<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:23:29 -0500 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:23:29 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Judge Recuses Self in Eric Garner Documents Hearing]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:24:17 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eric+garner+death+inset+new.jpg

The state Supreme Court judge who was set to preside over a hearing Friday to decide whether the documents from the Eric Garner grand jury proceedings could be released to the public has recused himself from the case, NBC 4 New York has learned.

Judge Stephen Rooney removed himself from the case because his wife works at Richmond University Medical Center, the same hospital where the EMTs who responded to the Garner call worked, multiple officials familiar with the case proceedings said. 

As a result, Friday's hearing will be postponed until January, when a new judge is expected to be assigned. 

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said Rooney's recusal raises more questions than answers and "further underscores the need to release the grand jury minutes related to the investigation of Eric Garner's death." 

"The only way to restore the public's faith in our justice system is to bring sunlight into the court system," she said in a statement, adding that she is directing her legal team to continue fighting in court for disclosure. 

NBC 4 New York first reported earlier this month that Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan did not ask grand jurors to consider a reckless endangerment charge in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Donovan only asked grand jurors to consider manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop seen on widely-watched amateur video wrapping his arm around Garner's neck as the heavyset, asthmatic 43-year-old yelled, "I can't breathe!" nearly a dozen times during the July 17 confrontation, the source said.

It's not clear why Donovan left the lesser charge off the table, and he has said strict confidentiality laws surrounding grand jury proceedings prevent him from discussing the details of the case.

Donovan had submitted an application to the court seeking authorization to publicly release specific elements of the proceedings but the only information released when Rooney granted his request a day later involved the number of exhibits the jurors saw, how long they heard evidence and how many witnesses they heard it from. The application was sealed, so it's not clear if he had petitioned the judge to release information about the charges the jurors considered.

Last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union formally petitioned for the public release of the grand jury record, and the hearing on it was scheduled for this Friday. 

The grand jury in the Garner case delivered a vote on Dec. 3 of "no true bill," which determined there was not probable cause that Pantaleo committed any criminal offense the panel was tasked with considering. The decision set off protests in New York City and across the country.

The NYPD said its internal review of the case is ongoing, and the U.S. Department of Justice said it also is investigating.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[13 Indicted on Murder, Racketeering Charges in NY]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 16:46:34 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gang+members.jpg

Federal agents and Yonkers police made a series of arrests early Wednesday in connection with the takedown of a violent Yonkers-based street gang commonly known as GMF, law enforcement officials tell NBC New York.

Thirteen members of the gang are charged in a federal indictment with racketeering, drug trafficking, murder, and firearms offenses, according to court papers unsealed Wednesday.

Ronnie King and Chris Grebinger, two of the alleged gang members named in the indictment, are still wanted to by authorities (see photos above). The FBI is asking anyone with information on their whereabouts to call 212-384-1000.

The GMF gang is accused of participating in numerous threats and acts of violence to protect its territory and power, including shootings of rival gang members and the 2013 murder of one, according to the indictment. An innocent bystander was wounded in a 2008 attempt to shoot a rival gang member, and a rival gang member was paralyzed in a 2010 shooting, the indictment says.

The arrests were made by the FBI’s Westchester Violent Crimes Task Force with help from the bureau's SWAT team.

Those arrested in the Wednesday morning sweep are expected to appear in federal court in White Plains later Wednesday.  

Photo Credit: FBI]]>
<![CDATA[Elementary Teacher Accused of Molesting More Students]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 22:40:40 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/omil+carrasquillo+teacher+arrest.jpg

A Brooklyn elementary school teacher arrested earlier this year on sexual abuse charges was accused of molesting four additional students in a 22-count indictment that was unsealed Monday.

Omil Carrasquillo, a former science teacher at The Canton School P.S. 249 in Flatbush, is charged with five counts of sexual conduct against a child, 11 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and multiple counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse. 

The 36-year-old Carrasquillo was arrested in September for allegedly molesting at least five girls between the ages of 10 and 11 on school property, according to police. The indictment accuses him of molesting those five, plus an additional four girls who were between 8 and 11 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.

Prosecutors say the abuse began as early as November of 2012 and lasted through September 2014. The investigation began after one student told authorities she had been abused. 

Police said Carrasquillo would give his male and female students a hug if they had done something good or that they would hug him, according to the September complaint. Carrasquillo told officials that it was possible the children may have misunderstood how he was touching them, according to the complaint. He said he would put his arms on their back or shoulders when explaining classwork or that he would touch their arms or legs to get their attention, police said.

Carrasquillo was removed from the classroom as soon as administrators learned of the allegations, city Department of Education spokesman Harry Hartfield has said. The DOE said Carrasquillo had worked for the department since 2006.

The former teacher posted $200,000 bail and is expected to return to his home on Long Island, according to his attorney. Carrasquillo has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to seven years in prison for each count if convicted.

“We will undertake a thorough and careful review of the allegations and provide Mr. Carrasquillo with an appropriate and dignified defense,” said the defendant's attorney, Anthony La Pinto.

Carrasquillo is next due in court in February. 

<![CDATA[NYPD Officer Chauffeured, Helped Drug Dealer: Pros.]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 22:34:46 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/JD-IMG9544451.jpg

Prosecutors say a New York City police officer drove a drug dealer around, offered to arrange a heroin sale and warned a cocaine supplier that police action was coming.

Officer Merlin Alston pleaded not guilty Friday to conspiracy and official misconduct charges. His lawyer, Thomas Kenniff, notes that the indictment "is in no way synonymous with guilt."

City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan's office says the eight-year police veteran helped a drug trafficker deliver cocaine in 2010 and gave him rides and offered to help him buy heroin this spring.

Prosecutors say the 31-year-old Alston also advised a different cocaine supplier in May to tell others to "ghost" and "be gone" from a corner where police were expected.

The police department hasn't immediately responded to an inquiry about Alston.

<![CDATA[223 Arrested on 2nd Day of Garner Protests: NYPD]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:46:47 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Brooklyn-Bridge-Protest-Coffins-1204.jpg

More than 200 demonstrators were arrested as protests against the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict an NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner stretched into a second night, police said.

Thousands of people flooded streets across the city Thursday, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge carrying makeshift coffins, blocking traffic at other major bridges and tunnels, lying down in roadways in silent "die-ins" and weaving through busy thoroughfares chanting "I can't breathe," and "No justice, no peace." More protests are expected Friday and a national march is planned for next week.

Among the 223 protest-related arrests Thursday was American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who was charged with disorderly conduct. Eight other people were taken into custody in Times Square, where some protesters threw objects at police. Order was quickly restored after the skirmish.

Thursday's arrests are in addition to 83 arrested Wednesday, bringing the total to 306.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Friday morning that a few police cars had been spray-painted and there was very little vandalism and no violence. He said the bulk of the arrests were on charges of disorderly conduct and a few were for minor assaults on police officers.

Bratton said he wasn't concerned about the increase in the number of arrests and that protests have been peaceful. He also praised officers for practicing restraint during the marches.

"All and all, apart from the significant traffic disruptions, we've been doing OK," Bratton said.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was captured on amateur video, saying "I can't breathe!" during an altercation with police. 

Protesters came out in larger numbers Thursday, with public officials and families of other men who were killed in police confrontations joining picket lines. The families of Anthony Baez, the man who died after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer in 1994 when he and his brothers accidentally hit a cop's cruiser with a football, and Amadou Diallo, who was shot 19 times by four officers in the Bronx in 1999, were seen with protesters outside 1 Police Plaza in lower Manhattan.

A view of the initial gathering from Chopper 4 showed a crowd of an estimated 5,000 at Foley Square before a few hundred other protesters from Union Square marched down to join them there. 

The protesters chanted, "This is our reality, stop police brutality," as police walked and rode alongside them, monitoring the march and keeping order. 

They also invoked the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury's decision last week not to indict a police officer in the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, shouting "Hands up, don't shoot," and holding signs that said "Ferguson is everywhere." 

Other protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge carrying fake caskets bearing the names of unarmed black men who died at the hands of police, including Garner, Ramarley Graham and Akai Gurley. 

Thousands more marched up from the West Side Highway, weaving through traffic.

Later, protesters went to Herald Square to lay down on the streets of the busy intersection, remaining silent for 11 minutes, signifying the number of times Garner yelled "I can't breathe." 

The Brooklyn Bridge, the West Side Highway and the Holland Tunnel all saw brief closures or major backups during the protests as marchers demanded action.

"These officers need to be convicted. They belong in jail," said midtown resident Richard Newbury.

Ashley Cissokho of Park Slope, Brooklyn, said, "It's not just anger toward police. It's anger toward the system that lets them get away with doing bad things."

Danny Blackman was stuck in traffic for about an hour and a half. He called it "no big deal" and said "I understand the protests. I'm OK with that."

Not every driver was as understanding. In Tribeca, cars were bumper to bumper, a nightmare for taxi and limo drivers.

"A lot of stress today," said a private car driver. "Clients are stressed out. They had to walk half a mile to the restaurant." 

Meanwhile, thousands of other protesters marched, chanted and lay down in streets in major cities across the country. Demonstrators stopped traffic on major highways in Chicago and on a bridge in Washington, and in Boston, throngs of people protested peacefully at the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony and at City Hall.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into the case. The NYPD says its internal review of Pantaleo's actions is ongoing.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Second Suspect Charged in Jewelry Heist: U.S. Attorney]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:54:39 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/leon+fenner.jpg

A gunman in a brazen daylight robbery of a jewelry outlet in Manhattan's Diamond District was charged with armed robbery Thursday after being apprehended a day earlier in Maryland, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Leon Fenner, 58, is accused of brandishing a semiautomatic gun during a Nov. 11 heist at a jeweler's office in a building on 47th Street, Bharara said. He allegedly pistol-whipped a relative of the jeweler during the robbery, which occurred while the city's Veteran's Day parade passed a few blocks away.

More than $600,000 in jewelry was taken during the robbery, investigators said.

Fenner is the second suspect arrested in the case. Nearly a week after the heist, police arrested Rondu Frisby, 37, who was said to be a business associate of the jeweler. He has been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and aiding and abetting an armed robbery, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Fenner was identified in surveillance video and through fingerprints on envelopes he left in the jeweler's office, investigators said.

Fenner is charged with armed robbery, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of brandishing a firearm during a robbery, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of seven years in prison.

It wasn't immediately clear whether either suspect had an attorney.

A search warrant executed at Frisby's home uncovered more than $100.,000 in cash, prosecutors said.

<![CDATA[Man Convicted of Smothering Brooklyn Teen, Setting Body on Fire]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:54:03 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/BORDONARO14YODOAONBEACHFOLOBKPKG5PM_5681724_722x406_28924483974.jpg

A 22-year-old Maine man was convicted Tuesday of smothering a 14-year-old girl then setting her body on fire on a Brooklyn beach early last year because he thought she was pregnant, prosecutors say.

Christian Ferdinand, of Limestone, Maine, was found guilty of second-degree murder and evidence tampering in the Jan. 4, 2013 death of Shaniesha Forbes, a student of the Academy for Young Writers in Williamsburg. He’s expected to be sentenced early next year and faces 25 years to life behind bars.

Ferdinand and Forbes met over Facebook in the month before her murder and developed a relationship. Sources told NBC 4 New York shortly after Forbes' death that Ferdinand told investigators they had unprotected sex multiple times.

They met at Forbes’ apartment on Nostrand Avenue on Jan. 4, when she told him she was pregnant. They argued about the presumed pregnancy, and Ferdinand demanded that she “kill it.”

When she refused, prosecutors say Ferdinand put a pillow over her face until she stopped moving. He then brought her body to the roof and hid it for a day before taking it to Gerritsen Beach in a suitcase and setting her on fire using Axe body spray as an accelerant.

A medical examiner determined Forbes wasn’t pregnant after her death. She would be 16 if she were still alive.

<![CDATA[Man Arrested in Death of 3-Year-Old Bronx Boy]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 09:56:52 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/poseidon+quinones1.jpg

Police say they've arrested a man in the death of a 3-year-old boy in the Bronx last week.

Fernando Yensi, 33, was charged with manslaughter of a person less than 11 years old Thursday, police said.

The medical examiner Wednesday ruled Poseidon Quinones' death a homicide. 

Yensi's relationship with the boy was not immediately clear, but the home address listed by police matched Poseidon's residence. The boy's father, Benjamin Quinones, said Wednesday that his son had been living with Benjamin's mother, her husband and their two children. 

"The ACS took him from me because they told me my son was going to be safer there than with me," Benjamin Quinones told NBC 4 sister station Telemundo. 

"I think everyone in the house should be under investigation. Somebody in the house beat my son, that's all we know," he said. "We're just trying to get to the bottom of this, now I just want justice for him." 

Yensi told reporters as he was led from a police station Thursday, "I never touched him," and that he had "no idea" how the boy got bruises on his body. 

Officers responded to a 911 call at 1:42 a.m. Saturday and found little Poseidon Quinones unconscious inside his South Bronx apartment. Police say the child had suffered apparent trauma to his body.

The boy was taken to Lincoln Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The boy had been in the custody of his paternal grandmother, by order of the city Administration for Children's Services, according to the boy's father. 

It's not clear why ACS had removed the boy from his parents' custody.

<![CDATA[Bronx Man Jailed for 18 Years Despite 13 Alibi Witnesses]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 07:34:10 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Richard+Rosario001+%282%29.jpg

By Dan Slepian 

Richard Rosario sat down in the visiting room of an upstate New York prison and began to recount the same story he’s been telling since a summer evening nearly two decades ago.

“I turned myself in when I heard police were looking for me,” says Rosario, now 39. “I gave detectives everything they needed that first night to prove my innocence. They never investigated any of it.”

Rosario is now serving the 18th year of a 25-to-life sentence for a 1996 Bronx murder, even though he insists he was 1,000 miles away in Florida on the day of the crime -- and at least 13 alibi witnesses swear Rosario is telling the truth. Among the witnesses who can vouch for him are a sheriff’s deputy, a pastor, and a federal correctional officer.

“Do you believe I’m still here?” he said, “It’s insane.”

As NBC News learned in an investigation that aired Thursday on News 4 New York, Rosario’s story has never changed.

On June 30, 1996, he says he boarded a Greyhound bus in Deltona, Florida and headed back to New York City to clear up what he thought was a misunderstanding. A few days earlier, when Rosario had called home to speak to his mother, she’d told him that NYPD detectives had been to their Bronx apartment because they wanted to speak with him about a murder.

Once he arrived in the Bronx, Rosario called detectives at the 43rd precinct saying he knew nothing about a murder, but he’d voluntarily turn himself in the next day to answer any questions they had. Instead, detectives came to the apartment that evening and took Rosario to the precinct.

Two eyewitnesses had picked Rosario’s photo out of a book of mugshots, saying he was the gunman who’d shot 17-year-old George Collazo in the face on the afternoon of June 19, 1996 after a brief altercation in the street. The eyewitnesses then picked Rosario out of a live line-up.

But Rosario insisted he’d never killed anyone, and was in Florida on the date of the murder. He said he’d been in Florida the whole month of June. He gave a detailed voluntary statement to detectives, providing them with the names, phone numbers and addresses of at least 13 people who he said could confirm he was in Florida on the day of the murder.

While in Florida, he explained, he’d been staying with his friend John Torres and John’s wife Jeannine, who was pregnant. In fact, said Rosario, he was with them on June 19 when Jeannine went into labor. He’d celebrated with the couple and their friends the next day when the baby was born. If true, there was no way he could have pulled a trigger in the South Bronx on June 19. More than a dozen people could confirm his story.

“I didn’t expect to be in jail for another day,” Rosario says now. “I figured they’d make a few calls and I’d be released that evening.”

Detectives, however, did not follow up with any of the alibi witnesses. With no evidence other than two stranger eyewitness identifications linking him to the murder, Rosario -- the 21-year-old father of a two- year-old boy and a four-year-old girl -- was arrested for murder.

Rosario had already had contact with the justice system. At the time of his arrest, he was wanted for a robbery.  Although he also contended he was not guilty of the robbery, after he was convicted of the murder, he pleaded guilty to the robbery. His sentence would run concurrently with the sentence for the murder conviction. He had also pleaded guilty to a robbery as a juvenile, which is why his photo was among the mugshots shown to eyewitnesses.

After his arrest for murder, Rosario was sent to Riker’s Island, New York City’s mammoth detention center, to await trial. He met with his first court-appointed attorney while at Riker’s and begged for someone to speak with his alibi witnesses in Florida. The attorney asked a judge for money to send an investigator to Florida, and the request was granted.

But the lawyer never sent an investigator to Florida, and soon handed over the case to another lawyer. Due to an apparent miscommunication between the attorneys, the new lawyer believed that the judge had denied the request to pay for an investigator.

Either way, no investigator was sent to Florida, and the witnesses were never interviewed. Even so, two alibi witnesses -- John Torres and his wife Jeannine – did testify at Rosario's 1998 trial, saying Rosario had been in their home on the day of the murder, and that they remembered the day well because of the birth of their first child the next day. But the prosecution convinced the jury that those witnesses were not credible because they were Rosario's close friends. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.

Reporters from NBC’s “Dateline” recently tracked down nine of the alibi witnesses that Rosario named the night he turned himself in. All of those reached said they had never been contacted by anyone from the NYPD or the Bronx District Attorney’s office, which has also been confirmed in court documents.

Today, John Torres is a sheriff’s deputy in Florida. In an interview with “Dateline,” he said “if it was just a random date, I wouldn’t be able to know. My son was born on the 20th of June. I am 100 percent sure Richard was in my living room when my wife went into labor the day before, on June 19th. He was staying in my house.”

His wife Jeannine says she also knows that Rosario is innocent. “He was in my living room, and I said, ‘Rich, you gotta go, the baby’s coming.’”

Fernando Torres, John’s father and an assistant pastor, said, “If my grandson wasn’t born that day this would be all immaterial to me, but I came by the apartment, and Richard was the one who told me they had gone to the hospital, that I was about to be a grandfather.”

Mike Serrano, a federal correctional officer, says he also remembers seeing Rosario at the Torres home when the baby came.

Dateline also tracked down retired NYPD detective Irwin Silverman, the officer who interviewed Rosario the night of his arrest in New York and took his statement detailing the 13 alibi witnesses. Silverman was not the lead detective and retired just a few months after the interview. Silverman told “Dateline”’s Lester Holt that he had no idea no one from the NYPD or Bronx DA’s office ever followed up with the alibi witnesses, and called it “disgraceful.”

Rosario challenged his conviction in state court in 2004, arguing that his original attorneys were ineffective by not sending an investigator to Florida. During that hearing, seven of the alibi witnesses came to New York and told a judge that Rosario had been in Florida. But the state judge ruled against him, saying that his lawyers had on the whole "represented Rosario skillfully and with integrity" and that their failure to send an investigator to Florida was the result of a "misunderstanding or mistake" that "was not deliberate."

Since then, Rosario has appealed to various federal courts, all of which have upheld the conviction. The Bronx DA’s office stands by the conviction and the eyewitnesses, saying that the original jury already evaluated the alibi defense and rejected it.

In a statement, the Bronx DA’s office said, “We have reviewed the case extensively. While there are cases in which we have consented to vacature of conviction without going through the legal process, this is one that we believe should be, and is, before the Court for decision. Our response has been filed with the Court, and beyond that we are not going to comment.”

But Rosario’s new lawyers at the Exoneration Initiative say they have now found new information that no judge or jury ever heard: a police report, which had been redacted 18 years ago at trial, in which the main eyewitness told someone he actually had not seen the shooter's face. Based on that police report, Rosario's defense attorneys have asked Bronx Supreme Court Judge Robert Sackett to re-open the case. A decision is expected soon.

Meanwhile, Rosario is still living out his sentence at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, hoping to be reunited with his son and daughter, now 22 and 24 years old.

“All I care about is the truth,” said Rosario. “I just hope the truth comes out.”

Follow Dan Slepian on Twitter @danslepianand contact Dateline NBC on Facebook or email  Dan: dan.slepian@nbcuni.com

Photo Credit: NBC News
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<![CDATA[Associate Arrested in Diamond District Heist: Police]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:53:26 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/leon+fenner.jpg

Police say they have arrested a man in last week's brazen mid-day jewelry store heist in midtown, but are still looking for the two suspects who executed the robbery.

Rondu Frisby, 37, was taken into police custody Monday. He's charged with robbery, and two counts each of possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana, according to the NYPD.

It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

According to a complaint unsealed in federal court Tuesday, Frisby, a friend of the store owner, went to the business on 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues on the afternoon of Nov. 11, ostensibly to help a friend pick out jewelry for the friend's girlfriend. 

Moments later, he let in a well-dresed man who claimed to be a messenger, the complaint said. That man first said he was there to serve the owner with papers, and after taking out two envelopes from his bag, showed a gun and pointed it at the owner, two other employees, and Frisby, and demanded all the jewelry inside the store.

Frisby and the three others emptied more than $600,000 worth of jewelry from a safe and gave it to the suspect before the fake messenger fled with another suspect in the hallway, who had been acting as a lookout. 

Police say they're still searching for those two suspects. Fingerprints have helped police identify one of them as 58-year-old Leon Fenner (picture above), who allegedly acted as the messenger during the robbery.

Cellphone records show Fenner and Frisby communicated on their phones 25 times the day of the robbery -- before and after, but not during, according to prosecutors. Surveillance video also shows Frisby walking into the store first, with Fenner and the other suspect about 20 to 30 feet behind him.  

A search warrant executed at Frisby's home uncovered more than $100.,000 in cash, prosecutors said. 

The Nov. 11 heist drew a swarm of SWAT teams to the busy midtown block as the Veterans Day Parade marched several blocks away. 

<![CDATA[Martial Arts Instructor Sexually Assaulted Girl: Prosecutor]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 23:40:45 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/martial+arts+instructor+arrest.JPG

A New Jersey martial arts instructor has been arrested on charges he sexually assaulted a girl multiple times inside a studio he co-owns, authorities say.

George Mendoza-Valentino, 27, of Saddle Brook, had inappropriate sexual relations with a 13-year-old student at the ATA Academy in Springfield, according to the Union County prosecutor. 

Authorities said he also sent the girl explicit video and photos, and asked her to send some in return. 

Mendoza-Valentino was arrested in the studio on Morris Avenue Thursday night, and charged with second-degree sexual assault and child endangerment. 

The martial arts studio, which teaches both children and adults, was closed Friday, and a note on the door stated it would reopen Monday. A posting on its Facebook page said classes were canceled due to "an emergency situation." 

Calls and emails to the studio were not immediately returned. 

Mendoza-Valentino remains in jail on $125,000 bail. Attorney information wasn't immediately available. 

Springfield police are concerned about other potential victims. Anyone with information is asked to contact them. 

<![CDATA[FBI Looking for 2 Suspects in Midtown Cartier Heist]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:24:46 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Cartier-Suspects.jpg

The FBI is looking for two men they say were members of the crew that robbed a Cartier store in Manhattan earlier this year, stealing $700,000 in merchandise from the high-end jeweler.

Agents say Courtney Hardin and Jamal Dehoyos were two of the men involved in the heist at the Fifth Avenue store, where authorities say suspects made off with 16 watches.

Several suspects were charged in the robbery earlier this year. They were accused of being part of a violent interstate robbery crew that hit the Borgota Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, a jewelry store in Richmond, Virginia, and another store in Cranford, New Jersey.

A stun gun was used on a store worker in at least one of the hold-ups.

Hardin, 25, also goes by "Mazie" and "Mozie" and is known to frequent Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Dehoyos is 38 or 39 and is known to frequent East New York in Brooklyn and Flushing and Springfield Gardens in Queens, officials have said.

Authorities have offered a significant reward for tips leading to their arrests. Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call 212-384-1000.

<![CDATA[Hofstra Student's Turban Kept Him Out of ROTC: Lawsuit]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 19:30:56 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/simgh+hofstra.jpg

A Hofstra University student from New York City is suing after he says he was barred from joining the Army Reserve Training Corps program on campus because of the long hair, beard and turban he keeps for his religion. 

Iknoor Singh, a sophomore at the school in Hempstead, has been attempting to enlist in the ROTC program since his freshman year, according to the lawsuit filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Sikhs organization.

But he was told he couldn't enlist unless he cut his hair, shaved his beard and removed his turban, which goes against Singh's beliefs as a Sikh.

The student tried to appeal several times only to be turned down because, ROTC officials told him, it "would have an adverse impact on the Army's readiness, unit cohesion, standards, health, safety, or discipline," the lawsuit states.

"Mr. Singh is now left with an untenable choice: Enlist as an ROTC Cadet and abandon the sacred religious practices that he has followed his entire life, or forfeit his dreams of joining ROTC -- along with the many benefits of enlistment in the program, which is the largest officer commissioning source in the military," the lawsuit states.

Singh told NBC 4 New York Thursday, "Once a Sikh gets rid of his hair and his beard, it's in direct violation of his faith. You lose what God has given to you." 

Hofstra University said in a statement that Singh is currently enrolled in the ROTC class though not as a "full Cadet," and that he is receiving leadership training "to the extent that the U.S. Army has allowed."

"Hofstra University entirely supports Mr. Singh's ambitions to serve his country," the statement continued. "We very much hope that the Army will permit us to enroll Mr. Singh in the program as a full Cadet.".

Singh is seeking a religious accommodation for his entrance to the program. In an appeal letter filed last November, Singh pointed to several other Sikhs who received accommodations to serve in the Army with their articles of faith intact.

"Mr. Singh seeks only the same or similar accommodations previously granted to other Sikhs and service members of other faiths. If granted, these accommodations will be implemented by Mr. Singh in a neat and conservative manner," the lawsuit says.

"They will not interfere with the safe and effective operation of military equipment or use of protective clothing, pose a health or safety hazard to him, or otherwise impair his ability to carry out his ROTC duties."

But the appeals process has become a catch-22.

"He can't seek an accomodation unless he enlists, but as soon as he enlists, he'll have to violate his faith" by cutting his hair and beard, said Heather Weaver, an ACLU attorney. 

Singh, a lifelong practicing Sikh who was born and raised in Queens, wants to join the Army as a military intelligence officer, and the lawsuit highlights his fluency in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu as "critical skills" that are, by Department of Defense standards, "vital to the national interest."

"Singh should be considered a strong candidate for ROTC and a highly valuable potential asset to the U.S. military," the lawsuit said.

Singh was told that religious exemptions for the Army's grooming policy "are extremely limited" and granted "on a case-by-case basis by the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army" only "where the Soldier possesses a specific skill that is vital to national security interests."

Students have up until the end of their sophomore year to enlist as a cadet in the program, meaning the deadline for Singh to be able to get in is drawing near.

In the meantime, Singh has been auditing a beginners' military-science course so that he won't fall too far behind in his military education and training, according to the lawsuit. He's not receiving credit for the course.

Singh majors in finance and intends to pursue a minor in business analytics at Hofstra, the lawsuit says.

The Sikh faith dictates that followers maintain five articles of faith to establish their commitment to God. Kesh, allowing the hair to grow naturally, is a "sign of respect toward the perfection of God's creation," and the turban "serves as a reminder of his relationship with God and public declaration of his dedication to God," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit names Secretary of the Army John McHugh, and other Army officials, including Hofstra's ROTC Commander, Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Cederman, as defendants. The U.S. Army couldn't immediately be reached for comment. 

<![CDATA[New Video Shows Suspect in Brazen Midtown Jewel Heist]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 15:33:54 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jewelry+store+heist+surveillance.jpg

Newly released surveillance video shows one of the suspects being sought in connection with Tuesday's brazen mid-day jewelry store heist in midtown.

The video released by police Wednesday shows one of the two suspects, wearing a long coat and a hat, walking up to and passing a storefront, then turning around and peering into the window display before he walks back down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. A different camera angle shows the man moving quickly through a bustling Diamond District plaza.

Business owners in the area remained on a edge a day after the heist brought massive police and SWAT presence. 

"There were cops everywhere," said diamond wholesaler Moshe Haimoff. "It was chaos. Shut down the whole street."

Haimoff said there are risks that come with being in the business of dealing in such  pricey pieces, and he and his neighbors are now taking more precautions. It now takes three different ID card swipes to get into his lobby in addition to the panic alarms already installed. 

"It's kind of scary, to be honest with you," he said. 

David Yusupoe, who owns the Coin Shop across the street from the targeted jewelry shop, said, "I used to leave my door open just to come in. Now I make sure it's locked. You can't get in there."

The suspect seen in the surveillance video is believed to have been the lookout as another suspect, this one posing as a delivery worker, who was buzzed into Watch Standard Jewelry on the eighth floor of a building on 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

The fake delivery worker barged into the store and demanded the employees open the safe and give him the contents. Police say there were four employees in the shop at the time and they were complying. Then a fifth worker walked in and the fake delivery worker whacked him in the head with his gun, causing a minor laceration, officials said. Both suspects then fled.

When police first arrived, it was not clear if the suspects were hiding in the building or if they had left the area, the NYPD said. SWAT teams and emergency service units surrounded the building and cleared each floor but were unable to find the culprits.

Other people in the building at 23 West 47th St. were escorted out as police searched.

Anyone with information about the heist is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

-- Marc Santia contributed to this report. 

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Cop Gets Up to Life in Prison for Wife's Murder]]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 21:52:40 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jamaica+homicide+12+11+11.jpg

A 52-year-old retired NYPD officer convicted of murdering his wife in their Queens home three years ago was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years to life in prison.

Clarence Cash was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his wife, 42-year-old Tracy Young. Authorities have said the couple got into an argument and Cash pulled out his licensed gun and fired. Young was shot 13 times in the face and torso.

She was an investigator with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Cash fled their Briarwood home after the slaying but turned himself in to police the following morning. He had the murder weapon with him, prosecutors have said.  

Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
<![CDATA[Dad Gets 45 Years for Stabbing Wife, Daughters to Death]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 14:55:26 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/miguel+mejia+ramos.jpg

An angry judge called the man who admitted to stabbing his wife and two young daughters to death in a jealous rage a "vile and despicable person" as he handed down a 45-year sentence in the killings.

Miguel Mejia-Ramos was sentenced in a Queens court Friday in the January stabbing deaths of his 21-year-old wife, Deisy Garcia, and their 1- and 2-year-old daughters. The sentence was part of a plea agreement the man made with prosecutors in October.

"There are no words for how sickened people are in this courtroom at the sight of you," Judge Kenneth Holder said in the sentencing hearing.

Garcia's mother and aunt both came to the hearing, making emotional pleas for a strict sentence. 

"We put trust in this young man," said Evelinda Alvarado, Garia's aunt. "He deceived the family."

Mejia-Ramos asked for forgiveness from the family, saying through a translator, "I know this sentence is not enough to pay for what I've done."

Mejia-Ramos was initially charged with first- and second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon in the January stabbings of his 21-year-old wife, Deisy Garcia, and their 1- and 2-year-old daughters. He later pleaded to lesser crimes in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

Mejia-Ramos fled New York after the slayings and was arrested in Texas a short time later after authorities tracked his cellphone.

Prosecutors had said Mejia-Ramos stood over his sleeping wife and two daughters with a knife after seeing a photo of Facebook of Garcia and another man. Garcia awoke and screamed, and he stabbed her as she got out of bed and ran to another room, prosecutors said. Mejia-Ramos grabbed another knife and stabbed her multiple times in the torso, chest and back, they said.

After stabbing Garcia, Mejia-Ramos went back to the bedroom where 2-year-old Daniela and 1-year-old Yoselin lay, prosecutors said. He picked up Daniela, gave her a hug and a kiss, asked for forgiveness, then put her back on the bed and killed her, prosecutors said.

He then did the same with Yoselin, they said.

Photo Credit: AP/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Vodka, Heroin, Razors Easy to Smuggle Into Rikers: Probe]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:02:57 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_rikersisland650x366.jpg

Contraband is so easy to get inside Rikers Island that just about any inmate with money can get their hands on drugs or weapons, a city Department of Investigation probe revealed.

DOI released its findings Thursday after a large-scale undercover investigation into the screening and security protocols at the city’s sprawling jail complex.

The agency said it sent an undercover investigator dressed as a correction officer six times with razor blades, alcohol and drugs. On every occasion, the undercover made it into Rikers detention centers without the contraband being detected.

On each occassion, the investigator was able to get 250 packets of heroin, 24 strips of a prescription drug similar to methadone, 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana, a 16-ounce bottle of vodka and a razor blade by the jail's security checkpoints.

The agent brought the contraband in through the employee entrances at six different detention centers in the complex. He would carry the drugs and razor blades in a bag and carried the vodka, which was disguised in a water bottle, in his hand.

If sold to inmates inside the jails, DOI says the contraband its agent smuggled could have fetched more than $22,000 in total.

The agency said that guards also regularly place lunches on top of X-ray machines, rather than through them. And it says correction officers often allow each other to enter jails even after setting off metal detectors.

A corrections officer who was arrested in 2013 for smuggling contraband told the DOI agent he lax security to smuggle and hand off contraband to inmates.

The agency says the city’s jail system is working to institute reforms to cut down on contraband, including random screening of uniformed personnel when they report to work. Any staff bringing items to work will be asked to use a clear plastic bags to help deter smuggling.

Drug sniffing dogs will also be assigned to help screen and inspect common areas.The report also calls for rotating security guards at the front gate to help ensure integrity.

The DOI and U.S. Attorney’s office are still looking into allegations of of violence, abuse and mistreatment of juveniles, among other issues at the beleaguered jail complex.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cops Plead Not Guilty to Charges in Assault on Teen]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:49:50 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/BK+Teen+Arrest.jpg

Two NYPD officers pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn on assault and official misconduct charges for allegedly punching and hitting a 16-year-old drug suspect in the face with a gun while the teen had his hands up. 

Officers David Afandor and Tyrane Isaac surrendered at the Brooklyn district attorney's office Wednesday, authorities said.

The district attorney's office has been investigating the officers since a video surfaced last month showing them hitting the boy without apparent provocation.

The surveillance footage, which was originally obtained by DNAInfo.com, shows the officers catch up to the teen after a brief chase in Bedford-Stuyvesant. As the suspect stops running one officer throws a punch at his face. Then the other officer hits him with his gun after the teen raises his hands in the air.

The teenager was arrested Aug. 29. Prosecutors said the teen ended up pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and was released.

The teen's lawyer has said officers had no reason to stop him in the first place.

"My client was leaving a friend's apartment, he committed absolutely no crime, he did absolutely nothing wrong, and these officers decided to chase him," said Amy Rameau. "They chased him and they brutalized him."

"You don't get to stop anyone you feel like stopping in the streets when there's no probable cause," she said. 

One of the officers, who are from the 79th Precinct, was suspended without pay last month, and the other was placed on modified duty. The NYPD said Tuesday the matter remains under internal review. 

Attorney for both officers, Stephen Worth, said the video doesn't tell the whole story.

"This is not the first time that police officers have been confronted with so-called damning videotape," Worth said Wednesday. "It's only damning because it lacks the context which the officers and the other evidence will provide."

Photo Credit: DNAInfo.com]]>
<![CDATA[Man Robs Boy at Knifepoint on Street Corner: NYPD]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:51:21 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/knifepoint+robbery+bronx.jpg

Police say they're looking for a suspect who robbed a teenager of his designer accessories on a Bronx street at knifepoint last Friday. 

The suspect pictured, along with several others, approached the 15-year-old victim at Westchester and Elder avenues at about 3 p.m. on Oct. 24, showed a knife and took the boy's Michael Kors watch and Fendi belt, police said. 

Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

<![CDATA[Robber Snatches iPhone, Throws Woman Down Stairs: NYPD]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:31:24 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/subway+iphone+robber++bronx+suspect.jpg

A subway robber waiting at a train station snatched a cellphone from the hands of straphanger exiting a train, then threw her down the stairs when she struggled with him, police say. 

The 25-year-old victim was stepping off a southbound 6 train at the Saint Lawrence Avenue station in the Bronx at about 9:30 a.m. Monday when a man on the platform snatched a white iPhone 5 from her hands, police said. 

During the struggle, the woman was thrown down the stairs leading to the street, and was bruised and cut to her right hand as a result, according to police.

The robber ran away, and surveillance cameras captured him as he fled. 

He's described as about 5 feet tall and 140 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

<![CDATA[Man Accused of Bogus AK-47 Death Threat on Obama in NY]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:34:54 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/obama+westchester+aug+28.jpg

A 30-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges of lying to investigators after allegedly making a bogus 911 call to report a fake threat to President Obama when he visited New York last month.

Juan Medina, of Yonkers, used a pre-paid cellphone to mask his identity when he made the call Aug. 29, prosecutors allege. Obama was in Westchester for a fundraising event when a caller, allegedly Medina, purporting to be "Hassan" told police a man was traveling from Washington, D.C., with an AK-47 to shoot the president.

Secret Service and police scrambled to tighten security after the call. Officials said the caller gave the real name and home town of the man he claimed was coming to New York to shoot the president; the car description the caller gave matched the car belonging to the man being falsely accused.

Investigators say Medina allegedly made the false report because he was involved in a fight over a girl with the man named on the call.

The man told investigators about the fight he was having with Medina. Medina initially denied making the call, then allegedly confessed when questioned again at a later date.

If convicted of the federal charges against him, Medina faces up to five years in prison.  

<![CDATA[Rookie Cop Hurt in Hatchet Attack Moving to Rehab]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:59:00 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/hatchet+cop.jpg

An NYPD rookie who was struck in the head with a hatchet wielded by a man authorities described as a "lone wolf" terrorist on a Queens street corner is entering a rehab facility to begin the next phase of his recovery, officials said. 

Officer Kenneth Healy had been posing for a picture with three other rookie cops last Thursday when Zale Thompson struck him in the head with an 18-inch hatchet, leaving him in critical but stable condition at Jamaica Hospital. He was released from the hospital Wednesday.

Healy, the son of a police officer, is talking and moving around but remains in great pain, police officials said. He is entering a rehabilitation center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

The other rookie officer injured in the attack, Joseph Meeker, was released from the hospital after being treated for arm wounds. Thompson was shot dead on the scene.

The day after the attack, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called Thompson a "self-radicalized" lone wolf who committed "an act of terror."

Thompson's activity on social media indicated he was a convert to Islam and included rants about injustices in American society and oppression abroad but offered no clear evidence of any direct affiliation with terror groups, police said.

Detectives say Thompson was still holding the hatchet when he was pronounced dead. The attack -- and the shooting -- happened in less than 10 seconds, Bratton said.

"Those officers exhibited extraordinary bravery and skill in not only taking down an individual who was intent on killing them but also rendering first aid immediately to their fallen comrade," Bratton said.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York/Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Gang Members Busted in Post Office, Bank Scam: DA]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:15:04 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuffs-generic-on-black.jpg

More than 30 suspected members of the Bloods gang allegedly tried to rip off post offices and banks across Rockland County the old fashioned way -- by writing bogus checks and money orders.

Reputed members of the street crew allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in the scheme.

According to prosecutors, suspects allegedly bought postal service money orders for $2 or $3 and then simply changed the amount to $800 or $1,000. Investigators said they would deposit the altered money orders at ATM machines or cash them at TD, Chase, Citi and other banks where they had set up short term accounts. By the time the banks caught up with the scheme, police said the money was gone.

Rockland County District Attorney Tom Zugibe said these kinds of alleged scams "threaten the integrity of our banking system and are often a gateway to further criminality.”

Postal inspectors, Homeland Security Investigators and Rockland County Sheriff's officers made the arrests early Wednesday.

Officials say this scam in Rockland County is an example of countless low-tech scams using post office money orders nationwide that cost banks millions.

Many of the suspects were set to appear in courts in Ramapo and Clarkstown in connection with the bank fraud counts later Wednesday.

Fourteen financial institutions were targeted, including Wells Fargo, Sterling National Bank (formerly Provident), First Niagara, HSBC, People’s United, Bank of America, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, Key Bank, M & T Bank, Trustco Bank, and American Express among the others. 

<![CDATA[Man Accused of Attempted Murder in Anti-Gay Attack]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:39:45 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Hate-Crime-Attack-Brooklyn-NY-0928.jpg

A 21-year-old man is being indicted on a charge of attempted murder as a hate crime for allegedly opening fire on three men in Brooklyn last month after taunting them with anti-gay slurs, officials say.

Matthew Smith was initially charged with first-degree assault in the Sept. 29 shooting that wounded a 22-year-old man. He faces 25 years in prison if convicted of attempted murder as a hate crime.

According to police, the victim was dressed as a woman and was walking down the street with two other men in Bushwick when Smith and two friends approached them and allegedly made anti-gay comments. The victim and two friends began walking away, according to investigators, and the suspects followed them for a block, at which point the three started walking away even faster.

Still they were followed, according to the indictment. After they rounded a corner, Smith allegedly fired six shots, hitting one of the three in the buttocks. The man who was shot was treated at a hospital and released. Smith and the two people with him were arrested later that day; the suspects not accused of firing the weapon face menacing and harassment as hate crime charges.

Smith has been held without bail since his arraignment in September. The other two suspects were released without bail. Information on attorneys for the defendants wasn't immediately available.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson condemned the violence.

"In Brooklyn, everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or sexual identity, must be treated with dignity and respect," Thompson said in a statement. "The victims in this case were minding their own business and had every right to believe they could safely walk the streets."

Crimes against the LGBT community are up in New York overall, according to police and advocacy groups. Police say 29 anti-gay attacks were reported between January 2013 and May 2013, more than double the number reported in the same period the prior year.

Two weeks following the shooting in which Smith was charged, a transgender woman walking on Bushwick Avenue with a friend was punched and kicked by a group of four men, then struck in the head with a piece of Plexiglas one of the suspects threw at her. The woman suffered a traumatic brain injury and remains hospitalized in critical condition.

In 2008 in Brooklyn, an Ecuadorean man was beaten to death in Bushwick by two assailants who allegedly yelled anti-gay and anti-immigrant slurs. One of the attackers was convicted of murder as a hate crime and sentenced to 37 years to life in prison. 

<![CDATA[44 Named in 219-Count Gang Indictment: Prosecutors]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:30:52 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Operation-Dead-End.jpg

Accused members of the Bloods and Crips street gangs, a police officer and two pawn shop owners were among the 44 people indicted Tuesday on a bevy of charges including racketeering conspiracy, attempted murder and drug and weapons crimes after a 14-month investigation into gang activity in New Jersey, authorities say.

A Monmouth County grand jury handed down the 219-count indictment after several law enforcement agencies looked into gang activity along two dead-end streets in Asbury Park in an effort they dubbed “Operation Dead End,” prosecutors say. Several of those charged in the indictment had been arrested during a large sweep earlier this year.

Prosecutors say that detectives discovered gang members operating out of those two areas worked together to commit crimes ranging from armed robberies and burglaries and drug distribution to coordinating shootings of rival gang members.

Some gang members allegedly tried to distract police by firing in the air or filing false police reports while their comrades committed crimes. They also allegedly enlisted an Asbury Park police officer to spy on detectives and get information investigators had on gang leaders.

Prosecutors say that two of the gangs’ leaders, 26-year-old James Fair and 21-year-old Altyreek Leonard, are among those charged in the indictment. Authorities have accused Fair and Leonard of orchestrating shootings and robberies, staking out drug dealing territory and doling out guns and narcotics to gang members.

The Asbury Park police officer, 46-year-old Keith German, is accused of helping gang members evade police by giving the confidential information. He also allegedly accessed a law enforcement database on one occasion and asked Fair to help him stalk a victim. German was with the department for nearly two decades.

Police say that Fair and other gang members also befriended two pawn shop owners who would fence items the gang members stole from stores and homes in their shops and on eBay.

Other members of the gangs are accused of a laundry list of crimes. The indictment alleges gang members shot at rivals on several occasions. In one shooting, gang members barged into a home and fired at a victim while his family was inside the house.

Others, including several suspects who were 17 at the time, allegedly sold cocaine, heroin, Oxycontin and MDMA. On some occasions, they allegedly robbed their own customers.

<![CDATA[No Bail for Mom Accused of Beating Girl, 4, to Death in Shelter]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:26:59 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/Generic+Police+Tape+Generic.JPG

A woman charged with murder and other crimes in the death of her 4-year-old daughter, who was found unconscious at a Queens homeless shelter last week, was remanded without bail after her arraignment Monday.

It wasn't clear if Latoya Curry, 35, entered a plea and information on an attorney for her wasn't immediately available. She was arrested Friday and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

According to a criminal complaint, Curry became enraged when she found her daughter, 4-year-old Linayjah Meraldo, squirting hand lotion on the floor of their apartment at the Briarwood Family Residence, a temporary housing shelter on 134th Street, Thursday. The angered Curry allegedly hit Meraldo in the face and stomach, then threw her against a wall and onto a bed.

Prosecutors said Curry flew into a rage Wednesday night, striking Meraldo so hard that she dislodged a tooth. They said the girl cried and said her stomach hurt but then fell asleep. In the morning, the girl awoke with a slight fever and later took a morning nap, but she didn't wake up, they said.

An autopsy showed Meraldo died of blunt force trauma to her torso and had internal injuries including multiple recent and healed rib fractures, a torn small intestine, internal bleeding and extensive bruising, prosecutors said. The autopsy noted she also appeared malnourished, prosecutors said.

There were no other adults living in the unit where the family was staying.

The mother initially told police Meraldo was involved in a physical altercation with a sibling -- "a tousling thing," she called it, according to the source familiar with the case. The source said the mother later said the child had fallen, and that the version of events she told investigators kept changing.

The family had lived at Briarwood for nearly a year.

The Department of Health and Human Services called Meraldo's death "terribly disturbing." The agency said in a statement it was working closely with police.

The child's death came less than a week after a 3-year-old girl was found dead in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, saying the girl died from blunt impact to her head and torso. Her 20-year-old stepfather was arrested on a murder charge.

After the Brooklyn girl's death, Mayor de Blasio called for a thorough investigation.

-- Melissa Russo contributed to this report. 

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>
<![CDATA[Drug Suspect Asks Cops to Check on Sleeping Son: NYPD]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 22:27:18 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/175*120/NYPD+MARIJUANA+ARREST.jpg

A Queens man caught with marijuana when he was pulled over asked the officers arresting him to check on his 8-year-old son at home, leading them directly to evidence of an alleged marijuana operation in his apartment, police say. 

Officers pulled over 30-year-old Nuquan Stewart in Queens Village at about 10:45 p.m. last Tuesday when they noticed a brake light was out on his 2004 Volkswagen, according to police. 

They noticed a strong smell of marijuana during the traffic stop, and asked Stewart to step out of the car.

That's when the officers spotted six plastic bags of the drug sticking out of the pocket of his hoodie, and a gravity knife in the cupholder of the center console, police said. 

As officers arrested Stewart, he asked them to make sure his son, who was alone at home, was OK, according to police. He gave them his home address and apartment keys. 

The officers went to Stewart's apartment about a half-mile away on 222nd Street and smelled marijuana as they entered the building's first-floor hallway, according to police. Inside the apartment, officers saw bags of marijuana in plain view in the kitchen and living room, along with stacks of cash, police said. 

Stewart's son was found sleeping in his bedroom. He was transferred into the care of the city's Administration for Children's Services and then to another family member, according to police.

A search warrant was executed the next morning, and police seized 30 pounds of marijuana in 58 bags, about $17,500 in cash, and several loaded guns and assault rifles, police said. 

Stewart was charged with drug and weapons crimes, and for failure to exercise control of a minor. He has multiple prior arrests, police said.

He remains on Rikers Island awaiting his next court date on Wednesday, Oct. 29. Bail was set at $25,000. 

Attorney information was not immediately available. 

Photo Credit: NYPD]]>
<![CDATA[Alleged Terror Conspirator Extradited to NY: Officials]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:12:27 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/terror+suspect+extradite.jpg

Haroon Rashid Aswat, a British man charged with conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, is being flown to New York from London Tuesday by U.S. officials after nine years of fighting extradition, law enforcement officials tell NBC New York.

Aswat faces federal charges of conspiring with radical cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly 15 years ago.

Mustafa was convicted in New York in May of being involved in the Oregon terror plan. He was also convicted of helping to plot the 1998 kidnappings of tourists, including 16 Americans, in Yemem. Mustafa told the jury that he lost both hands and an eye in an accident in Pakistan while working with explosives.

A third man, James Ujaama, pleaded guilty in 2007 to being the American contact for Mustafa and Aswat in their alleged bid to build a terror camp in the United States. The fourth man to be named in the plot, Oussama Abdullah Kassir, a Swede born in Lebanon, was convicted of terror charges in 2009.

Aswat, who is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia, has been fighting extradition to America since his 2005 arrest in London on a U.S. warrant. Last month, Britain’s high court ruled Aswat could be extradited after receiving assurances from U.S. authorities that his mental illness would still be treated.

Media reports in London Tuesday say the Metropolitan Police confirm that Aswat was taken from Broadmoor psychiatric hospital and escorted onto a plane by U.S. officials.

Officials from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office in New York declined to comment.

Photo Credit: AP]]>