<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]> Copyright 2015 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 Mon, 04 May 2015 23:12:52 -0400 Mon, 04 May 2015 23:12:52 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[No Charges for Ex-Cop Who Fatally Shot Man in Subway]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 21:57:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/borough+hall+station+shooting+march+10.jpg

The retired New York City correction officer who fatally shot a man in a Brooklyn subway station in March won't be charged in man's death, the Brooklyn District Attorney announced Monday.

The officer, 68-year-old William Groomes, fatally shot Gilbert Drogheo inside the Borough Hall subway station on March 10 after the two got into an argument that turned physical on board a No. 4 train.

District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement that he's determined criminal charges are not warranted in the matter.

"Based on interviews of multiple eyewitnesses to the events leading up to the shooting, our review of video tapes of the shooting itself and other evidence, I have decided not to put this case into the grand jury and will not bring criminal charges against Mr. Groomes," he said. "While the death of this young man was indeed tragic, we cannot prove any charge of homicide beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Norman Seabrook, the president of the city Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, told NBC 4 New York in March that they believe the retired officer was acting in self-defense when he shot Drogheo. 

Groomes got into an argument with two men after he boarded a Brooklyn-bound No. 4 train at the Bowling Green station in Manhattan on March 10. The altercation turned physical, and one of the men pushed Groomes into an empty subway seat, a source told NBC 4 New York at the time.  

Groomes and the two men got off the train at the Borough Hall stop and started fighting on the platform, the source said. That’s when Groomes allegedly identified himself as an officer and told Gilbert Drogheo and Joschelyn Evering that they would be put under arrest.

The source says that the men ran away, with Groomes following. As the men tried to walk out of an exit gate, Drogheo and Groomes began scuffling again. Then, the source says, Groomes pulled out a gun and fired one round, which fatally hit Drogheo in the abdomen.

The retired officer and Evering stayed at the scene. They were not hurt and no bystanders were injured, police said.

Grooms was questioned by police and released. Evering, 28, of Brooklyn was charged with assault and menacing. 

<![CDATA[NY Senate Leader Dean Skelos, Son Arrested on Corruption Charges]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 22:35:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Skelos-Corruption-Arrest.jpg

New York State Senate leader Dean Skelos and his son were arrested Monday on federal corruption charges, about three months after NBC 4 New York first reported on the investigation into state government’s most powerful Republican.

The pair were seen turning themselves in at the FBI offices in lower Manhattan Monday morning. The men face six counts including conspiracy, extortion and soliciting bribes, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court Monday.

In a statement Monday, Dean Skelos said he expects to be exonerated of the charges.

“I am innocent of the charges leveled against me," he said. "I am not saying I am just not guilty, I am saying that I am innocent. I fully expect to be exonerated by a public jury trial.”

The complaint alleges that the pair began soliciting bribes from stormwater treatment firm AbTech and a real estate developer in 2010. Under the scheme, the pair told the developer to pay Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars in order for Dean Skelos to take action on legislation that would help the company's business.

During the scheme, the complaint says, Dean Skelos allegedly threatened to block a contract between AbTech and Nassau County unless monthly payments to Adam Skelos were increased from $4,000 to $10,000.

After the firm increased the payments, Dean Skelos allegedly pressured Nassau County officials to award the $12 miillion contract to the firm, which wasn't the lowest bidder, the New York Times first reported.

AbTech says it's cooperating with authorities and is not considered a target in the probe.

"The process through which local authorities selected AbTech was comprehensive and diligent, involving several levels of Nassau County government," the company said. "AbTech is proud ... to have earned this contract after a thorough and fair review process conducted by Nassau County."

Adam Skelos collected about $198,000 over the course of the scheme.

NBC 4 New York first reported on the investigation into Dean Skelos’ in January. After the investigation was revealed, a spokeswoman for the legislator called it “thinly sourced” and “irresponsible,” adding that it “does not meet the standards of serious journalism.

Still, the father and son began trying to cover their tracks after NBC 4 New York’s report, the complaint alleges. It’s when Adam Skelos allegedly began using a “burner” phone and began communicating with certain people via his iPhone’s video chat app, because he allegedly said it doesn’t appear as a phone call on cell phone bills.

In one conversation recorded during the investigation, Adam Skelos allegedly told his father, "You can't talk normally because it's like...Preet Bharara is listening to every... call. It's just...frustrating."

Dean Skelos allegedly replied "It is."

The elder Skelos has said he would not resign his post because of the investigation.

Prosecutors said a news conference would be held at noon to speak about the charges brought against the father and son. Dean Skelos has represented a portion of Nassau County on Long Island in the state Senate since he was elected in 1984. He has been majority leader since January 2011.

Skelos’ arrest comes less than three months after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes.

Silver denies the charges.

<![CDATA[NY Senate Leader Could Be Charged This Week: Sources]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 09:55:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/dean-skelos.jpg

New York State Senate leader Dean G. Skelos and his son could be charged as soon as Monday in connection with a federal corruption investigation, sources familiar with the case tell NBC 4 New York. 

Last month, federal prosecutors started presenting evidence to a grand jury in an investigation of the Long Island Republican, an investigation first reported in January by NBC 4 New York.

Subpoenas have already been served to a number of people close to Skelos -- among them, several state senators on Long Island, according to sources familiar with the investigation. 

Federal investigators have been looking into Skelos' sources of income. Skelos denies any wrongdoing and has called reports that he is under federal investigation "irresponsible."  

A spokesman for Skelos has not returned requests for comment.

The senator's 32-year-old son, Adam Skelos, is also a focus of the investigation, sources familiar with the probe said. He was hired by an Arizona-based stormwater treatment company, AbTech, which was awarded a contract in his father's district despite the fact it wasn't the low bidder, the New York Times first reported. 

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is also looking at Skelos' ties to the real estate industry, among other areas of inquiry, sources said. A spokesman for Bharara and an FBI spokesman declined comment.

Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in state government, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Skelos said in a second statement last month, "I have and will continue to cooperate with any inquiry."

The revelation that Skelos is under investigation comes less than three months after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes.

Silver denies the charges.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Alleged Drunk Cop in Deadly Wrong-Way Crash Hiring New Attorney]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 20:09:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Pedro-Abad-Wreck-Inset.jpg

A lawyer for the New Jersey police officer who law enforcement sources say had a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit when he hit a tractor-trailer head-on on a Staten Island highway last month, killing a fellow officer and a friend and critically injuring a third cop, says his client is in the process of hiring a new attorney and offered no comment on the case.

The NYPD, which is investigating the March 20 wrong-way crash on the West Shore Expressway, also had no comment on the toxicology results of Pedro Abad Jr., which showed a blood alcohol level of .24 percent, according to sources familiar with the case.

Abad, 27, was driving his fellow officers and friend on the wrong side of the expressway on the way back from a strip club when his vehicle slammed into the tractor-trailer, authorities said.

Hours before the crash, Abad had posted a photo on his Instagram page of three shot glasses filled with what he identified as "Jack Daniels Fire on the house."

Authorities said at the time it was "too premature" to speculate on what caused the accident. They later obtained a warrant to test Abad's blood.

Abad was hospitalized in critical condition following the crash, which killed fellow Linden officer Frank Viggiano and friend Joseph Rodriguez. Patrik Kudlac, another Linden cop riding in Abad's Honda, was also hospitalized in critical condition after the crash.

Kudlac's mother told NBC 4 New York Monday he was doing better. 

The Union County prosecutor's office has said it would hand off the probe into the driving record and employment history of Abad to avoid the perception of any conflicts of interest. The state attorney general's office said the investigation will be handled by the Middlesex County prosecutor's office.

Public records show Abad has been involved in eight accidents since 2005 and has two arrests for drunken driving in the last four years. 

<![CDATA[Robbery Suspect Fatally Shot by Detective: NYPD]]> Sun, 26 Apr 2015 00:11:32 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/42515cops.jpg

A 24-year-old robbery suspect was fatally shot Saturday during a "violent physical struggle" with two detectives in a Manhattan apartment building, police said.

Authorities withheld the name of the suspect pending notification of his family.

As two detectives approached the sixth-floor apartment in the East Village, where the suspect was believed to be, the suspect bolted out a window and down a fire escape, said New York City Police Department Chief Jim O'Neill. The detectives caught up with him in a hallway and a "violent physical struggle" ensued, the chief said during a news conference.

During the struggle, the suspect grabbed a hand-held radio from one detective and struck him in the head with it, O'Neill said. The fight continued for about five minutes before one detective drew his weapon and fired a single shot, hitting the suspect in the torso, he said.

The suspect, who was wanted in connection with the robbery of a woman on Thursday, died at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital, O'Neill said.

The incident occurred at 1:45 p.m. at a halfway house at 538 E. Sixth St.

The two detectives, who were not identified, were taken to a hospital, where one was treated for injuries to the head and shoulder.

The suspect was accused of confronting a 21-year-old woman on Thursday as she was giving a presentation at City College, according to the NYPD. The two then argued in a hallway and the suspect repeatedly punched the woman and stole her purse, which contained her keys, cash, credit cards and identification, investigators said. He fled the scene and eluded a police search.

<![CDATA[Man Killed in Police Shooting Served in Military, Had 14 Arrests: NYPD]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:14:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Jamaica-Queens-Shooting-Inset.jpg

The 30-year-old man shot and killed by police officers during a foot chase in the Jamaica section of Queens Wednesday night has been identified as a Staten Island native who'd served in the military and had a lengthy arrest record, police say. 

Jonathan Efraim died when he was shot by police officers at 168th Street and Hillside Avenue, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. 

Boyce said Thursday the shooting appeared to be justified and called the officers' actions "courageous."

In a Thursday news conference detailing the shooting and the suspect's past, Boyce said Efraim was visiting his girlfriend Wednesday night and went to a nearby bar at 164th Street and Hillside Avenue, telling her he was going to get some food.

He spent two hours drinking in the bar when he got into an argument with another customer, according to Boyce. The bartender tried to escort Efraim outside, and that's when Efraim pulled out a gun and fired once into the ceiling.

The crowd inside the bar fled, and police officers from the 103rd and 107th precincts responded.

Efraim ran out of the bar with the gun in his hand, and responding officers shouted, "Police! Don't move!" and chased him when he allegedly didn't comply with commands, authorities said. 

As police chased the suspect, he fired twice at the officers, Boyce said. They continued to chase him, and when he turned a corner, he turned around and allegedly pointed his gun again at them. That's when two officers in uniform fired five shots at the man.

Two of the shots hit him in the armpit and in the torso, according to Boyce. Witnesses told NBC 4 New York they saw officers administering CPR on the suspect before he was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

Boyce said Efraim had a Glock on him at the time, and investigators have recovered shell casings from the scene. Police also have two pieces of video: one shows Efraim on the street with the gun in his hand and officers chasing after him, and the other from inside the bar shows suspect firing the round into the ceiling with patrons running from the bar. 

Police are continuing to look for other video as part of their ongoing investigation. 

No officers were injured but the two who fired their weapons were taken to the hospital for treatment of ringing in their ears.

Efraim had 14 previous arrests in New York and in New Jersey. He was in the military, though his details of his service weren't immediately clear, and his family told police he had psychological problems.

<![CDATA[Human Remains Found Upstate ID'd as Bronx Woman Missing Since 2012: Police]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 09:49:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/216*120/RAMONA+MOORE.JPG

Human remains found off a state highway in Orange County last week have been identified as those of Ramona Moore, a 35-year-old Bronx woman who vanished from her apartment in July 2012, according to a preliminary dental records match made during an autopsy Monday, authorities say.

The revelation comes days before a scheduled hearing in the murder trial of Nasean Bonie, a 29-year-old building superintendent indicted in Moore's disappearance. Court records indicate Bonie and Moore argued about rent and fought in the days before she vanished.

Bonie would have been the first person to face a murder trial in the Bronx where there was no body. He is due in Bronx Supreme Court Wednesday to be sentenced for assaulting his wife and for a previously scheduled conference hearing related to the Moore case.

He has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges in her death.

The remains were found Friday by workers cutting trees near State Route 208 and Captain Carpenter Road in Blooming Grove. State Police are assisting in the investigation.

Moore has four children in Queens, according to the Daily News.  

<![CDATA[Man Accused of Murdering Bronx Mom Missing 3 Years Sentenced in Wife Beating]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:12:13 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nasean+bonie.jpg

A Bronx building superintendent accused of murdering a 35-year-old tenant whose skeletal remains were found upstate last week, three years after she vanished, pleaded guilty in a separate case Wednesday to beating his wife and was sentenced to four years behind bars.

Nasean Bonie, 29, brutally attacked his wife with a tray table, belt buckle and his fists, punching her in the face and kicking her in the back until she was knocked unconscious, according to a criminal complaint. The woman ended up with a broken orbital bone and had to go to the hospital.

Bonie was also due in court for a procedural hearing in his murder trial for the death of Ramona Moore, the Bronx mother who disappeared from her apartment in July 2012.

There was no trace of Moore, who has four children in Queens, according to the Daily News, until Friday, when utility workers cutting trees near State Route 208 and Captain Carpenter Road in Orange County's Blooming Grove stumbled upon her remains, authorities said. A preliminary match using dental records was made during an autopsy Monday.

In court Wednesday, prosecutors asked for a month before the next hearing in the Moore case so the medical examiner could try to determine how she died. In the meantime, Bonie is remanded, 

Court records indicate Bonie and Moore argued about rent and fought in the days before she vanished.

Bonie would have been the first person to face a murder trial in the Bronx where there was no body. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges in her death. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Agent Fires Shots at Getaway Car in Brooklyn]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 18:31:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/generic+caution+tape+vg.jpg

A federal agent fired shots at a suspect's getaway vehicle after nearly being hit by the car during a drug sting in Brooklyn Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency said.

The agent was not hurt, nor were any suspects. Three people were arrested in the sting near New Lots Avenue and Bradford Street in East New York, a spokesman for ICE said. 

The operation was being run by the Homeland Security Investigations unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the shooting, a standard procedure anytime an officer or special ageny discharges their gun in the line of duty. 

Photo Credit: Valeria Gonzalez]]>
<![CDATA[Suspect Screamed "I Am Going to Rape You" in Bar Attack: DA]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:06:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rodney+stover+court.jpg

The convicted violent sex offender arrested in connection with the rape of a woman inside the bathroom of a Manhattan sports bar over the weekend allegedly screamed "I am going to rape you" and threatened to kill the victim after he pushed her into the stall, according to a criminal complaint.

Rodney Stover, 48, was arraigned Thursday on rape, predatory sex assault and other charges in Saturday's attack at the Turnmill Bar on East 27th Street in Murray Hill. He was arrested Wednesday after walking past that same bar earlier in the morning and being recognized by the owner. 

Turnmill bar owner Tom Lucas had been watching surveillance video from the night of the attack for hours when he stepped outside and the suspect walked right past him, he told NBC 4 New York. He called police and followed Stover until officers arrived and cuffed him just blocks away. 

Stover was identified by the 23-year-old victim in a lineup. When asked by reporters as he was led from the police station Wednesday if he committed the rape, Stover shook his head no but said nothing else. He was represented at his Thursday arraignment by attorneys from Legal Aid, which doesn't comment on ongoing cases. Stover is due in court again next week. 

According to police and court documents, Stover was hiding in one of the stalls inside a women's restroom at the bar Saturday evening, and when a woman emerged from one of the other stalls, he pushed her back in, grabbed her by the throat and raped her. Stover allegedly screamed the threats at her as she was removing her clothes, the complaint said. He then fled the bar.

The level-three sex offender spent decades in prison on felony convictions of a 1990 rape in Pittsburgh and a 1993 rape in Southampton on Long Island, authorities said. He was released from prison just this year, then moved into the Bellevue men's homeless shelter in Murray Hill. 

"I don't know how people like that are still allowed to walk on the street," said neighbor Katie Aulcino. 


Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Cabbie Who Hit, Killed Boy Gets Traffic Ticket in Case]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:44:05 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cooper+stock+mother+dana+lerner.jpg

The cabbie who hit and killed a 9-year-old boy crossing the street near his Upper West Side home last year has gotten a $580 traffic ticket in the case, stunning the boy's family.

"How is it possible that this is not considered criminal?" the boy's mother, Dana Lerner, said Tuesday. "How is it possible that someone like this can drive again? It's not right." 

Cooper Stock and his father were crossing West End Avenue on Jan. 10, 2014 when they were hit by a cab making a left turn from West 97th Street. 

The boy's head and body had been run over by two of the taxi's tires, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to authorities. The boy's 51-year-old father, Richard, had a leg injury from the impact.

The cab driver, Koffi Komlani, was initially ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian, and the NYPD ruled the crash an accident.

Then, on Oct. 7, 2014, Komlani was arrested on charges from the Manhattan District Attorney's office alleging he didn't exercise due care when making the turn.

Prosecutors ultimately found there wasn't enough evidence to justify a felony charge. And while the case was handled in criminal court -- versus traffic court -- it did not lead to jail time. He was facing up to 15 days in jail. 

Instead, Komlani, 44, will have to pay the $580 fine, have his license suspended for six months and have to take a driver's safety course. 

The judge called the events tragic, but not a crime. 

According to the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney's office in October, Komlani told the police officer who responded to the scene, "I came down West 97th Street. I stopped at the red light. The light turned green and the car immediately in front of me turned left. I followed that car making a left behind that car. Suddenly I heard a boom. I never saw anyone. I accelerated to the left and stopped my car. When I got out of the car, someone said to me, ‘you just killed a kid.’"

Komlani's attorney said at the October arraignment that his client "feels awful."

Lerner said in an interview with NBC 4 New York Tuesday, "The injustice of this is too much to bear."

"He was such a bright light, and the light has been dimmed," she said of Cooper. "But I have to keep going." 

Lerner has been lobbying lawmakers for tougher laws against reckless drivers, and says there's a difference between true accident  and reckless driving. 

"Reckless driving is the new drunk driving. Reckless driving needs to be seen in the same way," she said. 

<![CDATA[Man Gets 25 Years to Life in NYC Hit-Run That Killed Couple, Baby]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:05:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/couple+fatal+crash+brooklyn+julio+acevedo.jpg

The 46-year-old Brooklyn man convicted earlier this year in the 2013 hit-run crash that killed a pregnant woman, her husband, and ultimately their child, was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in prison.

Julio Acevedo was driving the speeding BMW that slammed into a livery cab carrying Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21, in Williamsburg March 3, 2013, authorities have said. Raizy Glauber, who was seven months pregnant, decided to go to the hospital because she wasn't feeling well, and she and her husband were on the way there in a livery cab when Acevedo hit them at 70 mph.

The couple died that day. Their child was delivered by cesarean section; he weighed only 4 pounds and died a day later of extreme prematurity, the city medical examiner's office said.

The crash with the BMW reduced the cab to a crumpled heap, and Raizy Glauber was thrown from the wreck. The engine ended up in the back seat. The driver of the livery cab was knocked unconscious but was not seriously hurt.

Prosecutors say Acevedo jumped out of his car after the crash, saw the carnage, and fled. He surrendered to police in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania convenience store four days later and was sent back to New York to face charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, among other offenses. Acevedo faced up to 15 years in prison on the top count, but he received an enhanced sentence because the court deemed him to be a persistent felony offender, based on his history.

Acevedo served about a decade in prison in the 1990s for manslaughter after he was convicted of shooting Kelvin Martin, a Brooklyn criminal whose moniker "50 Cent" was the inspiration for rapper Curtis Jackson's stage name.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement following Monday's sentencing that he hoped it could bring a modicum of solace to the families of those killed.

"Today’s sentence shows our determination to get justice for Nathan and Raizy Glauber, and their son, Tanchem, whom the defendant killed by driving recklessly and then just walked away," Thompson said. 

Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
<![CDATA[Cop in Viral Uber Rant Video Apologizes]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 10:03:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/5pkg1.jpg

The NYPD detective seen on video screaming and cursing at an Uber driver in a roadside tirade earlier this week apologized Friday for his actions, telling NBC 4 New York in an exclusive interview that he hopes to buy the driver dinner.

"I apologize. I sincerely apologize," said detective Patrick Cherry, whose tirade was captured by one of the car’s passengers and posted on YouTube, where it has been viewed more than 3 million times.

Cherry’s apology comes after the detective was stripped of his badge and gun and transferred out of the FBI's elite Joint Terrorism Task Force. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also admonished Cherry after the video went viral online, saying “No good cop can watch that without a wince”, and the NYPD and independent Civilian Complaint Review Board have been investigating the exchange.

"People shouldn’t be treated that way. I let my emotions get the better of me and I was angry," Cherry said. "My intention was to be courteous and then we got into an argument. There was no intention to berate or hurt deeply the driver."

Cherry told NBC4 New York that the video, which shows him cursing at the driver and screaming, “How long have you been in this country?” misses what prompted the confrontation. He said the driver pulled up fast behind him as he was trying to park his unmarked patrol car on a West Village street Monday. The driver was honking and gesturing angrily, Cherry said.

That was when he turned his emergency lights on to “clarify the problem.” He said the driver then refused to turn over his license and registration, and that’s when Cherry lost his temper.

"When I walked up, I was uptight. I wanted to know what the problem was," Cherry said. "I felt his driving actions were discourteous and impolite and when he stopped he said, 'I'm not going to give you anything."'

Sanjay Seth, the Uber passenger who filmed the incident from the back seat, responded to Cherry's account of the altercation in the NBC 4 New York interview, tweeting: "I question part of Detective Cherry's interpretation of the incident in his recent apology."

"CCRB needs to sort out the facts," Seth said, referring to the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Taxi drivers rallied to call for Cherry to apologize; they initially said they didn't want him to lose his job, but hoped the fall-out from the altercation would spur better treatment for cab drivers from the NYPD. 

But the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers on Saturday reversed course, saying Cherry's poor record and lacking apology should get him fired. 

The police union has defended Cherry, saying the reaction to the confrontation overstates its significance.

On the video, Cherry can be seen apparently imitating the driver’s accent and asking how many years he’s lived in this country. Asked about that, Cherry said race and ethnicity had "nothing to do with it."

“There’s no reasonable way to determine who is driving facing away from me,” he said. “No reasonable way to determine in a few short seconds where someone skin color race or religion is going to play a factor in something that short.”

Cherry said that he is willing to take the department’s punishment, and is willing to do whatever is asked of him in his new role. He also says that the three-minute video doesn’t reflect the way he or his fellow men and women in blue carry themselves on a day-to-day basis.

The incident comes as New York Police officers are being trained in how to engage courteously with the public. Cherry said he feels badly that his behavior will reflect on a department that is working hard on its public image.

“You can’t judge three minutes of tape that that is the common practice of the New York Police Department,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s simply one individual who got angry."

<![CDATA[U.S. Citizen Accused of Conspiring to Kill Americans Faces NYC Terror Trial]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 16:06:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/farekh+court.jpg

An American citizen considered to be a significant al-Qaida operative was brought to New York City Thursday to stand trial on terror charges for allegedly conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel and civilians in various attacks overseas and at home, law enforcement and intelligence officials say. 

Muhanad Mahmoud al Farekh, who was born in Texas, was brought to Brooklyn from Pakistan to face charges of providing material support for terror, officials say. He allegedly plotted with other al-Qaida operatives to kill American soldiers and citizens overseas, and is associated with terrorists who plotted to bomb the New York City subway system in 2009 and another target in Britiain.

Farekh's public defender, Shawn Maher, did not present a package for bail at his client's Brooklyn federal court hearing Thursday, but he did reserve the right to do so at a later date. He also requested medical attention in prison for his client but did not specify the issues. 

A criminal complaint filed in January and unsealed in federal court Thursday alleges Farekh and two alleged co-conspirators whom he met while the three were students at the University of Manitoba agreed in December 2006 to travel to Pakistan together with the intent to train for violent jihad against U.S. military personnel operating in Afghanistan. Court papers say a witness told investigators Farekh and the two alleged co-conspirators often watched jihadist videos, including online lectures by the now deceased al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

Several months later, the three sold all of their belongings and left without telling their families, the complaint says. Once they got to Pakistan, they called a friend in Canada and said they intended to become martyrs, according to court documents. 

In September 2008, one of Farekh's accused co-conspirators allegedly provided weapons and military training at an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan to Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, three men who planned to carry out a suicide attack in the city's subway system in 2009. Medunjanin was convicted in the subway plot and sentenced to life in prison; Zazi and Ahmedzay pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The alleged co-conspirator faces indictment in that case.

If convicted, Farekh faces up to 15 years in prison. 

“Today’s arrest demonstrates that there is no escape from the long reach of our law for American citizens who seek to do harm to our country on behalf of violent terrorists,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said.

News of al Farekh's extradition comes the same day as two Queens women were arrested on federal terror charges after they allegedly plotted to plant homemade explosives in the United States. 

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Women Accused in Bomb Plot Had Propane Tanks: Complaint]]> Fri, 03 Apr 2015 00:06:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/courtroom+sketch+noelle+velentzas+asia+siddiqui.jpg

Two women accused of plotting to plant bombs in the United States, one of whom allegedly called Osama bin Laden her hero and praised the World Trade Center attacks, were arrested on terror charges in Queens by the Joint Terrorism Task Force early Thursday, federal officials familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York.

The women, identified in court papers as 28-year-old Noelle Velentzas and 31-year-old Asia Siddiqui, are accused of conspiring to detonate an explosive device somewhere within the United States. The two suspects allegedly discussed possible targets online but there was no specific terror plot and no active explosive device, one official familiar with the case said. The women were alleged to have met with undercover officer posing as a would-be jihadist on many occasions since 2014.

Investigators allege Siddiqui was in possession of multiple propane tanks, as well as instructions for how to transform those tanks into explosive devices, at the time of her arrest, according to a criminal complaint. Less than two weeks ago, Velentzas, asked whether she had heard the news about the recent arrest of a former U.S. airman from New Jersey who tried to travel to Syria to join ISIS, said she didn't understand why people were traveling overseas to engage in jihad when there were more opportunities of "pleasing Allah" in the U.S, according to the complaint.

Both women, U.S. citizens who were until recently roommates in a Queens apartment, appeared in Brooklyn federal court later Thursday. Siddiqui's attorney, Thomas Dunn, said earlier his client planned to plead not guilty.

"I know it's a serious case, but we're going to fight it out in court," he said. 

Neither suspect had a bail package to present Thursday. Shawn Maher, the attorney for Velentzas, has requested medical treatment in prison for his client. 

Siddiqui has repeatedly contacted members of al-Qaida overseas to offer her support, the complaint alleges. She also sent a letter of support to Mohammed Mohamud, the man arrested in November 2010 after trying to blow up a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon; the return address was linked to York College in Jamaica.

In 2006, Siddiqui allegedly became close with Samir Khan, who later moved to Yemen, became the editor of the propagandist magazine Inspire and moved up the ranks of the terror group on the Arabian Peninsula. In 2009, Siddiqui wrote a poem published in Jihad Recollections, Inspire's predecessor, that called for readers to engage in violent jihad and destroy enemies of Islam, court papers allege.

According to the complaint, she wrote that she "drop[s] bombs" as she swings on a hammock, "taste[s] the Truth through fists and slit throats" and that there is "[n]o excuse to sit back and wait -- for the skies to rain martyrdom."

Khan was killed in Yemen about three weeks after the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, having published articles outlining his grievances against the United States, championing himself as a "traitor" and detailing the challenges of suicide bombing, Kahn published bomb-making manuals, including an article titled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."

When federal investigators interviewed Siddiqui at LaGuardia Airport in July, she denied having any contact with Khan or other terrorists or terror networks. She also denied contributing to or having been published in any jihadist magazines.

Velentzas allegedly praised the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and told the undercover officer that being a martyr through a suicide attack guarantees entrance into heaven. According to the complaint, Velentzas showed the officer her phone, which included a background picture of bin Laden holding an AK-47, and called the infamous terrorist and his mentor, Abdullah Azzam, her heroes, the complaint says.

Siddiqui told the undercover agent Velentzas "has been obsessed" with pressure cookers since the 2013 terror attack at the Boston Marathon, according to the complaint. Velentzas told the agent she had recently gotten a pressure cooker as a present.

"You can fit a lot of things in [the pressure cooker], even if it's not food," Velentzas told the agent, apparently referencing explosive materials, according to the complaint.

In June, Velentzas allegedly told the undercover agent she and Siddiqui needed to learn how to take someone's weapon from them and fight multiple people at once.

According to the complaint, she told the agent, "If we get arrested, the police will point their guns at us from the back and maybe from the front. If we can get even one of their weapons, we can shoot them. They will probably kill us but we will be martyrs automatically and receive Allah's blessing."

In recorded conversations between Velentzas, Siddiqui and the undercover agent, the women talked about learning "science" in order to build a bomb, the complaint says. Velentzas allegedly told the other two to deny being good at science if they were ever asked about it, because that could tip off investigators to their plans. She warned about other ways they could get caught, and complained that one man who was allegedly planning to attack Manhattan's Herald Square subway station was caught because he scouted out the location.

Velentzas asked the agent why an individual would attack the subway station. When the agent replied, "Because there's a lot of people," Velentzas said, "Yeah, but just regular people," the complaint says. Court documents say the agent believed that statement indicated she would prefer to attack military or government targets rather than civilians.

The women also looked into chemistry beginner books at a public library and talked about using communications like pre-paid phones that would not be traced back to them. Siddiqui took a course on electricity and met with Velentzas and the undercover agent in a park in September to talk about how they could use wires to cause an explosion remotely, the complaint says. They also discussed how to make homemade grenades, pipe bombs and pressure cooker bombs.

In that same meeting, Velentzas said they needed to learn the science behind bomb-building to avoid being like Faisal Shahzad, the man who drove an SUV full of explosives into Times Square on a warm Saturday night in May 2010. He wasn't able to detonate the bombs. Shahzad later pleaded guilty to a 10-count indictment and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Siddiqui recently told the undercover agent she didn't want to talk to the officer about her progress in learning how to build a bomb, according to the criminal complaint, though it wasn't clear if that expedited Thursday's arrests.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton condemned the suspects' alleged "sustained efforts" to obtain bomb-making materials and instructions and applauded the multi-agency team that brought them in, calling the squad a "model for early detection and prevention of terrorist plotting."

"The defendants allegedly plotted to wreak terror by creating explosive devices and even researching the pressure cooker bombs used during the Boston Marathon bombing,” said Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez.

"We remain firm in our resolve to hold accountable anyone who would seek to terrorize the American people, whether by traveling abroad to commit attacks overseas or by plotting here at home," added U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch of the Eastern District of New York.
Both women face life imprisonment if convicted.

The case comes less than two months after three Brooklyn men were arrested for allegedly plotting to join ISIS overseas. Those three men -- Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, and 30-year-old Abror Habibov, have pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging them with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and travel document fraud.

Juraboev and Saidakhmetov allegedly planned to travel to Syria through Turkey, and Habibov allegedly funded the operation.

According to court documents, Juraboev first came to the attention of law enforcement in August, when he posted on an Uzbek-language website that propagates ISIS ideology. His plans included attacks against President Obama or planting a bomb on Coney Island, officials said. Another suspect discussed shooting FBI agents and police officers, the indictment alleged.

It wasn't immediately clear if authorities believed there to be a connection between the arrest of the Brooklyn men in late February and the arrest of the women Thursday.  

Both women are expected to next appear in court May 4. 

Photo Credit: Jane Rosenberg]]>
<![CDATA[6 Indicted on Bias, Robbery Charges in NJ Armed Home Invasion Spree]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 05:37:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/home+invasion8.jpg

Six Texas residents arrested last year in connection with a string of nearly half a dozen armed home invasions targeting families of Asian-Indian descent in one New Jersey county have been indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit bias intimidation, robbery and burglary, authorities said Wednesday.

Chaka Castro, 39, Juan Olaya, 34, Octavius Scott, 22, and Johnisha Williams, 19, were all taken into custody in their Houston home in December; Justin Johnson, 25, and 21-year-old Jakeyra Augustus were also arrested in the alleged plot to rob five pre-selected families at gunpoint between October and November, authorities said. Though the bias charges were not initially filed, prosecutors said the ongoing investigation warranted the presentation of such charges to a grand jury.

The indictments -- five containing a total of 103 counts -- stem from a months-long investigation into targeted armed robberies at five homes in three Middlesex County communities. In each robbery, families were tied up with duct tape and robbed of cash and jewelry. The pattern dates back to Oct. 20, when a home was hit in Old Bridge. Families were later targeted in South Plainfield and Edison.

Castro allegedly targeted the homes and directed her co-defendants to break in, tie up the families, steal jewelry and other items and smash the families' cellphones so they couldn't call for help. Scott and Olaya allegedly entered the homes, armed with at least one gun, while Williams, in all but one case, is accused of waiting outside and driving the getaway car, prosecutors said.

Johnson and Augustus allegedly assisted in some of the home invasions. Bail for each of the five defendants has been set at $1.25 million; information on their attorneys wasn't immediately available.

None of the victims was seriously injured in the robberies.

One woman whose family was attacked said robbers waved guns in front of her 4-year-old and 6-year-old sons. In another case, the home's owner said his wife was taking out the garbage when the invaders attacked. He and his wife were then tied up along with their three children.

One victim, Rajesh Singh, said he pleaded with the intruders not to harm his family.

"I just said, 'Take what you want, just don't hurt anybody,'" Singh said.

The first four home invasions were in a period of 10 days.

Residents say similar armed robberies over the last decade have coincided with the time around the Hindu holiday of Diwali, when gold jewelry is frequently given as a gift.

Police created a task force of Edison, South Plainfield, and Old Bridge police, along with detectives from the Middlesex County prosecutor's office, state police and the FBI to work on the case. It wasn't clear what led them to the crew in Texas.

In addition to the conspiracy charges, the suspects face varying degrees of offenses related to robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Man Pleads Guilty in NYC in Plot to Set Up al-Qaida Training Camp in U.S.]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:51:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/terror+suspect+extradite.jpg

A mentally ill British man pleaded guilty in New York Monday to federal charges he plotted to set up an al-Qaida training camp on a ranch in a remote part of Oregon that was likened to Afghanistan. 

Haroon Aswat admitted he traveled to Bly, Oregon, in 1999 at the direction of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, a double-amputee and radical cleric based in London. His orders were to help train recruits "who wanted to participate in jihad on behalf of a terrorist organization," he said in a barely audible voice at the sentencing in federal court in Manhattan.

Before pleading guilty to conspiracy and supporting terrorism, the Sheffield, England-born Aswat told U.S. District Judge Katherin Forrest that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at 20. The judge ruled that the sentencing could go forward because the defendant was under medical care and showing no symptoms.

Aswat, 40, was charged in 2005 in the plot to establish the camp for military training at a site known as Dog Cry Ranch. Prosecutors accused the defendant of arriving in Oregon with instructions on how to make bombs and poisons.

According to court papers, one communication between the conspirators said that the property was located in a "pro-militia and firearms state" that "looks just like Afghanistan" and that the group was "stockpiling weapons and ammunition." But the camp never materialized beyond a dozen people taking target practice, authorities said.

Aswat faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing July 31. It was unclear whether he could get credit for the nearly 10 years he spent behind bars in the United Kingdom fighting extradition to the United States. Prosecutors had no immediate comment Monday.

Mustafa was sentenced this year to life in prison following a trial in the same Manhattan courthouse.

Authorities say Mustafa, also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque in the 1990s into a training ground for Islamic extremists, attracting men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid. He claims to have lost his hands fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Charges Against Menendez May Come Wednesday: Sources]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 22:23:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/robert+menendez+march+6.jpg

Federal charges could come as early as Wednesday in connection with the ongoing corruption investigation into U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, sources familiar with the probe tell NBC 4 New York.

His campaign staff was preparing Tuesday night for the indictment, coordinating with the powerful Mercury Public Affairs firm to prepare a large number of statements of support from Democratic politicians statewide, NBC 4 New York has also learned. 

Menendez has been under criminal investigation in connection with his ties to Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. The senator has admitted he accepted free private plane trips from Melgen, including a 2008 trip to the luxury resort of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. The senator has said he later repaid almost $70,000 for his trips on the doctor’s jet.

Both Menendez and Melgen have denied any wrongdoing. Speaking with reporters earlier this month after an unrelated press conference, Menendez reiterated that he has done nothing wrong and bemoaned the leaks about the investigation in the press.

"I'll say the same thing that I said two weeks ago when there was a different press report and that is that I have always acted appropriately and legally," Menendez said.

A spokesman for Menendez, Steve Sandberg, told NBC 4 New York Tuesday night: "Since the illegal leak of three Fridays ago, the senator's staff and offices have been inundated with phone calls from individuals asking how they can help and show their support, for which the senator is appreciative."

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the FBI declined comment.

One source told NBC 4 New York there will be a "considerable" number of statements, some ghostwritten, from politicians and organizations expressing support for Menendez as soon as the indictments are handed down. 

In one email shared with NBC 4 New York, a draft written for a politician quotes him as praising the senator's "hard work" on issues from open space to public transportation. 

It notes "the presumption of innocence," adding that the politician looks "forward to the resolution of this matter so Senator Menendez can continue his work on behalf of the citizens of Hudson County and New Jersey."

The Justice Department has been looking into whether, in exchange for the gifts, Menendez improperly lobbied U.S. officials to help Melgen with business matters. Two key issues include whether the senator improperly helped Melgen in Melgen’s efforts to secure a port security deal worth tens of millions of dollars, as well as helping the eye doctor with Medicare regulators looking into whether Melgen had overbilled Medicare.

Investigators have said they are also looking into the senator’s relationship with two fugitive Ecuadorean bankers living in Florida.

The expected criminal charges come as the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York nominated by President Obama as U.S. Attorney General, hangs in the balance. Menendez has not yet said how he would vote. Washington insiders tell NBC 4 New York either a vote of yes from Menendez or Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk is needed to get Lynch the 50 votes she needs to be confirmed. 

<![CDATA[Air Force Vet From NJ Pleads Not Guilty to Trying to Join ISIS]]> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 21:51:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/isis+arrest+nj.jpg

A U.S. Air Force veteran and former airplane mechanic from New Jersey charged with attempting to join the Islamic State group in Syria pleaded not guilty Wednesday to terrorism charges.

A bearded Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, wearing prison-issued khaki pants and a blue short-sleeved shirt, repeated his full name when asked but said nothing else before Judge Nicholas Garaufis in a New York federal courthouse. His attorney, Michael K. Schneider, entered the plea on his behalf. He declined to address reporters after the brief court appearance.

Pugh, 47, of Neptune, was indicted Tuesday on charges of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group and obstructing justice.

He was stopped at a Turkish airport in January carrying a laptop containing information on Turkey-Syria border crossing points as well as 180 jihadist propaganda videos, including one featuring an Islamic State prisoner beheading, according to an indictment.

In a letter addressed to a woman investigators believe is Pugh's Egyptian wife, Pugh declared: "I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States," according to court papers.

"There is only two possible outcomes for me," said the letter, which was recovered from his computer. "Victory or martyr."

The computer, as well as thumb drive data-storage devices and other recovered equipment, appeared to have been intentionally destroyed to deny investigators access, the indictment said.

Garaufis scheduled a May 8 status conference to review prosecutors' evidence and discuss any possible plea negotiations. Schneider said in court he would need time for his own forensic expert to review the data seized by federal authorities and to coordinate interviews with potential witnesses in Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere.

Pugh has been living overseas for the past year and a half, most recently in Egypt, the court papers show.

Pugh served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 and was trained in installing and maintaining aircraft engines and navigation and weapons systems. The airman first class was first assigned in July 1987 to the Woodbridge Air Base in England and then to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona in July 1989, the Air Force said. After leaving the air force, he worked as an avionics specialist and mechanic for companies in the Middle East and U.S.

The FBI got a 2001 tip about Pugh from a co-worker at American Airlines who said Pugh expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden, according to court papers. The airline said he left in early 2000 after a few months at American. In 2002, an associate of Pugh's again told the FBI that Pugh was interested in traveling to Chechnya to wage war, the indictment said.

Pugh was stopped by Turkish authorities on Jan. 10, and returned to the U.S. five days later by way of Egypt. He told investigators he was in Turkey on vacation and to look for a job and had no intention of crossing into Syria, the indictment said.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Facebook/LinkedIn/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[4 Teens Indicted in Attack on NYPD Detective, Cop Girlfriend]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 20:52:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuffs-generic-on-black.jpg

Four teenagers have been indicted in connection with an attack on two NYPD officers outside of a Brooklyn home that left one of the victims, an off-duty detective, badly beaten, authorities said Tuesday.

The teenagers, all 17-year-old boys, are charged in a six-count indictment with assault, resisting arrest and unlawful possession of marijuana in the Feb. 8 attack on detective Daniel Alessandrino and his girlfriend, officer Jaline Bernier.

Prosecutors say Alessandrino heard a group making noise outside his Bensonhurst home that night around 12:20 a.m. and went out to check on the commotion. The detective, who was off-duty at the time, saw a group of about 15 to 20 teenagers banging and jumping on cars.

Alessandrino, who had been followed out of the house by Bernier, told the teens he didn't want any trouble and asked them to leave, prosecutors say.

One of the teens charged in the indictment allegedly responded, "What are you going to do? Call a cop?"

Authorities say Alessandrino identified himself as an officer at that point, and the teen allegedly said, "I don't care. I'll kill a cop. A cop is going to die tonight."

The teen then allegedly lunged at Alessandrino and started punching him in the head and body, authorities say. Alessandrino pushed him away and the teen allegedly attacked his girlfriend, Bernier. When the detective tried to interview them, the teens allegedly pushed him to the ground, surrounded him and proceeded to kick, punch and stomp on him.

They also allegedly kicked him in the head. The teens were arrested a short time later, authorities said.

Alessandrino had swelling and lacerations around his eye, nose, jaw, head, arm and knee, broken teeth and chest and shoulder bruising as a result of the attack, authorities say. Bernier had eye swelling and facial pain.

The top count in the indictment carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

<![CDATA[Ex-Air Force Mechanic From NJ Allegedly Tried to Join ISIS]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 23:58:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/isis+arrest+nj.jpg

A former United States Air Force mechanic from Neptune, New Jersey, who recently lost his job was arrested by the FBI after he allegedly tried to travel overseas to join ISIS, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The mechanic, an American citizen identified in court papers as Tairod Pugh, was sent to New York to face terror-related charges after traveling from Egypt to Turkey in an effort to cross the border into Syria to "fight violent jihad," according to a criminal complaint.

According to court documents, Pugh tried to join ISIS not long after being fired from his last job as an airplane mechanic based in Kuwait in December. Court documents say he bought a plane ticket from Cairo to Istanbul in early January, and flew to Turkey Jan. 10.

Turkish officials did not let him cross the border and sent him back to Egypt. Once Pugh arrived in Egypt, he was found with a laptop, four USB thumb drives that had been stripped of their plastic casings and an iPod that had been wiped clean, authorities said. Officials also found a photograph of a machine gun in his cellphone, among other images. Pugh was sent back to the U.S. at that point.

Four days after Pugh allegedly tried to travel to Turkey en route to Syria, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents got a search warrant for his electronics and found recent Internet searches for "borders controlled by Islamic state," a chart of crossing points between Turkey and Syria indicating the parts controlled by ISIS and Internet searches for "Flames of War," an ISIS propaganda video, as well as at least one video showing ISIS members line up prisoners and shoot them in the heads.

Pugh was arrested on federal charges of attempting to provide material support for terror and obstruction on Jan. 16 in Asbury Park and has been in custody since then.

Federal public defender Michael Schneider says he will plead not guilty during an appearance in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday.

Pugh served in the U.S. Air Force for about four years in the 1980s as an avionics instrument system specialist; he received training in the installation and maintenance of aircraft engine, navigation and weapons systems, according to court documents. After leaving the military, he worked for several companies in the U.S. and Middle East as an avionics specialist and airplane mechanic. He lived abroad for at least the year leading up to his arrest and spent much of the past five years overseas.

After his arrest, authorities obtained search warrants for two backpacks Pugh had when he was overseas and found shards of broken USB thumb drivers, a fatigue jacket, camping clothes, two compasses and a solar-powered power source, among other items. The items are "consistent with the items one would bring to a remote location lacking electrical infrastructure, such as war-torn Syria," according to a criminal complaint. 

Pugh has family, including children, in the United States, according to the criminal complaint, though the number of children and their ages aren't known. According to the complaint, he identified a woman in Egypt as his wife. His Facebook page shows him next to an unidentified woman; the ISIS flag is set as the background photo, according to law enforcement officials who confirmed the page. 

“Born and raised in the United States, Pugh allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute extremists, whether based here or abroad, to stop them before they are able to threaten the United States and its allies."

The arrest comes less than a month after three men Brooklyn men were rounded up in an FBI raid for allegedly plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIS. The men, 24- and 30-year-old Uzbekistan citizens and a 19-year-old Kazakhstan citizen who all lived in Brooklyn, allegedly planned to commit a domestic act of terror if they failed to join the group overseas, law enforcement officials said.

They have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a terror group.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Facebook/LinkedIn/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[5 in Police Custody in McDonald's Melee]]> Sat, 14 Mar 2015 23:17:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/two+more+teen+arrests+mcdonalds.jpg

Police took another teenage girl into custody Saturday in connection with the savage gang beating of a 15-year-old girl inside a Brooklyn McDonald's -- the fifth suspect apprehended in the attack that was video-recorded by onlookers and went viral on the Internet.

A sixth suspect is still at large.

Two of the suspects, Telani Marshall, 17, and a 15-year-old girl whose name is not being released because she is being charged as a minor, appeared in court Saturday.

They were arrested in Brooklyn Friday on robbery and gang assault charges after they turned themselves in to police, according to the NYPD. Marshall was charged as an adult.

Marshall said nothing in court, but her attorney, Audrey Thomas, argued that her client isn't in the video and had nothing to do with the gang attack.

"My client has been crying ever since the detectives called her mom," Thomas said after the hearing. "I'm confident that this case is going to be dismissed eventually as the facts unfold."

Marshall was released on $75,000 bail.

An attorney for the 15-year-old suspect said her client had previously been attacked by the victim of the gang beating and feared being attacked again.Bail was set at $50,000 for her client.

Mercedes Wilkinson, a 16-year-old Brooklyn girl, turned herself in on Saturday morning and was charged as an adult with gang assault and robbery.

One teen was taken into custody in Atlanta at the airport Friday as she sat on a plane that was set to head to Jamaica, a law enforcement official told NBC 4 New York. The NYPD alerted local authorities there, and they were able to take the girl off the plane before it departed.

She's expected to be charged once she's brought back to New York, police said.

Sixteen-year-old Aniah Ferguson, the alleged ringleader in the Monday brawl, was the first suspect to be arrested in the assault earlier in the week. She was arraigned Friday on charges of robbery and gang assault, and is being charged as an adult.

Ferguson has been arrested half a dozen times since September on various offenses, including for allegedly attacking a pregnant woman in an emergency room and her own grandmother, records show.

In court Thursday, Ferguson's public defender said the teen has been attending counseling once a week for the past year in an effort to "better her life." Prosecutors allege she was the ringleader in the McDonald's beatdown and stole the victim's bag, makeup and phone after the attack.

They also allege she is part of the Young Savages gang, a violent group known to be involved in patterns of violence and credit card scams.

Ferguson, who lives with her mother and grandmother she has been accused of attacking, was ordered held on $500,000 bail. She also has a 1-year-old daughter. None of the three attended her arraignment Friday.

Video of the McDonald's attack, which was posted on Facebook, shows four girls, all believed to be Erasmus Hall High School students, repeatedly punching and kicking another teen wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt while throngs of bystanders shout in the background.

The larger group continues to attack the teen in the blue sweatshirt, even pulling out her hair extensions, until the girl huddles underneath a table with her hands over her head. At one point, one of the girls in the group stomps on the victim's head. The victim suffered a concussion, bruises and contusions, according to a criminal complaint.

At several points during the fight, bystanders can be heard saying, "She’s dead," and, "You murdered her."

The video ends with several students picking the girl up off the ground and putting her on a bench.

Police initially said the investigation had been hampered by a lack of cooperating witnesses, including the girl in the blue sweatshirt and her mother, but NBC 4 New York learned Friday that the victim had come forward to file a police report.

The Department of Education, meanwhile, called the actions seen in the video "abhorrent."

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Charges Against Menendez Could Come This Month: Sources]]> Sat, 07 Mar 2015 19:56:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/robert+menendez+march+6.jpg

Criminal charges against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, could come later this month as a federal grand jury continues to hear evidence in the case, sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York.

Menendez has been under federal criminal investigation in connection with his ties to Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. The senator has admitted he accepted free private plane trips from Melgen, including a 2008 trip to the luxury resort of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. The senator has said he later repaid almost $70,000 for his trips on the doctor’s jet.

Both Menendez and Melgen have denied any wrongdoing. In a brief statement to reporters Friday evening, Menendez said, "Let me be very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law.

"Every action that I and my office have taken for the last 23 years that I have been privileged to be in the United States Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and of this entire country," he said. 

"I am not going anywhere," he added. 

Menendez continued, "As for Dr. Melgen, anyone who knows us knows that he and his family and me and my family have been real friends for more than two decades. We celebrated holidays together, we have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do." 

Menendez said he couldn't make any additional comments or answer questions because of the ongoin

Tricia Enright, the communications director for Menendez, said in a statement earlier. " As has been reported, the start of this investigation is suspect.  We know many false allegations have been made about this matter, allegations that were ultimately publicly  discredited."   

A spokesperson for the FBI in New Jersey declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.

On Friday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals mistakenly posted a document revealing some of the ongoing work of the grand jury, a document first uncovered by the New Jersey Law Journal (NJLJ).

The apparently inadvertent document drop comes a week after the appeals court ordered a hearing into whether two Menendez legislative aides who declined to testify in front of the federal grand jury, citing the speech or debate clause of the U.S. Constitution, must testify or can claim that legislative privilege under Article 1, Section 6.

Federal judge Anne Thompson previously had ordered Menendez aides Michael Barnard and Kerri Talbot to testify about the meetings they had with Health and Human Services officials, as well as Custom and Border Protection officials about Melgen, the NJLJ report said.

The report said Barnard declined to answer 50 questions during his initial grand jury appearance. A spokesman for Menendez declined to comment on the NJLJ report last week.

The Third Circuit Appeals Court said the congressman has the burden of showing the speech or debate clause applies in a case like this. Prosecutors are looking into whether Menendez’s actions on behalf of Melgen were corrupt and not part of the “manifestly legislative” process, NJLJ said.

The Justice Department is looking into whether, in exchange for the gifts, Menendez improperly lobbied U.S. officials to help Melgen with business matters. Two key issues include whether the senator improperly helped Melgen in Melgen’s efforts to secure a port security deal worth tens of millions of dollars, as well as helping the eye doctor with Medicare regulators looking into whether Melgen had overbilled Medicare.

Investigators have said they are also looking into the senator’s relationship with two fugitive Ecuadorean bankers living in Florida. Brothers William and Roberto Isaias have been sentenced in absentia in Ecuador for looting a bank they once ran there. Isaias family members gave campaign donations to numerous politicians including Senator Menendez. Menendez’s office repeatedly contacted State Department and Homeland Security officials in support of the bankers efforts to stay in the US.

Brothers William and Roberto Isaias have said they are innocent of banking crimes in their home country, and are the victims of a political witch hunt by Ecuadorean authorities, and along with the senator, deny any wrongdoing. 

<![CDATA[Teen Driver Pleads in NYC Crash That Killed Girl, 4]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 20:43:34 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/ariel+russo+franklin+reyes+march+4.JPG

The unlicensed teen driver accused of striking and killing a 4-year-old while fleeing police on the Upper West Side two years ago has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a deal that's expected to result in a sentence of 3 to 9 years in prison. 

Franklin Reyes, 18, entered his plea Thursday after he was given another day to make his decision on the deal. Prosecutors had sought up to 11 to 15 years in prison. 

The deal also covers guilty pleas for three additional charges he's facing, including dragging a police officer during a separate traffic stop. 

Reyes' mother, Lilia Reyes, said her son "had no other choice" but to take the deal, admitting that if he'd gone to trial "he would have faced who knows how many years."  

Still, she said, "it wasn't a fair offer." 

The parents of the girl killed in the crash disagreed. 

"Three to nine years is absolutely not enough for what he did," Ariel Russo's mother, Sophia Russo, said outside court Thursday. "His reckless actions killed my daughter, maimed my mother and shattered our lives."

Police said Reyes was unlicensed when he took his father's car for a joy ride on the morning of June 4, 2013. When they tried to pull him over, Reyes took off, lost control and jumped the curb, slamming into 4-year-old Ariel Russo and her grandmother. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes so that he gets the maximum, the nine years," said Sophia Russo. "I'll go in front of his parole board every time he's up for a parole board meeting and let them know the devastation he's caused."

Ariel's father, Alan Russo, added, "He shouldn't be out on the streets."

Reyes was 17 when the crash occurred. But the judge said in January that Reyes could not be treated as a youthful offender because he'd been arrested twice on felony charges since the fatal crash, most recently in the September 2014 traffic stop, In July 2014, he was arrested on a petit larceny charge along with his father for allegedly burglarizing the apartment of a dead resident in Chelsea. 

He's expected back in court March 25 in the petit larceny case, along with his co-defendant father.