Saturday, July 09, 2005


June 18, 2002


By: Jimmy Breslin
Upon arriving home, I dropped my suitcase to look at a message from the
Mexican consul in New York that, despite insides that I felt were
fortified, caused me to spin. I was just in the house from Dallas, where
observing a throng of Catholic churchmen spending days on the subject of
sexual abuse of infants and children raided the sensibilities. That it
took so long, that they were so proud of themselves at the finish, was

The church's problem with sex is almost as big as the National
Basketball Association's.

Now, coming on top of this, the message from Mexico made me sit down.

The Mexican office wanted to know about Eduardo Daniel's money from the
Brooklyn federal court. Had he received it yet? Could I give them some
way to reach him in Mexico?

Eduardo Daniel is the father of Eduardo Gutierrez, who at age 20 drowned
in concrete on a dangerous building job in Williamsburg. The builder,
Ostreicher, was fined $1 million in a criminal case in Brooklyn federal
court by Judge Leo Glasser.

The money was broken up, with a worker damaged for life receiving the
most and Eduardo's father awarded $100,000.

The judge said from the bench that no lawyer was to touch the money,
that it was to go directly to the people involved. I heard him say that
and so did a couple of people with me. Good, we said, at least that
protects him from these thieves outside on Court Street.

The record I never saw - or I would have written it for all to see what
it was - said the judge ordered the money to go to the estate of Eduardo
Gutierrez. The kid has no estate. Still, the word is the key to robbing

I spoke to Daniel at that time. I told him the money would be coming any
day and I hoped it would help his life.

I then went about my business. I had written a book about the death of
his son, and worked with Daniel on it, and that was that. I had no idea
that my subject was about to become my relative.

Sometime in February, I guess, a friend of Daniel's told me that he
hadn't received the money yet. "They tell him it is on the judge's desk
and he hasn't signed it yet."

"He will," I said with confidence in our system of government. That
shows what a sucker I can be.

For I had confidence in a judge who fell down on the job. Fell on his
face. Glasser is the guy who played tough guy on the bench in Gotti's
last trial. And now he let money coming from the death of a fine young
man go into the hands of Brooklyn Democratic clubhouse bums.

But at this point I didn't know this and thought Glasser was what he
pretended he was. So I left the subject and went on to other stories.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Eduardo Daniel's friend told me that he
still hadn't received the money.

I called the judge's office and was told that he had signed the papers
in November, over seven months ago. The secretary told me to call a
woman in another office, who put me onto an assistant United States
attorney, Rich Faughnan, who wanted a promise that his words wouldn't be
used. I couldn't understand why he was being such a sneak. He then said
something about the public administrator's office.

I went crazy. This was his reason for being a sneak. I screamed that he
had given the money to thieves. The public administrator takes
everything but the bones from the dead. Some time later, I got a call
from Louis Rosenthal, who said he was the counsel to the public

"Where is the money?" I yelled.

He said it was in an account. He said, what are you shouting for, why,
this Eduardo had a civil case going on the son's death and usually we
keep this kind of money, this $100,000, until the civil case is ended.
So he claimed he could have held the money for a couple of years more. I
almost expired.

He called me "sir" through my shouting. He told me the next day that the
money had been sent registered mail. Why, he even had taken less than
his usual fee.

When I screamed, "What fee?" he said he was a private attorney and
charged a fee. How did he get his hands on the money? Why, he was the
counsel to the public administrator.

A hired burglar with a public office.

His friend is the Brooklyn surrogate, Michael Feinberg. Their favorite
reading is the death notices. Feinberg sits on the bench and assigns the
work to Rosenthal, who takes anything he can get. He earns millions and
is not embarrassed to take $3,600 off a young man who drowned in concrete.

He swore to me the money would reach Daniel last week. I spoke to
Daniel's friend last Wednesday. The money wasn't there. I was told that
Rosenthal had grabbed $3,600 from the money due Daniel.

I went to Dallas for the Catholic bishops. Once, I saw a map of the
border with Mexico and I thought about Daniel, and his large family
living without running water and suddenly having $100,000. Oh, of course
he had to have the money by now. And now when I got home on Sunday night
I saw this message from the Mexican consul. So I called Daniel's friend,
who called Mexico, after which he called me.

"He says he didn't get the money."

For nearly seven months, this man has lived in dust while some cheap,
grubby Court Street lawyer toys with money and not one person in this
great legal system, not a district attorney, state attorney general,
chief judge, United States attorney or bar association has stirred
itself to recognize the outrage.


June 12, 2002


By: Jimmy Breslin
Eduardo Daniel Gutierrez was an 18-year-old from St. Matias, a village
in the dust outside of Cholulu in Mexico, who drowned in concrete in a
building collapse in Williamsburg in 2000.

Last October, a judge in federal court, Leo Glasser, awarded Gutierrez'
father, Eduardo Daniel, $100,000 as part of a fine paid by the convicted

Either the judge didn't follow through or the people working in federal
court don't do anything.

The money never was sent to Eduardo Daniel, who lives in poorest Mexico
with no running water and too many to feed and clothe. For seven months,
the money has been somewhere in the Brooklyn legal system. After all
this waiting, Daniel thinks they are stealing it from him.

I guess it was in February when a friend of Daniel's told me, "Daniel
called me. He has no money. I called the judge. They told me that the
check is on the judge's desk. He just has to sign it. There is no other
family. An aunt in Jersey. Nobody else."

Two weeks ago, I ran into Eduardo's friend again and I was told, "The
check is still on the judge's desk. The public administrator or something."

"The what?"

"The public administrator."

Suddenly, the anger was overwhelming. I had written columns and a book
about Gutierrez drowning in concrete. I've been on to other things. Now
I returned. The public administrator is part of the surrogate court and
that is a state court. That a check from a federal judge was in a state
office set off a burglar alarm. This is Brooklyn, with a Democratic
Party whose best people have hands that can work a pizza oven without
being seared.

I called Glasser, the federal judge, and his secretary told me the judge
had signed off on the money in November. She referred me to a Mrs.
Gilbert in another office. Who said, "Oh, you have to call Mr. Cramer."
He also was in the federal building. He said that I had to call Rich
Faughnan, the assistant United States attorney in charge of the case.

He told me that the check had been sent to the public administrator's

"Why? They steal!"

He said that he wasn't sure and would get back to me. I called the
public administrator, Marietta Small. Her secretary said, "She is busy."

I regarded all this as a veteran bureaucracy, people born to slip and
slide. Only a scream job gets a reaction. "I'm going to the district
attorney!" I shouted, by way of opening. This is what anyone within
reading distance of this should do when dealing with furtive city
government. Scream, shriek, shout.

The public administrator, Marietta Small, got on the phone. She said
that she knew nothing about it, but would look. I then received a call
from Louis Rosenthal, who identified himself as counsel for the public
administrator. He didn't know anything about such a case. "Please, sir."
He said that about 20 times as I yelled. "Somebody is stealing," I answered.

If this sounds like a wild charge to you, then you are a rank sucker.
These people had the money of a family in deep need. They had it for
half a year now. Brooklyn clubhouse bums must be cutting up the money.
Why not? He's only a Mexican who can do nothing. And I should understand
the workings of the public administrator's office.

The trouble is, I do. I will neither listen nor read because I don't
trust them as far as I can throw the Flatiron Building.

Rosenthal, the "sir" man, said that he would check this matter
immediately. I hung up exhausted. Shouting is necessary, but it wrings
me out.

That was on a Friday. On my next call he said he had located the money
in an account. Magic! One hundred and three thousand. But he couldn't
send it right away.

"Please, sir, we have rules we must follow."

"You've had the money for six months. You're trying to wait that Mexican
out so you can take it."

"Please, sir. We had to make sure that the father was the next of kin.
We were told that there is a wife and two children."

I say he made that up on the spot. At 18, poor Gutierrez had a
girlfriend in Texas, and he never saw her and was too shy to speak to
her much on the phone.

He broke up my shouts to say he was straightening this out.

On Friday, he said that the checks had been sent by registered mail,
return receipt requested.

Why would I believe him? These people are capable of coming up with a
postman who returns to sender. And then he wanted me to be grateful. He
said that as Gutierrez had a civil suit going on, he could have followed
his normal rule and withheld payment until the other case was settled.
This guy was telling me that he almost held up the check for years.

I told him that this was a monstrous lie, that I had been in the room
when Glasser, the federal judge, warned that no lawyer was to touch the

"Yes, that is why we sent the checks out so quickly," lawyer "Sir"
Rosenthal said. "Why, I even took less than my usual fee from the money."

"You took what?"

"I am a private attorney. I charge a fee."

"You're not in the public administrator's office?"

"I am a private attorney. I am counsel to the public administrator."

"You snatched money over the body of that kid?"


All I could think of was Gutierrez, his lungs screaming for air in pitch
black under the surface of wet concrete. And here was some guy in an
office playing with his money.

Because of this, I started my week off by writing to an assistant
district attorney in Brooklyn named Kelly, who handles swindles of the
old and unable.

And also to the chief judge of the state, Judith Kaye, who is supposed
to protect the public from rodents who creep up to the death benefits of
a young man who drowned in concrete and left a family whose running
water comes from a well that sits in dust.


June 1, 2003


By: Jimmy Breslin
Juan Gutierrez reported to friends in the Bronx Friday after entering
the United States during the week in a group of 50 who started in
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, by bus and then got off and walked two and a
half days across the desert to Arizona, and by plane to New York. He
follows his brother, Eduardo, who drowned in concrete in a building
collapse in Williamsburg three years ago.

"Mucho calor," he said of the desert heat. He said they were unable to
walk much of the day. He didn't know the temperature but it is known to
reach 130 degrees. He said each Mexican carried four gallons of water
and the rule was that you couldn't take water from anybody else.
Therefore, watch what you drink.

They were taking a new way to cross the border. There were six coyotes
leading them. Each Mexican paid $2,500. Instead of walking around the
great furnace of a desert, and onto trails where the border patrol
police would be watching, they went head-on into the fiery sand. Nobody
patrols near that. The other day, 19 suffocated in a truck.

Juan said there were no others in sight anywhere. The snakes they feared
turned out to be small. They stopped at a house near the border, where
the 50 found any space on the floor and slept.

Then two vans came and drove them north in the night, across a border
guarded by nobody and onto the roads and highway to Phoenix. They split
here. As 50 immigrants on one plane would cause even federal agents to
be suspicious, some were booked to Chicago, others to Los Angeles and
the rest to New York.

When Juan called home from Phoenix, his wife was happy. She does not
believe in sadness, as long as Juan did not die crossing the border.

Our border with Mexico cannot keep Mexicans out. They can stage
television raids, with border patrol cops rushing with flashlights and
catching a few. Otherwise, there is 2,000 miles of sand. The Christian
Radical Right wants a fence built all along the border. Insanity wire.

New York has Dominicans and Haitians. Yet they come from small countries
and must cross water. Mexico has about 100 million and all they have to
do is walk. The rumor that somebody can earn a fortune in New York -
$10! - will keep Mexicans walking through the dust in the early morning
forever to start for America.

Juan Gutierrez, 23, left a wife and a 3-year-old son, Ivan, home in the
town of St. Matias Cuatchatyotla. He left at five in the morning. He
said that everybody was asleep. He told the translator, Awilda Cordero,
that he called out, "I'll see you. I'll be home soon." And that his
wife, Teresa, 23, stirred and said sleepily, "Good luck." Then she went
back to sleep.

There was nothing to talk about. In Mexico, he was ready to work every
day that the sun came up. The most he earned was $120 a month at
construction work. A couple of months ago, the work ran out everywhere.
The young people in the town talked only about going to America. They
started leaving in groups. Juan and Teresa decided that he would go, too.

Three years ago, Juan had tried Brooklyn with his brother, Eduardo. He
was only 20 and missed his wife, Teresa, too much and went home to her.
Eduardo remained to work on an $8 an hour construction job.

The building, criminally flawed, collapsed and he drowned in concrete.
Juan said Friday he is going to Williamsburg to look at the place where
his brother died. Then he will go out and try to find a job.

Federal court collected a $100,000 penalty from the builder for
Eduardo's father. The money slipped into the hands of the people who
form the bottom of Brooklyn: The surrogate, Feinberg, and his outside
counsel, Rosenthal. They held the money for months and months. The
father in Mexico kept calling.

Finally, after much badgering, the check was sent to Gutierrez' father.
Surrogate and his lawyer had taken $15,000. Just another Mexican. Take
it off him. The father used the money to put a second story on the house
that was his son Eduardo's dream.

They stole money from him in Brooklyn. What could he do about it? There
are court administrators and chief judges and all they do is take their
pay and go off for the weekend. A federal attorney is beautiful. He does
nothing. If the Brooklyn district attorney can't make a case here, then
they might think of getting regular jobs.

And now into New York comes the brother, Juan Gutierrez, driven out of
his home town by wages too low.

He comes to New York for money to send home. And he knows that no amount
of a Mexican's money is too small for Brooklyn judges and the
Surrogate's Court. They represent the Brooklyn legal system and all the
judges. They all will rifle change from the cigar box of a blind news

He comes here with two words. "Suerte" for Luck. "Trabajo" for Work, the
only interest he has in life.

He noticed two big changes in the city in the three years he has been
gone. The subway costs $2. The extra 50 cents hurts, he said.

Cigarettes, once $3.75, now are $5.75. A friend in the Bronx got Juan
construction work on Friday with a builder. He was there for two hours.
Then the foreman asked him for immigration papers. Juan has none. The
foreman shrugged. He gave Juan $20 and said goodbye.

Juan said he was going to spend the weekend going from one supermarket
to another, one fruit stand to the next, asking for work. The money will
be, what, $6 an hour? He'll take it.

"Trabajo," he said again. That is all he is here for.


May 29, 2003


By: Jimmy Breslin
In Mexico, they look through the dust of their villages and see the sky
to the north and hear all these stories about sudden riches on the
streets of New York and they come, crawling through tunnels, fording
rivers, jumping away from rattlesnakes, going without sleep or water,
coming to New York for a boundless living, maybe as much as $6 an hour!

And somebody here cannot wait to steal anything they get. Nothing is too
small. If anything substantial comes up, they will use two hands.

This case does not go away. Eduardo Daniel Gutierrez, 18, from the
village of St. Matias Cuatchatyotla deep in the dust of central Mexico,
was working on the third floor of a building in Williamsburg that
collapsed. The third floor fell into the second and the second fell into
the first and the first went into the basement and Gutierrez fell face
first and drowned in a lake of concrete. This was on a fall day in 2000.

In October of 2001, a judge in federal court, Leo Glasser, awarded
Gutierrez's father, Daniel, $100,000 as part of a fine paid by the
convicted builder.

The father in Mexico waited for the check. He lived with no running
water and a yard full of children to clothe and feed. He waited for the
check for months and finally called a friend in New York and asked about
it, and as I was writing a book about the young man's death, I was asked.

I go over this again, as best as I can. I called Glasser, the federal
judge, and his secretary told me that he had signed off on the money in
November. That was in 2001. She referred me to a woman in another
office, who said, I remember, "Oh, you have to call Mr. Cramer." He also
was in the federal building. Mr. Cramer said I had to call Rich
Faughnan, the assistant United States attorney in charge of the
Gutierrez case. He said that the check had been sent to the public
administrator's office. I became ill. The public administrator works for
the Brooklyn Surrogate. Glasser let it go in the hands of the Brooklyn
Democratic organization, which owns the courts and makes them the most
suspicious of any government agency.

The surrogate, Michael Feinberg, is the worst of Brooklyn. The check
went to his friend, Louis Rosenthal, who is called the counsel to the
public administrator. He works in his own law office. The public has
nothing to do with him.

They love paper. The check for Gutierrez's father, in their hands, was
paper that could make a lawyer happy. Why not? A dead Mexican with a
father living in nowhere. Run it up!

It is now June of 2002. At first, Rosenthal knew nothing about such a
case as Gutierrez. Then he said that he had located the money in an
account. He had had the money for six months. One hundred and three
thousand. But he couldn't send it right away. Why? Because he couldn't
send it right away.

After being screamed at, he said the check was being sent right now,
registered mail, return receipt requested.

"I took less than my usual fee," Rosenthal said.

"What fee?"

He said he was a private attorney and charged a fee. Gutierrez's father
called from Mexico a few days later. He had no check. The Mexican
counsel called and asked about the check.

In St. Matias, Gutierrez's father inquired about the check for so long
that everybody knew about it and he heard that hoodlums and cops alike
planned to steal it from him. Finally, he reported, the check came.
Almost a year after it should have been mailed to him. The St. Matias
post office wouldn't let a mailman go out to deliver it. Nor would they
give it to Gutierrez's father at first. When they did, the local bank
wouldn't cash it because it was so big. He had to go to Mexico City. He
came back and he was building the top floor of a house his son was
dreaming of when he drowned in concrete in Brooklyn.

One night the police rushed in with guns drawn. They said Gutierrez's
father was in a counterfeit ring. Nobody had that much money legally.
The cops were trying to steal his money. But he had it in a bank. He
spent three days in jail before it got cleared up.

Yesterday afternoon, he called to say that his other son and his
son-in-law had gone over the border at Tijuana. A coyote, their word for
smuggler, had brought the two across the border to America for $2,500
each. Who knows who gets what of that money? You're crossing a border
where there are human beings on guard.

"They should be in Brooklyn tonight," Daniel Gutierrez said through an
interpreter I had on an extension.

Daniel didn't think it was unusual that his son and son-in-law would
follow his dead son to Brooklyn. It is part of the life of the poor in

I reminded him that I hadn't spoken to him since he finally received
that check. I had on the desk clips about Feinberg and Rosenthal being
investigated for taking too much money like it was theirs personal out
of some widow's small inheritance.

"How much did they take out of your check?" I asked.

"Fifteen thousand dollars."