Monday, May 18, 2009

Criminal Selfishness

by Diane Fanning

When does standing up for your own best interests become a criminal act? Danny Dorrian seems to have found that line and crossed it. He publicly admitted he was a liar last week in New York courtroom.

The subject of his dishonesty was an horrific crime in New York City in late February 2006. An anonymous called led police to a body in a swampy area of Brooklyn--an area once a common dumping ground for the 1930's killing syndicate, Murder Incorporated. The victim was identified as Imette St. Guillen, (right) a 24-year-old graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A white athletic sock was forced down Imette's throat. Her wrists were bound with plastic ties, her ankles tied with wire. She had been sexually assaulted, strangled, suffocated, wrapped in a quilt and left like garbage in a marshy refuge overlooking the sour waters of a Jamaica Bay inlet.

The crime was sickening, disgusting and even perverse. Danny Dorrian made it all even worse by lying to the cops about the victim.

Danny told law enforcement that Imette left The Falls bar alone. Actually, Danny told her killer, a bouncer at The Falls, to escort her out. And he heard an argument between them that ended in a scream.
Not only did he ignore that cry for help, he hid his apathy a blanket of dishonesty. His lie allowed
Darryl Littlejohn (left) to roam free for a week--seven days of opportunity to victimize someone else. His dishonesty gave Littlejohn an additional week to dispose of evidence. It gave him days to possibly flee the area.

Fortunately, Littlejohn was brought before the bar of justice and now faces a trial for the murder of Imette. But Danny didn't know that when he lied. And he didn't care.

There was only one thing Danny cared about: the business. He didn't want to risk the bar's liquor license. He didn't want to risk a scandal. He didn't want to be bothered.

You see, Danny's family owned The Falls. And his family also owned Dorrian's Red Hand, the bar connected in 1986 to the infamous Preppy Murder. Robert Chambers and Jennifer Levin drank rum and cokes at the Red Hand--the same drink Imette was served that fatal night at The Falls. Jennifer left the bar with bar regular Chambers. Her bruised body--sexually assaulted and strangled--was found just hours after her death in Central Park. Chambers claimed the death was an accident occurring during rough sex. He plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

So, Danny lied. He didn't want the scrutiny that fell on his family and its business in 1986. He didn't want to be involved. But, he was involved--he brought the perpetrator and victim together. And he wants to sit this one out?

Sure he did change his story and admit his knowledge a week later. Was that from a guilty conscience or a desire to be a good citizen? Probably not. Most likely, he realized the truth would out and he'd look worse if he stuck with his original story.

The district attorney's attitude to his prevarication was disturbing. In a press conference announcing the indictment of Darryl Littlejohn, in March 2006, Charles Hynes said, "Oh, I've been lied to before. I've gotten over it. When that becomes a crime, I think we should all get out of this business."

I guess you could call it practicality or pragmatism, but I call it a shame. Those self-serving lies were an obstruction of justice, a violation of human decency and a crime against the humanity we all share.

Danny D
orrian deserved to be labelled as a lying "drug-addled loser who relied on daddy's connections to get himself out of trouble," by Littlejohn's attorney in court last week. He deserved the humiliation of having to respond to questions about drug use, alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity on the stand. And he deserves more than that--he's earned our eternal scorn.


Anonymous said...

It's astounding the number of people who think their interests are more important than other people's lives and safety. Thank you for a well written article.

Diane Fanning said...

Thank you, Anonymous. As I'm sure you can tell, I was outraged when I read about this case.

dcheryl83 said...

Oh wow, how I do remember the Preppy Killer and Dorrian's Red Hand. Believe it or not, Robert Chambers and I were pen pals for several years. (what was I thinking???!) Its unbelievable that the same owners would be the focus of yet another beautiful young lady being murdered. Did they honestly think the NYPD would not retrace Imettes steps and they could get away with keep their "secret?" Outrageous!

Debra said...

Hi Diane! I agree with you. Not only is Mr. Dorrian a loser, but I'm not so sure the prosecuter isn't as bad. By not charging Dorrian (and i think lying on the stand is illegal most everywhere), the NY courts are sending a clear message to others=say whatever you want....

Penny said...

fascinating read, Diane. your outrage came thru quite clear. if one is planning on lying in a court of law, i'd say do it in NY.

FleaStiff said...

The usual thinking is that by keeping mum the cops may look elsewhere and go off on some tangent that doesn't hurt their business or expose them to liability.

Some NY restauranteurs have had annoying habits. One routinely offered a valet parker who merely drove the cars to nearby fire hydrants and brought the cars back to their unsuspecting owners with the torn-up parking tickets stuffed into his pockets. Another tried to hold onto a patron's fur coat on a wintry night when the patron had mistakenly thought she could use a credit card or a check instead of cash. He later had two of his employees send mail to a local magazine ostensibly from patrons at the restaurant but the restauranteur mistakenly used his postage meter to mail them and was found out.

The frequently encountered attitude is that if revealing what happened in the restaurant might lead to further trouble, let the cops find out about it on their own. The fact that the bouncer/doorman they had hired clearly was a poor choice to escort even a slightly inebriated woman out the door might impose civil and criminal penalties, so the bar owners best course of action was to say nothing. If the cops later got onto the right track, the usual situation is that there is really little that could ever be done about the misleading statements and lack of candor.
Is this morally objectionable? Well, if you are charged with an offense you have the right to plead not guilty and put the state to its proof even though you are in fact guilty. A right to refuse to incriminate oneself at trial is meaningless if one is forced to incriminate oneself at the pretrial stage. I was always surprized that the owner didn't "make a mistake" and re-use the night's videotape.

Anonymous said...

His lie was actually much simpler than that. Littlejohn was on probation. He shouldnt have been working at a bar.

Dorrian didnt want to get in troublt (AGAIN), for doing underhanded things. He obviously paid him under the table. I dont think that he thought he killed her though. Immette was screaming INSIDE the bar (if the story has stayed the same), which is why Dorrian had her escorted out, she didnt want to leave and she was drunk. Didnt you read about this case?

Diane Fanning said...

Yes, anonymous. I did read about this case. I knew about the illegality of Littlejohn working there at all. I chose not to write about that aspect of the case. Instead, the focus of my piece was the moral and ethical issues surrounding Dorrian's initial lies to the police.