Saturday, January 21, 2012
Gov Cuomo's Security Detail Troopers Hit 2 Pedestrians
On two consecutive days this week, members of a high-level state security team were involved in car accidents near Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s home in Westchester County, both times badly injuring a pedestrian.
The accidents, on Wednesday and Thursday, occurred within a mile or so of the New Castle home the governor shares with his girlfriend, the celebrity cook Sandra Lee. While both drivers were part of a team whose duties include protecting the governor, neither Mr. Cuomo nor any other passenger was in the cars.
“Neither of them was involved in any duties directly involved with the governor,” Lt. Glenn R. Miner, a spokesman for the State Police in Albany, said Friday of the two troopers.
Both pedestrians remained at Westchester Medical Center but were expected to survive.
The accidents put the State Police in an uncomfortable position, one that it has grown accustomed to because of its close ties to the governor’s office.
During the past few administrations, the troopers in the elite units assigned to protect the governor and other dignitaries have been involved in a string of embarrassing episodes.
The commander of the executive services detail, now called the protective services unit, was found to have improperly intervened in an inquiry of Gov. George E. Pataki’s campaign staff. Later, troopers were criticized — by Mr. Cuomo, then the attorney general — for trying to dig up harmful information about a rival of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Most recently, troopers from Gov. David A. Paterson’s security detail contacted a woman who had said she had been assaulted by one of the governor’s senior aides. The troopers even pressured her not to pursue charges against the man, the woman told a judge.
The State Police collision reconstruction unit was investigating both of this week’s accidents, which occurred in Mount Kisco. Maj. Michael A. Kopy of the State Police dismissed a question of whether their investigation posed a conflict of interest. The Mount Kisco Police Department, which did not comment, also has investigators.
“Given that the accident involved a State Police unit, it is customary for us to handle our own accidents, regardless of where they happen,” Major Kopy said. “We have a close to 5,000-person agency, with different groups that handle different matters, and we are able to separate the investigations from the groups that are involved.”
According to Major Kopy, the first accident occurred about 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday as Sgt. Joseph Crispino turned his unmarked 2006 Chevrolet Impala left onto Main Street from northbound Maple Avenue, and struck Dulce M. Perez, 22, as she crossed Main.
Ms. Perez, speaking from her hospital bed, said she had been going to her sister’s house and had no recollection of being hit. She said she had suffered a skull fracture. “I remember walking across the street, the light at the intersection was red and I had a walk sign, and then the car must have hit me because the next thing I remember is I woke up in the hospital,” she said.
State Police officials said they were still investigating who was at fault.
In the second crash, at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, Jeronimo Ardon-Perez “crossed into the front” of an unmarked 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix that Investigator Gregory Panzarella was driving northbound along North Bedford Road near the intersection of Brookside Avenue and Legion Way, Major Kopy said.
“We are not able to ascertain why he crossed in front, but the vehicle clearly was operating within the right of way,” he said, adding that there was no indication of excessive speed.
Mr. Ardon-Perez, 50, apparently unrelated to Ms. Perez, was taken to the hospital in what the police said was serious condition, and was in the operating room Friday evening. Major Kopy said Mr. Ardon-Perez had head injuries and “internal injuries to his lower extremities.”
Both troopers remain on duty, and Major Kopy said neither was given a sobriety test. Such tests are not mandatory, Lieutenant Miner said, unless there was “indication that the individual was drinking.” Pressed about what the troopers were doing before the crash, Major Kopy said only that each was “in transit between two locations.”
“I would not say that this is indicative of any trend,” he said. “And, while I am always concerned with troopers involved in accidents, these two accidents just happened to occur in close proximity.”