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In Focus: Rockland

More from the opinion-makers of The Journal News and LoHud.com, with a special look at Rockland.

The politics of a New Square fugitive’s capture


This is big news, the London arrest of Avrum David Friesel, wanted in connection with the RCC Judaic Studies scandal. Millions in federal funds were fraudulently obtained for bogus educational and housing purposes. Of those accused, five went to prison; one died there. Four others later had their sentences commuted by a departing President Clinton. Another is still at large.
Part of the scheme used Rockland Community College to funnel an estimated $5.1 million for several thousand students in a Judaic studies program that did not meet funding guidelines. This damaged RCC’s reputation for years. And, the recent man arrested is a son of New Square’s mayor.
But it was Clinton’s decision to clear the way for the early release of the “New Square Four” that really stirred up the dust.
Here’s what made it so controversial:
Months before Hillary Clinton was voted into her Senate seat, the then-first lady and other elected officials made a call on Grand Rabbi David Twersky at his home in New Square.
In November 2000, New Sauare backed Hillary Clinton in a big way, 1,400 votes to 12 for Republican Rick Lazio.As we know, she became New York’s junior senator.
Then, in December, the rabbi met privately with the Clintons at the White House in December, about a month before the president issued his irrevocable pardon and clemency orders.
On his last day of office, Jan. 20, 2001, President Clinton reduced the federal prison sentences of four of the New Square men convicted of stealing tens of millions of dollars from federal anti-poverty and school programs.
The New Square votes and the clemency decision, being in such close proximity, stirred up an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,  along with examinations of other pardons and commutations made as Clinton left the White House. Federal prosecutors spent more than a year investigating whether the clemencies came in exchange for New Square’s overwhelming support of Hillary Clinton in the November 2000 election. In June 2002, U.S. Attorney James Comey cleared Bill Clinton of any wrongdoing in regard to the New Square pardons.
But, it still stung. Hillary Clinton didn’t attend any public events in Rockland for quite a while, causing some to wonder if she wanted to distance herself from the pardons.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 at 2:38 pm by Nancy Cutler. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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About this blog
Welcome to the community conversation/editorial page blog for Rockland. It's your place for two-way talk with the people behind the opinions on The Journal News editorial pages and LoHud.com. Look here daily to talk back to the opinion writers, find out what's on our agenda, and steer us to the hot topics in your community. Contributing to this blog are deep-rooted Rocklanders Nancy Cutler, editorial page editor in Rockland, and Bob Baird, longtime Rockland columnist and editor, along with Ed Forbes, interactivity editor, with occasional contributions from other opinion staff.


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