Timelines 4/23

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New City man charged with criminally-negligent homicide for fatal Westchester crash

Following a state investigation, a New City resident has been indicted for a multi-vehicle crash in May 2014 which killed a New Jersey man.

Clifford Perkins, 25, was arraigned last week on charges of criminally-negligent homicide, a felony, second-degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, both misdemeanors and traffic violations for imprudent speed and an unsafe lane change. He has been released on $20,000 bail.

According to investigators, the traffic accident occurred when Perkins, who was driving a 2002 Yamaha motorcycle, struck the rear of a 2001 Mazda driven by Edward T. Murray of Mamaroneck as they were both travelling south on the Sprain Brook Parkway. Murray spun out-of-control and hit a guard rail, where his car was struck a second time by a 2013 BMW motorcycle driven by Scott D. Phillips, 45, of West New York, New Jersey.

Perkins sustained life-threatening injuries while Phillips died at the scene of the accident. Murray sustained only minor injuries.


Sand truck flips over on Haverstraw Road

A tractor carrying sand from Haverstraw’s Tilcon Quarry overturned on Short Clove Road on Tuesday, forcing police to shut down the road while crews worked to clean up the mess.

The accident occurred at around 8:30 a.m. when the truck’s driver made a sharp turn along the road, causing it to tip onto its side and spill its contents. Though no injuries were reported, authorities were required to close the off-ramp while they worked to clear the road.

With Short Clove Road blocked, drivers were required to enter the Village of Haverstraw at New Main Street near Route 9W.

St. Thomas Aquinas cancels drag show

In spite of student and faculty support, administrators at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill opted to cancel a drag show out of concern about conflicts with the school’s Catholic principles.

The show, which would have featured male performers dressed in female clothing and female performers in male clothing, was organized by students with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club. Though the Student Government Association cleared the event, College President Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick did not give it final approval, arguing it could be misinterpreted and create “unintended consequences” for performers who might become the target of derision.

The student body was largely critical of the decision, with students and faculty uniformly defending the show at an April 7 meeting of the Student Government Association. In response, Fitzpatrick offered a compromise, allowing the GSAC to host an event with speakers on the history and significance of drag shows in LGBT culture to encourage understanding of such an event prior to the next show.

The proposed event is now in a planning phase, though it is unknown if it will occur by the end of the spring semester.

Congers man who bludgeoned father to death ruled mentally ill

A Congers man who was arrested last week for beating his father to death was deemed by a judge to be mentally incompetent for trial.

Steven Alicea, 33, was initially charged with second-degree murder. However, after two separate evaluations by psychiatric professionals, it was concluded that he did not understand the charges against him. Consequently, Alicea will receive psychiatric treatment in custody until he is fit to face the charges.

Alicea, who had police called to his house 10 times since 2004, was arrested last week shortly after he beat his father to death with a weight attached to a section of pipe. The case will be presented to a Grand Jury on Friday.


Tappan Zee Viewing platform could open this summer

A pier for residents eager to view the new Tappan Zee Bridge from Nyack will likely be ready for the public in mid-June, according to Nyack Village Administrator Jim Politi.

Following months of delays, work on the reconstructed, fishing pier at Nyack Memorial Park is set to begin this week. At a cost of $200,000 of mostly state-provided money, it will likely take six-to-eight weeks for remaining work, including the installation of custom decks, tables, railings and lighting.

The new 90-foot-by-30-foot pier will feature information panels and telescopes to watch bridge construction. Construction of the pier, the Westchester counterpart to which has already been built at the Scenic Hudson RiverWalk Park in Tarrytown, had been held up by an unusually long bidding process for piling installation and a concrete barge which obstructed the path of the planned structure.


Piermont seventh-grader wins prestigious photography award

A photo snapped by a seventh-grader in Piermont has garnered unexpectedly widespread acclaim, earning the lucky local a coveted international prize for photography.

Justin Lee, a 12-year-old from Piermont, snapped the picture at the Hudson River as a background for his smart phone. The young photographer, who only recently began to explore the art form with snapshots taken with the phone, has focused primarily on nature scenes.

The Hudson picture impressed his mother Amani Lee so much that she submitted the photo for a 2015 Sony World Photography Award. When the submissions were evaluated, Justin placed within the top 50 photographers for the contest’s youth environment category, coming out near the top of a pool of 6,675 images submitted to three youth categories by photographers in 171 countries.

The photo, entitled “Boats at the Pier,” will be on digital display alongside pictures from other honorees at the Somerset House in London starting on April 24.


Russian hackers break into NYC computer network

Hackers believed to be based in Russia broke into servers managed by New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services five times over the past year, according to documents obtained by WNYC through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The hackers first broke into an old ACS server in February 2014, poking around until the intrusion was discovered six months later. The intrusion was made possible in part by the obsolete nature of the network, which had not yet been merged with the rest of the Department of Internet Technology and Telecommunications, the agency that helps manage the city government’s cyber-security.

Though the break-in exposed preventive services client information and prompted the DoITT to contact both the FBI and NYPD, the DoITT stated there was no evidence that personal information or other valuable data was stolen. Nonetheless, the incident was never publicly reported and required the legal force of a FOIL request to come to light.

The DoITT has stated it is currently working to transfer the server over to its own system and correct gaps in its cyber-security.


Cuomo visits Cuba in an attempt to open trade relations

Taking advantage of the recent easing of relations between the United States and Cuba, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo landed in Havana on Monday with a trade delegation in an effort to market the Empire State’s business community to an increasingly open foreign market.

Cuomo, the first state governor to make the trip since President Barack Obama announced a diplomatic thaw between the U.S. and the communist nation, embarked on the brief trip with 20 representatives of 10 different corporate entities including JetBlue Airways, Pfizer, MasterCard and Chobani Yogurt. Other entities hoping to build business relations with entrepreneurs on the island nation included Plattsburgh International Airport, Cayuga Milk Ingredients and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The trip is a sign of closer economic relations between the once isolated business communities, but it is not the first American foray into the untapped Caribbean market. A trade delegation from New York visited the country in 2008, while the states of Louisiana, Florida and Virginia currently lead in total exports to Cuba.


Six Somali-Americans arrested for ISIS recruitment

Six Americans of Somali descent were arrested by law enforcement on Sunday and charged with providing material assistance to a terror group after an alleged attempt to leave the country to fight alongside ISIS militants in Syria.

The men were drawn to ISIS by Abdi Nur, another Minnesota resident with ISIS connections who had previously been arrested for attempting to link up with the terror group in Turkey. Four of the men were arrested in Minneapolis, while two were arrested while driving from Minneapolis to San Diego.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger stated the case came to light after one participant changed his mind and began to cooperate with law enforcement. It is not believed the men were plotting terror attacks against American locations.

Minnesota faces a growing problem with disaffected young Somali Muslims who leave the country to join terror groups. Though many initially connected with al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate responsible for religious repression and violent incursions into neighboring Kenya, ISIS has become a more sought after choice for new recruits in recent months.

New book alleges Clinton traded State Department favors for foreign donations

A new book on Hillary Clinton’s financial dealings might add another layer of scrutiny to the former Secretary of State’s campaign with accusations of lucrative backroom deals with foreign entities.

The book, entitled “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” delves into donations made to the Clinton Foundation at the same time that donors benefited from State Department decisions. Author and Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer describes free-trade agreements in Colombia, post-earthquake development projects in Haiti and favorable treatment of the Keystone XL pipeline as projects managed by wealthy donors who wrote sizable checks for Clinton.

With members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee including Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Rand Paul receiving a preliminary briefing on its findings, the book already appears to be making waves. Major news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Fox News have also struck deals with Schweizer to pursue leads he explores in the book.

Clinton campaign representatives have characterized the book as a mishmash of old public knowledge presented to falsely suggest conspiratorial dirty dealing.


Democratic source: DeBlasio might run for president

NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s chilly response to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign kickoff might be the product of his own presidential aspirations, according to an unnamed Democratic source speaking to the New York Post.

According to the operative, the gap left in the race by Elizabeth Warren, a progressive favorite who has repeatedly stated she does not intend to run, has left the party open to DeBlasio as a possible left-of-center candidate. Though DeBlasio himself has stated several times that he was not considering a run, the source argued many Dems were hoping the momentum from a “Draft DeBlasio” movement could propel him into candidacy.

As evidence, the Democrat pointed to DeBlasio’s decision to bring communications strategist John Del Cecato to Iowa for a round of speeches, an unusual decision outside of an election year. DeBlasio’s refusal to support the party line by endorsing Clinton also raised eyebrows, leading some to believe the mayor does not intend to offer an endorsement to the Democratic favorite.


Scandal-ridden DEA chief expected to resign

Michele Leonhart, the administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, is expected to resign sometime soon in response to increasing pressure from a host of scandals under her watch.

Leonhart, who has served as administrator since 2010, presided over an agency marred by accusations of sexual misconduct and a lack of accountability. Among the most egregious cases was an incident outlined in a Justice Department report last month when DEA agents in Colombia consorted with prostitutes procured by drug cartels.

The scandal was complicated by repeated failures to adequately discipline offending agents and attempts by DEA leadership to withhold information from investigators. Congressional faith in the DEA chief evaporated earlier in April when, following sharp criticism by both Democrats and Republicans and poorly-received claims by Leonhart that she did not have disciplinary authority over her own agents, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sanctioned her with a vote of “no confidence.”

With her hardline stance on the War on Drugs and frequent criticisms of superiors, Leonhart has also been a frustration to the Obama Administration. Most notably, she became a target of Justice Department ire when she publicly opposed Attorney General Eric Holder’s efforts to relax mandatory minimum sentencing standards for nonviolent offenders and denounced Obama for statements he made questioning whether marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol.


Immigration authorities deporting illegal immigrants with expensive charter flights

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has come under scrutiny after a review by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found logistical failures that led to unnecessarily expensive deportation flights for undocumented immigrants.

The flights, which numbered at almost 7,500 in total, hold a maximum of 135 passengers. However, the report pointed out that ICE often shipped migrants out on flights that were under capacity, sometimes with less than 40 percent of seats filled.

Auditors found that ICE spent about $116 million on flights that were under 80 percent capacity, a number which accounts for one-third of total flights. Immigration officials were also criticized for redundant or questionable trips and a lack of documentation, even in cases where passengers missed flights or might have had criminal records.

In response to the inspector general’s recommendations that ICE add more stringent documentation and efficient performance standards, the agency agreed more had to be done. At the same time, ICE pointed out empty seats were not always an indicator of inefficiency and were often less expensive than waiting for a plane to fill to max capacity.




Faulty FBI forensic evidence calls hundreds of cases into question

A report by the Office of the Inspector General has revealed “irregularities” in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hair Analysis Unit which might jeopardize hundreds of cases.

The data, which was collected and analyzed in response to a Washington Post article on three men convicted on the basis of bad hair analysis, covered investigations conducted over the span of 20 years, including 60 capital punishment cases. A review of 268 trials revealed flawed testimony by forensic examiners in 95 percent of cases and flawed or erroneous statements at trial or in lab reports by 26 of 28 FBI specialists.

The Bureau has acknowledged the errors and has agreed to join the Justice Department in a review of all cases built on potentially faulty forensic evidence. At the same time, both the FBI and Justice Department have pledged an independent review of lab protocols which might have allowed mistakes to go unnoticed.

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