Paul Siminovsky, a divorce lawyer in Brooklyn NY Supreme Court who appeared before Judge Gerald P. Garson in divorce cases, was arrested on February 25, 2003. He had a friendship with Garson going back to 2001, and spent an extraordinary amount of time with him outside of court, taking him out for lunches, dinners, and drinks. In a November 18, 2002, recorded telephone conversation, he told Elmann (the “fixer”) that he had just spent two hours getting Garson drunk, and that “[h]e’ll do what we want.”
The crooked Brooklyn lawyer planning to skip jail for helping convict disgraced judge Gerald Garson was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs on 6/26/2007 – despite prosecution pleas for leniency. Although he previously admitted to bribing judge Gerald P. Garson to fix his cases, said on 9/07/2004 that he did not think he was committing any crimes as he was testifying against Judge Garson’s former clerk, Paul Sarnell, and court officer Louis Salerno – charged with taking bribes to steer the lawyer’s cases illegally to the judge between 2001 and 2003.
Siminovsky said he had only hoped to curry favor with Garson to get lucrative court appointments. In addition, prosecutors provided financial records as evidence, as well as testimony from Siminovsky. Siminovsky testified that he entertained Judge Garson with lunches, dinners, and drinks, nearly always paying the bill, and gave him money and cigars, in exchange for favorable treatment and legal assignments. The prosecution alleged that before Siminovsky began cooperating with prosecutors, he had already entertained Garson more than 40 times, spending $3,149. The lead prosecutor had asked Garson: “Why did you do this with Siminovsky? Why did you take care of him?” And that Garson had replied: “I like him. And he kind of reminded me of myself.”
On the morning he was arrested, Siminovsky was taken to the Fort Hamilton prison-like army base in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for questioning. He confessed to wrongdoing within half an hour, and subsequently to bribery. He made a deal with the investigators, agreeing to cooperate in investigating Garson and in his prosecution, in exchange for a reduced charge pursuant to a plea bargain, and the promise of a positive letter from the DA to Siminovsky’s sentencing judge. Within hours, he was wearing a hidden body microphone in a sting operation, as he joined Garson for lunch at the Archives Restaurant on Adams Street. He continued to wear the wire for weeks, in meetings with Garson.
He testified for 13 days at two trials. He ultimately helped prosecutors win guilty pleas or convictions from nine people. Whether there was a quid pro quo for law guardianships was not so clear, even after prosecutors called a court clerk to testify about guardianships assigned in 2002. Siminovsky received 24 guardianships, while the next-highest number assigned went to an attorney who received 18. The third highest number assigned was 11 guardianships.
Siminovsky pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor for having given unlawful gratuities, as part of his plea bargain. In June 2007, Acting Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey G. Berry, a visiting judge from Orange County, New York, sentenced him to a year in prison, the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor. He also lost his license to practice law, and agreed never to apply for reinstatement.
Others charged with felonies linked to the Garson bribery scheme were: the “fixer” (sentenced to 16 months to 5½ years in prison), a court officer (sentenced to 1–4½ years in prison), two of Siminovsky’s clients who paid what they understood were bribes (sentenced to three months in prison and 150 hours of community service, and to 210 hours of community service, respectively), and a former Garson law clerk (acquitted). Two long-time employees in the main court clerk’s office, who were not arrested, were suspended without pay.
The leader of that investigation was Michael F. Vecchione, a deputy district attorney assigned to the case.