I have never really been a big fan of award shows and would venture a guess that I am not alone with such a view. My problem is not with the entertainment or the results of the shows, but the long boring speeches by the winners who often have a laundry list of those they would like to thank. I used to think to myself during those moments, “For God’s sake, they know who they are, enough already!” Well, I never thought for a moment that one day I would see the significance of recognizing those who have gone above and beyond to assist another. I never expected that I would find myself at the receiving end of so many who would do so much for me and my family that even the choicest words would prove inadequate. Nevertheless, I now write this column in dedication to all those who have come forward to assist me, my wife Mary and our family through this 12-year ordeal.
First and foremost, I would like to thank all those who stood with us for all these years, but who, for one reason or another, remained in the shadows. In other words, there are a significant number of those who have taken time out of their busy lives to help us either directly or indirectly and have gone unrecognized. So many people have done so much for me and my family that it is impossible to individually list them all. Though below are the names of just a few specific individuals, our appreciation is by no means exclusive to them, but extends to all of you. And you know who you are.
Initially, I would like to thank my attorneys E. Stewart Jones, George La Marche, Elan Cherney, Michael Keonig, Robert Connors, James Gross, Joanne White, Gloria Arthur and Robert Rosenthal. Despite the endless jokes about attorneys, each of those named have exhibited integrity, effort and professionalism that is nothing to joke about. Whether we had the finances to pay for their services or not, had no impact on the quality of representation they provided. To all of you from all of us, thank you!
Also, I would like to extend a special thanks to Erika Riebel, who is my daughter Stephanie’s law guardian/attorney since 2004. Once a month since then, Ms. Riebel took the time to see to it that my monthly letters made it to Stephanie properly and timely.
Next, I would like to express my appreciation to the staff at Washington Correctional Facility, for all their support and assistance during my nearly three years as an inmate in the facility. In particular, I would like to thank Sr. Counselor Ms. Taylor and Corrections Counselor, Ms. Dietz. From the moment I arrived at Washington Facility in 2006, both Ms. Dietz and Ms. Taylor showed true professionalism and dedication as inmate counselors. Their tireless efforts to provide each and every inmate with the guidance they deserve is nothing short of amazing. And being a benefactor of such efforts, I have since discovered a new dimension to my perception of DOCS employees. Thank you Ms. Dietz, Ms. Taylor and also Mr. Chamberlain. Mary and I are eternally grateful.
I would next like to express my sincerest appreciation to Ms. Theresa Balfe, my private investigator. In 1997, shortly after my arrest, I went to visit my attorney on State Street in Albany, NY. While waiting, I met Theresa, though I was unaware at the time that she would soon be the investigator working on my case. Little did I know or could have imagined that Ms. Balfe’s thorough investigation would ultimately verify my innocence, which led to her determination to remain on the case until I am completely free and vindicated. Theresa has never been more than a phone call or letter away and I must add that her services came to us purely through her generosity and the kindness of her big heart. Theresa, you are no longer just my investigator, but a true friend of the family, and I cannot begin to thank you for all you have done and continue to do for us.
Next is Father Peter Young. Father Young came to support us through Ms. Balfe. Once he realized the injustice to my family and me, he too vowed to assist us in anyway that he could. My successful parole board was due in large part because Father Young wrote a letter on my behalf and promised me a job upon my release. Father Young has been working with DOCS and the Division of Parole for many years and has established an impeccable reputation with both agencies. Despite the fact that Father Young is an extremely busy man, he never is without the time to assist me whenever I need it. Father, from Mary, our family and me, thank you!
Next comes the publisher and editor of the North Country Gazette, June Maxam. June is an extraordinary journalist who never backs away from a difficult story. She holds public officials accountable and fights endlessly for the truth. June has run several stories about my case and brought attention to the disastrous reign of Patricia DeAngelis in Rensselaer County. The North Country Gazette played an important role in the demise of DeAngelis. Thank you, June!
Next is the ever-incredible Ernie Tetrault. Ernie learned of my plight through the media and when he could no longer stand by and take the injustice, he stepped into the ring -and are we ever glad that he did. Ernie’s name in our area is synonymous with integrity, familiarity and comfort. Just mention Ernie’s name in a room full of people and the reaction is that he is everyone’s closest friend. And why shouldn’t he be? He has been a regular visitor in our homes as a newscaster for over 40 years.
Also, with Ernie came a bonus. He brought with him his wife Ann, Mary Jane Smith, Mary Jane and Bill Valachovic and Jim Murphy. These individuals worked tirelessly over the years in search for justice in my case.
If someone told me years ago that I would one day go to prison on such allegations, I would have scoffed at the absurdity of the statement. And then, if they added that due to my innocence, newscaster Ernie Tetrault would play a critical role in the effort to vindicate me, my further disbelief would at least be accompanied with comfort. I can truly say that when my vindication finally arrives, it will be because of Ernie. His name and tenacity have brought this injustice to its knees. The level of credibility and assistance he has brought could only come from a man such as Ernie Tetrault.
Ernie, you are truly a giver. For over 40 years you have proven this to all of us in the Capital District. In a world where hypocrisy and corruption are the rule and not the exception, you’re a refreshing change to it all. From all of us in my family, thank you my dear friend.
I would also like to send out a special thanks to Jay Barde. Mr. Barde is the man who accurately and promptly updates the Justice Now website that you are all now logged on to. I personally have not met Jay, nor do I have any idea as to what is involved in the updating process, but according to my wife Mary, it takes time and someone who is an expert in computers. I can tell you all that this website had changed the way my life was in prison. All it took was for one person to visit the site and before long I went from the monster to the victim. Thank you Mr. Barde from all of us.
That brings me to Carl Strock. Carl is a columnist for the Daily Gazette, out of Schenectady, NY. In 1998, Carl heard of my case, which immediately drew his attention. Rather than render an opinion on what he heard, he drove all the way to Clinton Correctional Facility to interview me. He then did some investigating and shortly thereafter wrote his first column on my case.
It wasn’t long after Carl’s column that he had the dubious honor of meeting my ex-wife. This woman is the mother of the accuser in my case who swore to me that one day she would destroy my life. It was obvious what my ex-wife’s intention was by going to Carl Strock’s office. She believed that she could scare Carl and therefore he would cease writing about my case. Imagine that, someone tried to intimidate Carl Strock. Well, as it so happened, her conduct only served to pique Carl’s interest to write again, again, and again. Since that day, Carl has written over 40 columns and it goes without saying that Carl’s writings have been the single most powerful weapon that I have had in fighting this injustice.
Carl is a masterful writer, whose genre is simply the truth. As a result, his followers are made up of those who love him and those who don’t, but either way, they are all loyal readers.
If my fight for vindication were a tree, Carl’s columns would be the mighty roots. When a man is charged with a crime, he is only heard until he is convicted. And when a man is charged with a sex crime, his voice is never heard. In 1998 Carl Strock became my voice, but more importantly, he was the voice of the truth.
In November 2000, my first conviction was reversed, thanks to Carl; over the years, my supporters have multiplied many times over, thanks to Carl; in February, 2009, I made the parole board, thanks to Carl. So, what else is left to say, but thank you my dear friend, from Mary, our family and me.
I would now like to turn to my family. First, my heartfelt thanks goes to my father Joseph and my mother-in-law Mickey Haas. Sadly, both left this earth much too soon and before they could see me walk free. Nevertheless, both cared, loved and supported me every waking moment of every day they had with us. That brings me to my mother Phyllis and my father-in-law Paul Haas. Despite the tremendous loss of their life partners, Mom Carroll and Pa Haas have not skipped a beat as they marched with Mary, our children and me for the last twelve years. Thank you and God bless you both Mom Carroll and Pa Haas. I can only hope that one day Mary and I can come close to measuring up to the parents and grandparents that you have been to us.
Next are my siblings. They have not only stood by me, but went above and beyond what any man could ask of his brothers and sister. Joe, Patrick and Timmy have never once forgotten the difficulty of this nightmare for Mary our family and me. They have done everything and anything they possibly could for us, even when I never asked for a thing. I can’t say enough about my younger brothers, only that I can’t imagine how I would have ever survived this ordeal without them.
Finally, I have saved the best for last, my little sister Marion (Carroll) McDonough. I wish that just for this moment I could have the writing skills of a pro, that would enable me to describe just how much my sweet sister means to me. But talent or no talent, I refuse to let this opportunity pass.
First, let me say that Marion is the wife of Tim McDonough and the mother of four wonderful children, Mindy, Amanda, Molly and Connor. This family is truly a byproduct of their mother. Those kids, as well as their Dad have stood firmly for and with me ever since 1997. And as for Marion, I would like to start at the beginning, but she has been doing so much for us for so long, I can’t remember when it all began. It seems to me, that for as long as my little sister has been on this earth, she has been there for me. Nowhere in my entire memory bank can I recall one time that my little sister could not nor would not deliver something I wanted or needed.
I often say to myself, how is it a person can just keep giving and giving and giving. Marion’s care, love and generosity are not exclusive to me, she takes care of everyone; it is who she is. I can honestly say that if not for Marion, my family and I would never have made it through this unimaginable nightmare. Dear sister, you are truly the greatest, and from Mary, our gang, and me thank you and we love you.
I now feel like one of the recipients of those award shows that I used to curse for taking so much time on their thank you speeches. But at least I now know just how important it is and I as a result, I can assure you, that I will never view the appreciations as meaningless garble again. Thank you all so much!
REDRESS- I GUESS!!
In December 2007, after serving my 10-year minimum term, I appeared before the NYS Parole Board for release consideration. By a vote of 2 to 1, I was denied release and ordered held for another 24 months. I immediately initiated an administrative appeal to the NYS Division of Parole’s appellate division. Under the law, parole administrators have 120 days in which to render their findings; failure to do so allows the petitioner to then proceed to the NYS Supreme Court with an appeal. Five days after Parole missed their 120-day deadline in my case, I filed a petition to the Albany County Supreme Court in an action called an Article 78. The court gave Parole, which was represented by the State’s Office of the Attorney General, until November 28, 2008 to respond to my petition. On November 26th, I received notice from the AG’s office that they would not oppose my argument and agreed that I was entitled to a new hearing.
Just two short months after accepting the resignation of parole commissioner Christopher Ortloff, who was arrested in October after being accused of using the Internet to arrange sexual encounters with underage girls, the Chairman of the NYS Division of Parole, George B. Alexander, has resigned his position after being caught stealing a government computer.
Read More: North Country Gazette
Daily Gazette, The (Schenectady, NY)
November 16, 2008
Edition: Schenectady/Albany; Final
No policy for revisiting parole rulings
As some of you may recall, I inquired of the state Division of Parole not long ago if they might have a policy for dealing with denial of parole to a prison inmate when one of the parole commissioners who voted for the denial is later arrested for the same kind of crime that the inmate was convicted of. It was not an idle question. I had in mind my old friend Jack Carroll of Troy, who is doing 10 to 20 years for supposedly sexually molesting a young girl. After completing his minimum 10 years he was denied parole by a vote of 2 to 1. One of the two parole commissioners who voted against him, former Assemblyman Chris Ortloff, was later arrested in a state police sting, accused of trying to arrange a sexual encounter with girls aged 11 and 12. Continue Reading »
On December 16, 2007, by a vote of 2 to 1, I was deemed “unsuitable for return to the community” by members of the NYS Parole Commission. Commissioner Grant believed that my release was indeed appropriate, while Commissioners Loomis and Ortloff did not. This appearance was my first after serving the minimum term of a 10 to 20 year sentence following my conviction in a 2001 retrial in Rensselaer County for crimes I am totally and completely innocent of.