Coming straight from a press conference at the DA’s office, Oren Yaniv, the Daily News’ courthouse reporter, approached the group demonstrating to free Sam Kellner. He was holding a text containing 2009 notes from a police interview with a witness that testified against Lebovits. Alan Dershowitz incorporated this note into his appeal which got Baruch Lebovits a new trial. But the appellate ruling was based on notes about Ashkenazi, not about Kellner.
‘It’s not so simple. Kellner was involved in extortion,” Yaniv said in ear-shot of several of the demonstrators. He then proffered the text to make the case. According to a source attending the demonstration, several people reported the same riff.
The excerpts of the text prove nothing of the sort, as anyone familiar with the case knows, especially, Detective Steve Litwin, the man who took those notes.
If Yaniv had done his job and spoken to Kellner’s attorneys he would have understood that he was handed a bum lead. Instead he was parroting Dershowitz who is aggressively touting his Kellner extortion conspiracy theory to get Baruch Lebovits off the hook.
Yaniv’s “proof” that “Kellner was involved in extortion” will probably never make it into print. If he manages to pull the wool over his editor’s eyes, the rejoinder by Kellner’s attorneys will be swift and humiliating either in the Daily News or another newspaper.
In my opinion, Yaniv’s conduct was unethical. He should be doing the hard work of sorting out this complicated case, digging into its intrigues, and honestly representing competing claims. Instead, he became an extension of the DA’s propaganda machine and tried to manipulate the story by sowing disinformation.
Yaniv’ editors at the Daily News should reconsider their confidence in his professionalism. Why should the Daily News pay a courthouse reporter to be a stenographer and megaphone for Hynes, Vecchione, and Dershowitz?
Jerry Schmetterer, Yaniv’s buddy and Director of Public Information at the Office of the DA, used to work for the Daily News as an editor. If Oren Yaniv is going to work for the DA, he should join Schmetterer on the DA’s payroll.