Putnam Sheriff Campaigned for Years for Charges Against DA

Smith implored agencies to investigate Levy

By Chip Rowe

This was no ordinary political feud.

Over more than three years, Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith repeatedly wrote state and federal officials imploring them to investigate the county’s then-district attorney, Adam Levy.

The Journal News obtained letters written on Putnam County Sheriff’s Office letterhead to the FBI, U.S. attorney’s office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the state attorney general and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking them to intervene in Smith’s dispute with Levy, who he claimed was housing an undocumented immigrant and interfering with a rape investigation.

Sheriff Don Smith speaks at the Putnam County Stands Up for America rally on Oct. 1 in Carmel.

Smith, a Republican who has been the Putnam County sheriff since 2002, is running for his fifth term against Democratic candidate Robert Langley Jr., a resident of Garrison.

Langley immediately seized on the letters as a campaign issue, holding a press conference at the Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 5 to denounce his opponent. “If he had any honor left, he would resign as Sheriff immediately,” he said. The candidate also called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove Smith from office.

In an earlier statement, Langley charged that “Putnam County is being policed by a criminal” because of allegations that Smith committed perjury during a sworn deposition after Levy sued him for defamation. “Smith is a bully with a badge — a badge we pay for,” he said.

Robert L. Langley Jr. (Campaign photo)

Smith did not return a request for comment made through Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. William McNamara. But his attorney, Adam Kleinberg, said in a statement that the sheriff reached out to the agencies after he “received information” regarding the rape suspect’s immigration status “that he believed warranted an investigation by outside law enforcement agencies. He referred the matter out to avoid a perceived conflict of interest.

“In the years that followed, the sheriff was embroiled in a very public lawsuit. He was deposed over the course of several days and responded candidly when he could not recall specifics about documents that were not in front of him.

“He testified to the best of his ability, even while watching his wife losing her fight with cancer on a daily basis. When the dust settled, and all of the information was in front of the sheriff, he apologized to Levy for certain statements made based on what was known to him at the time. The sheriff moved on. And the sheriff continues to protect the county and keep it as safe as it has ever been.”

In June, Smith settled the defamation lawsuit with Levy and apologized for two press releases he issued that stated falsely that a rape suspect lived at Levy’s home at the time of his arrest and that Levy had interfered in the criminal investigation. Although Smith had been sued as an individual and not in his capacity as sheriff, Putnam County legislators voted to approve paying $125,000 of the $150,000 settlement. Smith paid the other $25,000.

Adam Levy (file photo)

Smith began his letter-writing campaign in January 2013, The Journal News reported, and it grew more intense in March of that year after Levy’s friend and personal trainer, Alexandru Hossu, an immigrant from Romania, was charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. (Hossu was acquitted by a jury and has filed a $45 million lawsuit against Smith, Putnam County, and others, alleging false prosecution.)

Levy has said Smith wanted to link him to Hossu to embarrass him because of their longstanding turf war. Levy lost his bid for re-election in 2015 and blamed the campaign by Smith to discredit him.

In its Sept. 28 report, The Journal News noted that Smith, in a deposition given two years ago, insisted he had never mentioned Levy in his discussions with state or federal agencies. But in a letter dated March 22, 2013, the sheriff urged an agent from Homeland Security to investigate Levy for alleged violations of immigration law that “apparently ‘aided and abetted’ a man who violently raped a little girl in Putnam County.”

The sheriff attached an Albany Times Union story about an unrelated case “concerning the recent conviction of a high-profile defendant for harboring and hiring an illegal alien, just one of many reported cases like the one at hand.”

In a four-page letter dated April 17, 2014, to Preet Bharara, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Smith pointed to “apparent corruption within the Putnam County District’s Attorney’s Office,” arguing that Levy interfered in the Hossu investigation and contributed to the suspect’s acquittal.

Referencing a secretly recorded phone call in which Hossu denied the rape, Smith argued that “many people who were present in court and heard the recording … have expressed suspicion that, based upon Mr. Hossu’s tone of voice and the words he used, he had been tipped off to expect a controlled [recorded] call and was coached in his responses.”

The sheriff noted that his office could not subpoena telephone, text and email records “that might connect the dots” and urged Bharara to do so, saying “the criminal justice system in Putnam County is broken, and without the assistance of your offices it will remain so.”

4 Responses to "Putnam Sheriff Campaigned for Years for Charges Against DA"

  1. Patty Villanova   October 6, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    First of all, the entire Putnam County Republican establishment should be investigated as a RICO organization for its corrupt and unbridled support of the nefarious sheriff and chief law enforcer of this county. I am truly embarrassed to admit that I have been a lifelong, registered Republican and have never seen anything like the situation vis a vis Smith.

    It is unbelievable and totally outrageous that not only is Smith running again when by all reports he should be under indictment, but that the Putnam GOP refused to support a perfectly viable candidate, Mr. DeStefano, who was forced out of the primary on several technicalities in his paperwork, which, by the way, would never have happened if he had been supported by the GOP honchos who run the elections. But no, for whatever ungodly reasons, the Establishment party hacks decided to shamelessly endorse Smith, who doesn’t even have enough moral character to step aside for the good of his party but more importantly, for the good of the taxpayers and residents of the County he swore to protect and defend.

    I only hope that the voters come out in droves to remove Smith from office before he can do anything else to compromise the citizens of Putnam. This man has done enough damage for one lifetime.

    Reply
  2. Ann Fanizzi   October 7, 2017 at 6:06 am

    No truer words could be spoken than those of Sheriff Smith. Indeed when a sheriff deliberately lies; when a sheriff fabricates so-called “evidence” to discredit his political opponent; when a sheriff without compunction causes an innocent man to be charged and then jailed, then indeed “the criminal justice system in Putnam County is broken.” Gov. Cuomo has the legal authority to remove this rogue sheriff from our midst. Do you job, Governor, immediately. We are all at risk.

    Reply
  3. Patty Villanova   October 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    It is rather strange that Democrat Governor Cuomo would not relish the thought of taking down a prominent, rogue Republican sheriff. I can’t imagine what that’s about. I also find it frightening that the citizens of Putnam are for all intents and purposes at the mercy of the mostly uninformed, screen-addicted voters when it comes to removing Smith from office. It’s a disgraceful situation when the sheriff has been allowed to abuse his power like this for so many years, yet nobody seemed able to stop him.

    Not many people are well-informed about their local government these days. Just look at how few people comment on the many informative stories that are written here and in the local press. The Current has been running a prize-winning series on the opioid drug epidemic that is actually killing people and I don’t think there’s been more than a dozen comments.

    Likewise, there have been some very good articles published regarding the Smith debacle but I wonder how many people actually read them besides the “usual suspects” whose names are always in the comments section.

    If Smith gets re-elected despite his “high crimes and misdemeanors,” our county will indeed be a less safe and frightening place to live.

    Reply
  4. Ann Fanizzi   October 10, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Escapism is the name of the game. The so-called media journalists and reporters who daily disgrace their profession with obsessions on nonsense, only reinforce the public’s craving for escapism. Witness the hypocritical grandstanding of the flag waving Odell/Smith “Stand Up for America” to assuage the public’s conscience while at the same time violating liberty and justice, oaths of office and the Constitution. Marie Antoinette would be proud.

    Reply

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