Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement
Changing Grades and Cheating in NYC: The Saga of Lies at Cobble Hill School of American Studies and Current Chancellor of the NYC DOE Carmen Farina by Philip Nobile
To members of the Panel, I am disappointed that you did not accept my invitation to inform you about cheating in the school system. Nobody on the Panel contacted me after my statement at your April 29 meeting. You expressed zero curiosity about my claim of an ongoing crime spree, ignored by the Chancellor, involving false grades in violation of Education Law 225, Section 225.
From Betsy Combier, Editor:
I met Phil when he was a re-assigned teacher/member of the 25 Chapel Street rubber room, and I worked for the UFT as a Special Representative who had the right and authority to visit the rubber rooms and talk with the UFT members there. Phil was certainly a talker.
He also documents everything.
We shared our many facts about Carmen Farina, who "retired" in 2006 to spend more time with her family, and her husband Tony. If you believe this I have a bridge to sell you. She was forced out by NYC DOE then Chancellor Joel Klein when she became a liability of the health, safety and welfare of the education mafia known as the NYC Department of Education.
I worked with Carmen while my youngest daughter attended PS 6 in Manhattan, and Carmen Farina was Principal. The only people Carmen liked were those people who became her personal servants. I was never one of those, but I did enjoy working on the arts funding program I designed for the Annenberg Challenge For The Arts grant, given to PS 6 and PS 198 for three years, $75,000/year. Carmen has to this day never revealed where the money went. I asked her AP on May 23, 2000, and that afternoon Carmen called me up at home and screamed the worst, most obscene words at me that I have ever heard. My mom, had she known, would have taken a bar of soap and washed Carmen's mouth out. After about 20 minutes of listening to this hysterical rant, I hung up on her. I also reported her to the NYC Department of Education Office of Family Engagement for violating the NY Law on School Leadership Teams (SLTs). She was reprimanded, and removed in February 2001. Everyone at PS 6 was happy, outside of her little army of "Sturmabteilung" or brownshirts. One of her army members was Kathy Pelles, a major player in the saga detailed by Phil Nobile.
He and I agreed on at least two issues:
1. Carmen Farina should not hold any administrative office at the NYC Department of Education (see both Phil's and my stories about why we feel that way, below)
2. His story, involving cheating on tests, and the sudden turnaround of the story from cheaters getting reprimanded to cheaters not cheating at all, made no sense other than that Carmen was allowed to use the Office of Special Investigations to change the facts of the case to suit her needs. A shocking coverup.
Phil's documentation is extensive
He recently sent out the following:
To members of the Panel,
I am disappointed that you did not accept my invitation to inform you about cheating in the school system. Nobody on the Panel contacted me after my statement at your April 29 meeting. You expressed zero curiosity about my claim of an ongoing crime spree, ignored by the Chancellor, involving false grades in violation of Education Law 225, Section 225
(Unlawful acts in respect to examinations and records).
Are you not professionally and ethically bound to hear evidence of official misconduct, especially when laid in your lap and challenging the integrity and competence of the Chancellor?
Lest you assume that I am a crank and the Chancellor beyond criticism, you should know that UFT President Randi Weingarten appointed a committee in 2008 to vet my complaint against Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon’s revisionist report dissenting from my allegations of Regents cheating and cover-up at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies, a cover-up that reached into Ms. Fariña’s Region 8 Superintendent’s Office.
Incredibly, she declared to OSI and later swore to SCI that she never knew a thing about a criminal Regents scandal at Cobble Hill. Why would a Superintendent make such an absurd claim a` propos a school she oversaw led by a principal she appointed?
The answer is simple: What she did not know, she could not be blamed for covering up.
Ms. Weingarten’s vetting committee consisting of then UFT Secretary Michael Mendel, then New York Teacher investigative reporter Jim Callaghan, and NYSUT attorney Chris Callagy determined that my 142-page complaint proved that Mr. Condon’s report was fraudulent and, consequently, that his exonerations of Ms. Fariña and other DOE officials were undeserved.
For your information, I attach the excerpt on Ms. Fariña from the 2008 complaint, my updated article “The Carmen Farina Nobody Knows,” as well as my April 29 statement to the panel. If this material does not convince you that Chancellor Fariña is unfit for her high office, or at least worthy of further investigation based on the 10 questions posed at the close of “Nobody Knows,” then you are not doing your job and, in effect, joining her cover-up. Thanks for your consideration.
The Carmen Farina Nobody Knows and the cold Regents cheating and cover-up case that haunts her, the Department of Education, and the Special Commissioner of Investigation of the New York City School District
By Philip Nobile
New Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina was up to her neck in a Regents cheating and cover-up scandal at the Cobble Hill School of Americas Studies when she was Region 8 Superintendent in Brooklyn in 2004. Farina was questioned by two separate agencies—the DOE’s in-house Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the independent Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District (SCI), a unit of the Department of Investigation (DOI).
She did not emerge entirely clean. In 2005, after a yearlong inquiry the OSI investigator substantiated tampering by Cobble Hill’s Assistant Principal Humanities Theresa Capra and cover-up by both Principal Lennel George and Local Instructional Superintendent (LIS) Kathy Pelles. The investigator later testified that Farina was “dishonorable” and “lied” about a cover-up in the Superintendent’s office. In 2007, SCI strongly dissented. Their unprecedented two-year review of OSI’s inquiry found no cheating or cover-up by anybody including Farina. The investigator took it on the chin for “arriving at a number of conclusions which were not supported by the evidence.”
So who was right about the Cobble Hill affair and Farina’s role in it — the OSI investigator or the Special Commissioner? The integrity of two agencies was at stake. One of them screwed up badly, possibly corruptly. Then UFT President Randi Weingarten expressed her vexation in a letter to the City Council in April 2008:
It is a serious matter when the two public agencies charges with investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the Department of Education come to conclusions about the same situation that are not just different, but completely contradictory. There is simply no way to reconcile the two reports--if we accept the conclusions in one report, the other report is clearly wrong. Such a contradiction raises doubts about the finding of the two agencies, and puts into question the confidence the public has in the results of their investigations. The public needs to know that whatever went so wrong in the investigation of at least one of these agencies is identified and corrected.”
And now that Farina is Schools Chancellor the public also needs to know whether she is worthy of the city’s and Mayor de Blasio’s trust.
This cold Regents case has an amazing but true twist. Farina’s OSI interrogator was Lou Scarcella, the muscular ex-NYPD homicide detective currently accused of railroading countless murder suspects in Brooklyn. Although renowned in police circles for extracting confessions, he could not inveigle one out of Farina under the peculiar circumstances of their encounter. Still, her answers did not ring true. Her amnesia regarding what she knew and when she knew it seemed too precise.
Nevertheless, Scarcella tracked the cover-up right to Farina’s door in the person of LIS Pelles, her office mate at Region 8 headquarters on Livingston Street. Pelles admitted concealing the cheating allegations from investigators and, purportedly, from Farina and her successor Superintendent, Marcia Lyles. Scarcella felt that Pelles’s tale of a total office blackout was improbable. Why would a LIS ever withhold such red hot information? He was sure that she duly informed her superiors of the tribulation at Cobble Hill and that like Pelles they kept investigators in the dark in violation of Mayoral Executive Order 16, SCI’s Reporting Obligations, and DOE procedures. As much as he preferred to nail the big fishes, the buck stopped with Pelles in his report. Apparently, there was scant enthusiasm at the top of the DOE for playing hardball with these VIPs, especially since Farina had recently ascended to Tweed where she sat at the right hand of Klein as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning.
OSI’s smoking guns
It is tempting to discard with prejudice Scarcella’s judgment on Cobble Hill. But in fairness he is owed the courtesy of a credibility check, which SCI purported to do. As the original whistleblower in the case, and for it is worth, I can vouch for Scarcella conclusions as far as they went because they were based on my leads, profiling, and document drop. Among the most incriminating evidence in Scarcella’s files were:
-an indiscreet email to me from AP Capra premeditating the tampering: “Let’s try to focus on getting these kids a 65. In a pinch they can get points from writing any old garbage down, you are going to love grading time.”
-all too transparent, real time emails to me from teacher Elliot Cohen, Capra’s then boyfriend now husband, describing the “crimes” in her grading room as “obscene,” dishing “the whole thing is a sham,” and admitting “I did a ‘favor’ for 2 of my favorite students, and trust me it was ridiculous.”
-three detailed confessions from untenured Capra protégés implicating her:
“Mr. Leardi said Ms. Capra gave him examinations that were graded in the 50’s. Mr. Leardi said that when he asked Ms. Capra if it was all right to change grades from failing to passing, Mr. Leardi said that she said, ‘Yes.’ Mr. Leardi said that she ‘blessed’ the changing of failing grades in the 50’s to passing. Mr. Leardi said that he agreed to do it because he wanted to help the students who failed, and wanted to please Ms. Capra.”
“Mr. Colon said that in 2003, after the standard process of scoring essays was completed, Ms. Capra gave him a stack of papers that were failures. Mr. Colon said that Ms. Capra asked him to go back and rescore the failures. … Mr. Colon said that he passed these examinations. Mr. Colon said that deep down inside he knew this was wrong. Mr. Colon said, ‘I cheated.’ Mr. Colon said that he did this because he wanted to be part of the ‘team.’”
“Mr. Cohen said that Ms. Capra engaged in the same practice that he and Mr. Colon engaged in and she also knew it was the wrong thing to do. … Mr. Cohen said that Ms. Capra gave the graders failed tests and knew that they cheated. Mr. Cohen said, ‘She was our supervisor, she knew everything we did.’ Capra knew he was coming to OSI and said to him, ‘Tell the truth.’ … This investigator asked Mr. Cohen why Ms. Capra did this. He said, ‘To look good.’”
-three eyewitness statements from teachers in the grading room further entangling Capra:
“Mr. (Ken) Kaufman said that during the correction sessions in June 2003, Ms. Capra gave him a stack of tests that were failures and told him to pass them.”
“Mr. (Terry) Swords said that he remembers Ms. Capra saying, ‘See if you could find some points.’ Mr. Swords said that Ms. Capra handed out tests and said, ‘These tests need three points.’ Mr. Swords said that Ms. Capra asked the graders to find points on examinations (essays) that were already marked in the low 60’s.”
“Mr. Nobile said that he specifically remembered that Ms. Capra took a stack of failing examinations and handed them to Mr. Colon for scrubbing. ... Mr. Nobile said [the tampering] was done under Ms. Capra’s direction and approval.”
-a coup de grâce letter from Steven Katz, Chief of the Bureau of Assessment of the New York State Education Department (NYSED) dated April 6, 2004:
“Please review the attached copies of documents we received from Mr. Philip Nobile, a social studies teacher at Cobble Hill School for American Studies. You will note that Mr. Nobile alleges that an Assistant Principal at Cobble Hill School for American Studies, Ms. Capra, directed several non-tenured teachers to revise student scores on those two (Regents) examinations upward to over the 65 score point (passing). …
“In our judgment, the aggregation of scores assigned in the 65 -69 range (97) as compared to the 60-64 range (7) for students of the Cobble Hill School of American Studies on both (Social Studies) Regents examinations, goes beyond any dispersion, magnitude or directionality that is likely to be attributable to chance.”
Showing consciousness of guilt, Capra quickly skipped town without speaking to Scarcella or demanding an audit that could conceivably prove her innocence. She was subsequently fired from an AP job on Long Island for concealing her suspension from the DOE. So much for the cheating charge and Capra’s poor character.
As for cover-up by the Principal and LIS, the evidence was even more unassailable and involved obstruction as well:
-Principal George’s violation of city law:
Mayoral Executive Order 16 stipulates that “Every officer and employee of the City have the affirmative obligation to report, directly and without undue delay, to the Commissioner or an Inspector General any and all information concerning conduct which they know or should reasonably know to involve corrupt or other criminal activity ….”
SCI’s Reporting Obligations contains similar language: “Every officer and employee of the City School District of the City of New York, the Chancellor, the PEP and all other officers have the affirmative
obligation to report, directly and without undue delay, to the Special Commissioner of Investigation, any and all information concerning conduct which they know or should reasonably know to involve corrupt or other criminal activity”
Fact--George disclosed nothing to SCI of my repeated oral and written allegations of Regents crimes between May 2003 and May 2004. When Scarcella paid his first visit to Cobble Hill, George buried the NYSED package and the Capra/Cohen emails: “Mr. Nobile said that George is involved in a cover-up. In this investigator's first meeting with Mr. George, he did not give this investigator all the documentation with regard to this investigation.”
-LIS Pelles’s violation of city law: Fact--Not only did Pelles fail to call the cops, she clammed up in the Superintendent’s office before and after Farina left for Tweed, or so she said to Scarcella. Her defense for interring my complaint was laughable: “On one hand, she said she would inform OSCI if she received allegations (of cheating). On the other hand she admitted that she did not inform investigators of Mr. Nobile’s allegations because she only had ‘conversations’ with Mr. George about them.”
-Pelles’s and George’s obstruction:
Mayoral Executive Order 16 also outlaws “any investigation concerning corrupt or other criminal activity or conflicts of interest without the prior approval of the Commissioner or an Inspector General.”
SCI’s Reporting Obligations carries a warning against hampering investigations: “Interference with or obstruction of the Special Commissioner’s investigations or other functions shall constitute cause for removal from office or employment, or other appropriate penalty.
Acting without authorization from investigators and allegedly without Farina’s knowledge, Pelles nonchalantly okayed an illicit in-house inquiry: “I did not investigate. I allowed Mr. George to investigate. … I was at the school after February 25, 2004. Mr. George told me that a teacher told him about Regents cheating. I don’t remember what I did. It was not addressed to me. He said he would investigate. I said good luck, investigate. I did not tell the state. …I did not ask for anything in writing. There was no report.”
Predictably, George’s simulated, paperless detective work unearthed neither tampering nor cover-up. Set up as a false accuser, I made an end run to the State Education Department that in turn cast overwhelming statistical doubt on Capra’s Regents grades, and thereupon pressed Superintendent Lyles to arrange a genuine inquest into my allegations.
A Leak to the New York Times
Scarcella’s 30-page report, crammed with verbatim interview notes from all the players, was dated May 25, 2005. Despite slamdunk evidence hooking Capra, George and Pelles, there was no rush to discipline. Klein’s DOE had a notorious soft spot for prodigals in management. Weeks went by, but nothing happened. Scarcella and I feared the stall was just more cover-up. Maybe nothing would have happened if somebody had not leaked a copy of his suppressed report to the New York Times in late June, somebody probably inside OSI, maybe Scarcella himself, though he always denied it to me.
David Herszenhorn, the Times education reporter, started calling Farina. He wanted to know why the Principal was still in place. She had no good answers. Before you could say Mayoral Executive Order 16, George was unceremoniously summoned to Lyle’s office on the morning on June 27, preventing him from attending the school’s graduation. Lyles was cold-blooded. He was removed the following day and doomed to a termination hearing. In contrast, though guilty of the same offenses and theoretically held to a higher standard, Pelles escaped with only a written reprimand from the DOE stating that she “did not adequately advise the principal, Lennel George … to follow established DOE policy and report the allegations to OSCI and/or OSI.”
Was Pelles’s soft landing less a punishment than a reward for taking a bullet for her Superintendents, that is, for maintaining beyond all logic that she shielded Farina and later Lyles from news of alleged crimes in a school they supervised, led by a principal Farina had personally appointed, just as she was transitioning to Tweed to replace Diane Lam who was fired in a conflict of interest mess? As implausible as Pelles’s version seemed, consider the beneficial effect: what Farina and Lyles were not told, they could not be accused of covering up. Pelles was their alibi, but did it have legs? Read on.
An arbitrator shifts the Zeitgeist
OSI Case # 04-2907 did not die a natural death. It sprang back to life as SCI Case #2005-2006 soon after the Times broke the Cobble Hill story on July 1. (“Principal Hid Fraud on Tests In Brooklyn, Officials Say”). A confidential source channeling Scarcella’s frustration told SCI that “the cover-up extended to higher ranking officials including then Region 8 Superintendent Marcia Lyles and then Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Carmen Farina.” This tip set off a 23-month, no expense spared review of OSI’s substantiations.
On June 26, 2007, Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon sent a scorching 67-page report with 233 footnotes to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein roasting OSI on all sides. “What I say is that the investigation showed no credible evidence that there was cheating. And certainly no evidence that this principal covered up evidence that there was cheating,” Condon declared in the Times. (“New Report Clears School of Cheating, June 27, 2007)
Klein embraced SCI’s verdict that exonerated the previously guilty Capra and Pelles as well as the suspected Farina and Lyles. As for George, a funny thing transpired at his 2006 proceeding. He was acquitted of cover-up even though Arbitrator Barbara Deinhardt arguably determined otherwise when she wrote: “… it appears that at the time that Nobile brought up some question about Regents grading in the Spring of 2003, George was busy and distracted and essentially told Nobile that he didn’t have time to talk to him. … George may well have assumed that this was just one more in this series of complaints by Nobile and brushed it off in his preoccupation with other matte[r]s.”
Give me a break. My early verbal warning was the professional equivalent of a bomb threat. What could be more important to a first year principal than news of criminal activities in his building? In addition to absolving George for his brushoff in 2003, Deinhardt overlooked his subsequent bad acts in 2004, that is, covering up NYSED’s game changing letter, my memos on Capra’s cheating ring, and the incriminating emails. N.B. George did not testify that he “was busy and distracted.” Contradicting Deinhardt’s state of mind invention, he swore that our conversation never happened.
Nevertheless, Deinhardt’s non-acquittal acquittal shifted the Zeitgeist. Klein cleaned house at OSI even before Condon released his report that stung Director Theresa Europe and her Deputy Tom Hyland for “completely failing in their oversight of Scarcella” and Scarcella for being “biased from the onset” and “acting as an agent of the complainant.” Europe was demoted, Hyland fired, and Scarcella forced to resign. Despite portraying me as the Moriarity of Cobble Hill with 600-plus mentions, mostly unflattering, Condon did not charge me with misconduct or recommend any penalty, not even a letter to my file for slinging mud at immaculate educators. Although Klein treated his own people like roadkill, he sheathed his wrath with me, the scoundrel who mistook himself for a whistleblower. Wonder why.
SCI’s review of OSI’s smoking guns
It is counterintuitive to suppose that Condon’s sleuths headed by Special Counsel Eileen Daly would crank out a brazenly bogus report that, in effect, whitewashed the Cobble Hill crimes, exculpated wrongdoers, and heaped all the blame on the OSI trio and me, though strangely had no comment on the four teachers who corroborated me. Why would an outfit established to root out corruption in city schools corrupt itself by throwing a Regents case? Rather than speculate on the politics behind SCI’s revisionism, it would more productive to examine their forensics, in particular, their take on Scarcella’s rack of smoking guns catalogued above. Only then can the public realistically deduce, a` la Weingarten, which agency botched the case and Farina’s part in it.
Invoking the reasonable person standard, SCI did not have a snowball’s chance in Tahiti of subverting OSI’s substantiations … unless they argued that multiple eyewitness, both friends and foes of Capra, were not credible, that damaging documents were not covered up, that NYSED’s analysis did not count, that emails did not mean what they literally said, and that George and Pelles did not break all the rules around reporting corrupt and criminal conduct.
Or if these arguments were lacking, they would have to play it cute as below:
-Capra’s “points” for “garbage” email: SCI downgraded this ur-text to a footnote and somehow failed to gain comment from Capra on its meaning during two interviews, only three words of which were quoted. She described her relationship with Cohen circa October 2005 as “personal and tumultuous,” which was probably a reference to their broken engagement in the wake of Scarcella’s report. If she was questioned about the accusations of her teachers, NYSED’s letter, her reckless disregard for an audit, and her subsequent masquerade on Long Island, matters central to the case—her answers were missing from SCI’s report.
-Cohen’s “obscene” “crimes” emails: originally, Cohen told Scarcella that they referred to “cheating.” But he recanted at George’s hearing in 2006 after marrying Capra. SCI accepted his testimony that the overgenerous Regents “scoring rubric,” never cited in his emails, was “obscene” and caused the scoring “crimes.” But no attempt was made to reconcile Cohen’s novel claim with opposite statements by five other teachers including me. All of us affirmed that the tampering occurred after the exams were graded according to the rubric. Cohen emphasized this same point over and over in his pre-marital confession to Scarcella. One example: “Mr. Cohen said that he gave points above the rubric scale which constituted cheating.”
There was a dum-dum bullet inside this smoking gun—my kickoff email to Cohen. On the evening of June 19, 2002, we chatted on the phone about our virgin experience with Regents grading earlier that day. Both of us were surprised by the casual tampering that went on. After hanging up, I made a final point via email: “Hector (Colon) should go to work for Enron after what he did today. Good thing (then UFT Chapter Leader) Terry (Swords) wasn’t in room.” We picked up the cheating thread the next day. I wrote: “Last night you said there was a lot of hanky-panky in Global corrections. I only noticed the scrubbing at the end on a few cases like (Student A). Did I miss something?” Cohen’s answer was not: “I don’t get the Enron reference and what do you mean hanky-panky? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Instead he went with the flow: “The whole thing is a sham. Their essays were terrible all around and received points when they should have gotten ZERO.” Nothing about rubrics.
Husband Cohen can blow smoke around his meaning, but mine was unequivocal: there was cheating in June 2002. At the time, I was in my AP’s good graces and buddies with Cohen. He and I sat on the committee that interviewed her for appointment as Assistant Principal. “If only our department were filled with teachers like you, hard-working and sincere, my job would be cake. I really mean that,” she e-mailed me on June, 11, 2002, a week before Regents. In this super clubby atmosphere why would I whip up a mean, make-believe Enronesque scene reflecting terribly on my friendly AP … with her boyfriend already?
-three confessions: Two of the three personal admissions of tampering were left standing without challenge.
SCI did not speak to Leardi or comment on his three-peat of guilt to George (email), the Superintendent’s office (hand delivered letter), and Scarcella (interview).
Colon actually reaffirmed his OSI confession: “During the interview conducted under oath in the presence of his attorney at the SCI office, Hector Colon admitted that he cheated in scoring Regents exams. …‘I did change tests I shouldn’t have. I mean I didn’t follow the rules.’” If there was no cheating, Colon perjured himself, copping to a crime he did not commit. Why would an innocent teacher do that? Usually, statements against interest are deemed persuasive. `Since Condon claimed that there was no “credible evidence” of cheating, Colon’s stubborn, all too believable outpouring had to be discredited. Instead, it was reinforced. Trashing their own report as well as their boss, the SCI author(s) confirmed Colon’s credibility in two separate passages in order to save Capra:
He repeatedly testified that Capra gave him a pile of exams and told him to “take care of them” or “take care of it” with no further instructions. Colon conceded that Capra never told him to cheat, never told him to find points that were not there, and never told him to get the students to pass. Despite the absence of such an instruction from Capra, Colon concluded that she meant that he needed to give points to pass the students and he did just that. …
Colon attempted to assert that she (directed teachers to cheat), but in the end, he admitted that he changed scores of his own accord.
First, the reasonable person would understand Capra’s cryptic order to “take care of” already graded exams to mean only one thing—(wink, wink) tampering. The Information Booklet for Scoring Regents Examinations in Global History and Geography and United States History and Government neither requires nor recommends nor even mentions, and therefore could not be construed to permit, re-reading exams close to passing. Only math and science Regents mandate re-reading when the score falls between 60 and 64.
Second, let’s get real. How likely is it that “of his own accord” an untenured teacher would risk his career by changing grades in full view of his AP and without the AP catching on? N.B. SCI provided no alternative interpretation for “take care of” and apparently did not ask Capra about it.
Certainly, the most powerful flesh and blood evidence against Capra came from her grading and bed partner. Cohen lavished Scarcella with her motive, means, and opportunity. His description of an illicit after-hours huddle was a precious detail: “Mr. Cohen said that he was in Ms. Capra’s office after the official marking session ended. Mr. Cohen said that Ms. Capra gave him a stack of papers that had already been graded to official grading standards and failed. Mr. Cohen said Ms. Capra said to him, ‘re-check these.’ Mr. Cohen said that Ms. Capra implied he was to cheat.” He even estimated the number of defiled exams: “Mr. Cohen said that approximately thirty failing papers had been changed”
Yet not a syllable of Cohen’s case-clinching OSI confession appeared in SCI’s report. Instead Condon’s people canonized his subsequent post-marital testimony generously spread over three pages: “Cohen reported that Scarcella ‘coerced, bullied, and threatened (him) into believing that (he) had done something wrong.’ Cohen asserted that he ‘would have done anything to get out of the room and be away from his threats.’”
There were two problems with this sob story. First, if Scarcella bulldozed him into a false confession, how come it closely mimicked the same facts, language, and anecdotes of the other eyewitnesses? For instance, Leardi told Scarcella about an exchange with Cohen regarding a “bad kid”: “Elliot Cohen grabbed (an exam booklet) from Leardi and said, ‘This is a bad kid. He does not pass.’” Sure enough, Cohen recalled the same dialogue: “Mr. Cohen said that Mr. Leardi gave him a failing test paper and asked him if it was all right to pass the student. Mr. Cohen said that he said, ‘No, that is a bad kid, he does not pass’”
Second, SCI neglected to confirm Scarcella’s enhanced interrogation with the third person in the room--Arthur Solomon, Cohen’s UFT advocate. “It never happened,” Solomon insisted. “I would have stopped Scarcella if he had acted as badly as Cohen testified. That’s my job.” And who is more credible—a UFT rep with no reason to lie or a new husband with every reason to deny past statements inimical to his bride? Lastly, if Cohen is to be believed, he was a fabulist of genius, instantly adlibbing in a panicked state a comprehensive account of fictitious crimes orchestrated by his inamorata that coincidentally matched the statements of his colleagues.
“This has been hell for me