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Perfetto gets community service in ‘attack’ on legal system

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Former Bay Ridge District Leader Ralph Perfetto was slapped with 70 hours of community service for masquerading as a lawyer in 2008 after a judge agreed with a prosecutor’s assertion that the victimless crime was “an attack on the heart of the legal system.”

Judge Alexander Jeong hit Perfetto with the sentence after prosecutor Om Kakani demanded 300 hours of punishment, arguing that pretending to be a lawyer is anything but a trivial offense.

“This crime was an attack on the heart of the legal system,” Kakani said. “It’s his hubris that has led us to this stage. He wants to blame everybody else for what he did.”

A jury had convicted Perfetto, a boxer turned private investigator, for pretending to be a lawyer for his cousin at a routine arraignment proceeding on Aug. 21, 2008. Little of substance was discussed at that hearing before Judge Evelyn LaPorte; Perfetto claims that he merely answered the judge’s questions and that a court officer told him to sign the document, known as a “notice of appearance.”

DA Charles Hynes initially pursued the case, but then recused himself, citing the Shore Road resident’s political work.

So the case was handled by Kakani, a Staten Island Assistant District Attorney, who tackled the case as if he was handling a murder trial — the murder of the justice system itself. The conviction could have put Perfetto in the slammer for a year.

The former district leader opted not to use the sentencing hearing to atone, choosing instead to tell Jeong that an honest mistake had been made — and not by him.

Perfetto admitted that he signed the court document that only lawyers can sign, but it wasn’t his fault.

“The Notice of Appearance that I signed was hastily pushed in front of me to sign by the court officer,” Perfetto said. “I’m a detail-oriented person, but I was not given time to question it.”

The always nattily-dressed Perfetto said people often mistake him for an attorney, but that’s not his fault.

“My nine days in this courtroom convinced me of the lack of respect many people have [in] court, and why court personnel would assume, based upon my business attire, that I was an attorney.” Perfetto said, adding that nowadays, the only people wearing ties in court are attorneys.

“I did not enter the building through the attorney’s entrance, but though the scanners with everyone else. Each time I did so, the court officers asked me why I was passing through the scanners, I simply answered, ‘I’m not an attorney.’ ”

Kakani did show some compassion at the sentencing hearing, asking that the community service that Perfetto, who turned 77 this week, be forced to perform befit someone of his years. His more than 50 years as a civic activist and public servant should also be taken into account, he said.

“We don’t want to see him on the side of the road picking up trash,” Kakani explained.

The case file has not yet been sent to Hynes’s community service program, so it is unclear what service Perfetto will be ordered to perform.

Jeong agreed that Perfetto’s punishment should be “based on his age and his history of community service” — but he couldn’t hide his displeasure at Perfetto’s actions.

“You did practice law without a license,” he told the elderly private eye. “What you did was like someone performing surgery and then announcing that he never practiced medicine, so some punishment is appropriate.”

In the end, Perfetto said that the trial taught him a valuable lesson.

“If I’m ever in this situation again, I’m going to wear a sign around my neck saying, ‘I’m not an attorney,’ ” he said.

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Reader Feedback

Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
Can they give him a weed wacker and let him cut down the 3 feet high weeds at Shore Rd Park? The Parks Dept never cuts them.
July 19, 2011, 10:29 am
tony giordano from sunset park says:
By my estimate, Ralph has already performed 73,000 hours of community service in his life. And it did not require a court to get him to do it. It was from his heart.

This is just another indication of how preposterous this entire episode has been.
July 19, 2011, 12:23 pm
Clinton Judd from Houston says:
Crack the lawyer's voice,
That he may never more false title plead,
July 19, 2011, 12:57 pm
John F from Bay Ridge says:
The editors and owners of this newspaper should be ashamed for the "Photoshop" job. Or is this your take on journalistic ethics? I do not know Ralph Perfetto, only hearing about him from "neighborhood papers", but this is uncalled for. This is not an editorial cartoon, you deliberately manipulated two separate photos.
I hope Mr. Perfetto has some legal recourse, and if not, I hope this transgression on your part costs you in some way.
I'll start - did you have permission from AP and Alan Mothner to use (and deface) their picture?
July 19, 2011, 1:34 pm
CPK from Bay Ridge says:
For Ralph community service is a way of life and he would never consider it a punishment. Since he should never have been prosecuted that is a good thing.
July 19, 2011, 2:25 pm
BlastIt from BayRidge says:
Disgusting disrespectful cartoon of a servant of the people for 50 years. The charges were absurd from the beginning and in retaliation for some political wrong someone felt. The blood-thirsty prosecutor was intent on making his mark. Well, he did. He has helped convict an innocent person and whether you like or dislike Perfetto personally, no one has or ever will help as many people resolve issues or surpass his record of service to an ungrateful constituency. You all deserve the new Dem. leaders because they will give you everything you're entitled to...NOTHING!
July 19, 2011, 10:58 pm
George from Bay Ridge says:
Fitting judgement for the wrong that was made by Mr. Perfetto. If you do the crime you do the time and he did the crime.
July 22, 2011, 6:38 pm
A True Public Spirit from Brooklyn says:
Sometimes people don't deserve the accolade “public servant".

This case showed several: Horrible Hynes, Dirty Donovan, kah-kah-poo Om Kakani and lastly the disgustingly sanctimonious Judge Alexander Jeong, "... an attack on the heart of the legal system.”

Another political hit has been carried out in a Brooklyn Court, and that is "... an attack on the heart of the legal system.”

How much tax money was expended on this persecution of a man who stood up for his cousin when he was in trouble?
July 23, 2011, 12:21 am
George, Who doesn't Get it from Bay Ridge says:
"George from Bay Ridge",

YOU DON'T GET IT. There was no crime, don't be fooled by the results of this "Kangaroo Court".

It was these politically motivated charges and what Judge Alexander Jeong allowed the flim-flam prosecutors to do that were "... an attack on the heart of the legal system”, not what was done by a lone elderly man, who had every right to do what he did.
July 24, 2011, 3:35 pm
Noise makers from Around New York says:
This case will not go away or be quietly swept under the rug. The furor is growing.
July 24, 2011, 7:44 pm
CLEO & THOMAS from MANHATTAN says:
"RESPECT" IS THE WORD IN REGARD TO MR. PERFETTO
WHO HAS DONE COMMUNITY SERVICE ALL HIS LIFE.
SO MANY PEOPLE ARE SAVED AND EXIST BECAUSE OF HIS
DEDICATION TO HIS WORK. UNLIKE OTHERS WHO ARE
PURE BUREAUCRATS AND WE SAW ONE IN COURT AS WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION.
Aug. 1, 2011, 12:14 pm
Bari Salau from Staten Island says:
Perfecto is a good man. Honest and popular and could not have pretended to be a lawyer and there was no where he had claimed to be so.For him to have been indicted for ingnorantly signing a blank space purported to be exclusive for a lawyer without any further evidence amounts to travail of justice.For a juror to have claimed to have put in a straight jacket without examining the motive behind Ralph's action is a failure of the jurist system.I believe it has some political motivation from friends with whom one needs no enemy.As an Ombustman ,Perfecto has helped people like me to escape from the strangulation of red tapism.
Aug. 1, 2011, 1:42 pm

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