Timelines 7/11/13

Moreland Commission given broader powers to combat corruption
The Moreland Commission, a body recently assembled by Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate corruption, has recently been given new powers to assist in its investigations. With a recent alliance between Governor Cuomo and State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, other Commission members may be named deputy attorney generals and will be capable of investigating beyond the executive branch. Previously, the Commission, a 25 person panel consisting of district attorneys, lawyers and academics which includes Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, could offer recommendations on changes to state law and issue subpoenas to solicit testimony from appropriate parties. The expansion will broaden the reach of the Commission to almost every area of state and local government, meaning it can probe any potential wrongdoing which threatens “public peace, public safety and public justice.” Its broad reach also means it may be used to investigate local corruption in Rockland, including the vote-buying and bribery allegations leveled against Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and her Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret, as well as the ongoing investigation into the financing of Boulder Stadium.

Rockland leads region in tourism growth, study claims
A study compiled by Oxford Economics and announced by County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef claims Rockland has seen the biggest visitor spending increase among counties in the Hudson Valley region for the 2012 year, leading the area in tourist revenue. The annual study, which was commissioned by the State, revealed Rockland’s visitor spending revenue jumped 25 percent over 2012, representing a travel spending share increase of 8.2 percent which took up 12 percent of the region’s overall $3 billion in tourist revenue. Overall, New York State saw $57 billion in visitor spending in 2012. Rockland’s major tourist draws include the Palisades Center, minor league baseball games at Boulder Stadium, and local events such as street fairs in Nyack and other villages, the annual Greek Festival and the Pearl River St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the second largest of its kind in the state.

Referee beheaded by angry soccer audience for stabbing player to death
In a grisly display, an amateur soccer match in Brazil on June 30 ended with the stabbing death of a player by the referee, incensing the crowd so much that it beheaded the perpetrator in response. The match, held in the small town of Pio XII of the country’s state of Maranhao, heated up when the referee, Otavio da Silva, got into a fistfight with player Josenir dos Santos over Santos’ refusal to follow Silva’s order to leave the pitch. Silva pulled a knife and stabbed Santos, who died en route to the hospital. In turn, a mob of Santos’ friends and family stormed the field, stoning Silva to death, dismembering his body, and placing his severed head on a stake planted in the middle of the pitch. Police continue to investigate the crime and details continue to come to light, but it has been confirmed that one man, Luiz Moraes de Souza, 27, has been arrested in connection to the incident.

Democrats accused of conspiring to block anti-abortion senator by holding vote on Sabbath
According to accusations from state lawmakers, an abortion rights measure supported by Governor Cuomo was deliberately scheduled for a vote on Friday, June 28 to prevent a pro-life, Orthodox Jewish Democrat from casting his ballot against the proposal. State Senator Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, was faced with a decision between staying late on Friday evening to cast his vote and leaving Albany to observe the Sabbath. After consulting a rabbi on the matter, Felder chose to stay, casting his vote at 4:50 p.m. before rushing downstate. Felder explained the rabbi advised him to stay to address what he characterized as a “life and death” issue. Felder’s vote ultimately contributed to the defeat of the bill, which failed to gather the 32 votes needed to pass. Both Felder and Deputy Senate GOP Leader Tom Libous explained they believed the Senate Democrats were deliberately waiting for Felder to leave before holding the vote, with Libous characterizing the move as “extremely insensitive.”  Both the Independent Democratic Caucus and regular Senate Democrats denied they were waiting for Felder’s departure.

Surveillance court rulings vastly expand NSA surveillance
In a series of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) rulings, the NSA was granted vastly expanded powers of surveillance, often with little public scrutiny. According to documents obtained by the New York Times, the FISA court went from approving case-by-case wiretapping requests to claiming broad interpretations of relatively narrow surveillance law doctrines, bypassing constitutional safeguards to gather information on not only terrorist threats but also espionage and cyber-attacks. Among such broad interpretations are an exception to the fourth amendment’s search and seizure warrant requirement in cases of the “special needs” doctrine, which allows surveillance in cases of overriding public danger. The precedent expands the doctrine’s use from the relatively narrow scope of drug and alcohol testing to large-scale surveillance of terrorism suspects.  Additionally, the court has ruled the collection of phone “metadata,” which includes call times, locations and durations but not conversation content, does not violate Fourth Amendment protections. Due to the secrecy of the FISA courts and the rarity with which its judges will release their findings, the court has been criticized for operating without appropriate public oversight and rubber-stamping their decisions for the NSA. FISA judges recently retorted they give all decisions appropriate consideration, but have also disagreed with extensive releases of their findings, arguing the omission of classified details may send the wrong impression.

Plane crash lands at San Franciso airport, two dead
A Boeing 777crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, leaving hundreds passengers injured and at least two dead in the first commercial airline disaster on U.S. soil in years. The flight, bound from Seoul, South Korea into San Francisco, landed tail first just short of the runway, scattering debris across the tarmac but coming to a stop not long after the rough landing. Of the 307 passengers, 61 were U.S. citizens, 77 were South Koreans and 144 were Chinese passengers. Two passengers died and 181 were injured, with 49 in serious condition. According to National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman, the NTSB is working with the FAA, Boeing, and Korea’s Air and Accident Investigation Board to determine the cause of the crash. Investigators have yet to announce the cause of the crash, but have ruled out terrorism and have not confirmed human error as a possible cause.

Congers man arrested for trying to kick officer
Clarkstown Police recently reported that James Mutinsky, 78 of Congers, was arrested Friday afternoon after police were called to his residence to settle a landlord-tenant dispute. Police responded to the dispute at 65 N. Grant Avenue, where Mutinsky allegedly responded attempted to kick one of the responding officers while the officer was bent over. The officer was able to dodge the kick, but reported a laceration on his left hand and pain in his right hand due to the incident. In response, police tased and subdued Mutinsky, who himself had a laceration on his forehead, apparently caused by the scuffle. Both the officer and Mutinsky were brought to Nyack Hospital for treatment. Mutinsky stands charged with second degree harassment and resisting arrest and is due in court on July 15.

ERCSD lawsuit alleges religious students given preference in special needs busing
The New York Office of Civil Rights dividion of the U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating allegations that special needs students were discriminated against in the East Ramapo Central School District. The incident which initiated the conflict occurred on May 24, when a parent waited over an hour for a bus which they were later informed was not scheduled for that route. However, when she checked with, she found that special needs busing had been provided for students attending schools in Kiryas Joel. In response, the parent contacted the Department of Education, which pledged on July 2 to launch a full investigation of possible violations of Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As of July 5, the single complaint has grown into a class action complaint by any children who might have been subject to discriminatory busing practices. This is not the first incident of special needs busing failing to arrive for pickups. Aside from May 26, special needs students did not receive busing on November 6, 2012 or February 20, 2013, the latter of which occurred in close to freezing temperatures.

Governor Cuomo promotes LGBT tourism in New York State
As part of his initiative to expand New York tourism and accommodate same-sex couples in the state, Governor Cuomo recently unveiled a new “I Love NY LGBT” website, where tourists can get information on LGBT-geared events and locations. Information on the website includes vacation guides with locations and information on historic spots such as the Stonewall Inn, events such as New York’s Pride Parade and a wedding guide for couples who wish to get married in the state. The site was first announced at New York’s June 30 Pride Parade with promotional giveaways of T-shirts featuring the classic “I Love NY” logo with a rainbow heart. Niche LGBT tourism accounts for a significant subset of national tourist revenue and generates $70 million in profit for tourist destinations nationwide.

Ramapo Councilwoman’s son arrested for the second time in two weeks
Rampapo Concilwoman Brendel Logan’s son Krystafer Johnson was arrested on Monday night for robbing and physically assaulting the mother of his child, according to Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica.  According to police, Johnson allegedly knocked his girlfriend down at her Kearsing Avenue apartment, choked her, snatched her cell phone when she attempted to call police and left with their child before Police arrested him as he was driving back to the location. The incident, the second of its kind since June 24 when he was accused of burglarizing the Bravo Supermarket where he worked as a security guard, stacks more felony counts on Johnson’s already troubled legal situation. For the most recent infractions, Johnson was charged with two felony counts for third-degree robbery and third-degree assault, one misdemeanor count for criminal obstruction of breathing and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. His alleged supermarket theft resulted in felony counts for burglary and criminal mischief. Previously out on $500 bail, Johnson’s bail for the new offenses has now been set five times that amount at $2,500. Both Logan and her husband, East Ramapo School District board member Bernard Charles, stated they stood by him, but would not comment further.

Former West Haverstraw mayor to receive honor Village Hall dedicated to former West Haverstraw mayor
Former West Haverstraw mayor Edward Zugibe was honored on Tuesday evening with a ceremony dedicating the West Haverstraw Village Hall in his honor. Newly-installed letters on one of the Hall’s walls reading “Edward P. Zugibe Sr., West Haverstraw Village and Community Center” were unveiled to Zugibe and other attendees, including local Democrats and current mayor John Ramundo. Also in attendance were Zugibe’s former wife of 65 years Mary and his son Edward Zugibe Jr. and daughter Valerie Manzione. Zugibe, a WWII vet who is currently 90 and wheelchair bound due to a recent injury, served as West Haverstraw’s mayor for 35 years before retiring in 2007. Before that, he served as a village trustee for 14 years.

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