<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usTue, 27 Sep 2016 13:33:18 -0400Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:33:18 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Cop Held on $500K Bail in Off-Duty Road Rage Shooting Death]]> Tue, 27 Sep 2016 11:51:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/off-duty-cop-0704.jpg

The off-duty NYPD cop who allegedly shot and killed a driver in a fit of road-rage in Brooklyn this summer was held on $500,000 bail at his arraignment on murder charges Tuesday.

Officer Wayne Isaacs will also have to forfeit his U.S. and Guyanses passports and any firearms he owns as his case moves forward. 

A Brooklyn grand jury Monday indicted 37-year-old Isaacs in the July 4 shooting, following an investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. 

Isaacs allegedly shot and killed Delrawn Small from his car on July 4 on an East New York Street after Small got out of his vehicle and approached Isaacs at a stoplight. Small believed Isaacs had cut him off, his girlfriend said.  

Isaacs' lawyer maintained his client's innocence in court Tuesday, claiming when Small approached Issacs' car he "wasn't coming to give him best wishes and salutations."

Prosecutors argued the shooting was a "brutal, deliberate act" with no legal justification.  

Isaacs is the first cop to be charged by Schneiderman under his role as special prosecutor for all police killings of civilians in New York, according to The New York Post, which first reported the indictment. Schneiderman was assigned as special prosecutor by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the wake of Eric Garner's chokehold death. 

Initially, police said Small had punched Isaacs before the gunfire erupted. But a security camera video that surfaced later cast doubt on that account by appearing to show Small getting shot the instant he reached the officer's car.

Isaacs had his badge and gun taken away.

The police union representing Isaacs has declined to comment.

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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[Who Is Ahmad Khan Rahami? What We Know]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:07:00 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rahami-quad.jpg

Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in the bombings in New York City and a shore town in New Jersey, immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan and lives in New Jersey, where his father owns a fried chicken restaurant.

Rahami was wounded during a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, Monday after he was found sleeping in the doorway of a bar, according to authorities. Two police officers were shot, but both have been released from the hospital. Rahami was taken into custody and, Monday evening, charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law-enforcement official in Union County. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed charges in the New York and New Jersey bombings and bombing attempts. 

Rahami, 28, is a U.S. citizen whose family opened First American Fried Chicken in 2002 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The restaurant was searched by authorities Monday. The family came to the United States in 1995 as asylum seekers. 

Rahami lives with his family above the restaurant, according to The Associated Press.

"He's a very friendly guy, that's what's so scary," Ryan McCann of Elizabeth told the AP.

Travel to Pakistan, Middle East

A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News on Monday that Rahami, who was born on Jan. 23, 1988 in Afghanistan, made several trips to Pakistan and visited Afghanistan in 2013. The Afghan Taliban distanced themselves from Rahami, telling NBC they knew nothing of him. 

He was not on a U.S. terrorist watch list nor on one maintained by the New York Police Department, senior officials told NBC News.

Previous FBI Investigation

The FBI looked into Rahami two years ago after his father called his son a "terrorist" following a domestic dispute involving Rahami's sister and brother, law enforcement officials said Tuesday. A neighbor overheard and called police, prompting an FBI probe, law enforcement officials said. The father walked back the statement, telling FBI investigators he just meant his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd, the officials said. He reiterated as much in a later FBI interview. 

The FBI checked its databases, interviewed other relatives and found nothing connecting Rahami to terror groups, three law enforcement officials said. The case was closed in a matter of weeks. 

Rahami was not interviewed at the time because he was jailed in connection with the domestic dispute. A grand jury declined to indict him and the matter was dropped.

High School and College

Friends and former classmates told NBC News that Rahami was a "cool dude" in high school with the nickname Bo. He liked to have fun and served as a father figure to his younger siblings. 

"I played lacrosse with him until he was kicked off the team for being late all the time," said one former classmate, who didn't want his name made public. "He definitely didn't seem like the kind of guy you would think would do something like this."

Rahami was a criminal justice major at Middlesex Community College from 2010 to 2012 but did not graduate, a college spokesman said. The school said there was nothing concerning in his file.

Wives, Girlfriends and Kids

Rahami has a wife, Aziza, who is not in the United States. Rep. Albio Sires, who represents Elizabeth in Congress, told NBC that Aziza Rahami had previously sought a visa to entire the United States via Pakistan, but was denied because her passport was expired.

Rahami also has a child with a former high school classmate, Maria Mena. She went to court Tuesday seeking a restraining order against him as well as full custody of their child.

Mena told the court she has not spoken to Rahami since January. Court records show that as of last year, he owed thousands of dollars in child support. 

Rahami Family's Lawsuit

Five years ago, Mohammed Rahami and two relatives claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court that they were harassed by city officials over the restaurant's hours of operation. Neighbors had complained that the restaurant was a late-night nuisance.

They accused the city of targeting them because they were Muslim, according to the the civil rights complaint.

The restaurant had an exemption to stay open past 10 p.m., but police repeatedly tried to close it early, according to the lawsuit. During one confrontation with police, one of Ahmad Rahami's older brothers was arrested after a fight with an officer, and later fled to Afghanistan, The New York Times reported.

One man, James Dean McDermott, told the family, "Muslims make too much trouble in this country," according to the complaint.

McDermott, a freelance television cameraman, denied the accusation, telling NBC News, "it never happened." He said his dispute with the Rahamis was over the restaurant's hours and not their religion.

Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage told The AP that Rahami's father and two brothers sued after the city passed an ordinance requiring it to close early. 

The owner of a neighboring business described the family as "very secluded" and said the children usually worked behind the counter.

Rahami's father told NBC News in a brief interview Monday that he had no idea his son was plotting an attack.

For more coverage of the New Jersey and New York bombings, click here.

Photo Credit: New Jersey State Police
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<![CDATA[Man in Brutal Chair Attack in NYC Eatery Sentenced]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 21:31:44 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Bayna-Lehkiem+El-Amin+copy.jpg

A New York City man captured on video smashing a wooden chair over the heads of two men inside a Dallas BBQ restaurant last year has been sentenced to nine years in prison in the high-profile attack. 

The sentenced handed down to Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Goldberg Thursday follows his convictions of assault and attempted assault in May by a state Supreme Court jury. 

The Daily News reports El-Amin, 32, had about two dozen supporters in the courtroom during sentencing and did not apologize to the victims. 

Video of the May 2015 attack inside Dallas BBQ in Chelsea shows El-Amin flinging a chair over his head, then smashing it on the skulls of two men he had gotten into an argument with. Horrified bystanders scream as he walks calmly out the door. 

The attack was so brutal that bystanders said they were afraid to confront the assailant. 

Prosecutors said the 25-year-old victim was knocked unconscious and the 32-year-old victim collapsed onto a nearby chair. Both men suffered head, back and neck pain. 

El-Amin turned himself in to police about a month after the attack.

The victims, who are gay, told media outlets at the time that El-Amin, who has also identified himself as gay, hurled racist and homophobic slurs at them. El-Amin's lawyer previously said his client was attacked first. 

El-Amin may have been slapped by one of the victims with a canvas bag but wasn't justified in reacting so viciously, Goldberg said Thursday, according to The Daily News. 

<![CDATA[Timeline Charts Series of NY, NJ Explosions]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:06:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_16262793671218.jpg

The interactive timeline above charts a series of events beginning with a pipe bomb explosion at a Marine 5k race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, Saturday. Hours later, a device exploded in or near a large bin on a packed block in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29 people. Another device was found nearby.

Late Sunday, five devices were found in a trash can near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. A robot trying to disarm the devices inadvertently detonated one, causing an explosion. No one was injured in the New Jersey cases. Suspect Ahmad Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, was taken into custody following a gun battle with police Monday. 

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Man Fleeing Police Attacks Cop With Cleaver: NYPD]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 22:21:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cleaver+attack+2.jpg

UPDATE: Exclusive video shows chaos breaking out near Penn Station as officers sprint after suspect; wounded detective released from hospital

A man attacked an off-duty NYPD officer with a cleaver near Penn Station at the height of the evening rush hour Thursday, wounding the cop in the face before being shot at 18 times by police, officials say.

Police initially confronted 32-year-old Akram Joudeh near West 31st Street and Broadway as they caught him trying to remove a boot from his car, NYPD Chief of Department and incoming police commissioner Jimmy O'Neill said at a briefing Thursday evening. 

Video obtained exclusively by NBC 4 New York shows a frustrated Joudeh trying to remove the boot, pulling tools from his packed car.

When police arrived, Joudeh pulled out an 11-inch cleaver from his waistband and began running toward Sixth Avenue, officials said. Officers chased after him, with others joining the pursuit along the way, and one uniformed sergeant deployed a stun gun to no effect.

The suspect continued running westbound on West 32nd Street toward Seventh Avenue, and in the middle of the block, mounted the front grill of a marked NYPD car, O'Neill said.

That's when an off-duty detective, who was walking to Penn Station to catch a Long Island Rail Road train home after work, saw the chase coming toward him, law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York. He decided to engage and went to tackle the suspect. 

The two struggled, and Joudeh hit him in the head with the cleaver, leaving a six-inch gash from the temple to the jaw, said O'Neill.

Three uniformed NYPD officers fired a total of 18 gunshots at Joudeh, striking him several times.

"I heard police from behind me screaming, 'Get down, get down, get down!'" said witness Jonathan Schneier. "I saw a deranged individual with a very large meat cleaver... Probably six to eight suspects engaged the suspect verbally, told him to drop his weapon."

O'Neill told reporters, "Keep in mind he had just attacked an off-duty officer who's got a six-inch gash on his face. He's got an 11-inch cleaver. They shot until the threat was stopped."

The off-duty detective, identified by sources as 16-year veteran Det. Brian O'Donnell, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he's listed in serious condition, officials said. Doctors are assessing the damage, and surgeons have said reconstructive surgery will be needed.

O'Donnell has spent most of his time on the force in the 19th Precinct, and became a detective in March 2015.

Two other officers were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries from the encounter, though it's not clear how they got hurt. 

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who is finishing his last week on the job, visited the officers at the hospital. Bratton said the wounded detective was in good spirits despite the "significant injury." 

Joudeh was also taken to Bellevue Hospital, and he's in critical but stable condition, said O'Neill. He has been moved to the operating room. 

The attack happened near the busy Midtown commuter hub at the height of the evening rush hour. Bratton said the officers acted bravely in subduing the suspect in the crowded shopping and transit district, and that "sufficient shots" were fired to stop the "character running down the street waving a cleaver." 

Witness Steven Coyle, who recorded video of officers shooting at the suspect, agreed.

"He was a threat to the officers and anyone in the area," he said. 

Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, said in a statement, "An incident like this proves that you are really never off duty. Our detective engaged the perpetrator because the suspect was carrying a meat cleaver and the detective was worried about the crowded conditions on the street given that it was rush hour full of residents, tourists and commuters."

Joudeh has 15 prior arrests, including one on July 27 after he was found carrying knives near a synagogue in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn. His last known address was in Queens, though police say he may have been living in his car.  

The other arrests stretching back to 2009 include charges for driving while impaired by drugs, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing with a weapon and criminal trespassing, sources said. 

Two years ago, a hatchet-wielding man ambushed a group of NYPD officers in Jamaica, Queens, gashing a rookie cop in the head with the 18-inch ax. Two other officers shot and killed the suspect, Zale Thompson, on the street. 

Thompson was a self-radicalized "lone wolf terrorist," police officials said after the attack. 

In Thursday's incident, a federal official told NBC News "based on what we know of how this started, and on his priors, we don't currently think this was an act of terrorism." 

Another law enforcement source told NBC 4 that investigators actively looked into whether Joudeh had any interest in or connection to terror planning after he was caught outside the synagogue in July with the knives. But they did not find any evidence of any radicalization. 

Joudeh's former neighbors in Elmhurst described him as troubled, constantly fighting with his two roommates and sometimes getting visits from police. One woman who asked not to be identified said he once got into an altercation with a family member, and during the fight, broke the front glass door of the building's entrance.

Photo Credit: @d8brown/Provided to NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[29 Hurt in 'Intentional' Chelsea Explosion]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:05:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/Chelsea+Bomb+Presser.jpg

Some 29 people were injured in an explosion in Chelsea Saturday night, and authorities removed what appeared to be a secondary device a few blocks away. 

"All hands are on deck; injuries are significant," Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, though. 

"There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection," he said, though he added it was "an intentional act."

Law enforcement sources say police are in possession of a video that shows a man putting an object in a dumpster, followed by an explosion some time later.

President Obama was briefed on the explosion and receiving regular updates.

Crews responded to the scene at 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue around 8:30 p.m. Police Commissioner Jimmy O'Neill said the explosion took place out on the street, though de Blasio declined to answer whether the cause was a bomb in a dumpster, as some sources suggested. 

The NYPD also removed a possible secondary device on 27th St. Four sources said the device was a pressure cooker and that it had what appeared to be wires coming from it, a cell phone and black tape. 

After asking people to stay away from their windows in the area of that device, the NYPD tweeted that it had been safely removed just before 2:30 a.m.

Photos posted to social media showed an extensive emergency presence at the scene, with the area between Sixth and Seventh avenues cordoned off. Sixth Avenue was closed from 14th to 34th Street and NYC Transit reported extensive disruptions to the 1, 2, E and F subway lines. 

At least one Twitter user tweeted that her "whole high-rise building shook" from a apparent blast. Another image showed a Dumpster or trash bin blown apart, with bits of debris scattered on the sidewalk. People at least seven blocks away reported hearing and feeling a loud boom.

Earlier Saturday, one of three bundled pipe bombs placed in a trash can along a 5k race route to be run by Marines detonated in Seaside Park, New Jersey. The race had been running late, but authorities said they believed the device had been timed to explode as runners went by the trash bin.

No one was hurt, and de Blasio said there was no evidence of a connection between the two blasts. 

Photo Credit: Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office
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<![CDATA[Paterson City Council Mulls No-Confidence Vote Against Mayor]]> Wed, 14 Sep 2016 21:27:34 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/paterson+city+council+no+confidence+vote+mayor.jpg

The Paterson City Council debated a vote of “no confidence” against Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres Tuesday following a series of I-Team reports showing city workers appearing to do doing private jobs for the mayor.

The vote would be a symbolic gesture, and would not directly affect Torres’s role. Still, it would be a major blow at a time when Torres is already under fire over high taxes and cuts to city services.

City council members could vote on the measure as early as next week.

“We’re not going to sit here and stay quiet and not say anything about this,” said councilman Alex Mendez. “It’s our responsibility as an elected official to take action about this. “

The council was divided over whether it was premature to take a “no confidence” vote in Torres. The state attorney general is still investigating the allegations against him. While some council members said they have lost faith in Torres based on the I-Team’s reports, others said they want to wait for the attorney general to finish its investigation before passing judgment.

“I have no opinion on this either way, and I’m still waiting for those findings to come about,” said councilman Ken Morris Jr.

“I don’t want to be part of something that’s still being investigated,” said Councilman Luis Velez.

The I-Team reports show numerous city workers caught on tape working at the mayor’s home, and at a beer warehouse linked to the mayor’s nephew. On at least eight occasions, time sheets obtained by the I-Team show that the workers were on the clock while working for the mayor. Usually, the sheets say they were getting paid overtime.

The videos were shot by a private eye hired by a developer who had a permit dispute with the city.

“They’re doing the work, and then the time cards match the time they were there. So clearly there’s something wrong, and I can’t approve of that type of behavior.” said councilman Andre Sayegh.

Torres has denied workers had been on the public payroll while working for him. Since March, he has repeatedly declined to answer the I-Team's questions on the matter, and rrecently threw an I-Team producer out of his office when she raised the issue.

Torres did not return requests for comments after Tuesday’s meeting.

Some residents now say a vote of no confidence may not be enough to satisfy them.

“The mayor should step down. The rules are rules, and the rules are for everyone,” said Rafael Fontana.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[New Video Shows Killed Jogger on Day She Went Missing]]> Tue, 13 Sep 2016 08:31:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/HOWARD+BEACH+JOGGER+SURVEILLANCE+VO+-+00002618_WNBC_00000001305.jpg

Police have released new surveillance video showing what may have been Karina Vetrano's final moments on Aug. 2 before she was found killed near her home in Queens.

The video shows Vetrano jogging near her Howard Beach home. She was later found sexually assaulted and strangled in a marshy area just off the trail at Gateway National Recreation Area. 

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday the release of the new video is an effort to keep the case fresh in the public's mind. 

"It remains one of the unsolved, very high-profile murders," he said. 

A reward of nearly $300,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest. 

Late last month, police released a sketch of a man in a woven wool cap they want to talk to in connection with Vetrano's death. The man was seen in the area around the time Vetrano went missing.

Police officials stressed at the time that the man wasn't a suspect or a person of interest in the case. The man was seen in the area around the path where Vetrano was last seen that day and was spotted by a utility worker. Police said that the man could have seen Vetrano or her assailant.

Authorities have culled DNA from three different investigative points -- Vetrano's neck, her phone and her fingernails. Police say the fingernail DNA is the strongest, and all the samples point to the same person, though the state and local databases have yet to yield a possible match.

Anyone with information on the Vetrano case should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA['Evil Stepmother' Gets 15 Years for Starving, Torturing Girl]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 18:36:00 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/queens+child+abuse+ozone+park.jpg

A Queens woman was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for beating and starving her young stepdaughter for two years, depriving her of food and water and hitting her with baseball bats and broom handles so severely that in one case, the little girl was found lying in a pool of blood with a wrist cut so deep her tendons were visible, prosecutors said.

Sheetal Ranot, 35, was accused of locking the 12-year-old girl in her room, hitting her in the face with a rolling pin and beating her with a broken metal broom handle that cut her wrist down to the bone. She was convicted of assault and child endangerment charges in July. 

The victim's biological father, Rajesh Ranot, is also charged with assault, unlawful imprisonment and child endangerment. He will be tried at a later date. It's unclear what happened to the child after the arrests. 

Prosecutors allege the Ozone Park duo terrorized the child from December 2012 to July 2014.

According to a criminal complaint, Sheetal Ranot repeatedly hit her stepdaughter, causing bruising and pain, locked her in her bedroom and starved here for extended periods of time during that two-year span. In one case, the 31-year-old woman allegedly kicked the then 10-year-old girl in the face while wearing shoes.

Six months later, Ranot repeatedly hit the girl with a broken metal broom handle, leaving her with a cut near her knee and a cut so deep on her wrist that her tendons were exposed and she needed to have surgery, the complaint said.

Rajesh Ranot also allegedly starved the girl for years, and prosecutors say he forced her to take cold showers while he beat her with his fists and other household objects, including a baseball bat.

In April 2014, Sheetal Ranot allegedly hit her stepdaughter in the face with a wooden rolling pin. The girl had to be taken to the hospital, and doctors there saw she was painfully thin -- weighing 58 pounds -- and wearing dirty clothes. It wasn't clear if they contacted authorities.

Over the next three weeks, prosecutors allege Rajesh Ranot continued to beat his daughter with a baseball bat. The girl was taken to the emergency room, where doctors noticed various bruises, marks and scars in different stages of healing all over her body. An investigation was launched and the stepmother and father were arrested shortly afterward.

Child-welfare authorities ultimately removed the girl from the home.

<![CDATA[Cuomo Aide Slay Suspect Arrested in California]]> Fri, 02 Sep 2016 15:20:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gabay.jpg

Authorities arrested a man in California in connection to the shooting death of Carey Gabay, a former aide to Governor Cuomo slain during last year's J'Ouvert festival. 

Kenny Bazile was arrested by NYPD detectives, U.S. Marshals and local police Thursday afternoon in Palm Desert. 

Bazile allegedly fired shots in a gang-related gun battle where Gabay was hit by stray gunfire hours before the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn last September.  

The 43-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer and Bronx native died after spending more than a week in a coma at a city hospital. 

"As we approach the one year anniversary of Carey's tragic death, we all mourn his loss and honor his memory," Cuomo said in a statement. "This arrest is another step forward in the pursuit of justice for Carey’s family and loved ones."

Several other men were arrested in June for their role in the shooting. 

Micah Alleyne, 24, Tyshawn Crawford, 21, and Keith Luncheon, 24, are named in a 16-count indictment charging them with various counts of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment. Each faces up to 25 years in prison on the top count. 

Stanley Elianor, 25, had previously been charged with multiple counts of criminal possession of a weapon for allegedly possessing a machine gun at the scene. He was arraigned in October and faces up to 15 years in prison. 

The J’ouvert festival Gabay had been attending and the parade that follows attract hundreds of thousands of revelers to Brooklyn every Labor Day but have been marred by several shootings in recent years. 

Prosecutors said two to three dozen shots were fired from at least eight firearms when Gabay was hit. They say multiple gang members were in the area amid heightened tensions and intended to shoot at rivals on sight; Gabay was an unintended target and had tried to hide behind a parked car. 

Thursday's arrest comes a city and police officials ramp up security efforts ahead of this year's festival and parade. 

On Friday, nearly three dozen suspected crips gang members were taken into custody at the 71 precinct in Crown Heights, blocks from where Gabay was slain. 

Police seized 10 guns and a number of drugs in the bust, authorities said. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sketch Shows Man Wanted for Questioning in Vetrano Case]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2016 23:53:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/vetrano-sketch-split00830.jpg

Police released a sketch of a man they'd like to talk to in connection with the death of a missing runner who was found strangled in an overgrown section of a Queens park earlier this month.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce held up a photo Wednesday of a man wearing a woven wool cap and asked anyone who recognized him to call police. The man was seen in the area around the time Karina Vetrano went missing at the Gateway National Recreation Area in Howard Beach on Aug. 2.

Her body was found in a marshy area of off a trail several hours later.

Boyce stressed that the man wasn't a suspect or a person of interest in the case. The man was seen in the area around the path where Vetrano was last seen that day and was spotted by a utility worker. Boyce said that the man could have seen Vetrano or her assailant.

"We have to speak to this person," Boyce said. "That's the only reason we're putting this out."

The man is described as being between 35 and 45 years old, standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall and has a medium build. Boyce said his wool cap stuck out on the hot summer day.

"It's a little unusual he was walking around in August with a cap on," Boyce said.

Earlier this week, Vetrano's father said he was seeking a runner who frequented the area before her death but hadn't been seen since. Police later said the man was not a suspect and had in fact been resting an injured knee. 

Authorities culled DNA from three different investigative points -- Vetrano's neck, her phone and her fingernails. Police say the fingernail DNA is the strongest, and all the samples point to the same person, though the state and local databases have yet to yield a possible match. 

Vetrano's family has raised more than $250,000 for a reward in the 30-year-old's death.

Eighty-five tips have poured in to police about the case, Boyce said; nine remain to be investigated. Anyone with information on the Vetrano case should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Photo Credit: NYPD / Instagram
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<![CDATA[Women Groped by X-Ray Tech at NYC Hospital: Prosecutors]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:11:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/hospital+generic+er+generic+emergency+room+generic.jpg

An X-ray technician at a Brooklyn hospital has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaultiing two patients, authorities say. 

The incidents happened Sunday afternoon, first when an 83-year-old woman who was getting X-rays of her arm and knee at Kings County Hospital was fondled, groped and sexually assaulted by Larry Jones, according to prosecutors.

Hours later, another woman, 57, was going in for an X-ray of her chest and ankles when Jones allegedly told her her underwear was interfering, police sources said. 

That's when prosectuors said he pushed aside her underwear and violated her with his hand and mouth. 

The woman screamed and alerted an officer at the hospital. Jones was arrested soon after on charges of sex abuse and forcible touching. 

The hospital said in a statement, "We are committed to the safety of our patients and have zero tolerance for such behavior. Our hospital police acted swiftly in response to the patient's complaint and we immediately terminated the individual." 

Jones lives a homeless shelter in lower Manhattan and had been certified by the state as an X-ray technician. 

It's not clear if there are any other victims, since Jones had worked at the hospital for more than a decade. The hospital says it's working with police in the investigation. 

Attorney information for Jones wasn't immediately clear. 

<![CDATA[$2.3 Million in Heroin Seized From Tractor-Trailer in NY]]> Thu, 25 Aug 2016 19:35:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/heroinbustfeuerherd.jpg

Two men were arrested after authorities say they found more than 65 pounds (at least 30 kilograms) of heroin hidden in the axle of a truck's trailer that the suspects allegedly intended to sell for up to $2.3 million to distributors in New York City, Long Island and across the northeast. 

The arrests of alleged narcotics traffickers Fernando Quiles, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Jorge Ayala, of Greenwich, Connecticut, stem from a three-month wiretap investigation by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Investigators Unit and agents from the DEA’s Long Island District Office Task Force. 

During the course of that investigation, prosecutors say detectives learned Quiles received tractor-trailer shipments of narcotics from a Mexican-based organization. Those shipments crossed the Texas border and made their way into the New York City area, where Quiles and Ayala allegedly coordinated distribution. 

The two men were arrested Tuesday near a large single-family home on a private wooded lot in Croton-on-Hudson in northern Westchester County. Prosecutors allege the suspect recently rented the house for the sole purpose of using it as a location to park a tractor-trailer and to stash drugs. 

The heroin was recovered from the truck Wednesday as investigators executed a search warrant. 

Bridget Brennan, New York City's special narcotics prosecutor, said that it took 18 hours to find the drugs using sophisticated equipment.

"Very likely they were able to roll over the border crossing without detectin," she said.

In the weeks leading up to the arrests, investigators and agents conducted physical surveillance and intercepted phone calls pursuant to a court order. Investigators and agents determined that the suspects were about to receive a large load of heroin via tractor-trailer. 

In a phone call between Quiles and Ayala Aug. 13, Quiles stated that he needed a place to park a “trailer for at least one day,” prosecutors say. A week later, Quiles used coded language as he told an associate that the narcotics shipment was due to arrive and that he would “take it out on Tuesday and take it to its destination ... in case it has a tail somewhere,” according to authorities familiar with the case. 

Quiles was in New York City at the time of these calls. 

In another conversation, he allegedly talked about wholesale heroin prices and indicated each kilogram could sell for $56,000 or $57,000. The amount of heroin recovered from the truck would have yielded well more than half a million individual doses, prosecutors say. 

On Aug. 23, Quiles and Ayala met at the alleged stash house and spoke to an individual identified as a truck driver by phone, directing the driver to come to the house. Shortly thereafter, agents and investigators observed a tractor-trailer arrive at the location, at which point the trailer was detached from the rest of the truck and left on the property. 

Agents and investigators stopped Ayala after he drove away in a car. A search of the car yielded plastic-sealing equipment, plastic packaging materials, keys and a garage opener for the home, along with a device for opening the trailer. There was no furniture in the home, according to prosecutors, just a narcotics ledger book, tools, a scale and packaging materials. 

Both men face charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy and criminally using drug paraphernalia, among other crimes. They were arraigned Wednesday night and ordered held without bail. 

Information on attorneys for the men wasn't immediately available.

Photo Credit: Special Narcotics Prosecutors Office]]>
<![CDATA[Suspect in Brazen Midtown 2015 Tourneau Heist Arrested]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2016 13:55:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tourneau+robbery.jpg

One of the three men thought to be behind the robbery at a high-end Madison Avenue jeweler last year has been cuffed in California, law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York.

Christopher Mulligan was arrested by U.S. Marshals, members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives and NYPD detectives in Stockton, California, according to officials. He's facing charges of robbery, robbery conspiracy and use of a firearm. If convicted of all three crimes, he faces up to life in prison.

Officials said that Mulligan, 22, is one of the three men in colorful suits and fedoras seen on surveillance footage smashing into jewelry cases and stealing Rolex watches at Tourneau on Manhattan's East 53rd Street on May 12, 2015.

Prosecutors said that during the heist one of the robbers fired a bullet into the ground. The bullet broke into fragments, and one of the shards grazed a customer. That same robber then fired in the direction of an employee who poked his head through a door during the heist.

The haul of 20 Rolex watches, was valued at $730,000.

A retired police officer was working in the store and chased after the robbers after the heist. One of the suspects, Omar Rawlins, was arrested a short time after the theft and authorities recovered five of the stolen watches. 

A third suspect remains at large. 

Attorney information for Mulligan wasn't immediately available.

<![CDATA[Imam Slay Suspect Charged With Murder: NYPD]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2016 15:21:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/imam-suspect-crop.jpg

A man has been arrested on murder and weapons charges in the shooting deaths of a Queens imam and his associate in broad daylight, police say. 

The suspect, 35-year-old Oscar Morel, was taken into custody late Sunday night as he approached a vehicle that police had connected to a hit-and-run earlier in the day. He appears to match the description of the suspected shooter, a senior police official said. 

Senior police officials said that officers boxed him in with patrol cars, but the suspect tried to flee and hit a police car. Officers then pulled out their weapons and ordered him to surrender. 

A gun and clothes similar to those worn by the suspected shooter were found at Morel's home in East New York Monday, police sources close to the investigation told NBC 4 New York. The Queens district attorney's office drew up the search warrant for the property search.

The gun was found hidden in the apartment's wall, behind drywall and screws, the sources said. Ballistics tests will be done to see if it is the murder weapon.

Morel has a past arrest for marijuana possession, sources said. 

Meanwhile, about 1,000 people packed streets Monday about six blocks from where the shooting took place for a service for Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate, Thara Uddin. Some of those attending chanted "justice" periodically throughout the service.

Akonjee, 55, and Uddin, 64, were walking home from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque at about 1:50 p.m on Saturday when they were shot and killed. 

Local political leaders, including Mayor de Blasio, addressed the crowd gathered for the service Monday.

Emotions ran high. Some people shouted for justice as a man spoke at the podium. People cheered when de Blasio assured them whoever committed the crime will be brought to justice. 

Surveillance video obtained by NBC 4 New York shows the moment the two men were gunned down on an Ozone Park street.

The video shows a lone gunman approach both men from behind and fire shots from a handgun. The suspect then sprints away from the scene as both victims fall to the ground. 

A sketch of the shooter released by police early Sunday shows a dark-haired, bearded man wearing glasses.

Both victims were shot in the head at point-blank range, police said. The suspect was seen fleeing the scene southbound on 79 street with the gun still in his hand.

Investigators hadn't established a motive for the shootings, said NYPD Deputy Inspector Hank Sautner during a news conference.

The shooting has struck fear in an Ozone Park Muslim community. 

"We usually look left and right and to the front to be careful. But now we have to look in the back. How do you do that?" Kobir Chowdhury said.

Akonjee's sister-in-law, Ifia Uddin, had seen the imam earlier on Saturday. She said that when her husband called her to tell her the news, she was shocked and didn't believe him. She said she's heartbroken. 

"I just want justice, that's it," Uddin said. "Everybody wants that." 

Akonjee’s son-in-law, Momin Ahmed, said the community is struggling to make sense of the killing of such a beloved man.

"Everybody's not doing very good," Ahmed said. "He's the greatest guy. I've been married for 13 years. So since that, we've been talking every day. He calls me every few hours." 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the shootings. 

"The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law," said Afaf Nasher, the executive director of the organization's New York chapter. "We ask anyone with information about this attack to contact appropriate law enforcement authorities."

The Bangladesh State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Shahriar Alam, posted a message on Twitter calling the shooting a "cowardly act on peace-loving people."

Photo Credit: NBC New York
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<![CDATA[NJ Mayor Reacts Angrily to Questions About Odd Jobs]]> Thu, 11 Aug 2016 20:13:04 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/paterson+mayor+joey+torres.jpg

Paterson, New Jersey's, mayor was happy to take questions from reporters following his recent State of the City address.

But Jose "Joey" Torres was not so happy when the I-Team tried to ask him about our reports showing city employees doing private jobs for him - sometimes while on the clock.

"Get out of my office!" he told an I-Team producer before asking a police officer to escort her and a cameraman from City Hall.

For months, Torres has 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 our first story in March, 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 that 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.

The videos were taken by private investigator Harry Melber, who was hired by a developer who was in a permit dispute with the city. Melber followed and filmed Torres at his home and the planned business for about a year beginning in Nov. 2014.

This month, the I-Team obtained documents that seem to show an additional worker shown on tape at the mayor's beer business was billing overtime.

On Dec. 6, 2014, Department of Public Works employee Gaspar Cintron was seen on tape at the beer business linked to the mayor's nephew about 11:47 a.m. He billed overtime from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day, saying on a signed report that he removed sewer pumps from the board of health building - between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Cintron has not returned calls seeking comment.

City worker Tim Hanlon was also at the beer site that weekend morning - and records show he too billed overtime that day.

In addition to eight cases where the I-Team found employees appearing to do work for the mayor while records show they were on the clock, there are at least 10 other instances where tapes showed workers doing private jobs, but records do not show they billed overtime. In one case, they are shown helping his daughter move. In others, they removed construction debris, or washed his scooter.

After the I-Team's initial report, the state Attorney General's office launched an investigation.

It all comes as Paterson faces a budget crisis that led the mayor to call for the closing of summer programs for children in the city.

The Paterson Press analyzed payroll data of some of the city workers seen in the I-Team's reports. The newspaper found some were paid thousands or even tens of thousands in overtime — in one case, up to $45,000 in billed overtime, raising additional questions about how much of that overtime might have been given for work on private jobs, including jobs for the mayor or his family.

<![CDATA[NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton Stepping Down ]]> Tue, 02 Aug 2016 23:27:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bill-bratton-nypd1.jpg

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton is stepping down as the city's top cop and will be replaced by Chief of Department  James O'Neill in September, Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday. 

De Blasio lauded the commissioner's contributions to New York City since taking over the job in January 2014 and praised the man who will replace him, a veteran cop with more than 30 years on the force who grew up in the city and whose experience he said will advance the work of neighborhood policing. 

Under Bratton, the city already has made plans to shift toward that strategy, one predicated on building trust and working relationships between police and communities. O'Neill has been heavily involved in those efforts, and de Blasio said neighborhood policing would be in place in 51 precincts as of this fall. 

"I don't think anyone could've imagined a more productive 31 months. We will never forget or fail to honor the achievements of Bill Bratton," de Blasio said. 

Of O'Neill, he added, "Jimmy is the real thing in every way."

Bratton will stay on with the department until mid-September to ease the transition, officials said. According to a news release from global consulting firm Teneo, Bratton will join the company as the senior managing director and executive chairman of a newly formed risk management division.

Sources close to the commissioner told NBC 4 New York that the job was a "perfect fit" for financial and lifestyle reasons, and that Teneo wanted him sooner than he had planned to be available.

De Blasio joked that Bratton would be able to "afford" to take him out to eat in the new job. 

Bratton did not address the new position at the resignation announcement Tuesday, but instead reflected on his long-standing relationship with New York City and the people and politicians within it. The Massachusetts native called himself a "proud adopted son" of New York City and touted O'Neill's prowess, saying he would help make a seamless transition that, in this age of terror and sometimes volatile race relations, is more important than ever. 

The resignation comes days after Bratton told The New York Times in a widely cited interview that he wouldn't serve as the city's top cop after 2017. Law enforcement sources say he has been talking to de Blasio for at least a month about the possibility that he may vacate his office earlier. 

Bratton has served as the city's commissioner under de Blasio since January 2014 and was also the commissioner during the Giuliani administration. He is credited as one of the early proponents of the CompStat crime-tracking methodology and the "broken windows" policing philosophy, which prioritizes enforcement of minor offenses to prevent major violent crimes. He also served as the top cop in Los Angeles and Boston.

De Blasio tapped Bratton for the job after campaigning on a promise to change police tactics and the department's relationship with New Yorkers. In announcing his resignation Tuesday, de Blasio vowed to continue that charge, and said O'Neill would be an extraordinary leader of the department. 

O'Neill said rather than look at the promotion as the culmination of the career "of an old transit cop like me," he said he sees it as an opportunity and invitation to advance all of the work Bratton has done in the last 31 months. 

"I love being a cop. I love this uniform. I love what it stands for," O'Neill said. "We are here for you, the people of this city." 

O'Neill spoke of his optimism for the future -- a hopefulness imparted to him by his mother. 

"Because of her I learned we can change the world into what we want it to be and that life is about much much more than just oneself, it's about all of us," O'Neill said, choking back tears. 

He also emphasized the importance of bridging the divide between communities and police, and reiterated that the department knows most of the crimes in the city are perpetrated by a few criminals. O'Neill said he would focus on zeroing in on those perpetrators as Bratton has done while working to protect the city from broader scale threats like terrorism. 

Despite some of the lowest crime rates the city has seen in history, Bratton's latest tenure as the head of the NYPD has been marred by tumultuous relations with the public and a tense standoff between the department's rank-and-file union and de Blasio following the killings of two officers in late 2014. 

But sources close to the commissioner say he feels comfortable leaving the post with the crime rates as low as they are and in the capable hands of O'Neill. 

"I'm leaving because it's the right time," Bratton said Tuesday. 

The sources also said he wants to take more time for his three grandchildren, and that he wanted to leave before the next mayoral campaign. 

Ben Tucker, first deputy NYPD commissioner, will stay on, and Carlos Gomez, the NYPD's chief of patrol, who has been with the force since 1984, will take over as chief of department. Calling Gomez a great friend, O'Neill said he "has the will to make the change, the vision to make the change." 

The fate of others, including Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counter-terrorism John Miller and spokesman Stephen Davis are unclear. 

Bratton's resume is unmatched in local law enforcement. He first held the top NYPD post in 1994 and is credited with leading the development of CompStat, a crime-mapping database begun in New York City that has been copied by police in other cities. Crime dropped significantly during his tenure, but civilian complaints about police misconduct and brutality went up. 

Somewhat coincidentally, protesters had staged a demonstration outside City Hall Monday night and Tuesday to call for Bratton's resignation. One protester said that he was "very happy" to see Bratton step down and that he "will take anyone over Bratton, even a corpse."

The head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the NYPD's largest union, said that he "wishes him well in his new endeavors."

"We hope that Chief O'Neill will make supporting and protecting police officers on the street his first priority when he assumes his new role," said PBA President Patrick Lynch. "We look forward to working with him to make sure that New York City police officers are fully supported, with the fair compensation, staffing, equipment and training that we need to protect all New Yorkers.”

Under Giuliani, Bratton was also remembered for his theatrics, including proposing a police parade on his birthday. He left the job for the private sector in 1996, creating his own law enforcement consulting business. 

Bratton, a Vietnam veteran who began his career as a Boston police officer, served as chief of the LAPD from 2002 to 2009, where he dramatically expanded the use of stop and frisk. On his watch as NYPD commissioner, the department drastically scaled back that strategy, but stepped up enforcement against of so-called "quality of life" offenses. Critics said that approach still unfairly targeted people of color. 

Bratton was also hired by Oakland, California, in 2013 to serve as a consultant to the city’s troubled police department.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Court Won't Toss Corruption Charges Against NJ Senator]]> Fri, 29 Jul 2016 14:04:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_271473091102.jpg

A federal appeals court refused to toss bribery-related charges against Sen. Robert Menendez, ruling in a unanimous decision that the New Jersey Democrat should face trial. 

Menendez had asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the case where he was accused of accepting gifts like free vacations and private jet trips from a wealthy Florida optometrist.  In exchange, prosecutors said Menendez urged the government to adopt reimbursement policies that would benefit Melgen, to honor a Dominican port security contract with a company in which Melgen was an investor, and to get visas for Melgen's girlfriends.  

Menendez’s lawyers had argued the senator’s actions on behalf of the eye doctor were protected legislative activity under the consitution’s Speech or Debate clause. 

In a 3-0 decision, the court wrote that it rejects "Menendez’s first argument that the Speech or Debate clause necessarily protects apparently legislative activity … The predominant purpose of the challenge acts was to pursue a political resolution to Dr. Melgen’s disputes and not to discuss broader issues of policy."

Under the clause, senators are not "super-citizens" who have unlimited protection on non-legislative actions, the panel said. Non-legislative acts are defined as legitimate constituent services, assistance in securing contracts or even accepting bribes in exchange for official action.

"Even if these non-legislative acts involve policy or relate to protected legislative activity, they are not protected," the court said.

The court also disagreed with Menendez's claims that he was addressing policy issues as a senator, writing "there is substantial record support for the District court’s findings that those concerns were instead efforts to help Dr. Melgen.”

Friday's decision did not address the merits of the charges and noted that there is some evidence in favor of Menendez. That's for a jury to work out at trial, the court said.

The Menendez ruling was being closely watched because it comes after the Supreme Court threw out the corruption conviction of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.  But legal experts said the issues and charges in the Menendez case do not fit neatly into the 8-0 McDonnell decision.

Attorneys for Menendez have said that they intend to appeal the decision and that "once all the facts are heard, the Senator remains confident that he will be vindicated."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Heavily Armed Cops Being Posted Outside NYPD Precincts: Memo]]> Tue, 19 Jul 2016 09:24:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/216*120/GettyImages-576502502.jpg

The NYPD is posting heavily armed police units outside precincts and station houses in the wake of police killings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas over the last several weeks, a department memo obtained by NBC 4 New York reveals.

The memo says that officers from two of the department's elite units, the Critical Response Command and Strategic Response Group, began patrolling with helmets and long guns outside police stations and transit districts on Monday.

The memo said that while no credible threats against the department or its officers have been made, NYPD officials are urging officers to "remain vigilant and utilize safe tactics both on and off-duty."

The measures come days after gunmen killed eight police officers in separate shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. 

The NYPD had told officers to take extra precautions and patrol in pairs after each shooting

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 Charged With Murdering Gov. Cuomo Aide ]]> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:31:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/luncheon+crawford.jpg

Three men face murder charges and another man is charged with a weapons offense in the 2015 shooting death of an aide to Gov. Cuomo, prosecutors said Wednesday. 

The suspects charged with murder, all alleged gang members, are being held equally responsible for the death of Carey Gabay, who was caught in the crossfire between two gangs along the West Indian Day Parade route Sept. 7. 

Gabay had been at a predawn festival leading up to the parade when he was shot in the head. The 43-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer and Bronx native died after being hospitalized for more than a week while in a coma. 

Micah Alleyne, 24, Tyshawn Crawford, 21, and Keith Luncheon, 24, are named in a 16-count indictment charging them with various counts of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment. Each faces up to 25 years in prison on the top count. 

Stanley Elianor, 25, had previously been charged with multiple counts of criminal possession of a weapon for allegedly possessing a machine gun at the scene. He was arraigned in October and faces up to 15 years in prison. 

Alleyne, Crawford and Luncheon didn't speak at their arraignment Wednesday. Information on their attorneys wasn't immediately available. 

The J’ouvert festival Gabay had been attending and the parade that follows attract hundreds of thousands of revelers to Brooklyn every Labor Day but have been marred by several shootings in recent years. 

Prosecutors say two to three dozen shots were fired from at least eight firearms when Gabay was hit. They say multiple gang members were in the area amid heightened tensions and intended to shoot at rivals on sight; Gabay was an unintended target and had tried to hide behind a parked car. 

In a statement, Cuomo said Gabay helped New York pass the nation's toughest gun safety law, but that his death shows the inadequacy of federal gun laws. 

"Carey Gabay was a dedicated public servant whose life was cut short due to reckless gun violence – tragedy that plagues too many of our communities," Cuomo said. "While we took a great step forward with our historic legislation, without action from Congress, known criminals will continue to buy guns in other states today and sell them on the black market in New York tomorrow."


Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Court Ruling in Ex-Gov Case Could Impact NY, NJ Corruption Cases]]> Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:11:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/McDonnell4.jpg

The Supreme Court Monday vacated the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, raising new questions about how three major political corruption cases in New York and New Jersey could be prosecuted.

In the McDonnell case, the justices voted 8-0 to narrow the definition of the kind of acts needed to prove corruption and to require that prosecutors must show the public official made a conscious decision to act.

The ruling called the governor’s actions distasteful or worse, but still sent the case back to the 4th Circuit to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a new trial under the narrower definition of corruption. 

“Our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this court.”  

The ruling said in part that it is a crime if prosecutors can show the official entered into an agreement to act in exchange for the gifts.  

The ruling could be good news for embattled Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who was charged with corruption for allegedly accepting gifts like free vacations from a Florida eye doctor. Prosecutors said he used his office to try to help that doctor with business deals and to pressure officials who were reviewing allegations of Medicare funding abuses by the doctor.

Former independent counsel Robert Ray said the Supreme Court decision Monday could be seen as good news for the senator.

"I don’t think it will gut the government’s case but it will just make it more difficult to prove Menendez guilty," Ray said. 

Menendez was already appealing to have the case thrown out under a different standard – the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause.  His lawyer Abbe Lowell said the new ruling could also benefit the senator.

“The Supreme Court made clear again today that the everyday actions of public officials like setting up meetings, making phones calls and advocating for people, issues or causes is not a crime.  We are looking at the language of the Court as against the issues in our case because it appears that the Supreme Court has now significantly narrowed the law.”

A Justice Department spokesman, Mark Abueg, declined to comment on the Menendez case.

Legal expert Ray said he also expects the convictions of former New York state Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver (D-NY) and former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos (Rspe-Nassau) to be vacated by an appeals court under the new corruption standards set by the Supreme Court. 

Ray said to expect both convicted politicians to get new trials because the jury were now likely “defective”  – that corruption may have been defined to the jury too broadly in those cases.   

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "While we are reviewing the McDonnell decision, the official actions that led to the convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos fall squarely within the definition set forth by the Supreme Court today." 

An attorney for Skelos declined to comment. 

Silver’s attorney said, ”The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision today in the McDonnell case makes clear that federal government has gone too far in prosecuting state officials for conduct that is part of the everyday functioning of those in elected office. The McDonnell decision will be central to Mr. Silver’s appeal.”

McDonnell, a Republican, was accused of taking $175,000 in cash and gifts which were legal under Virginia state law at the time.  McDonnell arranged meetings and attended events with the businessman who gave him the gifts.

McDonnell’s lawyers had argued there was no quid pro quo and thus there was no corruption.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>