Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Zarinsky

Nothing Civil

A civil suit was filed by Elizabeth Bernoskie.

As reported by Cherie Song in the National Law Journal, "The widow of a New Jersey police officer slain 45 years ago is going after the man once accused of killing him in a civil wrongful death and survivorship action...for damages in access of $1 million in 'Bernoskie v. Zarinsky.'"

Elizabeth Bernoskie claimed not to care about Zarinsky's money.

All she wanted was the truth.

Judith Lucas, reporting in the Star-Ledger, wrote..., "Bernoskie is hoping Zarinsky will be held responsible in civil court where the threshold is lower. In civil trials, jurors base guilt on the weight or preponderance of evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt, as in criminal cases."

Kenneth Javerbaum of Springfield, an attorney hired by Elizabeth Bernoskie in the civil case, spoke at length about the proceedings with Court TV's Crime Library.

"If the criminal trial had ended in a conviction it's unlikely the family would have pursued the civil case," Javerbaum said. "They were shocked by the outcome. It was an injustice. It was like the O.J. case. We couldn't let it end. More than ever we needed to go ahead (with the civil case). Not only did Elizabeth Bernoskie lose her husband, she was cheated out of justice. It was important to the family to brand this guy as a murderer."

During opening hearings, Zarinsky's attorney in the civil case, Henry Furst of West Orange, followed Benedict's lead (in the criminal case), and argued that the Bernoskie family failed to file the complaint within the required time period. He, too, asked that the case be dismissed, citing that the statute of limitations had expired.

Javerbaum countered that his client didn't know the identity of her husband's alleged killers for 40 years; therefore, the delay in filing.

Union County Assignment Judge Edward W. Beglin Jr. allowed the civil suit to continue, and a three-judge appellate panel in Trenton shot down Zarinsky's appeal.

Furst then went to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, asking for a motion to dismiss.

They refused to hear the case.

Zarinsky, meanwhile, went after Peter Sapsa.

According to the Spectator-Leader, "Zarinsky sent a letter to Union County Prosecutor Thomas Manahan...claiming he was a victim of 21 separate identity-theft crimes from April 1998 to April 1999." Quoting from the letter, Zarinksy claimed, "Mr. Sapsa's guilty plea in federal court does not relieve him of responsibility for the state law crimes he committed in Rahway." (Robert Coakley)

He demanded that Manahan prosecute Sapsa.

Three weeks later, Zarinsky sent a letter to State Attorney General John Farmer Jr., which the Spectator-Leader published.

Zarinsky wrote: "I am bringing the crimes against me to your attention, as I strongly fear Manahan may try to cover-up this matter, solely because I was acquitted by a Union County jury May 25 of an alleged murder...I am respectfully requesting your assistance as Attorney General to make an inquiry into the matter of the crimes committed against me and, if necessary, to supersede the Union County Prosecutor's Office in the prosecution of these crimes."

The matter went no further.

Zarinsky had other problems.

Furst asked for permission to be removed as defense counsel. He contended that Zarinsky owed him money for legal fees and printing expenses. Furst had handled Zarinsky's estate after his mother's death and there had been several disagreements along the way. Zarinsky said he had paid Furst in full, but had lost confidence in him.

Zarinsky was given 60 days to find a new attorney.

There were several adjournments.

"Zarinsky kept pleading, 'I need more time. I need more time,'" said Javerbaum. "He said...'I wrote to this lawyer...I wrote to that lawyer. No one will come down here to see me. I have money to pay them, but I can't get anyone to represent me.' The judge finally had enough. He said, 'This case is going to trial.'"

Zarinsky would act as his own attorney.

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