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Myerson Defense Seeks to Defuse Clerk’s Testimony

October 12, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A prosecution witness at the divorce-fixing trial of former Miss America Bess Myerson conceded Tuesday that both sides in her boyfriend’s divorce case did favors for the presiding judge’s daughter.

Miss Myerson, 64, the former city cultural affairs commissioner, is accused of giving a city job to the daughter of former state Supreme Court Justice Hortense Gabel, 75, in exchange for the judge’s favorable rulings in the divorce of Miss Myerson’s lover, Carl ″Andy″ Capasso, 43.

The defense succeeded in getting Mrs. Gabel’s former law clerk, Howard Leventhal, to admit during cross examination that a lawyer for Capasso’s wife once helped secure an apartment for Mrs. Gabel’s daughter, although he did not remember exactly when.

In earlier testimony, Leventhal said that Miss Myerson made numerous phone calls to the judge’s chambers while Mrs. Gabel was deciding whether to cut Capasso’s alimony payments to his estranged wife.

According to Leventhal, Mrs. Gabel apparently did not tell lawyers in the Capasso divorce trial about the Myerson phone calls when she offered to excuse herself from the case after a newspaper article revealed that Miss Myerson had hired the judge’s daughter, Sukhreet.

Miss Myerson is accused of giving a $19,000-a-year city job to Sukhreet Gabel, who was then 34, shortly after Miss Myerson became cultural affairs commissioner in 1983 in order to get the judge to reduce Capasso’s temporary support payments.

Mrs. Gabel also did not tell the lawyers that Mrs. Capasso’s lawyer, Raoul Felder, helped Sukhreet Gabel obtain an apartment, Leventhal testified under questioning by the judge’s defense attorney, Michael Feldberg.

Felder is not accused of any wrongdoing.

In cross examining Leventhal, the defense sought to explain or defuse his apparently damaging testimony that Mrs. Gabel deviated from her usual routine in handling the Capasso case.

On Sept. 14, 1983, Mrs. Gabel cut Capasso’s weekly temporary alimony and child support payments from $1,850 to $680 a week. Her ruling came just a few weeks after Sukhreet Gabel got a job as Miss Myerson’s assistant.

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