Timelines: June 14, 2012

Funeral for Judge Edelstein
Retired Judge Harry Edelstein, who served as a Rockland County Court Judge and Clarkstown justice for more than three decades, died Saturday, June 9. He was 87.

The funeral was at 11 a.m. on Monday at the New City Jewish Center. Shivah, a Jewish period of mourning, will be held at the family’s home in New City.

Edelstein became known as the “people’s lawyer” because of his representations of the disadvantaged. He was responsible for making sure people who could not afford a lawyer were still represented by a public defender or legal aid lawyer, by winning an appeal in 1962.

He stepped down from Clarkstown judge in 1993 at the age of 69 so he could return to his private practice.

Firefighters Save Dog Stuck in Rockland Lake State Park
More than a dozen firefighters rescued a 3-year-old dog that wandered off the path and got stuck at the bottom of a 20-foot slope in Rockland Lake State Park on Sunday, June 10.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, named Zoe, was off her leash before she got stuck. The owner tried to rescue her and then called 911.

Firefighters from Nyack and Rockland Lake departments arrived, rappelled down the cliff and were able to move the dog safely and uninjured. Pets are not permitted in the park from May to September 30 and then must be on a leash.

Pomona Woman Bicyclist Killed
Janet Martinez of Pomona was riding a bicycle south on Route 9W when she was hit by a car. She died at Nyack Hospital that afternoon.

The 2008 red two-door Scion’s driver was Denis Patawaran of Sparkill. No charges have been filed, investigations continue and no conclusions on the case are yet determined, according to Orangetown Lt. Lorraine Wetzel.

Martinez, 53, was wearing a helmet but still suffered head injuries when she was hit near the intersection of Treeline Terrace in Upper Grandview. Both Martinez and Patawaran, 25, were taken to the hospital.

Orthodox Counselor on Trial for Sexual Abuse
Nechemya Weberman, a spiritual advisor in Brooklyn’s Jewish community, was accused of molesting his female student for the last three years.

Weberman, 53, has been embraced and defended by the Jewish community there, convinced that he is being wrongly accused. Meanwhile, the anonymous accuser, 17, and her family face being ostracized by the community and deal with regular name-calling and threats.

The girl was sent to Weberman when she was 12 because she had theological questions and he had a reputation for helping people find their way back to the spiritual path. He has had no formal training, but often counsels individuals. But during his sessions, he forced the girl to perform sex acts, authorities say.

“There are other people that claim misconduct and they can’t come out because they’re going to be re-victimized and ostracizes by the community,” said Judy Genut, a friend of the accuser’s family and counselor to troubled girls.

Weberman will face trail this month.

Gay Pride Day Brings 2,000 to Nyack
About 2,000 people attended the 14th annual VCS Gay Pride Rockland event on Sunday, June 10.

The day included activities for children, arts and crafts, an inflatable fun house, music, dance, performances, vendors from all over and local politicians and clergy voicing their support for gay rights.

According to Phyllis Frank, assistant executive director of VCS, the past year has been good for gay rights and improvements have been made, but more progress is needed. Next, she said, is to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even those accepted on the state level.

“Until it is struck down, lesbian, gay, bi and trans people do not have true marriage equality in the United States,” Frank said.

Nyack Trustee Won’t Seek Re-election
Nyack trustee Steve Knowlton has decided to not seek re-election this fall.

Knowlton, a lawyer, has been active in village government for more than a decade. He has served as a chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals for nine years and as trustee for three years. He was appointed to the board when Richard Kavesh became mayor in 2010, leaving a trustee seat open.

In a letter, Knowlton wrote, “increasing professional responsibilities and health issues” would make it difficult to fully devote the time and attention the job requires.

NYC Principal Bans Singing ‘God Bless the USA’
Greta Hawkins, the principal at PS 90, the Edna Cohen School, decided the students are not allowed to sing “God Bless the USA” at graduation this year.

Five classes spent monthly learning the song only to be told they would not be allowed to perform it at their moving-up ceremony on June 20. Her reason, according to staff members, “We don’t want to offend other cultures.”

Orthodox Jew Kicked out of Police Academy, Beard’s to Blame
Fishel Litzman of Monsey was kicked out of police academy on Friday, June 8, just weeks prior to graduation, because he refused to cut his beard. Litzman was training to become a New York City police officer.

There were multiple confrontations over the length of his beard. He believes that cutting his beard is forbidden by God. The NYPD requires their officers to be clean-shaven. They will make exceptions for religious reasons, but even then only allow 1 millimeter of facial hair.

“I don’t understand what the problem would be,” said Litzman. However, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the rules are reasonable and Litzman was aware of them from the start.

Litzman’s attorney, Nathan Lewin, said the police department knew that Litzman had no intention of trimming his beard and that it’s a case of religious discrimination. The police department currently has at least two dozen Orthodox Jewish officers on the force. They, and observant Muslim and Sikh officers, may keep their beards but must keep them trimmed.

High-risk Sex Offender Moves to Spring Valley
Thadius Demetrius Jones, a twice-convicted sex offender, moved into a house on Prospect Avenue in Spring Valley. He is considered by the state to be a high-risk “level 3” offender. The neighborhood has children and an after-school center.

Jones, 33, was convicted in June 2008 of raping a 16-year-old girl in Haverstraw. He served one year in Rockland County jail.

Then, in January 2010, he was convicted of sexually abusing a 28-year-old woman deemed to be physically helpless and incapable of consenting to have sexual intercourse. He served two years in state prison. The state then released him on parole.

For more information on the state sex offenders lists, visit http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/ or call (800) 262-3257.

North Rockland Special Education PTA Restarts
North Rockland parents decided to restart the Special Education PTA meetings. They hosted their first, since reuniting after more than a decade, last week at Thiells Elementary School.

Parents with special-needs children were given the opportunity to discuss some of the issues that come up for them and share ideas. They discussed creating new programs, workshops, networking and developing a website.

About 1,200 of the 8,000 children in the North Rockland School District have special needs, according to Mari Rendrich, the district’s special-education director.

“I just wanted the parents of special-needs children to be heard… We’re the child’s biggest advocate,” Deirdre Armida, a parent of son suffering from speech and learning impairments. “If we don’t advocate for our kids, who is going to do that?”

Legislation Introduced Inspired by Glenn McElroy Case
Glenn McElroy of Stony Point was hit and left brain-dead by a car his wife, Kelly McElroy, was driving while intoxicated.

Kelly was convicted of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to one to three years in state prison.

Following the tragedy, Sue Ann and Edward McElroy, Glenn’s parents, have been entangled in a fight with the wife over his health care and end-of-life treatment.

“Why should the person who caused the death get to make the decisions?” Sue Ann asked.

Glenn, a father of two, suffered head injures so severe that doctors said he’d never recover. His parents were opting to discontinue life support and donate his organs. His wife disagreed. Both got lawyers and came to an agreement.

In response, Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun is sponsoring legislation to prohibit anyone who is a suspect in the death of a spouse from making medical or funeral decisions on that person’s behalf. It is unlikely, however, that this will come up for a vote since there are only two weeks left in the session and Calhoun is not running for re-election.

Hundreds Rally in NYC Against Federal Rules for Religious Organizations
Hundreds of protestors gathered on Wall Street in New York City on Friday, June 8 to fight the new federal rules that require religious institutions to include certain services in their health care coverage, including for example contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.

Standing at the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall Street, religious leaders and activist spoke about how these regulations destroy their religious freedom.

A bus of Rocklanders attended the rally, including Rev. Fredy Patino from the St. Peter’s Church in Haverstraw.

“This issue will affect every person in the nation,” Patino said. “With this contraception mandate, people will lose their rights to express their religious freedom.”

The rally was part of the nationwide action to protest the Obama administration’s health care mandates, requiring employers to provide their employees with health insurance that covers contraception and sterilization services.

The mandates apply to religious-based universities and charities. Catholic and other religious leaders vehemently oppose the mandate, framing it as an attack on religious freedom.

Relief from Practice Gunfire Sounds for New City and Haverstraw
Rockland County Legislators Ed Day of New City and Pomona and Jay Hood of Haverstraw announced on Monday, June 11 the approval of an engineering and construction project designed to mitigate the sounds of gunfire emanating from the Rockland County Police Academy Firearms Range on Haverstraw Road. The initiative was approved at the June 5 meeting of the Rockland County Legislature.

“We are proud of the bipartisan effort that took place, one that was supported by many in government. The fact that this was accomplished without expending one penny of taxpayer money speaks volumes about the work that was done to solve this problem,” said the legislators.

Four years ago, the existing police firing range that was located at the Tilcon Quarry facility had to be repositioned to a different area and a new range that enabled law enforcement to continue necessary firearms training was constructed.

The new location resulted in an unexpected volume of gunfire and it seriously impacted upon the quality of life, most notably in northeast New City and in Haverstraw.

Plans to remediate the matter were submitted, but with the financial challenges, funding of the $250,000 project was highly questionable. After numerous meetings with Legislators Day and Hood, the District Attorney, Police Chiefs Association, and the Sheriff committed funds from the County forfeiture funds that were obtained through the arrests and seizures involving various criminal enterprises.

The project of installing sound absorption material on the concrete safety walls at the Police Academy Range will begin soon, and will be handled by Lorencin Contracting Corp. of New City.

18 Rescued in Child Porn Raid
A nationwide child pornography raid, called Operation Orion, resulted in 190 arrests and 18 rescued victims. The arrests were made in 33 states and Puerto Rico, according to authorities.

“Let this operation be a warning to anyone who would think they can use the Internet to exploit children: we are out there looking for you, we will find you, and you will be prosecuted,” ICE Director John Morton said.

Morton reminded parents that as summer vacation starts it is their responsibility to pay extra attention to what their children are doing on the Internet.

“Many of the child exploitation cases under Operation Orion began with a child or teen chatting with someone he or she met online,” he warned.

Some of the victims resided in the same homes of the persons arrested, said ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett.

Sloatsburg Man Robs Deli
Jeremy Olano of Sloatsburg was arrested Monday, June 11 after he robbed the Sterlington Station, a restaurant, deli and bar, on Seven Lakes Drive.

Olano fled on foot with more than $500. Officers searched the area and put the Sloatsburg Elementary School, which is just two-tenths of a mile away, on lockdown. They found him at his home on Apple Street.

Olano was held at Ramapo police headquarters and is waiting arraignment in Sloatsburg Village Court.