Hirschfeld bounced from courtroom.
Hirschfeld was warned numerous times by Judge Joseph Lisa to refrain from speaking out of turn or he would be forced to leave the hearing. Despite the warnings, Hirschfeld couldn't keep quiet and at one point called Lisa "a crooked liar."
"I would appreciate it if you didn't tell all the lies you've been telling!" Hirschfeld shouted at Lisa.
After several similar outbursts, Lisa ordered Hirschfeld to be removed from the courtroom. As he was being led out by three security guards -- with an accordion file tucked between his shackled wrists - Hirschfeld barked one reminder to his attorney, Robert Chira, to request that Lisa recuse himself from the case.
Hirschfeld was in court last week to defend himself against a lawsuit filed by members of a Jackson Heights co-op, who claim he misappropriated $2 million in funds from the co-op. They also contend Hirschfeld wrote himself a $150,000 check from coop funds. The plaintiffs are seeking $4,175 million in damages, not including attorney fees, interest and punitive damages which could potentially triple that number.
He was transferred to the courtroom from Rikers Island where he is serving a one- to three-year sentence for hiring a hit man to kill his former business partner. He had been serving the sentence at the Sullivan County Correctional Facility in upstate New York, but was transferred to Rikers Island to be closer to the Queens courthouse.
Jury selection for the case is scheduled to begin Feb. 21.
Although it's rare for defendants to be removed from courtrooms, the commotion did not seem to surprise any of the approximately 20 people watching the hearing, including his wife Zipora and about a dozen Hirschfeld supporters.
"Stay strong, Abraham," one of the supporters told him as he was led out the door.
Lisa apologized for having to resort to such drastic measures.
"I'm sorry this event required removing your client but it was impossible for us to deal with this in an appropriate manner," Lisa said. "I have a responsibility to run a courtroom in a dignified manner."
Chira stressed that he felt Hirschfeld was treated fairly.
"This court has always treated my client justly and fairly," Chira said. "I have nothing but respect for the way this court has treated my client."
During last week's hearing, Hirschfeld sought permission from the court to serve as his own attorney, but Lisa denied the request, ruling that Chira would represent Hirschfeld and his two corporations, Hirschfeld Realty and Duane Park Development Corp.
Hirschfeld also sought to be moved to the Queens Men's House of Correction in Kew Gardens, which is closer to the courtroom, or have the case postponed until late May, when he expects he may be released from prison. Lisa denied both requests saying Hirschfeld was placed in Rikers because it has a medical facility, which the Kew Gardens facility does not.
"I believe the inconvenience [of Rikers] is offset by the fact that Mr. Hirscbfeld will have immediate medical attention if he needs it," Lisa said.
The last issue addressed in court pertained to Hirschfeld's taking the stand in his own defense. Chira said he anticipates Hirschfeld will want to testify, but wants to know whether the plaintiff will be allowed to mention that he is incarcerated or that he has been convicted of tax fraud.
Lisa did not issue a formal ruling because he wanted to give the attorneys time to file briefs on the issue. However, he said he was inclined to disallow the incarceration but allow the tax fraud convictions, saying they were relevant to discussions of Hirschfeld's credibility.
As the case proceeds, Hirschfeld has been spending his time in prison penning his memoirs. In the 34-page document, he calls jail the "second best experience in my lifetime," He doesn't name the first.
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|Title Annotation:||Abe Hirschfeld|
|Publication:||Real Estate Weekly|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Feb 21, 2001|
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