Chris Smith: Tony Ricco’s Racial PoliticsIt’s textbook defense-lawyer strategy: dirty up the victim. And, yesterday, during opening arguments at the Sean Bell trial, the tactic was on full display, as the man who died in a hail of 50 NYPD bullets took a few more blows, this time to his reputation and character. Totally predictable, cringe-inducing — and entirely necessary if you’re defending the detectives who killed a seemingly defenseless man hours away from his wedding. What makes the argument far more interesting, and potentially more powerful, is the defense lawyer who’s using it. Anthony Ricco is one of the city’s most gifted defense attorneys. He also happens to be black and Muslim, and he favors fedoras and eyeglasses straight from the Malcolm X catalogue. While Ricco’s race helps mute the blue-versus-black story line and regularly draws him taunts from simplistic racial demagogues like councilman Charles Barron, the attitude Ricco deploys on behalf of his vilified clients is fascinatingly complicated.
in other news
Linda Stein Could Not Have Blown Pot Smoke in Natavia Lowery’s FaceAn autopsy on the body of real-estate broker Linda Stein, who was allegedly killed by her assistant Natavia Lowery at the end of October, has revealed that there was no marijuana in her system at the time of her death. This rips a hole in Lowery’s defense strategy, as she has claimed she was driven into a rage after Stein yelled at her and repeatedly blew marijuana smoke into her face. It was that incensed rage, Lowery said, that led her to shatter Stein’s skull with a yoga bar. But police sources told the Post that even a small amount of marijuana would have showed up in her system, and the toxicological tests on Stein’s body, completed last week, revealed nothing. (Lawyers for Lowery say that she “made things up to get out of the interrogation room,” including the marijuana-smoke story, and even the murder confession.) This is good news for prosecutors, who are trying to build up a narrative that Lowery had been using her boss’ credit cards and bank accounts and killed her when she was caught. But it raises the question: Why did it take over three months for toxicology reports to come in on her death and just ten days for Heath Ledger’s? Not that we’re surprised that his got rushed through after all the public scrutiny, but that’s an awfully big time difference. We fully expect an offensive Sean Delonas cartoon about this matter in “Page Six” tomorrow, most likely involving some bodyguards pushing around some wimpy gay forensic scientists, at the orders of a skeletal Mary-Kate Olsen.
SLAY EXCUSE BLOWN [NYP]
in other news
The ‘Post’ Still in the Anger Stage of Dealing With Heath Ledger’s DeathWe are still several days away from finding out results of the toxicology reports being done on Heath Ledger’s body, but the New York Post is still having trouble with the fact that, as yet, there is no one to blame. Last week, we were surprised at all of the heat they brought on Mary-Kate Olsen. They put her face on the cover and claimed she was to be questioned by police (they stand by the story, but cops are now saying they won’t be speaking with the actress). Olsen is involved, as even your golden retriever must know by now, because the masseuse who found Ledger’s body mysteriously called her before calling 911. Olsen sent in her bodyguards rather than calling the police. After we and other Websites like Gawker.com pointed out the contradiction between the paper’s story and what police were saying, we were e-mailed with a blusterous comment from Post editor Col Allan, which implied that the police were “afraid” of Olsen and that’s why they wouldn’t question her. Then, they followed up on Saturday with a photo-free cover, which asked “WHY” the police weren’t questioning Olsen. There was an interior editorial that day explaining that the tabloid was receiving “dark communications” from Olsen’s lawyers, threatening them.
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Heath Ledger: Covering the Coverage (Updated)Today’s coverage of Heath’s Ledger’s death doesn’t answer many more of the questions that his fans are asking one another. Police are no longer touting suicide as the cause, and his family has declared it was an accident. Looking through the stories, blog posts, and online videos, though, provides a telling peek into the way the actor affected people, and how no one quite knows how to handle his death.
• According to some police sources, Heath’s ex-girlfriend Michelle Williams kicked him out of their shared Brooklyn home because of a drug problem “that got worse after he left.” Williams, the mother of their 2-year-old child, Matilda, has said she is “devastated.” [NYDN]
• The masseuse who discovered the body didn’t first call the police; she called the actress Mary-Kate Olsen, another client. Olsen told her to immediately call the authorities. [PageSix.com]
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Imette St. Guillen’s Killer Worked As Cop Informant?It turns out that the turmoil over the violent death of Imette St. Guillen isn’t quite over. Radar reports that her killer, Darryl Littlejohn, was actually a police informant who may have kept himself out of jail by helping cops in a drug case. Littlejohn was a career criminal who hashed out the deal with the Nassau County District Attorney’s office after getting indicted on armed robbery charges in 1997. In 1998 his testimony helped convict several drug dealers in federal court. In early 2006, he is accused of grabbing 24-year-old St. Guillen from outside of the Falls, a Soho bar where he worked as a bouncer, and later raping, torturing, and murdering her. While Littlejohn is currently cooling his heels in Rikers awaiting trial, we suspect the tabloids will get all heated up over this new development in the next few days.
College Student’s Alleged Killer Actually a Police Informant [Radar]
Related: Last Call [NYM]
early and often
Cop-Union Honcho Takes a Bite Out Of GiulianiGiuliani must have known this day was coming. The New York City policemen’s union, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, has publicly turned against his candidacy. According to the Post, in another blow to Giuliani’s NYC credibility, PBA honcho Patrick Lynch said his group “could never support Rudy Giuliani for any elected office.” Lynch’s beef with the former mayor is over contract disputes that tarnished the end of his mayoralty. Now, never mind the fact that it’s basically Lynch’s job to gripe about cop salaries — Lynch also pretty much owes his position to Giuliani’s tightfistedness. He was elected as head of the PBA in a surprise upstart election, running in 1999 at a time of major policeman frustration with Giuliani. Still, even though it was surely expected, the presidential candidate’s camp couldn’t muster much of a stinging comeback to Lynch’s attacks. “Mayor Giuliani has always had, and continues to have, strong support from law enforcement,” said a spokeswoman, in a statement that, aside from being demonstrably untrue, is also kind of boring. His camp is probably banking on the fact that this story won’t go far outside the city limits. People here know how the cops feel about Rudy, but outside he’s still cashing in on the fact that most people probably think he actually is a cop. Just like how people outside the city think he actually is a Yankees fan.
COP RUNNETH OVER [NYP]
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Portman, Stripper Experience Dog DramaIt’s a bad week for dog lovers. First, we learn that Natalie Portman’s beloved mutt, Charlie, has died. In an interview with the Syndey Telegraph, Portman told a reporter that the pooch she once described as “the only man in her life” is now passed away. (This is the adorable one she took on Letterman.) “I love dogs,” she lamented. “They’re better than people.” Man, when you’re right, you’re right. Then, we learn that a thief has stolen the two Malteses of a Scores stripper. “They’re my life. They’re everything to me,” said exotic dancer Daisy Rojas of little Charles and Darwin. “They’re my children.” Quoth the News:
Rojas said the dogs were tied to scaffolding with their matching Louis Vuitton leashes outside the Sofrito restaurant on E.57th St. near First Ave.
Rojas may not have taken her dogs on Letterman, but she takes them very seriously nonetheless. She had a portrait of herself painted with them, got a tattoo of their names in a secret body location (who knew strippers had those?), and she even had them baptized. “We’ll find those dogs,” vowed a police source. “We’re definitely going to take care of it.” Man, if there’s one thing cops will do anything for, it’s, um, dogs.
Poised Portman is Pretty Perfect [Sydney Daily Telegraph]
Scores Stripper’s 2 Pooches Dognapped on Upper East Side [NYDN]
in other news
Cops Begin Interviews in Linda Stein MysteryMurdered broker to the stars Linda Stein had made sets of keys for several friends and co-workers, including her former aide Raul Diaz Bernal. Police are hoping to speak to all of them as they investigate who might have accessed her apartment and bludgeoned Stein to death. They interviewed Bernal, 49, last night. He was fired by Stein a few months ago from the brokerage firm Prudential Douglas Elliman, reports the Post, after a fight over a commission. Her friends, who used to call Bernal “The Cuban,” say he was the only one of her close colleagues who didn’t call with condolences after her death. Cops also interviewed her 62-year-old former Italian lover, Francisco Arena, says the Daily News. They’re next hoping to track down Stein’s high-end pot dealers (she used the drug to help combat the pain from her bouts with cancer), who friends say regularly accessed the apartment. Since surveillance videos have turned up no leads yet, police hope these interviews will shed new light on the gruesome case.
Slay Sleuths Eye Axed Aide [NYP]
Ex-lover, pot dealer on list of people eyed in Linda Stein slay [NYDN]
Earlier: Remembering Linda Stein
Not a Good ThingMartha Stewart’s driver was arrested for undisclosed reasons, and Stewart flipped out because he is Egyptian. Paula Abdul whines and moans a lot on her upcoming Bravo reality show, but it’s good TV. Actors from the Lord of the Rings trilogy are suing New Line, claiming the studio owes them a cut of merchandising revenue. Jean-Georges Vongerichten is set to open an authentic Japanese eatery where 66 used to be in Tribeca. HBO co-president of programming Richard Plepler, ICM agent Esther Newberg, and Lorne Michaels all back Chris Dodd for president. Barbra Streisand may star in a one-woman show on Broadway after her European tour.