December 11, 2003
Perhaps you might remember me. I was a taxi driver who worked as a volunteer in your campaign for mayor. I circulated petitions, especially in Astoria Queens, to help you get on the ballot. I went to meetings and functions involving the campaign workers and I shook your hand and spoke to you several times.
However, you might better remember me because I was the principal of a securities firm, a registered broker-dealer, named Samuel H. Sloan & Co., in the 1970s. At that time you were with Salomon Brothers & Huztler and I traded with your firm hundreds of times from my own firm and previously from Hayden, Stone, Inc. I also won a major US Supreme Court decision which I argued orally myself, SEC v. Samuel H. Sloan, 436 US 103 (1978).
The reason I am writing you today is that one of your traffic court judges is a totally inappropriate person to be a judge. My observation of his handling other cases and my experience with him in my own case demonstrates that he must be removed immediately from any judicial position. I suspect that he is a new judge, because his behavior is so extreme as to render him obviously unfit to hear cases.
I watched him handle more than a dozen cases yesterday. In every case he found the defendant guilty while refusing even to listen to the defendant's defenses, cutting them off when they tried to speak. He imposed heavy fines and suspended everybody's drivers license. The only defendant who got off was one where the police officer had failed to appear for the second time.
However, my case was the most extreme because what the police testified that I did was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE. I recognize that any judge has the right to believe the police officer and not believe the defendant. However, an important exception to this rule arises when the police officer alleges that what happened would have violated the laws of physics, because it could never happen.
In my case, the officer involved was Officer Hall. I do not know his first name. He testified in all of the cases while I was there. Every defendant protested vehemently that his testimony was not true. Every defendant was found guilty. I do not know whether those other defendants were guilty not. Those cases were not clear. However, my case was absolutely clear and everybody in the courtroom recognized it. I demand that Officer Hall be suspended from his duties pending an investigation into his conduct.
The underlying incident occurred on July 24, 2003. I was driving from South Carolina to New York. I had been in South Carolina attending a Probate Court hearing involving my late mother's estate. It was an 850 mile trip. I crossed six states, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, always watching the speed limit, because the Southern States are especially hard in speeders. I came off the New Jersey Turnpike and crossed the Outerbridge into Staten Island. A few moments after I reached the West Shore Expressway, which is Highway 440, I was pulled over by Officer Hall for speeding. I told Officer Hall that I was mystified by this, as I was following a line of ten cars, all of whom had come off of the New Jersey Turnpike together and had crossed the toll plaza and the Outerbridge together. Also, I was in the extreme right lane, the slow lane, and had not passed anybody.
Officer Hall replied that I had been coming closer to the vehicle ahead of me. He gave me a ticket for speeding and tailgating.
Recognizing that the judge is not required to believe me and is entitled to believe that everything said by the police officer is true, here is what the police officer testified at the trial yesterday:
Officer Hall testified that he was parked off on the right side of the road and when I passed he estimated my speed at 75 miles per hour. He did not claim that he had used radar. He took off after me and caught me as I was driving behind what he said was "a slow moving vehicle" which was only going 50 miler per hour. All this happened between exits. In other words, during this interval of time, there was no exit on which I could have left the expressway.
I asked him repeatedly on cross examination how he knew that I was gong 75 miles per hour. He replied that he had already explained it once and was not going to explain it again. The judge then became angry with me for asking the obviously reasonable question of how he knew that I was going 75 miles per hour.
Officer Hall admitted on cross examination that I had never left the extreme right lane and I had never passed anybody. I then asked him how was it possible that I was going 75 miles per hour and the car in front of me was only going 50 miles per hour and I had never passed anybody. He replied that the traffic was very light, as it is always light at that time of day, and that I and the car in front of me were the only cars on the road.
At this point the judge must have recognized that the officer was lying. There is never any time, day or night, in New York City, where there are only two cars on the road. Moreover, Officer Hall testified that this happened at 11:35 AM (just before noon) on a Thursday. Anybody familiar with New York City traffic knows that this is a time of heavy traffic.
Another common-sense fact which should have told the judge that the officer's testimony was untrue was that he testified that I was going 75 but that the car in front of me was only going 50. When I had asked him how was this possible, he testified that I had hit the breaks hard because otherwise I would have hit the car in front of me.
However, it is important to note that Officer Hall had also testified that there were no other cars on the road and we were all in the extreme right lane (the slow lane). Obviously, if I were going 75 and the car in front of me was going 50, I would have shifted lanes and passed him. I would certainly not have hit the breaks hard, risking an accident, if the simple and safe option of passing him was available.
It is important to note that Officer Hall was driving an unmarked vehicle. I had no way of knowing that it was a police car until he turned on his siren and pulled me over.
I have stated before that the testimony of Officer Hall, if true, would violate the laws of physics. Here is why. (By the way, I was a winner of the Virginia Science Talent Search, in the field of physics).. Officer Hall testified that when I passed him going 75 MPH in his estimation, he was parked off the side of the road. He immediately took off and caught up with me as I was hitting the breaks to slow down for the "slow moving vehicle" which was in the same lane directly in front of us. Remember that all this happened between exits. Since the West Shore Expressway has an exit every few hundred yards, this all happened within a few hundred yards.
So, within a few hundred yards, Officer Hall took off and caught up with me while I was still going 75. It only took him a few seconds to do this. To do this he would have had to have been going from zero to at least 95 or 100. Are police officers allowed to drive that fast in non-emergency situations?
Now, while he was catching up with me, I was hitting the breaks and slowing down to 50. How is it possible that he timed me going 75 when I was reducing my speed from 75 to 50 ?
I think the truth is obvious. Frankly, I was not familiar with the West Shore Expressway, as I usually cross the Goethal's Bridge and the Outerbridge has in the past been closed, and I did not know that the speed limit on the West Shore Expressway was only 50 miles per hour. There were no signs posting the speed limit between the time I entered the West Shore Expressway and when Officer Hall pulled me over. In short, I was caught in a trap. I dare say that this is the only super-highway in the entire United States with a speed limit as low as 50. The speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike, which I had just come off, is 65.
It is obvious that the reason Officer Hall found it necessary to say that the car in front of me was only going 50 is that he wanted to defeat any question I might ask about why he did not stop the car in front of me. So, he claimed that the car going in front of me was only going exactly 50, the speed limit. Of course, everybody knows that nobody really goes only 50 miles per hour on an expressway and that the 50 MPH speed limit is not enforced. I am sure that the car in front of me was going a lot faster than 50. I do not know how fast he was going. I was just going the same speed as all the other cars and, by the way, there were a lot of other cars on the road.
All this demonstrates that Officer Hall was obviously lying when he said that I was going 75, that the car in front of me was going 50, that I braked hard to avoid hitting him and we were the only two cars on the road, except for his car which was behind us clocking my speed at 75.
I have not had a traffic ticket in several years. The last ticket I had was in 1999 when I was a taxi driver during the height of Mayor Giuliani's War Against Taxi Drivers. However, back in 1999 I found that the DMV judges (as opposed to the TLC Judges) were courteous and reasonable and would often give the defendant a break if he seemed to have a reasonable defense or if the officer had obviously mixed up the cases, as sometimes happened. I have no doubt that any normal judge would find that there was more than just "reasonable doubt" that Officer Hall's testimony was true or that his recollection was faulty and I would have been found not guilty.
However, instead, Judge Brian Levine became increasingly irate as I tried to ask reasonable questions by way of cross examination. For example, Officer Hall refused to answer my question about how did he determine that I was going 75. Judge Brian Levine sustained his objections to my questions. I never knew that a police officer, not a lawyer, was allowed to object to questions asked of him. In addition, Officer Hall talked very fast in all of these cases, so fast that it was difficult to understand him.
There is more. Another objection I raised before Judge Levine was that the DMV was nearly two months late in entering this ticket into their computer. The ticket occurred on July 24. The return date was August 30. I went to the DMV on about that date, but for another reason. I had been issued a ticket or thought that I had been issued a ticket on August 14, the day of the Great New York Blackout. On about August 30, I went to the DMV to answer or pay that ticket. I was told by the DMV clerk that there were no tickets on my record and my record was clear.
I checked with the DMV several more times. Each time I was told that there were no tickets outstanding and my record was clear. I later learned that you, Mayor Bloomberg, had ordered that all tickets issued on August 14 be cancelled. However, on October 4 I needed to drive to South Carolina again for another hearing on my mother's case. Prior to renting a car, I checked with the DMV and to my great surprise was told about the July 24 ticket.
I learned that the ticket had been put into the computer on September 17, nearly two months after it had been issued. Since it normally takes two weeks, not two months, it was obvious that the ticket had been lost, misplaced or not handed in. More than that, after entering it into the computer my license had been almost immediately suspended, I suppose because the date of August 30 has passed, without any written notice to me. The DMV clerks who told me about this said that this seemed irregular and wrong, but my only recourse was to complain to Albany.
When I complained about this to Judge Levine, he immediately replied that I was not allowed to complain about any misadministration "in my agency". He specifically referred to the DMV as "his" agency. I realize that Administrative Law Judges work for the agency they are supposed to be judging. Nevertheless, they are required by the Canons of Ethics to maintain the appearance of propriety. When Judge Levine used the term "my agency", I told him that there was a conflict of interest and demanded that he disqualify himself from the case. He refused to do so. Furthermore, he is wrong. I am allowed to complain about mistakes and poor administration by the agency. The past scandal involving the Parking Violations Bureau is an example of that.
In addition, Judge Levine claimed that I was required to hand in the ticket to the DMV and I had no right to complain if I had lost or misplaced the ticket. Therefore, I had no right to complain if Officer Hall had not promptly handed in the ticket or if Albany had failed to process it promptly. However, Judge Levine is wrong. A long delay or laches can be a valid defense and I am certainly entitled to raise it. In this case, in the long interval of time, I had moved from Queens to Brooklyn on August 14 (the same day as the blackout) and this is probably the reason why I never received written notice. Furthermore, there is no requirement that a defendant in a traffic case is required to submit the ticket to the DMV or that he lose some rights if he fails to do so.
Every time I tried to exercise my constitutional right to cross examine Officer Hall, Judge Levine became more irate and angry. He should have recognized that there were serious problems with the testimony of Officer Hall, as everyone else in the courtroom, including the other police officers, seemed to notice this.
I also asked Officer Hall if he remembered the conversation we had had where I had asked why he had stopped me when I was just following a long line of cars who were all going the same speed. Officer Hall replied that he does not remember any conversation and he does not take notes on that. In my experience, a traffic officer is supposed to write in his notebook what the motorist says and he will often read it to the judge when the case comes to trial. Officer Hall said that he does not take notes about what is said.
Finally, in a vindictive act of retaliation, Judge Brian Levine found me guilty and imposed the maximum sentence allowed by law. He fined me $275, plus a $50 surcharge plus he suspended my drivers license for 30 days, plus he gave me only until 4:00 PM that day to pay the entire fine plus the surcharge or face an additional fine and suspension.
It must be remembered that prior to this I had no points on my license and had a clean driving record.
These two, Officer Hall and Administrative Law Judge Brian Levine, place the entire police department and Office of Administrative Law Judges in disrepute.
For all of these reasons, I believe that Judge Brian Levine is unfit to serve on the bench. He must be suspended immediately and ultimately removed from office.
I believe that Officer Hall, who very clearly gave false testimony and who later refused to answer reasonable questions about his testimony, especially the questions about how he determined that I was going 75, should be suspended from duty and ultimately removed from the police force.
Very Truly Yours,
Samuel H. Sloan