Arab-American Businessman Blames ‘Hostile Pro-Israeli Judges’ for $4.75 Million Judgement Awarded to Former Employee
An Arab-American businessman blamed “a hostile compilation of pro-Israeli judges” in Westchester Country for a $4.75 million Supreme Court judgement against him last month, The Journal News reported.
Sammy El Jamal, 39, claimed in a press statement and a lengthy letter to New York Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler, that “several Jewish judges from the State Supreme Court in Westchester County are openly discriminating against him as an Arab-American litigant and cooperating with his adversaries in court against him.”
El Jamal operates the food concessions at the Westchester County Airport. The trial stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a former employee, Brent Coscia, who claimed El Jamal had him arrested on fraudulent charges. Last month, a jury awarded the millions to Coscia.
In his letter to Adler, who presided over the trial, El Jamal delved into his Palestinian heritage and said he was discriminated against in the court room.
“You weren’t willing, because of your predetermined beliefs, to respect me or simply give me the courtesy of a respectful candor or a slight bit of direction,” he wrote to Adler. “After all, you may recall it was my father and my family who left Palestine on May 15th in 1948 without any source of equality or direction.”
The Purchase, N.Y., native also wrote that the judge did not allow him to fire his attorney and represent himself, and allowed evidence against him to be improperly introduced during the trial. He added that on several occasions, Adler was “berating me in front of the jury” and “mocking me.”
El Jamal said he filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office claiming his rights were violated by Adler and other Jewish court officials, according to The Journal News.
In a written statement, El Jamal said the problem started in an unrelated court case in which he asked that state Supreme Court Justice Joan Lefkowitz remove herself, claiming the judge was “very pro-Israel from the bench.” El Jamal believes that Adler and Lefkowitz share the “same views about Sammy El Jamal.”
Coscia’s lawyer, Marc Oxman, said El Jamal’s discrimination claims “were simply not true.”
“There’s absolutely nothing to support Mr. El Jamal’s assertion that he was discriminated against in any respect,” Oxman said. “The jury found against him substantially for the simple reason that his actions were despicable and they showed their displeasure in their verdict. It’s how the system works.”
Yenisey Rodriguez-McCloskey, an attorney for El Jamal, defended her client.
“The message he’s really trying to impart is that he was denied his right to a fair trial and he’s not being treated as he should in this country,” Rodriguez-McCloskey said. “He’s not a combative person. He believes in peace and the peace-making process.”
Adler said that he did not think it was appropriate to respond to El Jamal’s letter, The Journal News noted.
It was revealed in 2013 that El Jamal had a history of lawsuits, business disputes and unpaid taxes. His father, who is listed as vice president of Airport Mart, pleaded guilty in 2002 to fraudulent practices and falsifying payroll records, and agreed to pay a $400,000 settlement. Sammy El Jamal was indicted in the case but not convicted.
Westchester County officials would not comment but noted that El Jamal’s airport payments are up to date.