Department of Justice proposes new standards for accessing reporters’ records

The Department of Justice under Obama recently established a new set of rules governing subpoenas on reporters’ phone records in an apparent response to their controversial gathering of dozens of Associated Press reporters’ phone records.

According to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the new policy will presume reporters will be notified when their records are sought.

The new policy will also raise the current standard access under the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 to allow pursuit of information from news sources only as a last resort under “extraordinary” circumstances. A News Media Committee will be assembled as an advisory body to the attorney general on media record access, providing expert advice as non-investigatory personnel.

The Department of Justice has come under strong criticism for surveillance of Associated Press reported James Rosen and his associates. Rosen’s telephone records were accessed by the DoJ as part of the federal government’s investigation of former State Department advisor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who was alleged to have leaked national defense information regarding North Korean nuclear tests.


Ramapo experiences second abandoned building fire in two weeks

Ramapo Police reported another fire at an abandoned building in Suffern on July 18, making this the second building to be damaged in such a fashion within the past two weeks.

The fire was reported at an abandoned house at 363 Rt. 59 in Suffern at 2:22 a.m. by a passerby on foot. Route 59 between College Road and Cherry Lane was closed for two hours in both directions as fire personnel with the Tallman, Suffern and Monsey Fire Departments worked to put out the flames. Investigators with the Village of Airmont Fire Inspector, the Rockland County Sheriff’s B.C.I. Arson Unit, and detectives with the Town of Ramapo police were also on hand to investigate the cause.

Nobody was occupying the house at the time and no injuries were reported. However, the man who reported the fire told police he first heard a noise and saw a white male leaving the property on foot, walking west on Route 59. Ramapo Police were unable to find anybody matching the description.


County legislators sponsor resolution opposing United Water rate hike

County Legislators Ilan Schoenberger, Alden Wolfe and Chairwoman Harriet Cornell are sponsoring a county resolution expressing opposition to two proposed rate increases United Water wishes to levy on Rockland County residents.

The first increase will cover pre-construction work for the proposed United Water desalination plant in Haverstraw with a $15 quarterly charge per household, while the second will add a $36 quarterly charge to cover recent infrastructure improvements and property tax liability increases. Both proposals are highly controversial given resident and legislator expectations that shareholders should shoulder costs.

In response, the legislature has taken an aggressive approach on the issue with a memorializing resolution expressing opposition to the proposed increases. Both Schoenberger and Wolfe have also registered with the PSC for “party status,” which will allow them to give testimony, submit evidence and participate in evidentiary hearings regarding the rate increases.

The legislators have also expressed support for a PSC decision issued July 18 requiring United Water to continue examining Rockland’s need for a new water source. The decision was supported by the legislators, several of whom have argued the county’s aquifer is sustainable and does not require a desalination plant.


Comparisons drawn between cases of George Zimmerman and Roderick Scott

In the days and weeks following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, commentators have drawn comparisons to a similar case in Rochester, New York where the racial roles between the shooter and target had been reversed and seemed to suggest a common thread of self-defense rather than racial tension.

Arthur Weinreb of Decoded Science, a blog on criminal and immigration law, broke down the similarities between the cases of Greece, NY resident Roderick Scott and that of Zimmerman, which include the legal ownership of the firearm by the defendant, victims behaving suspiciously, notification of police at the discretion of the defendant and the use of self-defense as a justification for the shooting.

“Those who are saying that if Zimmerman had been black and Martin white he would have been convicted should take a good look at the Scott case,” Weinreb explained.

Scott was acquitted of murder in 2009 for the killing of Christopher Cervini, 17. According to Scott’s account, he confronted three teens including Cervini when they attempted to break into a neighbor’s car. Scott explained he demanded they stay until police arrived before Cervini ran at him, forcing him to fire.

The cases also carried noteworthy differences. For example, Scott claimed he actually saw Cervini and his friends commit the crime, whereas Zimmerman was merely suspicious of Martin. Scott was also immediately charged with murder following the shooting, as opposed to Zimmerman, who was initially released without charged.



Nyack man stabbed to death, suspect in custody

A Nyack man was stabbed to death in an alleged confrontation between two groups on Saturday, July 20, with at least one suspect already in police custody.

The incident occurred on Washington Street, which is located off Depew Avenue in South Nyack. Police explained the incident was likely related to a brawl between two separate groups, though it is currently unknown whether or not the incident was gang-related. The man, who was described as a 20 year old man of African background, was confronted after the initial scuffle by a group of men in their twenties when he was attacked. He was then brought to Nyack Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Following the incident, a suspect was brought into custody. Though language barriers initially hampered the investigation, a Spanish-speaking officer with Orangetown Police was brought in to assist. Police have yet to release the identity of the victim or the suspect.


Spring Valley corruption trial will not begin until 2014

Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret attended court on July 19, where it was decided that their trial for corruption would begin in 2014 at the earliest.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas set December 13 as the date when prosecutors and defense counsel will begin to discuss scheduling the trial against Jasmin and Desmaret. Though the scheduling discussions will take place this year, the trial will not begin in 2013.

Desmaret and Jasmin stand accused of mail fraud and extortion for allegedly selling their votes to Moses “Mark” Stern. In exchange for their support for a fictitious kosher catering business, Desmaret allegedly took $10,500 from Stern, while Jasmin was allegedly received a fifty percent share of the business itself.

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