Dontay: A Martyr for Change

On Monday night, I attended the Albany Common Council meeting which, for the most part, was a protest against DA Soares, “Mayor” Sheehan and the Albany Police for the lack of indictment in the death of Dontay Ivy. I must say that I can’t blame the protesters. As much as I support our police, I also know that there are many other people in other parts of the city that would not have been as aggressively approached by the APD at that time of night.

The APD/DA found no fault on the part of the police officers involved, and, with that I agree also…but, if we look at the APD as a whole there are a lot of issues that might have been a better use of public time than pursuing Dontay Ivy on that cold April night. As was pointed out by several speakers on Monday, with my head nodding in agreement, citizens reported many incidents of open air drug dealing and use, drinking and menacing on the streets, and numerous violations much more serious than going to the store for candy. If the police arrived at all when called for clear and witnessed violations of the law, the speakers indicated that the APD advised the perpetrator to move along. (I know this is the case as it has happened to me.)

Of course, I understand that the time and energy spent booking a homeless person is wasted time and energy for the police and the court system, however, “moving the person along” does nothing but endanger the next citizen he comes in contact with…and that next person may not have the fortitude to stand up to an aggressive or violent homeless person with nothing to lose.

So, where do we go from here?

The frustrations for all the players in this equation are real, all members of the community are frustrated and many are critical of the actions of the police. The police are frustrated as each confrontation is potentially a life threatening or media event for them. Elected officials are particularly perplexed not only for the uprising of the citizens in protest but for their complex political entanglement with the unions.

I was not at all surprised that the DA took this case at the time that he did….you see, David Soares, or any DA in New York, has control of the indictments…they also have the pleasure of blaming any indictment decisions on the citizens through the Grand Jury process. Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of New York state, coined the following term in reference to the DA’s sway over the Grand Jury that he can “indict a ham sandwich” if he so wishes. According to Wachtler, and my court-watching, Grand Juries "operate more often as the prosecutor's pawn than the citizen's shield."

With the Dontay Ivy case, the resolution was predictable from the beginning. The officers involved in the situation, one in particular, often works with the DA, testifying and preparing for court cases. When the DA took the case, I advised anyone who would listen, that he “will bury it.” DA Soares seemed to have come to the conclusion that “burying the death of Dontay Ivy” was not going to be as easy as he first thought.

With some Soares charm, he befriended the Ivy family members and convinced them that he would bring Dontay justice. (Yeah, I got a chuckle….I don’t think Soares knows how to spell justice.) Soares’ options in “dismissing” the case grew more and more limited with the public pressure. Soares’ Hail Mary pass to the Attorney General was knocked down by Governor Cuomo….twice. The DA was stuck with the Ivy “hot potato.”

Soares had to bite the bullet and make a decision…that decision was not between the black community and the white police officers as many shouting “black lives matter” believe….it was much worse. The decision made by Soares was based on politics. You see, David Soares’ decision was based on his own political ambition and self-preservation. Council 82 is one of the most powerful, deep pocketed and vindictive unions in the U.S and there is no love lost between them and David Soares.. Without the support of Council 82 (many of which I count as friends) an election is beyond challenging.

If you’re wondering, Council 82 represents County Corrections Officers, County Law Enforcement, Municipal Law Enforcement, Dispatchers, State Corrections, State Law Enforcement, Law Enforcement Civilian Employees, Private Law Enforcement and Retirees from all these institutions. They are a force to be reckoned with and a group that I want on my side in a battle. The leadership at Council 82 protects their officers and they hesitate at nothing to do so…that’s what they do….and they do it well.

Now, for Soares, what would have happened had that “ham sandwich” been indicted? First, he would have the County foot the bill for a “fake” trial which, of course, he wouldn’t prosecute very hard. (wink, wink) The unions would have two years to mount a damning campaign in opposition to his re-election and, in addition to being under the Guv’s (AG’s) microscope….the DA would have to watch his back 24 hours a day through to the next election.

It was with great sincerity that Soares chose to shit on the citizens rather than on anyone with political clout or funding. He held the hands of the Ivy family while choosing his political ambition over the good of the community. But, to be clear….Soares’ decisions are not a slap in the face to ONLY the black community….but to all citizens. Soares is gambling on the short memories and apathy of the community. He is counting on voters in certain communities NOT sitting on future grand juries that might o against his “charm” to indict even when the District Attorney doesn’t recommend it.

Sure, there was a lot of drama at the Common Council meeting last night but how many of those people voted for Lee Kindlon when he ran against David Soares? Our community needs to stop being outraged at events which occurred partly due to our own apathy. If you are truly outraged by the lack of an indictment from the DA and the support of that non-action by the APD and Mayor, walk your talk….every day...be outraged at the little injustices as well as the huge injustices.

With this being Election Day, we can take the first step in making responsible decisions. When you vote for a candidate you don’t know just because they have a “D” after their name, you are creating your own little injustice. If you aren’t informed about a candidate, don’t vote for them because they have the same political brand as you, write your own name in….but vote responsibly.

A few months ago, I was lamenting the capacity of DA Soares when I was told with a laugh from a politico…”he’s the worst District Attorney we’ll have forever.” I hope that this outrage can change that….but I have very little hope.

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