Timelines 1/3/13

Lawsuit Filed Against Journal News Sparked By Map of Gun Owners
A lawsuit has been filed against The Journal News by a business that claims its reputation suffered after the newspaper published an interactive map of licensed gun owners in the area, following the massacre in Newtown, Conn. First Impression LLC is an interior design firm located in Katonah. They sued both The Journal News and its corporate parent Gannett Co. in Westchester County Court. In the Summons with Notice, the business accuses the newspaper of “falsely…publicly stating in the interactive website www.lohud.com that plaintiff First Impression LLC is a licensed handgun owner.” They are represented by McDermott and McDermott of Somers, N.Y. and claim to have lost business since the publishing of their company’s name on the map. The interactive map of Westchester and Rockland counties was published on December 23 and received over 500 comments within the first day, most of them negative reactions from outraged residents. The newspaper defended its actions by stating that the information it posted was public record. Though this is true, Putnam County refused to give information about licensed gun owners to The Journal News, a move that has received support from state Senator Greg Ball, R-Patterson. According to a police report obtained by the Rockland County Times, The Journal News hired a private security firm to stand guard outside their building during business hours, through at least January 2, 2013. The guards are armed.

Baptiste Faces Murder Charge for 1994 Killing
Rene Charles was gunned down outside his home in Spring Valley in 1994, nearly two decades ago. Daniel Jean Baptiste is now scheduled to go on trial in January at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City, charged with first-degree manslaughter. Baptiste, 69, was offered 22 years in prison if he pleads guilty to the charge, but he refused. His lawyer, Gerard Damiani, does not believe the evidence supports a charge of manslaughter. He would accept five years in prison for a lesser crime.

Athene Holding Company Acquires Nyack-Based Presidential Life
For $414 million, Nyack-based Presidential Life now belongs to Athene, a private holding company. The merger was completed on Friday. It was previously reported that 17 workers were going to lose their jobs before the end of 2012 as a result of the merge, but now it is unclear what will happen to the employees of the national insurance company. Its headquarters are located at 69 Lydecker Street in Nyack. Athene is based in Bermuda and has announced that it will pay $14 cash to Presidential Life stockholders for each share of common stock. There are nearly 29.6 million outstanding shares and some stockholders are complaining that the price is too low, though Athene claims it is a 38 percent increase over the price of shares in mid-July. At the end of Friday’s trading day, Presidential Life was removed from Nasdaq Global Select exchange at a price of $13.98. The majority of holders of Presidential Life’s outstanding shares of stock voted on December 20 in favor of the merger. Presidential Life sells a variety of insurance products and has $3.5 billion in assets.

Veteran Attorney Disbarred
After failing to answer seven charges of professional misconduct, a Rockland criminal defense lawyer was disbarred on December 12. F. Hollis Griffin, Jr. of Stony Point faced a panel of five judges in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department, who ordered him to stop practicing law. Griffin was a lawyer for 31 years and is working on having the court’s decision amended. According to court papers, the charges against Griffin were noncriminal complaints and included: failure to promptly disburse funds held in escrow; failure to cooperate with the grievance committee; failure to respond to communications from clients; neglected legal matters entrusted to him; failure to file a retainer and/or closing statement as required; and failure to account for funds received as fiduciary. Griffin worked as a senior assistant prosecutor in the Rockland County District attorney’s Office from 1981 to 1986, worked in private practice later on, and received a full-time job with the Rockland County Office of the Public Defender in 2010. As he did not answer a petition received from the committee earlier in the year, the court punished Griffin “based upon his default.”

Homeless Man Dead in Nyack Memorial Park
On the morning of December 24, a homeless man was found dead on the stone steps near Nyack Memorial Park’s playground. Orlando Florez, 46, was seen on the steps by a resident walking their dog on Christmas Eve. Believing the man to be asleep, the resident left to purchase him a coat and breakfast. The resident discovered he was dead when they returned to the park. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed, though police say there were no signs of assault and it is likely the man froze to death. Often seen drinking by police, they speculate that alcohol may have caused him to pass out the night before. There was no next of kin to be contacted.

Mentally Ill to be Moved to Community Housing with Reduced Supervision
Facing scrutiny from the Obama administration, Governor Andrew Cuomo is apparently going to be moving mentally ill patients from supervised settings and placing them in community housing. In this community housing, as opposed to the adult homes patients were normally placed in by psychiatric facilities, residents are not forced to take their medications and will not be under supervision at all times. This has some people worried, as multiple cases of people being pushed in front of subways have been the result of mentally ill individuals who stopped taking their medicine. However, according to an executive report issued by Governor Cuomo in November, he believes that those with disabilities have the right to “community-based services, accessible housing with appropriate supports and employment opportunities.” Despite further concerns that those placed in the community homes may end up homeless, dead, or in psychiatric hospitals – concerns supported by past incidents – the Cuomo administration will likely move forward with this plan to empty adult homes of the mentally ill. The Obama administration has threatened to sue in order to close all adult homes, as it believes they are illegally segregating the mentally ill. Albany was before Judge Nicholas Garaufis in 2011, and he ordered the immediate dismantling of the adult home system. Albany’s efforts at compromise were all rejected.

Materials for Bombs, Cache of Weapons Found in Greenwich Village Apartment
A couple from Greenwich Village was arrested on Saturday for allegedly keeping a store of weapons and bomb-making supplies in their apartment. Police made this discovery while searching for Morgan Gliedman, 27, who was accused of credit card theft. Gliedman and her boyfriend Aaron Greene, 31, supposedly had a flare launcher, a modified 12 gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun, ammo, and nine high-capacity rifle magazines in their apartment. They also had seven grams of a white chemical powder known as HMTD. This powder caused police to evacuate several of the surrounding buildings, as it is powerful. A stack of papers entitled “The Terrorist Encyclopedia” was reportedly discovered as well, along with instructions for homemade booby traps and improvised submachine guns. Notebooks found were filled with handwritten chemical formulas. Greene is a graduate of Harvard and a member of Occupy Wall Street, whose political views have been labeled extreme. He has previously been charged with assault and weapons possession. Gliedman, who is nine months pregnant, is the daughter of a prominent city doctor.

Police Station Shooting Leaves Suspect Dead, 3 Officers Wounded
On early Friday morning in Gloucester Township, N.J. a man was shot and killed by police after he overpowered an officer and stole her gun, firing at the officers. Eddie Jones III, 39, of Willingboro, was arrested for allegedly stalking the home of his ex-girlfriend around 1 a.m. on Friday. At the police station, officer Ruth Burns removed Jones’ handcuffs as part of processing procedure. When she did this, he lunged at her, striking her on the head and taking her weapon. Jones fired at her and the two officers who came to her aid before he was shot and killed. Sgt. James Garber has been on the force for 13 years and was shot multiple times. His bulletproof vest saved his life, though he required emergency surgery for a wound to his abdomen. A bullet also grazed his head. Sgt. Kevin Thyne has served for eight years and was shot in his duty belt. Ruth Burns is a rookie officer and received a gunshot wound to the foot. All three are expected to recover. The state attorney general will review the shootings according to protocol for shootings involving officers, though it appears the officers responded to gunfire initiated by the suspect and were doing so to save their own lives and the lives of others in the building.

Persian Gulf War Leader Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Dies
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf died at the age of 78 last Thursday and is remembered as a military legend, famous for forcing Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait. He passed away in Tampa from complications from pneumonia, leaving behind his wife Brenda and three children, Cynthia, Jessica, and Christian. Schwarzkopf is described as a warm, loving man with a dedication to those he served with. He lived out his retirement in Tampa, where he supported a number of national causes and children’s charities. He refused attempts aimed at getting him to run for political office. Schwarzkopf received praise from former president George H. W. Bush, who called him “a dear friend,” and current president Barack Obama. He led Operation Desert Storm, a coalition made up of 30 countries created by former President Bush in 1990, and drove Hussain’s forces out of Kuwait. Serving two tours in Vietnam beginning in 1966, Schwarzkopf earned three Silver Stars for valor, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and three Distinguished Service Medals. One of his Silver Stars was earned by saving troops from a minefield. He was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and received decorations from a number of foreign nations such as France, Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, etc. Schwarzkopf retired from the Army in 1992 and wrote an autobiography titled “It Doesn’t Take a Hero.” He served on the board of governors for the Nature Conservancy, worked with a number of charities for chronically ill children, and was spokesperson for prostate cancer awareness and Recovery of the Grizzly Bear.

Gov. Cuomo Launches Energy Efficiency Initiative
Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order last Friday in the hopes of increasing the energy efficiency of New York State buildings by 20 percent in the next seven years. In order to help implement this Executive Order, which will save millions of taxpayer dollars and significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases if all goes according to plan, Cuomo also created “Build Smart NY.” This implementation plan will focus first on the largest and most inefficient buildings, as determined by state building energy data, and perform complete overhauls on lighting fixtures and controls, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning systems, electric motors, and automated energy management systems. Governor Cuomo claims the projects will pay for themselves in the long run due to the amount of money saved by becoming more energy efficient. Several agencies are already on board with the initiative, including the New York Power Authority (NYPA), which will provide $450 million in low-cost financing. Data has already begun to be collected on the energy efficiency of New York’s buildings and work has begun on about 30 million square feet of real estate. A website has been created to allow the public to view progress reports, case studies, energy savings, project costs, and other information. It can be found at www.buildsmart.ny.gov.

Two Candidates for Undersheriff
After three decades, Thomas Guthrie retired from his position as the Rockland Sheriff’s Office second-in-command in July. Sheriff Louis Falco announced on Wednesday that he has two people in mind to serve as undersheriff. Falco is considering having Chief Mary Barbera, currently acting as undersheriff, share the position with South Nyack-Grand View Police Chief Robert Van Cura. Falco believes it may be better to have two people assist him in overseeing the county’s largest law enforcement unit rather than one. The sheriff is in charge of appointing the undersheriff. An advertisement has also been listed on Craig’s List. Requirements for the position include 60 credit hours in criminal justice, 15 years of experience in law enforcement (including five years as an investigator), and seven years working on budgets and collective bargaining. Falco is looking to run the department more efficiently and is fighting to keep the Sheriff’s Office’s employees and special units, despite the county’s large budget deficit