Haverstraw explores consolidation of justice system

The Town of Haverstraw is currently exploring the option of submitting a $100,000 state funding application in the hopes of improving the efficiency of their justice courts and police department.

The funding would allow municipalities to explore the possibility of consolidating the village justice courts in Haverstraw and West Haverstraw with the Town’s justice court. According to Town Supervisor Howard Phillips, such a move would allow town police to spend less time shuttling suspects back-and-forth between courts and holding and more time protecting the streets.

The planned study has seen support from Phillips and Village of Haverstraw Mayor Michael Kohut, but mixed success in West Haverstraw, where all on the Board except Mayor John Ramundo voted against the plan. According to West Haverstraw representatives, the plan would benefit the Town at the Village’s expense.

The consolidation study is the most recent push to find efficiencies in Haverstraw and earn a rebate under New York’s two percent tax cap. Funds are likewise provided by the state through their local government efficiency program.

18-month old struck and killed by car in Spring Valley

In what appears to have been a tragic mishap, a Spring Valley toddler was struck and killed by a truck at a Rose Avenue apartment complex last Friday morning.

The child, whose identity has not been released, was being watched by older siblings at the Lotti Gardens complex while his father was at work and his mother was out shopping at a local deli. During this time, a 33-year old Pomona man accidentally backed up over he child and crushed him with his pickup truck.

Police impounded the vehicle for a safety check, attempted to reconstruct the accident scene, called the driver and his two passengers in for questioning and examined the driver for drug use prior to his release. The driver has not been charged at this time.

Federal court dismisses challenges to state fracking reviews

New York State Supreme Court Judge Roger McDonough issued two judgments on July 14 upholding the state’s safety review of hydrofracking activities, providing a temporary victory for Governor Andrew Cuomo and environmental advocates.

The two suits, brought by Norse Energy and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, was filed against Cuomo, the State Department of Health and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. According to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, their dismissals represent a victory for public safety and drinking water integrity.

“New Yorkers are rightly concerned about studies showing the environmental risks associated with hydrofracking,” Schneiderman said. “We should not allow hydrofracking to begin in New York until the Department of Health completes its analysis of its impact on public health.”

The decision came shortly after another court victory for anti-fracking activists last month. In June, the Court of Appeals ruled two Upstate New York towns had the right to pass local zoning laws banning the controversial gas extraction practice.

35 Disney World workers busted in undercover sex sting

Law enforcement records unearthed by CNN have shown that 35 individuals have been busted for possession of child pornography or trying to meet a minor for a sexual encounter since 2006.

Among the Disney World cases, 32 have already produced convictions and two took place on park property, though none involved children attending the park. The arrests include park maintenance and security personnel, a costumer, a VIP tour guide trainee, a gift shop employee.

Also included in the report were five cases of child sex crimes on Universal Studios property and two at Sea World. The latest round of stings from June 10 to July 1 netted four Disney employees and one Universal Studios employee.

Nyack teacher arrested after drunk driving incident

A popular Nyack teacher was arrested Friday night after getting drunk and damaging another car in an accident outside the Stiletto’s Gentleman’s Cabaret in Nanuet. Donaldson Hains, 47, of Pearl River, was leaving the club when he backed his car into another vehicle. Responding officers administered a field sobriety test and breathalyzer, both of which Hains failed. His blood alcohol content was reportedly 0.18, more than twice the 0.08 legal limit.

Hains was subsequently arrested and released without bail. He faces charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and driving while intoxicated per se and is due back in court on July 31.

Hains teaches history at Nyack High School, where he is characterized by Nyack School Superintendent James Montesano as a “very well-established” figure who has been with the school for a number of years.


New Cigarette Strike Task Force seizes almost $1.7 million in contraband and cash

A new state enforcement effort set up to target illegal tobacco sales in New York State has already seen progress since January, seizing $1.7 million in tobacco products and cash.

The New York Cigarette Strike Force, which began operations in January of this year, touted its accomplishments over the past six months on July 14. The Strike Force made 36 separate interventions where it seized 2,447,200 untaxed cigarettes, 254,873 cigarss, 2,061 pounds of loose tobacco and 24,773 counterfeit cigarette tax stamps.

The Strike Force works primarily in cooperation with the state’s Tax Department and 12 federal agencies to identify and target organizations which traffic in untaxed cigarettes. It is headed by Robert Michaelis, who served in the DEA for 25 years prior to his work with the state.

Enforcement efforts were enhanced by heavier penalties imposed on lawbreakers. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law one year ago increasing penalties for unstamped or unlawfully stamped cigarettes, upping the penalty from $150 to $600.


Former City Councilman attempted to “sell” congressional seat to Moses Stern

Testimony of Monsey real estate developer-turned FBI informant Moses Stern revealed a deal offered by former NYC Councilman Dan Halloran to “co-own” a congressional seat Halloran had eyed prior to his arrest.

According to Stern, Halloran mentioned a run for U.S. Congress and offered his influence in exchange for a $15,000 cash bribe in August 2012. Though Stern said that he was not interested in the offer, he did record himself giving Halloran $7,500 in cash in September 2012 with the promise of the other half at a later point in time.

Halloran is one of several former politicians, including former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret, to be targeted in a federal agent which centered around a bribery scheme to nab GOP support for former State Sen. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith’s planned run for NYC Mayor. Halloran factored into the scheme by allegedly taking $20,500 in cash bribes to engineer cross-party negotiations.

In addition, Halloran has been accused of taking $18,300 in cash bribes and $6,500 in straw-donor campaign donations for agreeing to steer council discretionary funds toward a particular company he believed was offering the bribes.

Police re-examine decades old Hillburn murder

An unsolved, decades old murder in Hillburn went cold some time ago, but might soon see renewed interest as police begin a new search for the killer.

The murder of John “Gus” DeFreese has nagged Ramapo Police since April 24, 1985, when DeFreese was found dead in his car on Brandt Road in Hillburn, stabbed in the neck. Though police suspect DeFreese knew the killer and was in an area where he had friends, no arrests had been made.

Now, police might be able to revive the case. Ramapo Detective Thomas Byrnes, who worked on the case in the 1980s, stated he has a new theory on the murder but does not wish to make it public.

Byrnes plans to interview witnesses, friends and family members, rebuilding the case with new testimony. No new suspects have been identified.

2 West Nyack fires considered suspicious

Clarkstown police arson investigators believe two early-morning fires last week at an abandoned building and a building under construction are possible cases of arson. Police are also seeking the public’s assistance in the investigation of the fires at 114 West Nyack Road and 58 Wolfe Circle in West Nyack. Police suspect that both fires were intentionally lit.

At 144 West Nyack Road, police said an abandoned building sustained minor damage from a fire that was noticed at 7 a.m. Friday by a member of the community who saw smoke coming from a second-floor window. Police said several areas on the first and second floors of the building had been lit on fire. At about 9:15 a.m., a construction worker at 58 Wolfe Circle discovered several areas inside a building being newly constructed had been lit on fire. The fire gone out by the time the damage, which was minor, was discovered.

The fires are under review by the Clarkstown police Arson Investigation Unit, the Rockland County Arson Unit and the Clarkstown Fire Inspector’s office. Anyone with information about these fires please call 845-639-5800 or the anonymous TIPS line at 1-877-639-6233. (Republished)

New Square man pleads not guilty in sexual abuse case

A New Square man who has been accused of sexually abusing the son of a family friend over the course of several years pled not guilty to second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child last Tuesday, six months after his initial arrest.

Moshe Taubenfeld was accused of sexually abusing an 8 year old boy who came to him for counsel after the 9/11 attacks. According to the accuser, Taubenfeld repeatedly molested him over the course of five years, but he failed to report it immediately due to pressure from religious leaders in the Hasidic community.

Taubenfeld’s attorney Gerard Damiani argued the charges were demonstrably weak and exaggerated by media coverage of sexual abuse within the Hasidic community, an issue with which Taubenfeld was already indirectly familiar. In 2011, Taubenfeld’s brother Herschel was reported to police for similar charges of sexual misconduct against a child, took a plea deal and was sentenced to six years probation.

Police continue search for missing Cornwall man

Police continue to comb Harriman State Park for clues to the disappearance of a Cornwall man whose car was found in Harriman State Park over a week ago. Raymond Locascio, 62, was reported missing Tuesday of last week. Locascio was reportedly headed to Peekskill that day, but he never arrived. His 2006 Ford Taurus was found in a parking area along Route 6.

Locascio was last seen in Monroe wearing jean shorts, a navy blue polo shirt with a “BeaveEx” logo, a blue or black hat and tan loafers. He stands at 5’10” and weighs about 200 pounds. Anybody with clues or information on Locascio’s whereabouts can contact Cornwall Police at 845-534-8100.

Sandy-damaged homes in Stony Point to be torn down

The Town of Stony Point is looking to close a painful chapter in its own history with the demolition of nine homes which were irreparably damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The demolitions were announced in May and since then, many homeowners filed applications to complete the deconstructions themselves. Many of the homes which laid along River, Beach and Grassy Point Road were restored or demolished already, but a few vacant structures remain.

The Town is now faced with the question of how to handle the rest, including two which have been repossessed in foreclosure by banks. A decision is expected sometime soon.

Vatican denies journalist’s claims that pope revealed two percent of all priests are pedophiles

The Vatican is now distancing itself from statements allegedly made by Pope Francis I regarding the prevalence of pedophiles in the priesthood, arguing quotes used in an Italian news article were not made by the Pope.

La Repubblica reported on Sunday that Francis stated the most recent, reliable statistics suggest two percent of all priests in the world-about 8,000-are pedophiles. Calling the situation “very grave” and a “leprosy in [The Vatican’s] house” Francis allegedly included cardinals in the figure.

Vatican Spokesperson Rev. Frederico Lombardi shot back at La Repubblica, stating the quotes could not be definitively attributed to the Pope. Though Lombardi conceded the conversation did occur, he accused the paper of attempting to deceive readers with the quotations.

At this time in particular, the Vatican under Francis has attempted to rehabilitate its image and demonstrate a zero-tolerance policy on priests who sexually abuse children. Last week, the Pope held a private mass with survivors of clerical sex abuse, while a few weeks before, Vatican Diplomat Cardinal Jozef Wesolowski was defrocked for molesting boys in the Dominican Republic.

Israeli Official: Gaza invasion likely

Judging from the limited effectiveness of Israeli airstrikes and indications from other top level security officials, an unnamed senior Israeli military official stated to reporters that a ground invasion of Gaza was a strong likelihood.

The official explained that as airstrikes have progressed, their effectiveness has waned and ground forces might be a favorable option to secure Israeli targets in the disputed territory. Israel already has 42,000 troops mobilized and ready for a ground assault and the official explained current resources would make the operation a simple one which would take only “a matter of days or weeks.”

A longer occupation might also be in the cards, but the official admitted such an undertaking would require considerably more effort to prevent the situation from degrading further.

Tensions have already reached a boiling point after months of back-and-forth attacks, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, and the retaliatory murder of a Palestinian teen. Since current hostilities began, 194 deaths were recorded in Gaza while one was recorded in Israel.

Citigroup settles in record $7 billion plea deal, agrees to build housing

Citigroup agreed to a settlement with federal prosecutors which will not only cost them a hefty $7 billion, but also require them to finance affordable housing.

The deal, which was announced on Monday, will require Citigroup to refinance the mortgages of troubled homeowners affected by irresponsible lending in the lead-up to the financial crisis. However, since the bank does not serve enough mortgages to satisfy the $7 billion penalty, it will also pay part of the settlement by building $180 million worth of affordable rental units for low-income families.

The settlement as a whole is split into separate parts, with $4 billion bound for U.S. Treasury Department and $208 million dedicated to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for creditor reimbursements. The housing agreement is part of a $2.5 billion dedication toward consumer relief, a chunk which also includes mortgage modifications, donations to legal aid groups and down payment assistance.

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