of their case in arguing for a harsher sentence.

In an interview, Mr. Maloney said that Mr. Gribetz, despite his relief at avoiding jail, faced a difficult, uncertain period.

"He's obviously a man who has to make some major readjustments in midlife," he said.

Photo: Kenneth Gribetz, the former Rockland County District Attorney, holds hands with his wife, Judith, leaving Federal District Court in White Plains yesterday. Mr. Gribetz was sentenced on two misdemeanor counts. (Susan Harris for The New York Times)


In a Fallen District Attorney's Many Mea Culpas, Traces of Ire

By JOSEPH BERGER (NYT) 981 words

New York Times - September 16, 1995

NEW CITY, N.Y., Sept. 15 - As District Attorney for 20 years, Kenneth Gribetz stood at the summit of Rockland County, with a flair for capturing national attention as well. This week, he began a new career here: selling title insurance out of a triangular office the size of a generous closet.

"We have no income, but I'm the president," he joked in his first interview since he was sentenced Wednesday to five years' probation for two misdemeanors, including an income-tax violation. "I hope to God it works out. Three years ago I didn't think I'd be doing this, but you can either cry or laugh, right?"

Although he retains much of the impish humor he was known for in the courthouse halls, he seemed less self-confident, even vulnerable; he was at the point of tears when he discussed the humiliating headlines he endured and the trauma within his family. The worst moment, he said, came in May when he had to hear another prosecutor pronounce criminal charges against him, then hear himself plead guilty.

"I just followed my lawyer," he said. "If I wasn't semisedated I wouldn't know what to do. It was like a surreal experience. I didn't feel it was me."

Mr. Gribetz refused to discuss what he repeatedly referred to as his "personal incident" and "tragic mistake," his long-running affair with a Rockland County woman who went on to cooperate with the United States Attorney's office. She revealed that she had been chauffeured to their out-of-town assignations by his aides and, in newspaper and television interviews, provided a description of their sex life.

"Thank God, things are fine," he said of his reconciliation with his wife of 27 years, Judith, with whom he is in marital counseling. "The personal incident took place several years ago. We're fine. I love my wife. My wife loves me. The kids have been tremendous."

Through most of the interview, Mr. Gribetz was determinedly apologetic about his misdemeanors, saying in almost mantralike fashion that he was "wrong" and "terribly sorry." He said he could not justify his failure to report $36,000 worth of referral fees from negligence lawyers, or his use of a driver and investigators for personal errands.

Yet, by turns, there were also flashes of anger at the Federal prosecutors who went after him for using his aides to run errands, which he said was commonplace among governors, district attorneys and other public officials.

A friend sent him a volume by Nahmanides, a medieval Torah commentator also known as Ramban. Reading it he has learned that "the amount of energy you put into hating people can destroy you." Nevertheless, he said, "I would not have conducted the kind of investigation they conducted against me in my wildest dreams."

"I attempted to really be fair," he said of his career. "I worked hard, and I made a mistake. I made a personal mistake and a professional mistake. I don't know too many people who haven't made mistakes in their personal and professional lives. The standard set with me toward the use of county employees has not been set with any other official that I'm aware of."

In response to a question, Mr. Gribetz indicated that his troubles had not caused him to look with more understanding on the criminals he had prosecuted.

"What did I prosecute?" he asked. "I prosecuted people who were vicious murderers, people who raped, people who maimed. I didn't try people who had affairs. If I were the D.A. and investigated lawyers who didn't report cash, people would think I was mentally ill."

Although he seemed reluctant to offer a motive for having wrecked what many people regarded as a brilliant career, he gave a hint that financial stresses had played a role.

"Whatever I was doing I was utilizing to support my family," said Mr. Gribetz, who according to court documents reported an adjusted gross income of $127,363 in 1992. "I supported three kids through college and two got married. But it was wrong. Other people have the same problems in life and it didn't justify what I did."

Several times, Mr. Gribetz made a point of saying that he had never compromised his duties as a prosecutor.

He was reluctant to discuss whether the case against him was a vendetta by politicians who had been the targets of his inquiry into the local power company, Orange and Rockland Utilities. His defense lawyer, Deborah Loewenberg, who worked as a prosecutor for him for 15 years and has a legal practice down the hall from Mr. Gribetz's Granite Title Insurance Company, said for him, "If you do your job right, you're going to make enemies."

Associates say Mr. Gribetz is on the antidepressant Prozac and has received psychological counseling.

"Tears were flowing constantly the first couple of weeks," he said of the period when he made the guilty plea. "You're exposed professionally. You're humiliated. And the press was terrible. It had nothing to do with the case, what the tabloids were printing, and that was very hurtful."

The conviction has also crippled Mr. Gribetz financially. With legal fees remaining to be paid in addition to the $44,618 he has paid in fines and tax penalties, he estimates that the case will cost him $200,000. And he has been suspended from the practice of law until an Appellate Division hearing determines a penalty.

But he was able to joke about his finances, too.

"It's like they say. 'If you owe the bank $10,000, you should worry. If you owe the bank $10 million, the bank should worry."

He even laughed about the way the newspaper reporters and photographers who once trumpeted his triumphs seemed to glory in his downfall. He remembered that as he was leaving the old White Plains Federal Courthouse after his plea, a garbage truck blocked the path of his car so that photographers could snap his picture freely and reporters could shout embarrassing questions.

He said he guessed someone had paid off the garbage truck driver.


Kenneth Gribetz representing Ryan Scott Karben
March 12, 2008
See the Case of Ryan Scott Karben

Ryan Scott Karben and Kenneth Gribetz

Kenneth Gribetz representing Shaul Spitzer 
October 27, 2011
Shaul Spitzer with Kenneth Gribetz
Shaul Spitzer of New Square, left, with his attorney Kenneth Gribetz. Spitzer has been indicted on felony charges of trying to set Aron Rottenberg's Truman Avenue house in New Square on fire at 4:15 a.m. May 22, 2008.


Gribetz & Lowenberg, Attorneys at Law
December 31, 2012
gribetzloewenberg . com

About Us

Limited to the Practice of Criminal Defense
Gribetz & Loewenberg prides itself on its responsiveness, intelligence, dedication, and compassion. We are available to you as you need us: in our offices, by phone, via email or wherever you need us to be. Gribetz & Loewenberg attorneys bring a wealth of experience to bear on YOUR situation and we urge you to call or write us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Gribetz & Loewenberg is conveniently located in New City, New York with offices in New York City.

Gribetz & Loewenberg is devoted exclusively to the practice of criminal defense. Mr. Gribetz and Ms. Loewenberg have decades of experience at all levels of the judicial system, giving the firm's clients unparalleled representation when they need it most.

Ken Gribetz, Esq.  
Partner & Co-Founder

Ken Gribetz served as Rockland County’s District Attorney for twenty years during which time he personally prosecuted dozens of homicides and other serious crimes. He is a past President of the New York State District Attorney’s Association, previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York County, and was employed at the New York City Department of Investigation.

Mr. Gribetz has received an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the most trusted legal resource. It is the highest rating an attorney can receive in both legal ability and ethical standards.


Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."--Margaret Mead

No comments: