Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith faced a fresh set of attacks last week when it was revealed he sent correspondences to New York State and federal authorities pleading they investigate and even arrest former District Attorney Adam Levy. The sheriff already faced scrutiny for admitting he stated public untruths about Levy.
Smith, over several months, sent letters to the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in which he accused Levy of unethical behavior and even harboring an illegal immigrant.
According to a LoHud article, questions have come up about whether Smith committed perjury because of contradictions between his correspondences to state and federal authorities and statements he made in a sworn deposition.
In letters to the state attorney general’s office and federal authorities, Smith strongly encouraged they look into Levy for knowingly housing and harboring an illegal immigrant, Alexandru Hossu. Hossu, a personal trainer and friend of Levy, was arrested for rape in 2013, though he was later found not guilty. Hossu is now suing the sheriff’s office for civil rights violations.
Levy sued Smith in 2013 for defamation over accusations Smith made against Levy in the Hossu rape case. The case was later settled and Smith apologized in a public letter to Levy admitting he asserted untruths about Levy.
Smith’s letters to the state and federal agencies indicate he went to great lengths to see Levy was investigated, accusing him of things he later admitted were baseless. Many of the letters referenced in the LoHud piece were independently obtained by The Putnam Examiner.
In a March 22, 2013 letter to Homeland Security, Smith wrote, “the person who housed and hired the alien was Mr. Adam Levy.” In an Oct. 1, 2013 letter to the state attorney general, Smith again slammed Levy for “taking the side of criminals against innocent victims” and politicizing investigations to hurt the sheriff’s department. Smith pleaded with the state AG’s office to step in.
“We have lost all confidence in the district attorney’s office to do what is right, lawful and just in criminal cases because of Mr. Levy’s own nefarious agenda,” Smith wrote. “As a result, we need your office to step in and assume the prosecutorial for all Putnam County Sheriff’s Office cases.”
In one letter dated Nov. 1, 2013, to the governor’s office, state attorney general’s office, and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Smith implored them that “legal intervention by one or perhaps even all of your offices is needed immediately to protect our criminal justice system against the violence being done to it by Mr. Levy.”
On April 17, 2014, a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI obtained and shared online by LoHud, Smith asserted his office had a “smoking gun” that proves Levy illegally housed and employed Hossu. He also detailed why he believes Levy interfered in Hossu’s rape case before and after he was arrested. He wrote to the FBI that he thinks Levy tipped Hossu off about the rape investigation.
“I believe more strongly than ever that…that the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office has violated the law to pervert justice in the Hossu case,” Smith wrote.
Levy acknowledged leading up to the Hossu trial that he helped pay for part of his defense bill and his brother-in-law eventually took over the defense. Levy defended the actions by stating Smith was going after an innocent man for being associated with him. He strenuously denied ever interfering in the investigation.
In June, Smith retracted 2013 press releases that claimed Hossu resided at Levy’s home, that Levy interfered with the Hossu rape investigation, and should be investigated for knowingly harboring an illegal immigrant.
“These statements were untrue and I should not have made them,” Smith wrote in June.
Those untrue press releases are similar to accusations he made to authorities.
According to the LoHud article, Smith claimed in a deposition he didn’t mention Levy by name when communicating with state and federal agencies. When Levy’s attorney, Michael Sussman, asked Smith if Levy was referred to directly, Smith said, “I don’t believe we referenced Mr. Levy directly on this.”
Smith also said in the deposition when he met with federal authorities in March 2013, he might have mentioned Levy’s relationship with Hossu, but it wasn’t the main topic of the conversation, the LoHud article stated. A Homeland Security agent, David Applebaum, who was deposed in July 2016, puts doubts into Smith’s version of events, stating sheriff’s office personnel alleged Levy was employing Hossu illegally and providing him with a residence. A report issued by Applebaum concluded the sheriff’s department “provides evidence Hossu is/was residing and employed” by Levy, according to the LoHud report.
Sussman said the latest revelations of Smith’s conduct in 2013 indicate he isn’t fit to hold the sheriff’s office. The latest letters show the sheriff’s office attempted to “character assassinate” Levy multiple times and wasted county law enforcement resources against a political enemy.
Smith’s attorney Adam Kleinberg, in an email to The Putnam Examiner, said Smith received information that he believed should’ve been investigated by outside law enforcement agencies to avoid a perceived conflict of interest.
“In the years that followed, the Sheriff was embroiled in a very public lawsuit. He was deposed over the course of several days and responded candidly when he could not recall specifics about documents that were not in front of him,” Kleinberg stated. “He testified to the best of his ability, even while watching his wife losing her fight with cancer on a daily basis. When the dust settled, and all of the information was in front of the sheriff, he apologized to Levy for certain statements made based on what was known to him at the time.”
Sussman called Kleinberg’s comments “nonsense.” Sussman said he doesn’t believe that Smith didn’t remember details during the deposition and argued Kleinberg’s job was to prepare him for it.
“I believe Mr. Smith’s behavior was intentional,” Sussman said. “Mr. Smith frankly lied and did it repeatedly.”
Robert Langley, the Democrat running for sheriff, came out swinging against Smith, calling on the governor’s office to convene a special investigation and even suggested the state attorney general and federal authorities investigate the sheriff. He also said District Attorney Robert Tendy’s office should look into the perjury accusations against Smith or recuse himself and forward it to another agency. (Smith supported Tendy when he ran for district attorney against Levy.)
“This investigation reveals that Putnam County is being policed by a criminal,” Langley said in a statement. “The people of Putnam County have paid Smith to protect us. Instead, he committed fraud and violated the public trust; he spent nearly his entire last term fabricating charges in a personal vendetta.”
Smith called Langley’s comments “ignorant and outrageous” and said he was resorting to dirty politics and personal attacks.
“I stand behind my 16-year record of providing leadership for the law enforcement and emergency services team that has helped keep Putnam County the safest county in New York State for the past 6 years, according to Index Crime Statistics published by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services,” Smith stated. “The people of Putnam County know me and what I stand for.”
Tendy, when reached for comment, said he didn’t read the LoHud article and was unaware of the accusations leveled against Smith, noting he doesn’t get involved in “civil disputes.”
“I’ve not seen anyone do anything in my tenure here that is anything other than completely professional and ethical,” Tendy said. “As of this moment since I’ve been DA, every law enforcement agent, head of agency and police officer has acted completely professional and completely ethically.”