Stories & Grievances
Without a Prayer For Relief: The NY State Supreme Court is Bought By Guide One Insurance Company and a Church, Madison Avenue Presbyterian
Since 1998, the Board of Trustees of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, Guide One Insurance Company, the City of New York, The Presbytery of NYC, The Presbyterian Church USA, and powerful members of New York's wealthy elite, have joined up with nine judges and 7 lawyers to extort money from, and silence, Parentadvocates.org Editor Betsy Combier. In November, 2005, Supreme Court Judge Lottie Wilkins and Guide One Insurance Company served me with an Injunction and Order of Prior Restraint to stop me from posting this story.
From Betsy Combier: My mom died in March 1998 and left some valuable property to me, one of her twin daughters. Attorneys Kenneth Wasserman, Jonathan Landsman, Eli Uncyk; New York Supreme Court Judges Karla Moskowitz, Marilyn Shafer, Lottie Wilkins, and Jacqueline Silbermann, aided and abetted by Chief Judge Judith Kaye and her favorite assistant, Judge Jonathan Lippman, as well as NY Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth, her law secretary Mary Santamarina, and her successor Judge Troy Webber have all made a deal with Guide One Insurance Company based in West Des Moines, Iowa and Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Trustees located in New York City to steal this property and make sure that I never get it.
I realized in 2001 what was going on, and have documented all the conversations and actions of this illustrious crew ever since. The picture that I want to paint is an ugly scene of court corruption, greed, violations of law and other illegal and corrupt practices that have altered the court system in New York at the expense of citizens who have property are given property rights. This story is my story, I'm without a prayer for relief.
A pro se litigant in New York has no chance of success in any matter, as the lawyers and judges - and in my case, my church and powerful real estate companies - talk together and do their deals to harm anyone who dares to confront them behind closed doors, sometimes on a daily basis. Then they use the computer to put decisions into the record that have no basis in law or fact. Due process rights can easily be taken away by a judge willing to add/remove documents, change index numbers, etc. I know. It happened to me. And "they" filed an Order of Prior Restraint in November 2005 so that I could not post this article. I wrote a brief on my First Amendment rights and the Judge denied the Show Cause in 10 minutes. But still, my free speech rights were denied to me from November 22 to December 5, 2005.
The lesson I have learned, though, is to never give up.
On October 8, 9, 10, 11 and 20, 2006, The New York Times published a series of articles by Diana Henriques (see below) that we believe show how powerful religious institutions have become in America:
In God's Name Part 1: As Exemptions Grow, Religion Outweighs Regulation
In God's Name Part 2: Where Faith Abides, Employees Have Few Rights
In God's Name Part 3: Religious Programs Expand, So Do Tax Breaks
In God's Name Part 4: Religion-Based Tax Breaks: Housing to Paychecks to Books
In God's Name Part 5: Ministry’s Medical Program Is Not Regulated
In God's Name Part 6: Religion for Captive Audiences, With Taxpayers Footing the Bill
In God's Name Part VII: Religious Groups Reap Federal Aid for Pet Projects
In God's Name VIII: Federal Grant for a Medical Mission Goes Awry
In God's Name Part IX: Megachurches Add Local Economy to Their Mission
The debate over where the line should be drawn separating church and state is no longer valid. It seems there is no line. We, the public, can no longer protect our interests and petition government for a redress grievances, the "Petition Clause" of the First Amendment. I found this out when I became an advocate for the African-American porters who worked at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1994. Dr. Fred Anderson started as Pastor at MAPC in 1992, and wanted Local 32B&J out. He harassed the porters, almost all of whom were not white, and started firing them in 1993. I and my mom, Julia Taschereau, were outraged (my mom was a volunteer at MAPC for more than 40 years). I was the only person who stepped in to give the porters a chance at their arbitration hearings, as Anderson brought in his suited lawyers while the building union Local 32B&J gave the men a "lawyer of the day". I wrote former President Gus Bevona a letter about this in 1996, and was able to change this policy. Anderson hated me for this, and vowed to get rid of me the minute my mom died or was incapitated (so he stated under oath at his deposition with Kenneth Wasserman in 2000-2001). MAPC Session member Attorney Sharon Davison helped Anderson throw me off the membership roll of the Church 10 days after my mom died, and then accompanied Anderson to the "trial" that Anderson started to keep me off (I filed a complaint to the NYC Presbytery in 1998, and I won my membership back in July 1999, 1 year later. Then I sued Fred Anderson and Charles Amstein and the Session for withholding my mom's ashes from me for 8 days)
"The special breaks amount to 'a sort of religious affirmative action program',” said John Witte Jr, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the Emory University law school.
Professor Witte added: “Separation of church and state was certainly part of American law when many of today’s public opinion makers were in school. But separation of church and state is no longer the law of the land.”
Dr. Fred Anderson
From the desk of Betsy Combier:
"Without a Prayer For Relief" is 11 years of research into New York State and New York City judicial/church/state corruption. I believe that the documents we have show the illegal financing of real estate deals, as well as the scam of overpaying for repairs to the church building of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, secretly implemented by The Presbytery of NYC, The Presbyterian Church USA, Guide One Insurance Company, Attorney Kenneth T. Wasserman, Attorney Jonathan M. Landsman, The Law Firm of Michael E. Pressman, NY State Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer, her fellow Judge in the Commercial Part Karla Moskowitz as well as her law clerk Eric Reiss,NYS Supreme Court Judge Lottie E. Wilkins, Gregory Moundas of Proskauer Rose,Supreme Court Judge Jaqueline Silbermann, Vornado Realty Trust VP Sandeep Mathrani, Sandy Davies, MAPC President of the Board of Trustees David C. Johnson, the Judges of the NY Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, (who refuse to allow me to appeal this case, and have made Mr. Kenneth Wasserman a Respondent, then changed their minds and made my former attorney a Respondent, after I called the clerk of the court, Mr. Bob Duball, and asked him "Who IS this Mr. Wasserman?"). NY State Supreme Court Judge Lottie Wilkins not only threatened me at the trial of my church (she told me that I must not testify or mention that a church was involved in withholding my mom's ashes from me for 8 days .. or else), then declared a mistrial when the jury wanted to give me $500,000. She sent the jury home the minute she heard that they had decided to give me money for my pain and suffering, and told me and my attorney we must be back in her courtroom in 1 hour with a new jury. Then in November 2005 she signed an order of prior restraint so that I could not write this article. I wrote a brief on my First Amendment rights and won dismissal of the Order To Show Cause. Wilkins has an illustrious past - she also freed Guy Vellela from prison under a cloud of corruption:
October 19, 2004
Vote Releasing Velella May Be Illegal, Council Report Says
By MIKE McINTIRE, NY TIMES
The little-known commission that released former State Senator Guy J. Velella from jail most likely violated state law by voting without enough of its members present, an informal practice that it apparently followed for years, according to a City Council report released yesterday.
The Council report, based largely on the accounts of two former members of the Local Conditional Release Commission, throws into question the legality of Mr. Velella's release three months into a one-year sentence. It also provides the most detailed picture yet of the workings of the commission, a mayoral-appointed panel that operated with little oversight for 15 years. Now, though, its decision to release Mr. Velella has prompted calls that it be abolished, led to the departure of its members and executive director, and brought inquiries by the city and the Manhattan district attorney.
In fact, the Council report reveals that Raul Russi, the chairman at the time, warned the commission members that releasing Mr. Velella, a powerful Republican from the Bronx, could prove controversial, but that he was worried that the disgraced former senator might commit suicide if forced to remain at Rikers Island.
Still, the political storm ignited by his release appears to have caught the commission off guard; one member told Council investigators that she had been "unaware of the extent of Mr. Velella's public prominence."
Although three of the commission's four members are needed to act on an inmate's application for release, the report found that just two members met on Sept. 22 and voted to release Mr. Velella and a co-defendant in his corruption case, Hector Del Toro. One of those members, Mr. Russi, later telephoned a third member, Amy Ianora, who concurred with the decision; the fourth member abstained.
After a hearing on the report yesterday at City Hall, council members said they believed there was legal cause to reverse the early release of Mr. Velella and his co-defendants.
"We believe that it's likely that there are grounds for either the commission or the courts to really annul the release of these gentlemen," said Yvette D. Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat who is chairwoman of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services.
At the same time, Ms. Clarke said, the Council inquiry has turned up no evidence of what she called "widespread collaboration for corruption in this case." She suggested that while the commission may have acted imprudently, there did not appear to have been a conspiracy involving all four of its members to skirt the law to benefit Mr. Velella.
The crux of the Council's report is its determination that the commission probably broke the law when it failed to assemble at least three members. In addition to Mr. Russi, the only other member present was Irene Prager. Another member, Jeanne Hammock, abstained and was not in attendance, and neither was the fourth, Ms. Ianora.
That even a few of the commission's members met in the same room seems to have been a break from its custom. The report said that for years staff members simply circulated standard forms to the members, who checked a box indicating approval or disapproval of a release without ever getting together for a formal vote. Over the last five years, the commission has released 15 people out of thousands of eligible inmates.
Yesterday, Daniel C. Richman, a Fordham Law School professor tapped by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to take over as commission chairman, said he concurred with the Council's view that state law dictates "there ought to be three members sitting there voting" when a release is considered.
"My reading of the statute seems to suggest that there should be three people present," Mr. Richman said, adding that not having a quorum, "doesn't sound like a good idea, it doesn't sound like the way a commission ought to be run, it doesn't sound like the way I would run the commission."
The Council chose not to subpoena the commission's former members after being told that doing so could jeopardize the criminal inquiry already under way, so it was left to Mr. Richman to answer questions from council members, who expressed anger at the release of Mr. Velella and frustration over their inability to get clear answers to how it happened.
Councilman David Yassky, a Brooklyn Democrat, said Mr. Velella's early release confirmed for many New Yorkers "their most cynical suspicions about government." He belittled the rationale offered by Mr. Russi that he felt sorry for Mr. Velella, and noted that no similar explanation has been offered for the commission's decision to release Mr. Velella's two co-defendants, Mr. Del Toro and Manuel Gonzalez. The commission voted to release Mr. Gonzalez a month earlier, in August, at a meeting whose legality has also been called into question.
"It seems to me unlikely that the three people most worthy of compassion in Rikers Island were these three people who happened to be co-conspirators in this bribery case," Mr. Yassky said. "I think there is very, very good reason to suspect that something else went on here."
Mr. Richman studiously avoided commenting on the commission's past actions, but he said he was attuned to criticism that the commission, created in 1989 as a way to relieve prison overcrowding and save money, has devolved into little more than an escape hatch for the famous and well-connected.
Mr. Richman, who was questioned by council members on how he was selected to replace Mr. Russi, said he had two brief telephone conversations with Mr. Bloomberg, as well as discussions with Rose Gill Hearn, the Department of Investigation commissioner. At one point, after saying that the mission he was given was to "keep this thing out of the newspapers," Mr. Richman caught himself and did some backpedaling.
"Actually, no, that wasn't the mandate I was given," he said. "My goal, personally, is to keep it out of the newspapers. I would like to be a little-known commission once again."
The City of New York seems to be the "owner" of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Most of the congregation of "MAPC" does not know what is going on.
District Attorney Robert Morganthau, a friend of my dad, so far has expressed no interest in this RICO claim. I called Mr. Daniel Castleman, (212-335-9817) Chief of the Investigation Division, in October, and he set up a meeting with his "best" investigator, Ms. Judy Weinstock, soon after. In January, 2006, Ms. Weinstock sent me back every one of my documents, saying, "We are not looking into this because you did not give us a receipt for the two toilets' that were repaired in May, 2004 for $169,224."
I sent Mr. Castleman a letter in January, and he never responded. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's Charities Bureau told me they never investigate churches, because churches are not charities. Spitzer's criminal division's Mr. Bill Jorgenson told me in November, 2006, that the information I had showed "a clear-cut case of embezzlement", but only someone at the legislature level could submit it to the Attorney General for consideration, "sorry". He advised me not to call the Attorney General's office about this matter ever again.
My mom, Julia Taschereau, died suddenly during the night of March 15-16, 1998. The doctor told us that she died of a pulmonary embolism. I, my husband and four children and my mom were very close, and lived near enough to each other to be able to spend time cooking, going to movies, and playing with the kids. My mom worked full-time as a volunteer for Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church ("MAPC") at 921 Madison Avenue 73rd street) in New York City. The church and the church building next door are located on prime real estate worth currently $21,000,000 (tax assessed value, NYC Dept. of Buildings, 2005). The church pays no taxes.
MAPC has an endowment valued at $20-30 million, depending on who you speak to. Every year approximately $2 million is raised in donations from the 920+ members. $25,000 is collected in cash from the plate passed around on sundays. No one outside of the Board of Trustees knows where this money is spent. As you will see below, in the 2004 budget (see p. 10) that I was given during the congregational meeting in January, 2005, there is a listing of a payment of $169,224 for the repair of two toilets for the nursery school. This amount seemed odd, so I and a colleague went to the New York City Department of Buildings and copied all the work permits for all the repairs made to the church building from 1999-2005. We found the invoice for the two toilets, which were repaired by Prudon & Partners for $90,000. Well, if the congregation was spending $169,224 on a toilet, and the company that did the work was paid only $90,000, where did the missing almost $80,000 go? Prudon misspelled the name of the Day School, as well.
Vornado Realty Trust is the landlord of Bloomberg LLP, and is connected to the construction Company Taylor Ball, whose subsidiary, Ladco Development Inc., is located in West Des Moines Iowa, home to Guide One Insurance Company. Have you ever heard the saying "You can't fight City Hall"? Well, fighting Vornado Realty Trust is like fighting 100 City Halls. It is my opinion that as Michael Bloomberg is well aware of the money that flows through the mega-rich real estate companies/Trusts in New York City, and as he does nothing to stop the racketeering, he not only condons it, but is enriched by the spoils (financing expensive real estate deals).
I tried to find out. I called the accountant who did the budget, Sandy Davies of O'Connor Davies, and was told that Mr. Davies never saw any receipts for any job. Then I called the Presbytery of New York City, and spoke with the financial officer, Simon Lai, who is supposed to look at money donated to and spent by presbyterian churches in New York City. He told me that he has never seen any financial information from MAPC in the 7 years he has worked at the Presbytery. As MAPC uses the tax exempt IRS number for the Presbyterian Church, USA General Assembly, I called over there to find out if any records of MAPC were available. There are none. Thus, MAPC is an entity doing business in New York City without any oversight by anyone.
Then, while surfing the internet and in particular ACRIS, I found a UCC financing agreement of a co-op belonging to Vornado Realty Trust Executive VP Sandeep Mathrani and his wife, Aiysha which used the church property, (Block 1388, Lot 21), even though Mr. Mathrani and his wife are not members of MAPC (the social security numbers of both Sandeep and his wife were deleted by me before posting the UCC agreement). I called Mr. Mathrani's office, and asked his secretary if I could ask him why he financed his coop using the property of MAPC. She told me that he had never heard of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, and hung up. I called back, and asked why he would say that, considering the fact that the Mathrani home is across the street from the Church. Sandeep's secretary asked me to send him all my documents.
The attorney who did the financing deal, Mr. Gregory Moundas, worked for Proskauer Rose when he prepared the UCC agreement. (He was moved to Texas). Proskauer Rose is a lawfirm that some say own the United States court system. The lawyers certainly are the most powerful and politically connected in New York City, as the Chief Administrative Judge of New York State is Judith Kaye, and her husband Steven Rachow Kaye was a partner of Proskauer Rose. Michael Cardozo was a partner as well, before Michael Bloomberg appointed him the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. I thought it would be reasonable to believe that Judith Kaye knew what her husband's lawfirm was doing, which seemed to be financing real estate properties under the color of "church tax exemptions". Without realizing it, I walked head-on into the 'wrath of Kaye', a place in which anyone who wants justice in the court system of New York State never wants to be. Even though I am not an attorney, I have read the law and written hundreds of motions since March 31, 1998, when the Session of Madison Avenue voted me and my twin sister off of the membership roll of MAPC, the church that I had belonged to since 1961.
Chuck elaborated on my expulsion from my church at his deposition, as did Dr. Fred Anderson, the Pastor: "We planned to get rid of you as soon as your mother was dead or incapacitated, whichever came first". (Deposition testimony, 2001)
When I was thrown out of the church and Charles Amstein had obtained my mom's ashes, I was worried that he would not allow me to have them back to bury her, because I heard from people in the office at the church that he was "talking" with my mom, in ash form. On July 31, 1998, I called Mr. Amstein and told him I wanted my mom's ashes back, immediately, that day. At 6:30PM I heard that he would not give them back, and there was nothing I could do. I called him every day for the next week, and he finally returned the ashes to me on August 7, with a handwritten note on top of the box that he had "delayed" returning the ashes until he had heard from Jill. I did not find out until 2004 that it was attorney Mr. Kenneth Wasserman who told him to withhold the ashes from me. Mr. Wasserman was on the Ethics Committee of the NYC Bar Association from 2000-2003. How that happened i dont know, but in my opinion you will not find an attorney with as little concern for ethics as Kenneth T. Wasserman.
I filed a complaint to The Presbytery of NYC on June 23, 1998 and hired an ecclesiastical lawyer, Michelle Lamar. Fred Anderson, the Pastor of MAPC, put me on trial before the Permanent Judicial Commission ("PJC") for one year. In July 1999 I won my membership back, and, now with standing, filed a Supreme Court Action for the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Harm and for the malicious, arbitrary and capricious withholding of my mother's ashes from me for 8 days, and the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Harm.
Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer made a ruling in December 2003 that all the actions of the defendants were without malice and "in the church's self-interest". She also made a non-party individual, Mr. Kenneth Wasserman, a Respondent, and forbade me from deposing him to find out why he told the church to withhold my mother's ashes from me. Shafer also recognized there was open discovery on the question of why the private school my daughters attended, Nightingale-Bamford, would reject the application of my third daughter, and why the admissions Director Carole Everett was suddenly moved to St. Croix.
On March 31, 2004, a trial on the withholding of my mother's ashes from me and on the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Harm started, in the courtroom of Judge Lottie E. Wilkins. The judge would not allow my witnesses to speak, but the jury found that the defendants were liable for withholding my mother's ashes, and were considering a damage award of $500,000, when Judge Wilkins told them, "You certainly dont understand this case" and declared a mistrial. She ordered me and my attorney back into her courtroom in 1 hour with a new jury.
The second trial actually began on May 10, 2004. Judge Wilkins would not allow any questions of the jury on whether or not any of the prospective jurors had any connection with an insurance company, (a violation of CPLR 4110) and then proceeded to deny testimony from any of my witnesses, a rebuttal of any of the testimony, and a recusal for prejudice, which my attorney asked for countless times. The jury deliberated for 20 minutes over lunch, and decided that the defendants were, once again, liable, but this time they were "justified". I appealed to the Appellate Division, First Department, and was denied an appeal. The First Department wrote in their decision that the church was justified in withholding my mom's ashes from me for 8 days (this is, actually, against Public Health Law). I asked for re-argument and found that Mr. Wasserman, the Attorney who had told the church to withhold my mom's ashes from me, had made himself a respondent in a secret document that I was accidentally given at the Appellate Division. I secretly took a picture of the top of the first page.
I am a mom of four children, a church-goer, and a whistleblower of what I believe to be illegal actions being committed right now in New York City by the members of the Board of Trustees of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, in partnership with Guide One Insurance Company, their agent Mr. Kenneth Wasserman, and the law Firm of Michael E. Pressman. The current President of the Board of Trustees is David C. Johnson, CFO of Preservation Group, (135 E 57th St., New York, NY 10022-2050), (646) 521-8530 who praised Vincente Gigante for his investment ability. A few days after I sent an email to David asking him why Vincente Gigante "the Chin" was a hero on his company's website, the entire website disappeared.
Mr Lederer and the law firm and all five of their former and present lawyers for the defendants are paid by Guide One, a very wealthy insurance company based in West Des Moines Iowa. On October 14, 2005, I wrote the Senior Management of Guide One a letter about the information I had about how their representative at the two trials of the church in the courtroom of NY State Supreme Court Lottie Wilkins had been unfair, and how their hired gun, Adam Greenberg, had left all his notes in the garbage when the second trial was finished. The Senior VP and General Counsel, Mr. Thomas C. Farr, wrote me back that there was "an open claim"; I wrote back and asked what this open claim consisted of. One month later Guide One and the new lawyer, Mr. Irvin Lederer (Adam Greenberg was fired) “convinced” Supreme Court Judge Lottie Wilkins to sign an Injunction and Order of Prior Restraint on November 22, 2005, so that my information on the real-estate financing of property for Sandeep Mathrani of Vornado Realty Trust based upon the tax breaks of MAPC, would not be posted on my website, Parentadvocates.org. About a week before the Injunction was served on me, I received a telephone call from an anonymous person who told me, "You better be quiet about the church, or you will be dead."
I wrote a brief on my First Amendment rights, and won, on December 6, 2005. The