Timeline — 3/21

Ramapo police sgt. voids tickets, placed on leave

Sgt. Christopher Franklin, a 13-year officer and a former K-9 officer, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation into accusations that he voided two traffic summonses. He is being accused of voiding the tickets as a favor to an officer from another department. Franklin has not yet been charged with any disciplinary charges, but the department continues to investigate the circumstances that surrounded the voiding of two moving violations in the department’s computer system. According to police, Chief Peter Brower notified the Rockland District Attorney’s Officer of the internal investigation as a matter of “departmental policy.” D.A. Thomas Zugibe is reportedly awaiting results of the police review before he makes a decision of whether any criminal charges. On Monday, police officer Ernst Tenemille sent out a departmental email which made the department aware of the accusations involving Franklin. Weidel said, “The contents of this email allege that a member of our department voided two summonses Tenemille had previously issued on March 8. Officer Tenemille was upset with what occurred. Once we the administration became aware, we immediately began an internal investigation.” Reportedly, there will be policy changes concerning procedures and the computer system as a result of the investigation. A scandal involving ticket fixing at the New York Police Department, which eventually led to indictments on criminal charges and ruined law-enforcement careers, was compared to the Ramapo incident. The department, however, says that the two situations are not comparable, and that they are taking steps to reassure the public of this. Police supervisors can void summonses for certain reasons, such as mistakes, but must provide a written justification for doing so.

 

Governor Cuomo signs law to expand state’s DNA databank

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a bill that makes New York State the first “all crimes DNA” state in the country. The bill requires that DNA samples be collected from anyone convicted of a felony of Penal Law misdemeanor. The new law also significantly expands defendants’ access to DNA testing and comparison both before and after conviction in appropriate circumstances, as well as to discovery after conviction where innocence is claimed. Governor Cuomo introduced the DNA Databank expansion legislation as playing a crucial role in his 2012 legislative agenda. Cuomo said, “I’m proud to sign this bill because this modern law enforcement tool will not only help us solve and prevent crimes but also exonerate the innocent. The bottom line is that this is a tool that works, and will make the state safer for all New Yorkers.” The legislation will make New York the first state in the nation to expand its DNA databank so dramatically. Since its launch in 1996, New York State’s DNA Databank has been responsible for more than 2,900 convictions. DNA evidence helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers who were wrongfully convicted and countless suspects were cleared early-on in investigations. Prior to this, state law only permitted DNA to be collected from 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime. The new legislation allowing expanded access to Certain Criminal Defendants to DNA testing, will allow for certain criminal cases to obtain DNA testing prior to trial in order to prove their innocence. In addition, under appropriate circumstances defendants convicted after a guilty plea will be allowed access to such testing.

 

Fire damages upstate yeshiva belonging to a Rockland Hasidic Jewish sect

According to authorities, a five-alarm fire has caused major damage at a yeshiva owned by a Rockland County Hasidic Jewish sect. The school, which is upstate, is attended by more than 350 students but none of them were there at the time of the fire. At the time of the fire, the students (all boys) were paying respects to Viznitz grand rebbe Mordachai Hager, whose brother Moshe Hagar died at 95 in Jerusalem, Israel. The fire which occurred last Thursday, is believed to have been started accidentally. The school, which was built in the 1950s as a hotel, is a wood-framed structure which caused the fire to spread quickly. Firefighters spent several hours battling to blaze on Thursday in the three-story building located in Sullivan County town of Thompson, about 80 miles northwest of New York City. Assistant Monticello Fire Chief Marc Friedland told an upstate newspaper that the fire had spread quickly through dorm rooms and that there was damage throughout the entire building. The only person in the building was a staff member who escaped the flames safely. The religious school is owned by Yeshivath Viznitz D’Khal and Torah Chaim, Inc., both registered in Monsey. The Times Middletown-Record had previously reported that the year-round Viznitz community has 37 box-framed homes, most of them built around 2000. The community does plan to rebuild the school.

Chestnut Ridge mom drives drunk with two kids in tow

Noelle Marrone, 23, drove with a four-year-old boy in her car and a one-year-old buckled into a car seat, allegedly while drunk. The Chestnut Ridge mother was charged with drunken driving with a blood-alcohol level of about 2 ½ times more than the legal limit, according to Clarkstown police. Marrone remained in the county jail on $50,000 bail on Monday after her arrest on Sunday evening at a Route 303 gas station. A Clarkstown police officer responded to a report of an erratic driver and found Marrone with her four-year-old son in the bathroom of an Exxon gas station in West Nyack. The driver’s door her 2006 Saturn was open with the engine running and the one-year-old baby was sitting alone in the car seat in the back, according to police. Although the children were not hurt, police did notify Rockland Child Protective Services. Then, based on Marrone’s field sobriety test, the police officer took her to police headquarters for a chemical breath test. Her blood-alcohol content was .21 percent, and the legal limit is .08 percent. Marrone appeared in Clarkstown court in New City yesterday to answer the felony count of aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle, and misdemeanor counts of driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child.

 

Valley Cottage man’s trial awaits DNA test results

The New York City medical examiner’s office is currently testing a handgun for DNA samples as part of the prosecution of Eric Goods, a Valley Cottage man who was accused of trying to kill his neighbor in August. The Rockland District Attorney’s Office recently received county government approval to spend approximately $1,100 on the testing, after the state police lab said it did not believe there was enough DNA material to test. The prosecution wants to figure out whether or not Goods’ DNA is on the .38 caliber handgun that Clarkstown police and prosecutors say was used on August 23 to shoot a New York City school teacher several times while he was walking his dog at the Mountainview Condominiums. The teacher, at the time, was 33 years old. The first round of testing was done on Friday, and the second on Monday, according to Senior Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Parietti. Parietti said that the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner uses a different testing method than the state lab, so the hope is that they will be able to uncover more than the state lab. Goods, who is 53, has pleaded not guilty to grand jury felony charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree criminal use of a firearm and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The victim, Edward Kern, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head, lower back, and leg during the attack. He underwent surgery at Nyack hospital for a broken arm as well. Kern was walking his dog behind Sierra Vista Lane, the street on which both men live, when Goods allegedly shot and attacked the man. Kern told investigators that he had not previously talked to the gunman and had no idea was would have caused the attack. Goods remains in county jail on $1 million bail. A trial date starting with jury selection has yet to be scheduled.

 

Valley Cottage Marine Cpl to be reunited with her partner, Rex

Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey of Valley Cottage, received the news on Monday that she would be reunited with her canine companion from Iraq, a military dog named Rex. Leavey is expected to be able to adopt and take home Rex, a military service dog who was with her in Iraq when an explosive device detonated near them outside of Ramadi, Iraq in September 2006. On Monday, Rex was still at Camp Pendleton in California, where officials with the marines are completing the paperwork necessary for adoption. Officials with the Air Force, the military branch which is responsible for training military work dogs, have already signed off on the adoption. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the reunion on Monday evening during a press conference with Leavey, who is now in the process of booking a flight to California to pick up the pooch. Schumer was informed of Leavey’s attempts to adopt the dog, and consequently wrote letters to key military staffers and organized a nationally circulated petition urging military officials to allow the adoption. Over 20,000 people signed the petition. Twenty-eight-year-old Leavey completed two tours through Iraq with Rex before she was injured in the Ramadi blast. At the time, Leavey suffered a concussion and also shattered blood vessels in her ears, but completed her mission with Rex by her side. After finishing her deployment in Iraq in 2006, Leavey spent nearly a year rehabilitating from her injuries. Rex, who was also injured in the blast, rehabilitated by his partner’s side. When she was discharged from the Marines in December 2007, Leavey tried to adopt Rex. But because he was fully recovered and still so valuable to the military, she was denied. Now, however, Rex has been diagnosed with facial palsy, a nerve paralysis that will not allow him to serve with the military any longer. He is the oldest working dog at Camp Pendleton. Leavey pushed hard to adopt the 10-year-old German shepherd after she heard about his condition, seeking the help of Sen. Schumer. Rex completed more than 10 missions during their two six-month tours in Iraq. With the adoption, Rex will be able to live in a sizable home with a fenced-in back yard, a swimming pool, and a family which includes some other furry friends. Leavey said, “I’m just so happy that I can be the one to take care of him because really, he has taken care of me in so many different situations that’s it’s my pleasure. I just can’t wait for him to retire now and relax and be a pet and live the good life.”

 

It’s not too late to enjoy Rockland Restaurant Week 2012!

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week runs through March 31, so don’t hesitate to make your reservations today to take advantage of this opportunity. Participating restaurants offer price fixe lunches for $20.95 and dinners for $29.95. This is the sixth annual event, and is meant to draw people into new restaurants, helping local commerce. The price fix prices exclude beverages, taxes, and gratuities. Participating restaurants typically feature specials off their regular menus that stand out among others. Many restaurants require reservations. The Rockland eateries who are involved in this year’s Hudson Valley Restaurant Week include, Aqua Terra Grill (Pearl River), Sidewalk Bistro (Central Nyack), The Hudson House (Nyack), Two Spear Street (Nyack), Velo Bistro Wine Bar (Nyack), Café Barcel (Nyack, Confetti Ristorante and Vinoteca (Piermont), Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar (Congers), Rick’s Club American (Congers), The 76’ House (Tappan), II Portico (Tappan), II Fresco (Orangeburg), Union Restaurant and Bar Latino (Haverstraw), Antoine McGuire’s Oyster and Ale House (Haverstraw), Marcello’s Ristorante (Suffern), Ravi Continental Cuisine (Suffern), and Mount Ivy Café (Pomona). Many of these restaurants are located in Rockland’s river villages and downtown hamlets, giving diners and opportunity to walk around, shop local, and patronize the county’s shops and businesses. Visit www.rocktourism.com/index.php?/restaurants for more information.