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The Right Thing

Dear Rick,

As you may remember, this past spring and summer were over heated due to not only record drought and temperatures but also a battle between passionate factions defending the right and well being of two opposing members of our local community. An altercation involving Luis Ochoa and Mark Dombrowski took place in Montauk, setting off one of the most contentious public campaigns of newspaper spin, letter writing, and inappropriate, coercive lobbying of local and county law enforcement, town officials, and clergy by community and outside activists. This small group attempted to force their own one sided, short sighted views and agendas on the entire populace. Groups attacked both sides at every level of power. Their inappropriate influence on officials created more damage than good. They failed, as these groups usually do, to look at both sides, the future effects of any outcome, and the well being of the entire community. They capriciously used this simple case of road rage and the two men involved as pieces in play.

Ultimately they were told to leave the situation alone. They were urged to quiet down and allow our judicial system to determine a just verdict and closure to this case. Finally, after much outcry from the public, they did. The D.A. completed his job unfettered by political threats and public whipping. He was unafraid and so did a thorough and fair investigation.

I was fortunate enough to be in the courtroom Thursday morning as the D.A. and our local Justice decided the fate of Mr. Dombrowski. I heard the negotiations (not much privacy and no attempt to hide anything). Ultimately it was a simple determination based on the fact that the "complaining witness" and the state were unable to prove this case. At the time of the incident, police did not find evidence of injuries substantial to the charges levied by the "victim." In order to prove his case and despite being directed by authorities to undergo further, more intense physical examination, he either would not or could not show evidence of the "beating" he supposedly sustained.

After the acrimony and animosity created by undue force these groups exerted, justice was served. Mr. Ochoa was represented energetically and with diligence. Mr. Dombrowski was meted an honest and fair punishment. I left the courtroom surprised, pleased, and proud of the people who stood up and did the "right thing." Even with all the pressure to slam this guy, his rights were also protected.

I read a small blurb in Newsday wherein Michael O'Neill of the local anti bias task force commended the courage of conviction exhibited by Mr. Ochoa. I feel as he does. With the heat generated by this case, it would have been easy to simply let it go.

It should be known that Mr. Dombrowski could at many points in the legal proceedings simply have pleaded out of his situation. A quick and relatively painless end to his situation was offered. With the lack of evidence to back up allegations, offers of lesser charges and lesser punishments were offered. Dombrowski stood firm in his knowledge. He had not inflicted the brutality and injury alleged. He would not be railroaded or bullied!

He also recognized the importance of his particular case as it would affect future policy and practice. Because of his refusal to take the easy way out he has reinforced every citizens' right to a fair trial. It was his right to be judged solely on the evidence provided, and not used to incite discourse, further a cause or create careers. While suffering abusive and inappropriate personal attacks, his quiet and patience during these proceedings allowed the community to find a more peaceful resolution to what promised to be a deeply traumatic split in our race relations here in town. are to be commended. Politics lost out this time around!


Editor's Note: Newsday, and members of the Anti-Bias Task Force, still routinely refer to Ochoa as a "beating victim" even though there is no evidence of a physical altercation and despite the fact the court threw out the charge.

April 04, 2006

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