NY EMT and Commissioner Sentenced

A former EMT and fire commissioner with the Woodmere Fire District was sentenced one-year in jail for falsifying a court transcript related to the dismissal of criminal charges against him for something that occurred while he was responding to an elevator emergency. The bizarre case began back in 2021 when the Woodmere Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a temple where four children were reportedly trapped in an elevator.

Following the response, EMT Judah Karkowsky was accused of making improper physical contact with one of the children. Karkowsky denied the allegations, contending that another district official, Ronna Rubenstein, made these “false reports” about the incident leading to a police investigation out of a retaliatory motive.

According to a civil suit filed by Karkowsky, Rubenstein had a history of “personal animus and hostility” directed toward him which was precipitated by previous complaints Karkowsky had directed towards Rubenstein alleging “serious financial improprieties”. Despite the retaliatory motive, police charged Karkowsky with two offenses: Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree, NYPL § 130.60(2) and Endangering the Welfare of a Child, NYPL § 260.10(1).

This led to Karkowsky’s suspension from the fire department and his being shunned from his synagogue. He claimed that the police ignored exculpatory evidence, including information from the department’s medical director who said the physical examination he provided to the child was appropriate. The charges were reportedly dropped on procedural grounds because the state failed to prosecute within 90 days as required by state law. According to Long Island Business News,  Karkowsky edited the court transcript of his dismissal, and added the following sentence: “Notwithstanding, this court has believed for some time that the People’s case lacked substance and should not have reached this point.” He then forwarded a photo of the edited transcript to the co-chair of the synagogue’s board of trustees in an effort to restore his reputation.

Karkowsky later filed suit in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York accusing Nassau County, the Woodmere Fire District, the Woodmere Volunteer Fire District, Rubenstein and three Nassau County police detectives with violating his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (false arrest, malicious prosecution and due process), state law malicious prosecution, defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention.

Karkowsky’s problem came when the edited transcript surfaced. Quoting from a press release from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office:

  • Judah Karkowsky, 44, was convicted on April 18, 2024, after a jury trial before Judge Robert A. Schwartz of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (a D felony); three counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (an E felony); two counts of Making an Apparently Sworn False Statement in the First Degree (an E felony); and two counts of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree (an A misdemeanor).
  • Karkowsky was sentenced today to one year in jail on each felony charge to run concurrently. NCDA recommended two to six years in prison.
  • “Shunned from the Synagogue where he worshiped after a sex abuse charge was levied against him, this defendant falsified court paperwork that he presented to a member of his Synagogue’s leadership to get back into their good graces. Karkowsky fabricated language that he boldly attributed to a sitting judge giving a fictitious narrative for the dismissal of his case,” said DA Donnelly. “The defendant later doubled down on this deceit by using the language he concocted to file multi-million-dollar lawsuits against Nassau County and the Woodmere Fire District and Department claiming he was falsely arrested and prosecuted. This defendant’s actions were a flagrant attack on the integrity of the criminal justice system – something this office will not stand for. With today’s sentence, Karkowsky is now being held accountable by the same justice system he sought to undermine.”    
  • DA Donnelly said that Judah Karkowsky, a former Commissioner of the Woodmere Fire District, and a volunteer EMT in the Woodmere Fire Department, was arrested on September 23, 2021, for two misdemeanor offenses, including a sex abuse charge. After his arrest, Karkowsky was suspended from the Fire Department.
  • The misdemeanor case against Karkowsky was dismissed on May 6, 2022, due to a violation of CPL 30.30, which required the people to be ready for trial within 90 days of the defendant’s arraignment on the charges.
  • On May 16, 2022, Karkowsky sent a photograph of a page of the minutes to the co-chairman of the board of trustees at his synagogue that included a sentence that did not appear in the original, official minutes of the proceeding. The sentence said, “Notwithstanding, this court has believed for some time that the People’s case lacked substance and should not have reached this point.”
  • At trial, Judge Lerose testified that he never uttered the words in the forged transcript, the Official Court Reporter testified that he did not transcribe those words, and an audio recording of the court proceeding confirmed that Judge Lerose did not make such a comment.
  • The evidence showed that Karkowsky intended to use the forged minutes to convince the leadership of the synagogue that his case was dismissed on merit, that he was innocent of the charges, and that he should be welcomed back to the synagogue.
  • Karkowsky was reinstated to the Woodmere Fire Department after his case was dismissed but was not allowed full access to the synagogue. 
  • On August 4, 2022, Karkowsky served a Notice of Claim on the Woodmere Fire District and Fire Department seeking $15 million in compensation, claiming that members of the Fire Department caused him to be falsely arrested. The Notice of Claim quoted the fraudulent statement attributed to Judge Lerose from the May 6, 2022 minutes as evidence of Karkowsky’s innocence. Karkowsky swore before a Public Notary to the contents of the statements in the Notice of Claim.
  • On August 1, 2022, Karkowsky served a Notice of Claim on Nassau County seeking another $15 million in compensation, alleging that members of the Nassau County Police Department and Nassau County District Attorney’s Office willfully ignored exculpatory evidence. Again, Karkowsky made a false statement about the comments made by Judge Lerose on May 6, 2022. 

Here is a copy of the complaint Karkowski filed:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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