World
In Complicated Patz Case, Informant Could Testify About Suspect Not on Trial
The defense in the Patz murder trial will argue another man is more likelier the killer of the young boy. Jack Colbert might help make that case
 
In the late 1980s, Stuart GraBois, a federal prosecutor in New York, had become obsessed with the disappearance of a 6-year-old boy named Etan Patz. GraBois had worked with the Manhattan boy’s parents, interviewed police investigators and developed a theory: The boy, who had gone missing while on the way to school one morning in 1979, had been abducted and killed by a convicted pedophile named Jose Ramos.
 
It was not an outlandish notion. Ramos, it turned out, had been a onetime boyfriend of Patz’s regular babysitter. He could well have known the boy’s route to school. And he had a record of abusing young children.
 
GraBois, as part of his pursuit, came to work with an informant in the New York prison where Ramos was an inmate. Get him to tell you what he did to the boy, GraBois told the informant. Figure out what he had done with the boy’s body, which had never been found.
 
And so the informant, a man named Jack Colbert who was imprisoned on a fraud conviction, soon got to work at the federal facility in Otisville, N.Y. He says he first met Ramos in the prison law library, and that Ramos soon asked him for help appealing his sex crime conviction.
 
Sometimes the two attended Jewish services together. They eventually came to share a cell for a couple of months. Ramos, the informant says, occasionally would talk about the Patz case.
One night, Ramos woke him in a panic. Colbert told ProPublica what happened next.
“There’s no body,” Ramos, wild-eyed, said. “If there’s no body, can they convict me?” 
 
In the coming weeks, Colbert may get the chance to tell his story to a jury in the murder case against Patz’s accused killer. The accused, however, is not Ramos, but instead a former bodega clerk from Patz’s Manhattan neighborhood who, out of the blue in 2012, confessed to strangling the boy on the morning he went missing in May 1979. The former clerk, Pedro Hernandez, has since recanted the confession, and his lawyer has argued that he is a mentally ill man who was manipulated into a confession by detectives eager to solve one of New York’s most notorious missing child cases.
 
The lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, has made clear that he intends to argue to the jury that it is much more likely that Ramos killed Patz. Ramos, he has noted, had access to the boy and a history of abuse.
 
GraBois is expected to testify as part of Hernandez’s defense. And Colbert, whose account has only appeared in a 2009 book about the Patz case, may testify, as well. The jury has been publicly notified that Colbert may be called as a witness.
 
Colbert’s name was not disclosed in the 2009 book, “After Etan: The Missing Child Case that held America Captive,” by journalist Lisa Cohen. In 2013, ProPublica learned the informant’s identity, and interviewed him as part of its examination of the case against Hernandez. Colbert’s account of his time with Ramos was consistent with the version in the book and the one he had given GraBois years ago. GraBois has used Colbert’s information as he tried over the years to get New York prosecutors to charge and try Ramos. 
 
Fishbein has said he intends to have Ramos himself testify at Hernandez’s trial, although the judge in the case has so far indicated he will not allow that to happen. At a hearing in 2013, Ramos refused to answer questions from reporters about any role he might have played in the Patz case, according to a local news account. Telephone calls to his lawyer were not returned.
 
When ProPublica spoke to Colbert in 2013, he lived in a dilapidated home in the Bronx brimming with canned goods and boxes upon boxes of documents. During the interview, he sat hunched over an antiquated desktop computer. He took a call about an unnamed business deal involving alcohol and buyers in China.
 
He was physically disheveled, as well. He wore a dirty t-shirt and shorts that exposed a sore on his knee the size of a man’s fist, oozing puss. He was scattered and eccentric and went on long conversational tangents. He was once interrupted by a friend in the house who chimed in with his own prison story. He rarely answered a question directly.
 
But, with time, Colbert went over the details of his relationship with Ramos. He described how he met Ramos, how he was recruited to spy on him, and how he gained the information he and the Patz family once hoped would land Ramos behind bars for life. While he said he still feared Ramos, he was no less sure of Ramos’ guilt.
 
“I believe he did it and I believe he did other kids too,” Colbert said. 
 
In 1989, Colbert was three years into a 13-year prison sentence. He had been convicted of running an international fraud scheme – purchasing expired chemicals in the United States and selling them at a large profit in developing nations. 
 
Ramos, Colbert said, cut an odd figure at Otisville. He was unkempt. He stank. He attempted to grow and wear his hair in the style customary for Hasidic Jewish men. Ramos, in fact, was Puerto Rican and from the mostly Catholic South Bronx.
 
Colbert said Ramos soon told him he knew the Patz family personally because a woman he described as his “wife” used to babysit Etan. Ramos said he’d been in the Patzs’ SoHo apartment, and he described its high ceilings.
 
Colbert, it turned out, knew GraBois. He had met him once at the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York when he was first brought in on the fraud charges. They were from the same Bronx neighborhood. So, in 1990, the informant wrote to GraBois, relayed what Ramos had told him, and offered further help.
 
By then, GraBois was eager to make a case against Ramos. He had questioned him once, two years earlier. Ramos had told him he saw Etan in Washington Square Park the day he went missing, that he had brought him back to his apartment, and that he had tried to have sex with him. The boy had resisted, and Ramos said he put him on the subway.
 
GraBois arranged for Colbert to share a cell with Ramos in the prison’s Segregated Housing Unit. The two would spend nearly every waking minute together. Colbert said he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. He told ProPublica that Ramos was temperamental and possessive. When an elderly inmate once tried to use Ramos’ favorite typewriter in the law library, Ramos picked it up over his head and threatened to bludgeon the man with it.
 
Ultimately, Colbert had two separate stays with Ramos, once for two weeks, the second time for at least a month. Through both stints, Ramos would often ramble on about Patz, contradicting himself frequently. One minute, Colbert said, Ramos would say Patz was alive; the next, he’d say the boy was dead.
 
Colbert, by his account, managed to gather what felt like evidence. At one point, he and Ramos had a conversation about lower Manhattan and Ramos told him he knew where all of Etan’s school bus stops were located. He drew him a map. 
 
GraBois eventually sent a second informant in to work on Ramos, and used the information provided by both men as part of an appeal to then Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. For years, the District Attorney’s office had kept the case open. GraBois laid out his information: Ramos’ near confession to him; his known relation to the Patz babysitter; his history of sexual abuse; and the work of his two informants.
 
In 2002, Etan’s father, Stan Patz, met with Morgenthau’s deputies and begged them to prosecute Ramos.
 
“I just want to get the bastard who fucked over my son!” Patz, in a final plea, screamed at the Manhattan prosecutors, according to Cohen’s book, “After Etan.”
 
Morgenthau chose not to prosecute and eventually explained his decision.
 
“We spent a huge amount of time on that case,” he said. “If we could go to a grand jury, we would in a minute. There’s no sufficient evidence and there’s absolutely no reason to open a grand jury investigation where you don’t have any admissible evidence.”
 
GraBois was disappointed.
 
“I’ve always maintained that reasonable people differed,” GraBois told ProPublica in an interview in 2013. “They felt we didn’t have enough evidence—fine. We always felt we did. But it was their decision and I have to respect it.”
 
The Patz family did pursue a measure of justice by filing and winning a civil wrongful death case against Ramos in April 2004.
 
When Cyrus Vance succeeded Morgenthau in 2010, he too, declined a request to prosecute Ramos.
 
Now Vance’s office will have to reckon with the evidence against Ramos in a different way.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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Nifty, Sensex uptrend continues – Wednesday closing report

Nifty will weaken if it closes below 8,820

 

We had mentioned in Monday’s closing report that the NSE’s CNX Nifty may come under pressure if it closes below 8,750. Indian stock market was closed on Tuesday for Mahashivratri. On Wednesday, the market opened marginally higher followed by a range bound session in the green. The upmove suddenly gained momentum after 1.30pm but gave up a lot of gains towards the end. The benchmark indices are unable to convincingly breach their recent high.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex opened at 29,136 while Nifty opened at 8,812. Sensex hit its low at the outset of 29,127 while Nifty reached the low of 8,809. Both Sensex and Nifty,  hit a high at 29,411 and 8,894, respectively. Sensex closed at 29,320 (up 184 points or 0.63%) while Nifty closed at 8,869 (up 60 points or 0.68%). NSE recorded a volume at 123.42 crore shares. India VIX rose 0.42% to close at 20.9125.
 
The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, after trading hours on Monday said that there is no shortage of fertilizers in the country. In February 2015 against the requirement of 16.71 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of urea, the supply plan has been made for 29.6 lakh MT out of which 14.71 lakh MT has already been made available till 15 February 2015, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers said.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg on Monday announced a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Ministry of Urban Development to advance the smart cities initiative in India.
Inaugurating Aero India 2015 in Bengaluru, Prime Minister Modi said his government did not want India to be the biggest importer of defence equipment in the world and vowed to double output of defence manufacturing in the country.
 
The yearly SBI Composite Index, a leading indicator for tracking primarily manufacturing activity in Indian economy, inched up to a two month high of 52.9 (moderate growth) in February 2015 from 52.1 (moderate growth) in January 2015. In contrast, the monthly index slipped to 48.3 (low decline) in February 2015 from 52.1 (moderate growth) in January 2015. The sharp contraction in the month on month index may be attributed to less number of working days in February compared to January, according to Ecowrap, which is an economics research publication from State Bank of India (SBI).
 
Coming back to Indian stock markets, Suzlon Energy (16.78%) was the top gainer in ‘A’ group on the BSE. Dilip Shanghvi Family and Associates have made an open offer to buy another 26% stake for Rs2,837 crore in the company. Recently Sun Pharma promoter Shanghvi and family acquired 23% stake in Suzlon Energy for a total consideration of Rs1,800 crore.
 
Rural Electrification Corp (6.52%) was the top loser in ‘A’ group on the BSE.
 
HDFC (2.96%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30 pack while Hero MotoCorp (5.09%) was the top loser in the pack. Hero MotoCorp was in news for the Munjal family, the promoters of Hero MotoCorp, were planning to selling part of their personal stake worth $300 million on Wednesday to invest in power and real estate sector.
 
US indices closed Tuesday marginally higher.
 
Except for KLSE Composite (0.12%), NZSE 50 (0.15%) all the Asian indices which were trading today closed in the green. Nikkei 225 (1.18%) was the top gainer.
 
The stock market in mainland China is closed for this entire week starting today, 18 February 2015, for the Lunar New Year holiday.
 
European indices were trading in the green. US Futures were showing mixed trading.
 
Debt talks between Greece and its creditors fell apart abruptly late Monday. Greece's new anti-austerity government rejected an extension to its 240-billion-euro ($272 billion) bailout program under the conditions offered by its European partners. A new Eurogroup meeting may be reportedly scheduled for Friday.
 

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MMRDA splurges Rs4.29 crore on air travels mostly for 'Study Tours'

According to an RTI reply received by Anil Galgali, the MMRDA has spent Rs4.29 crore on air travels, majority for study tours of ministers and bureaucrats  

 

The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has spent almost Rs4.29 crore on air travel, a major chunk of which comprises 'study tours' of ministers, bureaucrats and even personal assistant (PA)'s of ministers, reveals a Right to Information (RTI) reply.
 
According to a reply received by RTI activist Anil Galgali, between 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2014, MMRDA spent Rs1.42 crore on domestic air travel on 626 occasions like meetings, study tours or other reasons. MMRDA, which is executing developmental projects worth thousands of crores in the MMR region comprising of Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Palghar and Raigad districts, also spent Rs2.86 crore for international travel for 39 trips.
 
Those who went on foreign trips through MMRDA include the Authority officials, chief ministers, ministers, chief secretary, secretary for urban development, BMC commissioner, GM of BEST and PAs of ministers.
 
MMRDA's highest tour expenses of Rs49.18 lakh was recorded in the 14-days study tour to Malaysia, China, Canada, US and Japan. The then ministers of State Rajesh Tope, Sunil Deshmukh, Rajendra Shingne, UD Secretary Ramanand Tiwari and Sanjay Ubale, BEST GM Swadheen Kshatriya, Dy Secretary Sudhakar Nagnure, Dr T Chandrashekhar, PRK Murthy, and PA to UD MOS CS Thorat went on this study tour.
 
After this a tour to Switzerland, Sweden, France and Germany was undertaken by MOS Rajesh Tope, Mumbai Mayor Shubha Raul, Secretary to CM CS Sangitrao, Dy Secretary Suresh Kakani, Shankar Deshpande and also political corporators, Ashish Shelar and Rajesh Singh, this study tour costed Rs49.08 lakh on air tickets only and was undertaken to study urban planning, traffic and transportation and Urban development, the RTI reply reveals. 
 
Similarly Chief Minister Ashok Chavan along with Chief Secretary JP Dange, PA Nitin Kareer and Principal Secretary UD TC Benjamin went on a 10 days trip to US, Malaysia and Singapore between 12th June and 21 June 2010. This tour cost the MMRDA a whopping Rs43.34 lakh and was undertaken to attend desalination plant, monorail plan inspection, city and urban planning tour. 
 
MMRDA Commissioner Rahul Asthana and Additional Commissioner Ashwini Bhide's three day trip to London (24th to 26 November 2011 cost Rs20.35 lakh and was undertaken to attend a conference on Infrastructural Finance. 
 
Apart from this a trip to Washington and London was organised as study tour as well as attending the Transport Forum and Study Tour costing Rs19.90 lakh comprising of Principal Secretary UD Benjamin, Additional Commissioner (MMRDA) Ashwini Bhide, SVR Srinivasan and PRK Murthy. 
 
MMRDA Commissioner Ajit Warty and MUTP Project Director UPS Madan undertook an eight day trip to Washington for MUTP project coordination and understandings along with UD Principal Secretary Ramanand Tiwari in 2002 costing Rs5.74 lakh. 
 
Afterwards a study trip of 14 days was undertaken to Kuala Lampur, Bangkok and Singapore costing Rs7.66 lakh comprising of Dr T Chandrashekhar, PRK Murthy, UD Principal Secretary Ramanand Tiwari & Ex MMRDA Commissioner AK Mago. There were also singular trips undertaken by Ratnakar Gaikwad (London), Rahul Asthana (Italy, Greece, Osaka), SVR Srinivasan (London), Dilip Kawathkar (Frankfurt), Smt Vijayalakshmi (US), SB Pardeshi (Rotterdam), Uma Adusumili (Japan), AR Wankhede (China, Hongkong), RC Dohore (China, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia), Sharad Varaskar (Seoul, Korea). The trips by these officials from the finance, legal and technical advisers with study tour for noise barriers and better air quality raise suspicions.
 
Galgali said, "MMRDA Commissioners have undertaken and organised foreign jaunts for persons not connected to MMRDA as if a village feast is generally organised. Ministers and officers not connected with MMRDA along with their PA's too have enjoyed this largess". 
 
Galgali has sent a letter to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadanavis and MMRDA Commissioner UPS Madan demanding an inquiry on the foreign trips undertaken. 
 
"In the era of IT, there are services like Video conferencing technology being ignored in MMRDA, which is widely utilised by corporates to save valuable time and money, why is such options not utilized by MMRDA for domestic and international meetings?" Galgali said.
 

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