Giuliani the Thug


Incredibly damning piece on Hizzoner in today's New York Times. You may know of Giuliani's history of smearing victims of police brutality while he was mayor. The most famous case was Patrick Dorismond. After Dorismond was wrongly killed by NYC police, Giuliani released the man's juvenile record, which by law was supposed to remain sealed. Giuliani said Dorismond "is no altar boy." Actually, Dorismond was an altar boy.

But today's Times piece looks at the depth of Giuliani's vindictiveness, and his willingness to use the power of his office to ruin the lives of those who dare to cross him:

In August 1997, James Schillaci, a rough-hewn chauffeur from the Bronx, dialed Mayor Giuliani's radio program on WABC-AM to complain about a red-light sting run by the police near the Bronx Zoo. When the call yielded no results, Mr. Schillaci turned to The Daily News, which then ran a photo of the red light and this front page headline: "GOTCHA!"

That morning, police officers appeared on Mr. Schillaci's doorstep. What are you going to do, Mr. Schillaci asked, arrest me? He was joking, but the officers were not.

They slapped on handcuffs and took him to court on a 13-year-old traffic warrant. A judge threw out the charge. A police spokeswoman later read Mr. Schillaci's decades-old criminal rap sheet to a reporter for The Daily News, a move of questionable legality because the state restricts how such information is released. She said, falsely, that he had been convicted of sodomy.

Then Mr. Giuliani took up the cudgel.

"Mr. Schillaci was posing as an altruistic whistle-blower," the mayor told reporters at the time. "Maybe he's dishonest enough to lie about police officers."

Mr. Schillaci suffered an emotional breakdown, was briefly hospitalized and later received a $290,000 legal settlement from the city. "It really damaged me," said Mr. Schillaci, now 60, massaging his face with thick hands. "I thought I was doing something good for once, my civic duty and all. Then he steps on me."

The article also notes that aides to Giuliani attempted to pressure NYU's law school to fire Joel Berger, a civil rights lawyer (with whom I've worked in the past) who had the temerity to take on police brutality cases against Giuliani's NYPD. Giuliani's office threatened to terminate a legal clinic set up with the school unless it terminated Berger. The article also discusses a black police officer fired for speaking publicly about police brutality, a social worker fired for criticizing the way the city handled a case resulting in the death of a child, and all sorts of petty political squabbles ending with Giuliani inflicting disproportionately harsh punishment on the people he perceived to be his enemies.

Jimmy Breslin has described Giuliani as "a short man in search of a balcony." Imagine what the guy could do with the powers of the office of the presidency.

Dave Weigel's recent reason cover opus on Giuliani here.