Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina at Thursday’s press conference
Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina at Thursday’s press conference

At Thursday’s press conference outside the Peekskill courthouse addressing the recent violent attacks targeting Hispanic men and ensuing judicial controversy, Mayor Frank Catalina blasted City Judge Melissa Loehr’s judgment and devotion to justice. Catalina’s remarks can be seen below.

In response to the mayor’s remarks, Lucian Chalfen, director of public information for New York State Unified Court System, spoke on behalf of Loehr, as she is “not able to get involved in politics or comment.”

“Judge Loehr was appointed by the Peekskill Common Council as a representative of the third branch of government—the judiciary,” Chalfen said. “As such, she maintains the judicial independence that we expect from our state court system.” 

Democrats’ response
Councilwoman Talbot: Catalina dividing community by playing politics with heinous crime

Mayor Catalina’s statement about Loehr is as follows:

“As mayor of this city, I would be derelict in my duties if I did not comment in my official capacity about this incident.

Not only were the crimes an outrage and committed by depraved individuals with no respect for the law, the rights of others or have even a modicum of human decency. They were not indicative of this community.

These crimes were compounded by a sitting judge who released them to prey on other citizens, despite their records and despite being told they were the prime suspects in an even more vicious assault on Friday night.

We know that three misdemeanors committed by [Essa Mcgougain], on Monday, crimes against our brave police officers, would not have occurred had common sense bail been set just the day before, on Sunday. This judge, Melissa Loehr, has a full-time job as a legal aid lawyer in the Bronx. She was given a plum job here in Peekskill, as the associate city court judge, and is being paid an obscene amount of money—$88,000, plus medical, plus pension and everything else—for a one-day-a-week job.

All that is expected of her is to lay down the rule of law and to set the tempo in this city so that crime, especially violent crime, will be dealt with seriously. When she was interviewed by the Peekskill Common Council during the confirmation process, I literally begged the council to have all interviews in public, but they declined. I believe the reason for that was to hide this judge’s blatant bias against police officers, a bias she wears as a badge of honor.

When I asked her, in that interview, what criminal justice issue was the most pressing in Peekskill, she said, ‘police profiling and misconduct.’ When I asked about her most satisfying career case she replied, ‘getting a criminal client off on a technicality.’

There is little we, as a city, can do to remove this mammoth mistake made by politically-motivated councilpersons. However, as a lawyer in practice for 36 years, her conduct was so outrageous, that it, in my opinion, not only called into question her judgment, but her competence. I began to question what could she possibly have been thinking and that question has gnawed at me for almost a week now.

Then, social media posts have been made about possible extra-judicial influences.

There are allegations of one or more of the defendants having ‘dated’ the judge’s daughter. There is an allegation of a relationship—either a blood or social relationship—between one or more of the defendants and a sitting councilperson and that calls were made to this judge about this case. We know that, despite the prohibition against judges attending political events, this judge attended a fundraiser just last week or flouted the rules by being there but standing on the curb or roadway of the outdoor event, clearly flouting her position and the rules.

I want the public to know that we are not ignoring any of this information and are fully investigating every such allegation because every single one of them, if true, contaminates our criminal justice system and will not be tolerated by my administration. If true, they will be reported to the appropriate state judicial authorities and district attorney’s office for possible prosecution.”

Defendant who was released without bail arrested again and charged in violent Friday night assault
• Judicial spokesman addresses Judge Loehr’s bail decision
 Councilman Torres rips Judge Loehr’s decision not to set bail for violent robbery suspects
• District attorney requested $25k bail for robbery and assault suspects; Peekskill judge set them free
• Three arrested after Hispanic males injured—one critically—in violent crime spree in Peekskill
• Excited to serve in her hometown, Loehr won’t comment on ‘political attacks’
• As Democrats applaud Loehr’s appointment, Catalina says it’s time to move on
• ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’ at heart of judge vote controversy
• Breaking: Council Democrats may have mistakenly appointed Fernandez, NOT Loehr…
• Council appoints Melissa Loehr assistant city judge on party-line vote
• Catalina says Democrats will push through ‘unqualified’ appointee to fill judgeship