<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usTue, 23 May 2017 22:38:39 -0400Tue, 23 May 2017 22:38:39 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA['I Wanted to Kill Them': Times Sq Driver Charged With Murder]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 20:00:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Rojas+Arraignment.png

The driver who mowed down nearly two dozen people in Times Square Thursday, killing one of them and critically injuring others, allegedly said he wanted to "kill them all" and that officers should have shot him to stop him, prosecutors said Friday. 

Richard Rojas, 26 Bronx, appeared subdued during a brief court appearance as prosecutors outlined the litany of charges against him, including murder and multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

The Bronx man did not enter a plea. His attorney, Enrico Demarco, did not comment. Rojas was remanded and is due back in court next week.

The court hearing came as police officials briefed reporters on their investigation, saying Rojas patiently let people and cars pass before starting his rampage.

Sources familiar with the probe have told NBC 4 New York Rojas told investigators he heard demons telling him to hurt people before he turned the wrong way on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street Thursday and barreled into the lunch-hour crowd. Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, was killed in the mayhem. Her 13-year-old sister, who had been walking alongside her at the time, was among the 22 people injured.  Authorities said Friday the younger sister suffered a collapsed lung and broken pelvis.

"He waited for those cars to pass and he accelerated, waiting for those pedestrians to pass ... that goes to his state of mind," Chief William Aubry said. 

Law enforcement sources say Elsman's father was so angry he went into the midtown precinct where Rojas was being held and told officers he wanted to kill him. NYPD officials did not publicly walk the suspect as a precaution. 

A cause of the crash is under investigation, but law enforcement sources have said Rojas appeared under the influence when he was taken into custody. He blew a 0.0 at the precinct Thursday afternoon, but law enforcement sources say certain statements and tests suggests he may have smoked something. 

He told police that he had smoked marijuana laced with PCP, according to a criminal complaint. Aubry said police were expediting search warrants and were hoping to get blood tests back in the next few days. 

Rojas has a history of DWI arrests, including one where he was driving faster than 99 mph in a 50 mph zone. A former member of the Navy, where he served aboard the USS Carney, Rojas was dishonorably discharged for resisting arrest in Florida in 2014. Charges were dropped in the case.

Harrison Ramos, a friend, told reporters that Rojas hadn't been the same since he returned from active duty in the Navy. He says Rojas was posting "crazy stuff" online that has since been taken down, according to The Associated Press. Other friends say he was having money troubles.

Rojas was most recently arrested on a menacing charge last week for allegedly pulling a knife on an acquaintance in the Bronx.

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<![CDATA[Exclusive: NYPD Hatchet Attack Survivors Talk to News 4]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 17:51:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000007039683_1200x675_440437827788.jpg The four officers who were attacked in Queens last October speak exclusively to News 4's Jonathan Dienst.]]> <![CDATA[Music Teacher Tried to Buy Sex With Girls Young as 8: Feds]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 20:12:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Sohngen.jpg

A noted Queens music teacher has been arrested for a litany of alleged sex crimes against young children, including trying to buy sex with girls as young as 8 and engaging in sexual contact with teenagers.

Oliver Sohngen, founder and director of the Long Island City Academy of Music on 23rd Street, faces an eight-count federal complaint charging him with sex trafficking of a minor and other acts. 

Homeland Security Investigations agents and members of the NYPD arrested Sohngen -- who is originally from Germany -- on Tuesday and police were searching his music school for evidence. They were also searching his nearby home.

Sohngen allegedly used a "pimp" to find and bring him the young children. Investigators said he specifically requested young girls, in some cases as young as eight. Officials did not say if any students at his Long Island City school were victims.  

On at least two occasions, Sohngen allegedly engaged in sexual contact with 15- and 17-year-old girls. He also allegedly exchanged text messages with an individual for the purpose of purchasing sex acts with girls ranging in age from 8 to 17. One law enforcement official said there were "numerous" victims but investigators are still trying to determine the total number. 

In one series of text messages, which the government reproduced in the criminal complaint, Sohngen allegedly negotiated a $1,600 price to conduct various sexual acts with two girls, ages 8 and 13, and to then drop them off with family at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant afterward.

The criminal complaint says Sohngen had also been talking via cell with an undercover NYPD officer posing as a 15-year-old girl since January 2016. He allegedly tried to meet her for sex as well. 

Information on his attorney wasn't immediately available; a message was left at the school. Sohngen is expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan later in the day. 

According to the Queens Ledger, Sohngen came to the United States on a scholarship in 1990 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music; he received a bachelor's degree in opera singing and later a master's in vocal performance. Sohngen opened the academy in 2010.

Photo Credit: Nancy A. Ruhling]]>
<![CDATA[NYPD, Feds Bust 13 Alleged Gang Members in Drug and Gun Bust]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 10:14:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-624902494-handcuffs.jpg

Authorities arrested more than a dozen suspected gang members in a sweeping drug and gun bust Wednesday, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York.

The NYPD and FBI executed the arrests in the Bronx. 

Prosecutors said the suspects were members of the Crips gang and used violence while battling the rival Bloods for territory in the North Bronx. The gang members in custody have flooded the streets with heroin, crack and cocaine, prosecutors said. 

"The dismantling of this crew and the amount of evidence seized represents a significant blow to criminal networks operating in the Bronx," NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tearful Weiner Pleads Guilty to Sexting Charge, Faces Prison]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 21:40:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/weiner+leaves+court.jpg

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty on Friday to one federal count related to "sexting" with minors, an offense that means he will have to register as a sex offender.

His estranged wife Huma Abedin -- once one of Hillary Clinton's closest aides -- filed for divorce hours later. 

Weiner surrendered to the FBI Friday morning, and tearfully confessed his transgressions in a brief hearing. 

"I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse," Weiner said in court. (Read his full statement)

Weiner quickly left the Manhattan courthouse after the proceedings, being hustled into a waiting car and taking no questions from the throngs of reporters.

The government is seeking a term of 21 months to 27 months in jail on the single count of transferring obscene material to a minor, though with no mandatory minimum the judge could still give him probation. He will be sentenced Sept. 8, and had to surrender his passport and iPhone in the meantime. 

Federal prosecutors had been weighing whether to file child pornography charges against the disgraced ex-Democratic congressman since last year, sources previously told NBC 4 New York.

The charge stems from the sexually charged text messages and Skype conversations Weiner, now 52, exchanged with a 15-year-old girl from January to March 2016. The messages were revealed when online news outlet DailyMail.com interviewed the girl last September.

"I knew this was as morally wrong as it was unlawful," Weiner said in his statement. 

The investigation into Weiner ended up intruding on last year's presidential campaign. It was during the probe into Weiner that the FBI found emails on a laptop that related to a past investigation into Clinton's email practices. 

The New York Times first reported Weiner's surrender and expected plea. 

Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after admitting to a series of online sexual relationships. But his rehabilitation was swift, and in 2013 he mounted a campaign for mayor. He held a commanding lead in the Democratic primary race as late as June 2013, until more, newer relationships came to light.

In late 2014 he admitted his political career was likely over -- aside from an idle boast last summer that he would beat beat Donald Trump Jr. "like a rented mule" if the president's son ran for mayor. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[No Bail for 28-Year-Old Suspect in Vicious Attack on Tourist]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 21:52:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/suspect+keon+robinson.jpg

Keon Robinson, the sex offender suspected in the horrific sex attack and robbery of a 31-year-old German tourist as she walked back to her Airbnb in Manhattan last week was sent back to jail after facing a judge on Friday.

Robinson, 28, was remanded after being charged with a number of crimes, including assault, robbery, sex abuse and attempted rape.

Police believe Robinson was the man who violently attacked the tourist on May 4, an attack that was caught on surveillance video.

The video shows a man grabbing the woman from behind, appearing to choke her while taking her bag, prosecutors say. He then grabs her bag, and when she tries to get it back, punches her, causing her to fall to the ground.

The man in the video continues to punch the woman as she’s on the ground, eventually removing some of her clothing and sexually assaulting her repeatedly while continuing to punch her, according to prosecutors’ account of the video. He then stole her bag and left her passed out and partially naked on the sidewalk, prosecutors said.

The woman suffered a number of physical injuries, including a gash to her head, a broken tooth, and bruising, prosecutors said.

Robinson was also charged in connection with another robbery on Bradhurst Avenue in Hamilton Heights on April 24. Detectives had also been looking to question him in connection with that attack, and another one on April 27.

In the April 24 robbery, prosecutors say a man followed behind a woman at 4 a.m. before coming up to her with his hand in his pocket and saying, “I have a gun, give me your bag.” The woman screamed and the man punched her in the face before grabbing her bag, which had a credit card in it.

Prosecutors say video from a Target store shows Robinson using the credit card hours after the attack.

He was arrested after police found him hiding in a home in Schenectady around 9 a.m. Thursday. He resisted arrest and fought with law enforcement officers before he was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force, along with members of the NYPD, New York State Police and local Albany police, officials said. His arrest came after the U.S. Marshals worked several leads.

In addition to the two robberies, police believe Robinson may be connected to other unsolved sex crimes in New York City.

Robinson is a former parolee who served seven years for first-degree robbery and first-degree sexual abuse. He was released in 2014 and is a registered Level 3 sex offender, meaning authorities believe him to have a high-risk for repeat crimes and consider him an ongoing potential threat to public safety.

Robinson was jailed again, this time on a parole violation, last summer, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news briefing Monday. He got out in January. The pattern of attacks began several months later, Boyce said.

<![CDATA[NY Terrorist Who Plotted to Bomb LIRR Gets Out This Summer]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 16:30:55 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/terror+suspect2.jpg

A Long Island man who joined al-Qaida and once plotted to bomb LIRR trains heading to and from Penn Station will be released from prison this summer.

Bryant Neal Vinas, who also plotted attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan while he was a commander of an al-Qaida branch there, pleaded guilty to charges connected to the train bomb plot in January 2009. 

On Thursday a judge in Brooklyn federal court sentenced Vinas to time served plus 90 days. On his release he will be required to continue cooperating with the government. 

"I apologize for my actions.  There is no excuse for them. I blame only myself," Vinas said in court. "I want to turn a bad thing into a good thing."

Government officials say Vinas has cooperated in more than 30 terror investigations; some of his interviews were prior to his arrest, and authorities say he was instrumental in exposing the LIRR plot he was involved in, which apparently was never set in motion. 

U.S. authorities credit the Patchogue native with helping them identify al-Qaida members, pinpoint their hideouts, understand their communication structure and disrupt terror plots.

The government took no position on whether to release him. Federal officials acknowledge Vinas's cooperation could not have been "more timely," but say his crimes were extremely serious. 

Judge Nicholas Garaufis said he was "… cautiously optimistic he’s learned from the error of his ways."

<![CDATA[Sex Offender Wanted in Vicious NYC Attack in Custody: Source]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 02:22:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sex+offender5.jpg

The sex offender suspected in the horrific sex attack and robbery of a 31-year-old German tourist as she walked back to her Airbnb in Manhattan last week is in police custody and being questioned, a senior law enforcement official tells NBC 4 New York.

The official says detectives are speaking to 28-year-old Keon Robinson in connection with the 3 a.m. May 4 attack in Harlem. Robinson was found hiding upstate on the second floor of a home in Schenectady around 9 a.m., the official said.

He resisted arrest and fought with law enforcement officers before he was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force, along with members of the NYPD, New York State Police and local Albany police, officials said. His arrest came after the U.S. Marshals worked several leads. 

Authorities expect he will be transferred to the 32nd Precinct in Manhattan for processing. He faces charges of attempted rape, robbery, assault and sex abuse. 

Officials had been hunting Robinson in connection with the vicious attack, which was caught on surveillance cameras, for nearly a full week. 

Video of the attack shows the suspect snatch the woman's purse, then repeatedly punch her; police say she was hit so hard her teeth fell out. The woman falls to the ground, unconscious, and the suspect gropes her all over her body. (Warning: some may find elements of the above video disturbing.) 

Police believe Robinson may be connected to other unsolved sex crimes in New York City. 

Robinson is a former parolee who served seven years for first-degree robbery and first-degree sexual abuse. He was released in 2014 and is a registered Level 3 sex offender, meaning authorities believe him to have a high-risk for repeat crimes and consider him an ongoing potential threat to public safety. 

Robinson was jailed again, this time on a parole violation, last summer, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news briefing Monday. He got out in January. The pattern of attacks began several months later, Boyce said.

Detectives had also been looking to question Robinson in connection with at least two other violent attacks, including a similar attack on April 24 in Hamilton Heights and another one April 27.

In the April 24 attack, the suspect walked up to a woman in her 30s on Bradhurst Avenue in Manhattan and told her, "This could be easy. I have a gun. This could be your day," according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. The woman started screaming and the man punched her, then stole her purse, Boyce said. 

The April 27 attack involved another robbery, but Boyce said the May 4 attack was the only one of the three to involve a sex crime.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Mayor Fends Off Reporter Questions With Life Preserver]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 19:43:34 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/joey+torres+life+preserver.jpg

Embattled Paterson Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres held a life preserver over his head and declined to take questions about a legal defense fundraiser he was hosting on a large rented yacht. 

When asked, "Sir do you know how many people will be attending?” the indicted mayor raised the life preserver in front of his face and waved it at the camera and the reporter who was trying to ask questions. 

Torres was indicted in March for allegedly stealing from taxpayers. Prosecutors said he ordered city Department of Public Works employees to do construction at a relative’s would-be beer store on city time. The mayor and three DPW supervisors charged in the case all deny wrongdoing. 

Guests arriving for the yacht party last Thursday told NBC 4 New York they paid $150 to $250 per ticket to attend. The yacht -- the “Cornucopia Majesty” -- is 30,000 square feet, three stories tall and can hold up to 1,200 people. 

The yacht company said it takes a $2,900 down payment plus a minimum of 200 guests billed at about $118 per person -– before liquor and entertainment -- to rent the vessel. That comes to a rental fee of about $26,000 before any additional funds can go into the mayor’s legal defense fund. 

Torres declined to say how much money was raised or provide any specifics on how and where the money will be spent. 

Experts said political fundraising does require full disclosure under New Jersey law. But they said details on a legal defense fundraiser can be withheld. 

Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is a candidate for governor, said the disclosure rules for legal defense funds in the state must change. 

"It raises the implications of who is giving the money and what are they getting for it in return,” Wisniewski said. “I believe disclosure should be the rule and currently it is not." 

While Torres declined to comment as he walked the dock to the party boat, doling out hugs and handshakes, guests suggested the money was going to help the mayor keep from drowning in legal fees. 

“You hope your friends never have a problem but when they do they find out whether or not you are a friend,” said Pat Kramer, who said he has been friends with Torres for years. 

“I think he is innocent and that is why we are here to support him,” said one woman who declined to give her name, adding the business she works for bought a block of tickets. 

Some other guests identified themselves as city police officers. Paterson business administrator Nellie Pou declined to answer questions as she walked to the ship’s plank except to say, "I am glad to be here." 

Councilwoman Maritza Davila attended, saying, "I was invited as a guest -- not by the mayor -- and I came."

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Man Plotted NYC Bombing in Support of ISIS: Feds]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 18:18:04 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Gregory+Lepsky.jpg

A New Jersey man has been arrested for allegedly planning to set off a bomb in New York City in support of ISIS, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Gregory Lepsky, 20, will appear in Newark federal court to face once charge of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Lepsky was arrested Feb. 21 after a relative called police and said he had threatened to kill the family dog. While being treated for wounds to his arms, Lepsky said he had joined ISIS and had plane tickets to Turkey, according to a criminal complaint.

While searching his home, authorities found a brand new pressure cooker hidden in his closet. 

Lepsky subsequently claimed, while in the hospital, that he had been in contact with ISIS members via Facebook and that he had been studying how to make a pressure cooker bomb with gunpowder, the complaint says. 

"Lepsky also stated that he was going to take the pressure cooker and gunpowder to New York City, bring the items into a crowded area of Manhattan, and blow it up to kill people. Lepsky explained that he would be rewarded in the afterlife for this act," the complaint said. 

Further investigation revealed that Lepsky had multiple conversations on Facebook in which he said he had converted to Islam and wanted to go to Syria to fight non-believers, according to court documents.

A search of his phone turned up a variety of anti-Semitic images, the ISIS flag and a picture of an armed Lepsky dressed in fatigues and making pro-ISIS hand gestures, the complaint says. 

Lepsky is not the first local man to be arrested in recent months for attempting to join ISIS. In March, the FBI arrested a Long Island man who tried to travel to Syria to join the terror group, and last November a Brooklyn resident was arrested with similar plans. 

Lawyer information for Lepsky was not immediately known. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on the criminal charge. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former NJ Cop Found Guilty in Deadly Wrong-Way Crash]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 07:11:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/PEDRO+ABAD+POOL+VERDICT.jpg

A former New Jersey police officer has been found guilty of all charges, including the top count of aggravated vehicular homicide, in a drunken driving crash that killed a fellow cop and another man two years ago. 

A jury found 29-year-old Pedro Abad guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, reckless endangerment and other crimes on Thursday following a day of deliberations. He faces 25 years in prison.  

Abad was remanded to jail until his sentencing June 8.

Abad had pleaded not guilty in the March 20, 2015 crash that killed a fellow Linden police officer, Frank Viggiano, and a friend, Joe Rodriguez. Both were 28.

Joe's father was choking up after hearing the verdict. 

"This is just another chapter of this horrible journey," Angelo Rodriguez said. "My family, my wife's family, plus all of Joesph's aunts, uncles, cousins and friends."

In a statement Thursday, Linden Police Dept. Lt. Christopher Guenther said he hoped that all of those affected by the tragedy could find some closure in the decision. 

"Frank and Joe were taken from us too soon," Guenther said in the statement. "While these proceedings may be behind us, there is no verdict that can take away the emptiness and pain we feel." 

Prosecutors have said Abad drank to "obliteration" at a Staten Island strip club before his vehicle collided head-on into a tractor-trailer on the West Shore Expressway. They say Abad had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. 

Abad's lawyer, Mario Gallucci, has questioned the numbers, saying his client had lost so much blood that transfusions had contaminated the blood alcohol reading. During summations Wednesday, Gallucci called the crash a tragedy and a horrific accident that was "not caused by intoxication."

At one point, Gallucci wanted to have Abad tested for a date-rape drug the lawyer said he could have been slipped at the strip club. 

Gallucci said Abad would not let him poll the jury, saying they had gone through enough. 

"He turned to me and said I'm at peace," Gallucci said. "He says God told him what happened and he deserves to be punished."

<![CDATA[NYC Crime Ring Used Fake Uber Drivers to Hide Drug Deals]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 12:41:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/uber+bust.jpg

Federal and local authorities worked together to bust a major drug ring that used fake Uber vehicles to deliver drugs to dozens of people in the Bronx and Manhattan, law enforcement sources told News 4 New York.

The alleged ring leader of the operation, 34-year-old Alfredo Tejada-Almonte, and five of his alleged accomplices have been arrested in the past week, with five of them nabbed Tuesday morning, the sources said. The group faces federal drug charges.

As part of the operation, the six suspects placed fake Uber logos and stickers on vehicles to fit into the neighborhoods and not raise suspicions, according to sources. Heroin and cocaine were sold to more than 100 customers in upper Manhattan and the Bronx, the sources said.

The dealers weren't drivers for Uber and it appears they didn't use the Uber app, but they did utilize the company's logo to disguise their vehicles while making deliveries, sources said. 

Uber said in a statement Wednesday that "misrepresenting an affiliation with a company to commit a crime is not acceptable."

"We are thankful for law enforcement's efforts to combat these crimes," the statement said. 

The suspects allegedly stored the drugs at an apartment in Washington Heights, according to sources. 

Authorities seized one kilogram of cocaine, five vehicles, a kilo press and more than $22,000, according to sources, who said one of the vehicles had a concealed compartment inside of it.

The DEA, NYPD, New York State Police, Homeland Security and eight other agencies took part in the year-long investigation. 

Photo Credit: Sources
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<![CDATA[Embattled Paterson Mayor Faces New Corruption Allegations]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 18:32:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/joey+torres+inset.jpg

Criminal investigators are looking into whether Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres improperly used a city electrical contractor to do thousands of dollars of work on a private beer business tied to the mayor’s relatives, sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York's I-Team.

Documents obtained by the I-Team show J&J Electric proposed doing at least $15,000 in taxpayer-funded work at the East 15th Street business -- a business that was in the name of the mayor’s daughter and a nephew. Several individuals familiar with the project said the total electrical work done approached $40,000. 

The owners of J&J Electric declined to comment on who directly solicited the work, whether it was the mayor or city Department of Public Works employees or someone else. One of J&J’s owner, Gerald Vella, said only that he did not want to cause more problems for the embattled Torres. 

The mayor has already been indicted for allegedly ordering DPW workers to do construction at the site at taxpayer expense. Records obtained by the I-Team show several workers billed overtime to the city on the days in question. The mayor and three DPW workers charged in that overtime fraud case have pleaded not guilty to various charges, including theft and misconduct. 

The possibility that a city contractor -- J&J Electric -- was also called in raises new questions about just how much taxpayers paid or were going to pay for the private job.

Torres, through his attorney John Azzerello, denied he ever told J&J workers the beer project was a city job. He also denied that money from the city’s contracts with J&J would cover the cost of J&J’s electrical work. 

But developer Charles Florio said J&J’s owner told him the company was called in by city officials for a "city job." 

“He (Vella) actually thought he was doing a job for the city,” Florio said. “He didn’t know it was a side job.” 

Florio said Vella told him midway through the project that he had learned the work was for a private beer store. But Florio said the contractor kept doing the work. 

“He (Vella) couldn’t tell the mayor no … You are going to do this or you are going to lose your contract,” Florio said. 

J&J has had more than $300,000 in contracts with Paterson in recent years. The amount was first reported by the Paterson Press. 

Florio said he learned of the alleged corruption at the proposed beer store site after the mayor, his relatives and DPW workers improperly used his own company’s information to "pull permits" instead of hiring a general contractor. 

“They stole my information,” Florio said, adding that J&J was then listed as a subcontractor. 

Sources familiar with the investigation said J&J has not billed the city -– or the mayor and his relatives –- for the electrical work as the state and federal criminal investigations into City Hall continue. 

Former federal prosecutor Robert Ray said even if taxpayers were not billed for the electrical work, crimes may have been committed. 

“Government officials are only supposed to receive one thing –- their paycheck -- not benefits and bennies in other forms,” Ray said, referring to the construction and electrical work at the private site. 

A spokesman for New Jersey State Attorney General Christopher Porrino declined to comment, as did spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney and FBI.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[3 Charged in Shooting, Robbery of Ex-Knick in NYC: Sources]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 13:43:57 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Cleanthony-Early-1230.jpg

Three people arrested by federal ATF agents and NYPD cops Tuesday are accused of the 2015 shooting and robbery of former Knicks player Cleanthony Early, law enforcement sources familiar with the case tell NBC 4 New York.

Court papers filed in federal court in Manhattan do not identify the victim of the armed robbery but law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York the victim is Early.

Early, a Knicks' second round draft pick in 2014, and his girlfriend were robbed at gunpoint by masked men shortly after the couple left the Cityscapes Gentlemen’s Club in Maspeth, Queens, early on Dec. 30, 2015.

The robbers pursued the Uber Early and his girlfriend were riding in and blocked the Uber in with their vehicles. During the ensuing attack, Early was shot in his right kneecap and robbed of his IPhone, gold chains, and the gold caps from his teeth. The gold caps were later found on the street nearby.

The three men are charged with federal conspiracy and firearms violations, among other crimes, the indictment says.

Early, 26, currently plays for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA Development League. He was traded to the Warriors from the Knicks in 2016. 

The defendants are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn later Tuesday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Developer Accuses Paterson Mayor of 'Identity Theft']]> Thu, 04 May 2017 10:44:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DIENST+MAYOR+ARRESTED+PATERSON+NJ+PKG+6P+-+01000015_WNBC_000000.jpg

Paterson’s mayor is facing more corruption allegations – this time from a major developer accusing the mayor and his relatives of committing a kind of “identity theft.”

In an exclusive on-camera interview, developer Charles Florio said his company’s information was “stolen” and improperly used for construction of a would-be beer business tied to the mayor and his family.

“I don’t want to be linked to a criminal,” Florio said. “The mayor stole my information.”

Florio said his company JCM Investors had nothing to do with the construction of the would-be beer store project at East 15th Street in Paterson. But Florio said permits were obtained and many subcontractors were apparently hired under the guise that his construction company, Prime Time, was general contractor for the site. Some permits show that Florio’s other company, JCM Investors, as owner of the property.

“They basically stole my identity. They used it to pull permits. We had absolutely nothing to do with the job itself,” Florio said.

Florio said he has since reported his concerns to the New Jersey State Attorney General.

Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and three department of public works supervisors were arrested in March in an alleged overtime billing scheme associated with the project. Investigators said the mayor ordered ciy workers to do construction at the private site but records showed taxpayers were billed for the work. The mayor and the workers have pleaded not guilty.

Former federal prosecutor Robert Ray said using the developers business information without authorization or his firm’s involvement could be a crime. “If it’s not identity theft, it certainly sounds like something akin to identity theft.” Ray added if the allegation is true, “…obviously that is a problem for somebody.”

Torres' lawyer, John Azzarello, said in a call Monday evening that "the mayor denies he took any information from Charles Florio."

"The mayor himself never directed anyone to pay cash," Azzarello said in the call. "Anyone who suggests otherwise is flat out wrong." 

The developer also said he was pressed by city officials in December 2014 to pay tens of thousands in questionable fees in cash or else he could not obtain permits to rent out his developments.

“When a buildings department tells me I have to bring close to $50,000 in cash, I see a problem,” Florio said.

Florio said he made city officials give him receipts marked “CS” for cash so “… there would be no discrepancy later on.” Florio later sued the city over the matter and reached a settlement.

Two city officials acknowledged cash was delivered by Florio. But the officials said the money did make it into city accounts.

Under an open records request, the city sent the News 4 I-Team copies of calculator ribbon showing the amounts reported by Florio. The city could not provide an itemized accounting of the cash deposits. Deposit slips that included the money Florio delivered were also not provided by Paterson officials.

A city spokeswoman said, ”There is no deposit slip or bank statement. The printout provided is the proof that the money was deposited into the City’s general fund. That’s the only thing the City has.”

“That money went into somebody’s pocket is my feeling,” Florio said.

Former prosecutor Ray said the request for the payments to be made in cash by city officials are “very odd” and “suspicious.”

A spokesman for the state attorney general Christopher Porrino declined to comment. The FBI has its own ongoing investigation into alleged corruption at Paterson City Hall.

Florio said after he was pressed to make cash payments, he hired a private investigator to follow Mayor Torres on and off for more than a year. It was that investigator who first filmed DPW workers doing construction at the would-be private beer store.

“I felt there was some kind of corruption going on and I figured I should protect myself, my employees and my business. I did hire a private investigator,” Florio said.

After being indicted in the alleged overtime billing scheme, Mayor Torres said he plans to stay in office while he fighting the corruption charges.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Businessmen Sentenced in Toxic Dumping at Long Island Sites]]> Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:30:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/li+toxins.jpg

Two businessmen have been sentenced in a scheme to dump toxic materials at several sites in Suffolk County, including at a park, a veterans' housing development and a wetlands area in the same town, authoritie say. 

Thomas Datre Jr. was sentenced to a year in prison, and associate Christopher Grabe was sentenced to six months in jail and community service. 

The men previously pleaded guilty in the illegal dumping scheme.

Prosecutors have said testing found hazardous materials like the pesticide DDT, chlordane, arsenic, cobalt, lead, zinc and petroleum byproducts at all of the dump sites, including the six-acre Deer Park wetlands, adjacent to a creek in the Great South Bay watershed, a Brentwood park, a Central Islip lot and an Islandia neighborhood for war veterans. Asbestos was found at all sites but the veterans' home.

Datre's attorney, Kevin Kearon, said his client is apologetic.

"We don't believe anyone has been hurt," said Kearon. "The sites have been cleaned up and everyone will move forward."

But property owner Eric Petry said the consequences may not be immediately apparent. 

"Who knows what will happen," he said. "We were put in a situation where our lives were at risk, health was in trouble. Who knows if I'm going to develop a disease in the future, so having that in my mind everyday and not knowing the unknown is worrisome." 

The Clemente Park has been closed for three years since the toxic material was found, and reconstruction crews have started cleanup work. The town of Islip says it's working to get it reopened as soon as possible, hopefully by June. 

<![CDATA[Pickup Driver Loses License in 2015 Limo Crash That Killed 4]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 21:04:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/four+victims+limo+crash.jpg

The pickup driver who t-boned a limousine carrying eight women leaving a Long Island winery in July 2015, killing four of them and injuring the others, including a bride-to-be, has pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired in a deal that will cost him a fine and his license for a time but avoid jail.

Steven Romeo had been indicted on DWI charges after allegedly admitting to cops he had had "a few beers" before the ghastly tragedy, but a grand jury declined to charge him with manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, instead blaming the limo driver for making a reckless U-turn.

Lawyers for both sides explained the Romeo deal Wednesday, saying a DWI charge wouldn't stick because his blood alcohol level was technically below the legal threshold by the time it was tested. In accordance with the deal, Romeo will pay a $500 fine and lose his license for 90 days.  

Brittany M. Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack, were killed in the crash. Four other women were seriously hurt.

Romeo's lawyer said after the plea was announced that he felt "awful" for the victims' families.

"Steve has felt sorrow for the families from day one," said defense attorney Steve O'Brien. 

The families didn't appear pleased with the agreement, but did not speak after court Wednesday. 

"This is heartbreaking," Suffolk County prosecutor John Prudenti acknowledged. "This is a parent's worst nightmare." 

"It's probably the saddest case I've been involved in in 30-plus years in the system," he said. 

Prosecutors had said the limo driver, Carlos Pino, was the one responsible for the deaths and injuries because he "failed to take any precaution or action to make sure he could safely enter the westbound traffic lanes" and made a U-turn on state Route 48 without stopping. A grand jury indicted Pino on multiple counts of criminally negligent homicide and other crimes, but a judge tossed all charges against him in October, ruling the case had been flawed by improper grand jury testimony and thus freeing the only person who had been charged in the deaths of the four young women.

Prosecutors pledged at the time that they would appeal, but the status of the case wasn't immediately clear Wednesday. 

Despite Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho saying he had "agonized" over the decision to toss the Pino charges "more than any other in my 20 years," the families of the victims were outraged. Relatives were seated in the jury box, facing the judge, at the time the ruling was announced.

One relative yelled, "How could you look at him and do this? He doesn't deserve it!" Others burst out in tears.

The four women who survived the crash have filed civil lawsuits; Pino is named as the defendant in most if not all of them. 

A special grand jury investigating the crash released a 156-page report in December calling for better safety regulations for stretch limousines. Limos built in factories are already required to meet stringent safety regulations, but when cars are converted into limos, like the one involved in the 2015 Long Island crash, safety features are sometimes removed, leading to gaps in safety protocols, the grand jury wrote.

The panel, convened by the Suffolk County district attorney, said that some limousine companies have falsified paperwork with the state Department of Motor Vehicles in order to avoid more stringent inspections required for buses, which under the law are any vehicles that can carry 11 or more passengers.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Suspect in Jogger Karina Vetrano Slaying Pleads Not Guilty]]> Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:08:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/karina+vetrano+suspect+5.jpg

The 20-year-old Brooklyn man accused of killing Queens woman Karina Vetrano as she jogged through a park trail near her home last summer has pleaded not guilty to murder and sex abuse charges in the case. 

Chanel Lewis of East New York was arraigned in Queens Supreme Court Tuesday on four counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

Prosecutors said during the hearing that Lewis told police he "lost it" and strangled Vetrano during a chance encounter. 

Lewis was remanded back to jail. He's set to return to court on July 13. 

The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Lewis, said the Queens District Attorney's office must now begin to disclose and turn over all evidence related to the prosecution of the case.

"Our defense team looks forward to closely reviewing all case documents during this process," the Legal Aid Society said in a statement. 

If convicted, Lewis faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Both Vetrano's and Lewis' families were in the courtroom but declined to speak to reporters afterward. Newsday reports the victim's mother, Catherine Vetrano, showed no visible emotion in court. 

Rev. Kevin McCall, who works with the National Action Network, says he has visited Lewis in jail. 

"He is very frightened... he wants to be able to know what evidence they could have, because he knows he's innocent," he said. 

Vetrano's Aug. 2, 2016 death shocked the city, and it stayed in the spotlight for weeks, driven by her father Phil's relentless search for her killer.

Police arrested Lewis in early February. They said evidence included genetic material found under the 30-year-old Vetrano's fingernails and on her phone and neck.

Police officials also said Lewis made detailed, incriminating statements to detectives. According to police sources, Lewis twice confessed on video -- once with the NYPD and the other time during an interview with the Queens district attorney's office.

Lewis' family has insisted he is innocent.

"He's just a good guy, a wonderful guy, don't interfere with anybody," said his father, Richard Lewis, after his son's arrest. "He's never had that problem in the 20 years I've had him in my world."

Also Tuesday, a suspect in the killing of another New York City woman who was jogging near her mother's home was arraigned in Massachusetts. Angelo Colon-Ortiz pleaded not guilty to assault and attempted rape charges in the death of Vanessa Marcotte, a Google employee who lived in New York City. Marcotte was killed Aug. 7, 2016, just days after Vetrano's body was discovered; police at the time said they would look into a possible connection between the slayings of the two women joggers but soon determined they were not related. 

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<![CDATA[Ex-Passaic Mayor Sentenced to Prison in Federal Bribery Case]]> Tue, 18 Apr 2017 14:14:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Blanco-sm.jpg

Former Passaic mayor Alex Blanco has been sentenced to 27 months in a federal bribery case that forced him to resign from office last fall.

Blanco, 44, pleaded guilty last September to federal bribery charges after admitting to taking $110,000 from two unnamed developers for an affordable housing project in 2011. 

As part of the plea deal, he'll also have to pay restitution of $110,000. 

Blanco will start his sentence in a few weeks, according to prosecutors. He'll be able to return home in the meantime. 

"This case demonstrates that public officials who exploit their office for personal gain can expect to be thoroughly investigated and aggressively prosecuted," Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said in a statement. 

The U.S. Attorney's office said Blanco, a podiatrist who was first elected in 2008, approached developers about a project for low-income housing on Paulison Avenue in 2011 and told them they would have to give him a sizeable payment for the project to go forward.

Then, after the city released $216,4000 in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development money for the project, prosecutors said that Blanco arranged another meeting with the developers and accepted $65,000 in bank checks. A few days later he took another $40,000 in cash. He received the final $5,000 several months later.

Prosecutors said that most of the money Blanco took came out of HUD money provided to the developers. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said that Blanco's behavior "demonstrates aggressive and appalling greed."

"By soliciting these payments from developers, he took for himself federal money that was intended to help provide housing for the city's poorest residents," Fishman said. "We expect our public officials to behave differently."

As part of the plea agreement, Blanco will pay $110,000 in restitution.

He won office on a platform of fighting corruption after his predecessor Samuel Rivera was convicted of taking bribes in 2008 and made history as the first Dominican-American mayor elected in the U.S. Yet Blanco now becomes the third Passaic mayor in the last 25 years to be convicted of, or plead guilty to, a federal crime. 

Former Mayor Joseph Lipari was found guilty of extortion and income tax evasion in 1992. 

The community of 70,000 people bills itself as the fastest-growing city in New Jersey. 

Photo Credit: City of Passaic]]>
<![CDATA[Paterson Mayor, DPW Workers Arraigned in Corruption Probe]]> Mon, 17 Apr 2017 17:14:44 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/FOR+THOMPSON+LMX___PATERSON+MAYOR+TORRES+SURRENDERS_WNBC_000000.jpg

Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and three public works supervisors pleaded not guilty to corruption charges at their arraignments in a New Jersey court Monday. 

Torres pleaded not guilty to charges of theft, misconduct, tampering with public records and other offenses before a judge in New Jersey. Three public works supervisors also pleaded not guilty. 

Torres said nothing to reporters as he walked into court. 

Prosecutors revealed in court Monday they have made an offer to Torres and the four Department of Public Works employees. If Torres agrees to plead guilty to consiracy, he would have to resign as mayor, pay restitution and serve five years parole. 

The DPW workers -- Joseph Mania, 51; Timothy Hanlon, 30; and Imad Elmowaswes, 52 -- would also be put on probation and have to pay restitution, and agree not to work in government services again, but would avoid jail time under the deal. They're each facing a minimum of years in prison if they're convicted in trial. 

Torres and the public works supervisors have until Sept. 1 to take the deals, prosecutors said. If not, the trial will begin sometime afterward. 

The mayor of New Jersey's third-largest city was the subject of months of I-Team reporting on municipal workers being paid to do private jobs for him and his relatives. Torres and the three indicted workers all deny wrongdoing.

Torres issued a statement after he was indicted last month, saying, "I fully intend to vigorously defend myself against these allegations, and I look forward to the opportunity to present all of the facts in a court of law. I am confident when the full story is told, I will be vindicated." 

First elected to Paterson's city council in 1990, Torres became mayor in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. The Democrat lost a bid for a third term in 2010 but re-gained his seat in 2014.

Through much of 2016, Torres refused to answer questions about a series of I-Team stories that appeared to show city employees doing private jobs for him, from washing his scooter and building bookshelves to doing construction at his nephew's would-be beer business.

When the I-Team caught up with him before the first report in March 2016, Torres said in an email no employees had ever done private jobs for him while on overtime. "Please be advised that at no time has any city employee, on city time, or overtime, or paid with taxpayer dollars, ever performed work for me at my home, or anywhere else," he wrote.

The I-Team later obtained records that seem to show at least eight employees had indeed been earning overtime during the same periods they were seen on camera doing private work at the mayor's home and the planned beer business. But the mayor never responded to requests for further explanation.

A concurrent federal investigation into Torres is underway, the I-Team has reported, but there have been no charges in that probe. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Docs Among 13 Nabbed in Scheme to Flood NYC With Illegal Oxy]]> Fri, 07 Apr 2017 20:02:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/operation+avalanche.jpg

Thirteen people, including three doctors and four nurse practitioners, face charges for allegedly turning several Brooklyn clinics into "pill mills" and flooding city streets with millions of illegal painkillers, authorities said. 

Investigators from the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor's office and the DEA's Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad began making arrests and executing search warrants at the clinics early Friday, officials said.

The investigation targeted three clinics in Brooklyn that allegedly operated as "pill mills." More than six million oxycodone pills, worth an estimated $60 to $100 million, were illegally prescribed and pumped onto the black market, officials said at a news briefing.

The defendants, one of whom is a former assemblyman who owns a company that deals with the clinics, are also accused of ordering unnecessary medical procedures and billing them to Medicaid and Medicare to the tune of a $24 million fraud, officials said. Patients' painkiller prescriptions were allegedly withheld unless they submitted to the procedures.

More than half of those funds went through MetroPlus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Health + Hospitals, the city's public health system. And that $13 million in publicly-funded health benefits could otherwise have paid for critical treatments -- for example, 120,000 breast cancer screenings or 264,000 prostate cancer screenings, authorities said. 

At the height of the conspiracies in 2016, the three clinics racked up more than 1,600 office visits per month from over 20 patients, officials said.

One of the defendants, Dr. Lazar Feygin, allegedly used the money to fund regular luxury goods purchases, real estate holdings and frequent overseas vacations, officials said. A series of wire-tapped phone calls revealed that in order to continue prescribing the opioids, alcohol-positive urinalysis records for his patients were systematically deleted.

The clinics allegedly continued to provide prescriptions to patients who were likely selling pills or abusing other narcotic drugs, despite blatant evidence like positive drug tests, officials said.

According to authorities, oxycodone prescriptions were often written without a legitimate medical reason, and Feygin allegedly pressured some physicians to write the bogus 'scripts. He allegedly told an accomplice one of the medical practitioners would have a "big problem" with him because she sent patients to pain management rather than the office to obtain more pills.

The suspects face charges of conspiracy, money laundering, criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, health care fraud and other crimes. 

"They manipulated some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers at a time when we are seeing increasing numbers of deaths involving opioid overdoses, more than 1,000 in calendar year 2016," New York City Special Commissioner of Investigation Mark Peters said in a statement. "Those are real dollars, for real medical tests, which can help real patients. They used pain pills instead of revolves, but they robbed the city all the same."

"My office is going to do everything we can ... to crack down on anyone who tries to profit off the misery of addiction," added Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images/NBCNewYork]]>
<![CDATA[FBI Busts Nine Russians in $10M Diamond Swindle]]> Wed, 05 Apr 2017 15:07:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/generic+diamonds+shutterstock_107523059.jpg

A long-running investigation into international diamond fraud led to the arrest of nine Russians who allegedly cost their victims nearly $10 million, a law enforcement official familiar with the case said Wednesday.

The swindle victimized diamond dealers in New York City, Las Vegas and Mumbai, the official said. The FBY-NYPD-Customs and Border Protection Joint Eurasian Organized Crime Task force began investigating the ring in 2015, according to prosecutors.

The fraud involved bad checks, forged documents, and instances of people simply running off with diamonds in hand without paying.

They usually focused on small stones called "melee diamonds," court papers say, and built up trust with dealers by paying for smaller purchases before running off when they had larger debts. 

One victim lost $7.4 million; another lost $2.4 million, the official said. 

"The defendants allegedly took advantage of an industry wide system of credit and trust to obtain largely untraceable diamonds," said Acting US Attorney Joon Kim, "and then, using various allegedly illegal schemes, refused to pay."

Photo Credit: AVprophoto, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Man Guilty of Murder in Attorney's Shocking Mall Carjacking]]> Fri, 31 Mar 2017 19:50:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/dustin+friedland+inset.jpg

The first of four men accused in a young attorney's death during a carjacking at The Mall at Short Hills three years ago has been found guilty of felony murder, conspiracy and weapons-related crimes.

Jurors delivered guilty verdicts on all counts Friday after four days of deliberations in the trial of Basim Henry, the South Orange man prosecutors said was one of four involved in the December 2013 carjacking at the high-end mall in Millburn, New Jersey, and served as the getaway driver.

Henry had faced a total of six counts in the death of Dustin Friedland, a 30-year-old Hoboken lawyer killed in front of his wife in the parking lot just 10 days before Christmas. The murder charge carries a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. Henry was on probation at the time of the killing in connection with a 2006 bank robbery conviction, which may affect the penalty.

Henry, wearing a crisp long-sleeved white shirt and cream-colored sweater vest, stood silently as the jury decision was read, lowering his head at various points but otherwise showing no reaction. 

Friedland's parents and sister were in the courtroom as the verdict was read. His widow, Jamie Schare Friedland, whose emotional testimony about the ambush captivated the courtroom during the trial, was not present.

Defense lawyer Michael Rubas argued in his closing statement that Henry wasn't responsible for the shooter's actions. 

Essex County prosecutors said Henry "knew force was necessary" to get the vehicle.

Friedland's family wasn't commenting on the verdict Friday but Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray thanked them for "their support of the efforts of this office, for their dignity and for their strength to see this process through." 

Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Amarato said of Friedland's widow, "The road she's had to travel, I couldn't imagine being in that situation. She's a very strong young lady, she's handled it as well as anyone could expect. It's a tough road, from her night of being with the last moments with Dustin, to going through this long drawn-out process, I could not imagine that." 

Neither side could immediately be reached for comment on the verdict.

The other suspects, Hanif Thompson, of Irvington, and Newark residents Karif Ford and Kevin Roberts have pleaded not guilty to felony murder and other charges in connection with the carjacking. They await trial.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Paterson Council Rejects No-Confidence Vote Against Mayor]]> Wed, 29 Mar 2017 15:33:02 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/DIENST+MAYOR+ARRESTED+PATERSON+NJ+PKG+6P+-+01000015_WNBC_000000.jpg

A city council resolution calling for Paterson Mayor Joey Torres to resign failed to pass during a noisy hearing at city hall Tuesday night.

By a vote of 6-2 with one abstention, council members voted against the symbolic measure that would have called for the mayor’s resignation.

Mayor Torres has been indicted on state corruption charges and is also under federal criminal investigation for possible misuse of federal grant money. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In voting against the “no confidence” measure, several council members said they would not support calling for Mayor Torres’ ouster unless he is convicted in court.

Some protesters wearing “Believe in Torres” t-shirts, carrying signs and chanting “Torres” were escorted out of city hall during the hearing.

Residents took turns speaking out at the crowded session. Some said the mayor has to resign for the good of the city while others said now is not the time to pass a symbolic resolution.

The resolution was proposed after the Mayor and three DPW supervisors were charged with corruption earlier this month. They allegedly improperly billed taxpayers for private work done at a business belonging to the mayor’s relatives.

City activist Ernest Rucker told the council the city is “under a dark cloud” while voicing support for the resolution. But councilwoman Maritza Davila said she would oppose the resolution because it has no practical effect and would only bring additional bad publicity to Paterson.

Council members Ken Morris Jr., Shahin Khalique, Domingo “Alex” Mendez, Luis Velez and Michael Jackson also voted against the “no confidence” resolution.

Council President William McKoy and Andre Sayegh voted in favor. Sayegh pointed out city summer programs were shut down due to budget cuts at a time money was allegedly being stolen from taxpayers.

Councilwoman Ruby Cotton abstained.

Mayor Torres has said he has no intention of stepping down as he fights the criminal charges.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[NYPD Cop Who Fatally Shot Ramarley Graham Quits]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:51:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/richard+haste+ramarley+graham.jpg

UPDATE: Ramarley Graham's Mom Demands Answers After NYPD Cop Quits

The NYPD officer who fatally shot an unarmed Bronx teen in 2012 has quit the force to avoid being fired after he was found guilty in a disciplinary trial of botching department tactics after the shooting.

Richard Haste was brought on departmental charges for demonstrating "poor judgment" by not taking obvious steps to defuse a fatal standoff with Ramarley Graham.

After the departmental trial wrapped up in January, the NYPD says the trial commissioner on Friday found Haste guilty on all counts and recommended he be fired. Police Commissioner James O'Neill agreed with the findings and recommendations.

Haste quit Sunday, the NYPD said. His attorney Stuart London says his client should not have been forced to resign. Haste will not receive a pension or medical benefits from the police department, nor will he be allowed to carry a concealed weapon like other NYPD retirees, police said.

Haste, who had been investigating a drug case on the day Graham died, testified during the trial that he followed the young man into his Bronx apartment building on suspicion that he may have had a gun. After Haste and his partner broke down the door of Graham's home, the officer said he saw Graham sidestep into a bathroom, and he leaned inside to face him.

Haste, who is white, testified that he yelled, "Show me your hands!" but Graham instead reached deeper into his pants and yelled obscenities. 

"I thought I was about to be shot," Haste said. "I expected to be dead."

The officer's attorneys said he had good reason to think Graham was drawing a gun when he fired at the teen. No weapon was recovered.

The teen's mother, Constance Malcolm, says her 6-year-old son witnessed his brother getting shot. She has repeatedly called for Haste's and other responding officers' firings.

Haste initially faced a criminal manslaughter charge in the death, which became another flashpoint for outrage over police use of deadly force against minorities. But the criminal case was dismissed because of a procedural error, and a new grand jury declined to indict. Federal prosecutors also declined to bring charges.

Malcolm said in January she wanted to set the record straight about her son: he's not a monster, he wasn't selling drugs, he didn't have a gun and he never ran from police, she claimed.

<![CDATA[Jurors See Suspect Talk to Cops in Deadly Carjacking Trial]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:12:32 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/THOMPSON+MALL+CARJACKING+MURDER+TRIAL+FOR+WEB+-+00000403_WNBC_0.jpg

In the continuing trial of the accused getaway driver in a deadly New Jersey mall carjacking three years ago, jurors saw the suspect's initial statements to police after his arrest.

Basim Henry made the statement to detectives a day after his arrest in the deadly carjacking of Dustin Friedland at The Malls at Shore Hills in December 2013. He admitted hearing two gunshots in the mall parking deck.

And then, he said, after Friedland's Range Rover was driven out of the mall, he told the alleged gunman it was only supposed a strong-arm carjacking.

"I says something's f----- up," Henry says on the videotape. "He says he shot him. He shot him."

Over and over, the two detectives grill Henry after reading him his Miranda rights, video shows. The lead detective had taken some of Henry's clothing at arrest, even his thermal underwear.

Finally, detectives get a statement out of him after Henry refers to a scuffle: "What did I say to him? I say, 'Why the f--- you do that.' He says, 'What the f--- you gonna do?'"

Henry sat calmly in court Wednesday, showing no emotion as his statement was played.

Photos of the stolen Range Rover next to an abandoned house were also shown to the jury.

Dustin Friedland, a young attorney in Hoboken, was shot and killed in the parking lot at The Malls at Short Hills just 10 days before Christmas in 2013.

Friedland's widow, Jamie Schare Friedland, gave emotional testimony about the sudden ambush and the harrowing wait for help, and state Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Falzon testified that Friedland died of a gunshot wound to the head in a homicide.

Henry, along with Hanif Thompson, of Irvington, and Newark residents Karif Ford and Kevin Roberts have pleaded not guilty to felony murder and other charges in connection with the carjacking.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>