This Saturday at 10:00 p.m. on CBS, "48 Hours" will air an updated hour on Marty's case, including the first and only interview Marty's given since being released from prison. The exclusiveness of the interview is due in large part to its timing, taped after DA Thomas Spota said he was dropping all charges against Marty, and before Governor Spitzer and Attorney General Cuomo took over the case, the first effect of which was to postpone the dropping of the charges. Such a turn of events would make anyone circumspect, at least temporarily, so Marty interviews are scarce at the moment.
Along with Bruce Lambert of the New York Times, Zach Dowdy of Newsday (where some senior editors still, in 2008, buy the Suffolk County law enforcement myth of Marty's guilt) and Lily Stolzberg of TV 10/55 on Long Island, "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty and her producer Gail Zimmerman have been on the story since 2003 and, to echo Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's promise, simply followed it where it led them. Like a lot of us, they were skeptical at first: Guy in prison says he's innocent, what else is new? Of course, now we know, because the facts speak for themselves.
Moriarty recently told Newsday, "I just don't believe that Marty Tankleff had anything to do with the murder of his parents." Not a tough statement to make now that a unanimous appellate court panel vacated Marty's conviction and the Suffolk County DA who fought to keep him in jail finally relented and said he would drop the charges. But it's refreshing to hear from a journalist these days, when too many reporters are "balanced" to a fault. There are not two sides to every story. Sometimes there's just the truth and some bullies who want to cover it up.
Tomorrow's "48 Hours Mystery" is aptly entitled "Fight for the Truth." It's a mystery alright, but it's not a whodunit. Since it's clear Marty didn't do it and others did, It's a how'd-they-get-away-with-it.
Read the "48 Hours" write-up, watch Erin Moriarty's "Reporter's Notebook" and a 30-second promo here.
While Seymour Tankleff lay in a coma in the hospital a week after having been stabbed and bludgeoned, Jerry Steuerman faked his own death, changed his appearance, took on an alias and fled to California. Two weeks later, Suffolk County Det. James McCready, Det. Sgt. Robert Doyle [no relation to Judge Doyle] and Edward Jablonski, the chief of the district attorney's homicide bureau, tracked down Steuerman and went out to California, spent the night at Steuerman's Redondo Beach, Calif., motel, then escorted Steuerman back to testify against Marty. "He's not wanted for any crime. He's just a missing person," Doyle said of Steuerman to Newsday.
The Suffolk County police chronicled the episode in a missing persons report:
"Jerry Steuerman is a friend and business associate of Seymour Tankleff, who is soon expected to expire from his injuries. Tankleff and Steuerman own a race horse and Tankleff has helped Steuerman finance numerous bagel stores. Tankleff and Steuerman and a few others were playing cards on the night of the assault. Steuerman has been thoroughly questioned and Homicide does not believe he was involved. Steuerman is described as an aggressive businessman by family and friends."
While the police don't explain why they were so sure Steuerman wasn't involved in anything nefarious, they were confident enough not to be troubled by this entry of 9/22/88:
"Anonymous male caller advises Steuerman finances his son Todd, aka Toad, in major cocaine dealings. Caller states he saw Steuerman and Todd in a room together with several kilos of cocaine. Also states last business venture he heard them working on was a whorehouse on the East End."
To read Steuerman's Missing Persons Report, click here (pdf).
This "Supplementary Police Report" from the day after the Tankleff murders is only 12 paragraphs long, but two paragraphs are eyebrow-raisers for what they say about Jerry Steuerman, who was identified immediately after the attacks by Marty and his family as the likely suspect, yet was ignored by Det. James McCready:
"Mr. (Ronald J.) ROTHER stated that SEYMOUR TANKLEFF was retired and was involved in a number of business ventures with other people. One of those people, JERRY STEUERMAN, the owner of STRATHMORE BAGELS, was reneging on paying his debt to TANKLEFF, and that business deal was turning bad."
"MYRON FOX identified himself to the undersigned and stated that he was the attorney for SEYMOUR TANKLEFF and represented him in a number of business deals. He stated that JERRY STEUERMAN was supposed to make a substantial payment to SEYMOUR TANKLEFF in the near future and that he would make available copies of that paperwork later in the day." [caps in original]
To read the police report, click here (pdf).
Despite the fact that Jerry Steuerman owed Seymour Tankleff half a million dollars; and that he was the last guest to leave a poker game at the Tankleff home in the early morning of the murders; and that while Seymour lay in a coma Steuerman faked his own death, changed his appearance, took on an alias and fled to California; and that Joey "Guns" Creedon said Steuerman wanted him to cut out Marty Tankleff's tongue; and that someone testified that he overheard Steuerman angrily telling someone, not long after the Tankleff murders, that he had killed two people, to this day Suffolk County law enforcement has never considered Steuerman a suspect in the Tankleff murders.
As Det. James McCready himself said regarding Steuerman to retired Judge Stuart Namm, "The problem he created for us was not that we
had to prove that he's now the murderer, okay, the problem he created
for us was that we had to do ten times the work to prove that he wasn't
the murderer." We'll take his word on that.
You would have to work hard indeed to ignore the obvious evidence pointing to Steurman from the get-go in this case. Practically the first word Marty spoke to McCready at the crime scene was "Steuerman," describing his father's estranged business partner and how he had been menacing the family that summer. After disregarding this lead given to him by the victims' son, McCready showed zero interest in a startling piece of corroborating evidence for the suspicion Marty voiced about Steuerman: a loan-payment-demand letter, from Seymour to Steuerman, lying right on top of Seymour's desk, so close to where Seymour fell that it was sprayed with his blood.
McCready inspected the crime scene, forensics dusted and bagged what they needed, the yellow tape was removed, and there the letter sat on the victim's desk until Marty's cousin, Ron Falbee, saw it when he was allowed to enter the house.
The document didn't even make it into the record until the new evidence hearings that began in 2004. At the original trial, despite all that was known about Steuerman's motive, opportunity and erratic behavior, Suffolk County Judge Alfred Tisch did not allow Marty to submit the letter into evidence, because there was no proof Steuerman had received it.
Click image to enlarge.
One well-known side effect of delving into the Marty Tankleff case is the involuntary uttering of "WTF" at frequent intervals, as in "Jerry Steurman owed Seymour Tankleff half a million dollars, was the last guest to leave a poker game at the Tankleff home the morning of the murders, and was said to have threatened to cut Seymour's throat just weeks before the murders, yet was never considered a suspect by a detective found to have perjured himself in a previous murder case and who evidence suggests was friends with Steuerman although he denied it at trial...."
Another is the compulsion to create a character map. The Times displays theirs in all its glory all down the front page of the Metro section in their Sunday feature on Steuerman, "The Names Stay Linked: 'Bagel King' and Tankleff." The map invites the reader to contemplate the web of connections between Steuerman and Joey "Guns" Creedon, Steuerman and Detective James McCready, Steuerman and Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota, McCready and Spota (illustrated with the photo of the two of them hugging) and more.
The Times has inspired us to dust off our own Tankleff Case Character Map, which was done a couple of years ago but still stands as a helpful primer on the case. Those who view the character map also find handy our Corruption, Cover-Up & Conflict chart.
It's a good bet the SIC has their own character map up in their Tankleff war room, and the Attorney General's team shouldn't be far behind. There's a story going around that one of the appellate judges had become so obsessed with the case that one of his walls at home had been taken over with everything Tankleff. Ah, a familiar syndrome.
Click image to enlarge.
In a 2,000-word story headlined "The Names Stay Linked: 'Bagel King' and Tankleff," the Sunday New York Times looks at Jerry Steuerman and his relationship with other key players connected to the Tankleff case.
The article describes the half-million dollars Steuerman owed Seymour Tankleff, the pressure Seymour was putting on Steuerman to pay it back, and the threat Marty and his relatives have always claimed Steuerman posed to Seymour and Arlene Tankleff the summer before the murders:
"In the months before his death, Mr. Tankleff had demanded an immediate cash payment of $50,000, and Mr. Steuerman resisted, according to members of the Tankleff family. Two weeks before the attacks, Arlene Tankleff told her sister, Marcella Alt Falbee, that she was afraid of Mr. Steuerman, according to court records. Ms. Falbee quoted her sister as saying that when Seymour Tankleff had tried to collect money, Mr. Steuerman angrily grabbed him, pulled him across a counter and said, 'I’ll cut your throat.'"
After recounting how Detective James McCready "extracted" an unsigned, retracted confession from Marty, the Times cites the evidence that has come out that McCready knew Steuerman prior to the murders, despite McCready's denials at trial.
At today's hearing, in place of the Suffolk County district attorney, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's lead trial attorney appeared and asked for 30 days to decide how to proceed with the case. The request granted, the next hearing date is set for February 15th at 11:00 a.m. in Suffolk County Judge Robert Doyle's courtroom in Riverhead.
The sentiment among Marty's family and defense team after the hearing today was that since they've already waited 20 years, they can wait 30 more days to find out whether the charges will be dropped against Marty and the pursuit of justice finally begun for the other two victims in this case, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff.
Thirty days, but no more, seems a reasonable amount of time to review the record and for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to announce whether he will drop the charges against Marty, as Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota had scheduled for today, and whether Cuomo will investigate the obvious suspects in the murders, who walk free among us with no charges over them.
Every indication is that the answer will be yes on both counts. First, the sense among those who decipher these things is that the AG wouldn't have had to take this on, that he would have had to agree or request to do it. And it's almost impossible to imagine he would take it on to commit what would plainly be two of the most spectacularly unpopular acts imaginable: keeping Marty Tankleff a suspect and, in time-honored Suffolk County tradition, ignoring the usual suspects.
Then there's what reads like an all-star team the AG has put together, including Benjamin Rosenberg, Cuomo's lead trial attorney and former U.S. attorney in the Southern District's criminal division; Asst. AG Risa Sugarman, former chief of the Bronx DA's homicide bureau; Asst. AG Thomas Schellhammer, a former homicide prosecutor in Manhattan; and Barbara Underwood, Cuomo's solicitor general who has argued before the Supreme Court, to handle any appellate issues that might arise. These people didn't sign up to keep Suffolk County safe from Marty Tankleff.
Oh yeah, plus four former NYPD homicide detectives. If they're even half as good as Jay, that's like two Jays!
There may be something to the argument that Marty will be better off if exonerated by this group,
as opposed to cut loose on a technicality by Spota, and for that 30 days would be a small price to pay. There's every indication that things will continue to proceed as well as they've been going. That the SIC appears to be extremely serious about their investigation is a great comfort and would seem to ensure that the AG's investigation will be for real. There's no reason not to take AG Cuomo at his word when he says, "We will follow the evidence wherever it leads us." Since everyone knows where the evidence leads, you have to feel pretty good.
As the family of the murder victims Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, we have great hope that the Governor's appointment of the Attorney General as special prosecutor will finally lead to justice in this case after two decades.
The calls from all quarters for a special prosecutor were based on the overwhelming evidence of Marty's innocence and others' guilt, and were never intended to maintain Marty's status as a possible defendant. The appeals court unanimously ruled in Marty's favor, and a mountain of new evidence has come out vindicating Marty and implicating others.
The district attorney fought tooth-and-nail to preserve, way beyond ethical boundaries, the flawed conviction of Marty for these crimes. Yet, even he publicly concluded that it is time to close the case against Marty Tankleff. Any objective observer should easily and quickly come to the same conclusion.
The timing of the special prosecutor's appointment and the resulting delay in dismissing the charges against Marty prolongs the suffering of Marty and the rest of the victims' family, even while the obvious murder suspects walk the street, one apparently bragging that he's "untouchable."
It is long past time to dismiss all charges against Marty and, for the very first time, begin investigating Jerry Steuerman, Joey "Guns" Creedon, Peter Kent, and others who the evidence shows were involved in committing the murders or covering them up.
We would like to meet with the attorney general to help him with his investigation, and to learn about his plan and timetable, particularly in regard to the charges that remain against Marty.
To view as a PDF, click here.
This Friday, we expect the official handing off of the case from Suffolk County DA Spota to Attorney General Cuomo, and for Cuomo's office not to drop the charges against Marty as planned on Friday by Spota.
In attendance will be Marty, his family and his supporters, many of whom, we expect, will express to the media their approval of the governor's appointing of the attorney general, while questioning why on earth, after four years of it being called for, shouted for and pleaded for, the appointment had to come five days before Spota himself, of all people, was going to dismiss the charges against Marty. Not one person who ever called for a special prosecutor in this case could have imagined that the appointment's first effect would be to prolong Marty's ordeal.
We hear Judge Doyle's courtroom has many more seats than Judge Braslow's, so come on by if you're in the neighborhood.
Friday, January 18, noon
Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex
210 Center Drive
Riverhead, NY 11901
Hon. Judge Robert W. Doyle