Timelines — 10/18

Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion in New City

A Stony Point woman pled guilty on Monday to a charge of federal tax evasion at her New City hair salon.

Margaret Viola, 64, owned Rojo Salon and, according to prosecutors, did not pay $14,700 in income taxes and $68,000 in payroll taxes from 2004 to 2008. Employees were given 30 percent of their salaries on record, while the rest was kept off the books. Authorities told the media that customers’ fees were kept either in cash or in checks made payable to cash.

A stylist who worked for Viola, Donna Maglione of Nyack, was also charged with federal tax evasion. She pled guilty in U.S. District Court in White Plains late last month. Viola’s sentencing will take place February 25, while Maglione’s was not available. Both will face a maximum of five years in prison and up to a $250, 000 fine.


Settlement Reached for Nun’s Family

Four years after a freestanding closet caused the death of a nun at Rockland County’s Summit Park nursing home, a settlement has been reached in the wrongful-death lawsuit.

The closet toppled onto 90-year-old Sister Mary Murray on August 31, 2008 as she reached for an item on the top shelf. She passed away on September 7 of a fractured skull, at Westchester Medical Center.

Multiple parties are being held responsible and are contributing to the $900,000 settlement. The county is paying the largest sum – $310,000 – because they are held most responsible for the incident.

Prior incidents of a similar nature had occurred, one just weeks before Sister Mary’s death, yet the county did not ensure that all closets were bolted to the walls at the facility.

The company that manufactured the closet, Goelst USA of North Carolina, will pay $200,000; two of the companies that installed it, Advantage Business Products, Inc. of Monsey and Stevens Industries of Illinois, will pay $200,000 and $190,000 respectively.

The money will be split between five of Sister Mary’s nieces and nephews. She was known by the name Sister Mary Daniel at her home in Monsey, before residing at the Summit Park facility.


Sentencing Delay in Chestnut Ridge Rape Case

Sentencing for four boys found guilty of raping and sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl in a Chestnut Ridge home this past June has been postponed.

Judge Sherri Eisenpress made this decision because forensic psychological evaluations of the boys had not yet been completed by the Rockland County Department of Health. 13-year-olds Guerson Bellevue and Kensley St. Fleur will now be sentenced October 26, while 12-year-old Rey Jey Alexis and 13-year-old Jerry Jean-Baptiste will be sentenced on November 2.

All four were found guilty in September on four counts each of first-degree criminal sex act. Bellevue also received a count of first-degree rape. Prosecutor Elizabeth Di Stefano recommended the boys be confined to the Woodfield Detention Center, based on fears they may flee, but Eisenpress declined.

Lawyers hope that at sentencing Eisenpress will grant the boys probation and treatment, though the older boys may be sent to a juvenile detention facility for three years or until they are 18.

Alexis, the youngest boy, may serve 18 months in detention, which could be extended until he is 18, dependent upon his behavior.


Unprecedented Decision Allows Ramapo Police Officer to Attend His Wedding Reception

A Ramapo police officer will be able to attend the entirety of his wedding reception after all. Modestino Giusto, Jr., 35, was scheduled to work the night shift, so he would need to leave his wedding reception half way through.

However, a court order has allowed for him to attend the full reception at the Brownstone in Paterson, N.J., and then cover the rest of the shift, which normally runs from 4 p.m. to midnight.

Giusto was not allowed to take time off from work due to an injury he received during training with tasers in June 2011. He was stunned in the back, which lead to damage of the cervical area of his neck causing spasms and required hospitalization.

He still has two ruptured discs in his neck, preventing him from doing heavy lifting and restricting movement of his neck. It is unclear whether these injuries will be permanent.

As a result of his injuries, Giusto has been placed under departmental orders to check in 40 hours per week, remaining home for each eight-hour shift. He is not normally allowed to take any time off, but the department recognized the importance of the occasion.

One of the things agreed upon was that the decision made in this case may not be used against the town in any future cases, and in no way sets a precedent for such cases.


Group Fighting the Use of Public Money for East Ramapo Officials’ Legal Defense

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the East Ramapo School District, accusing officials of using district funds to pay for their legal defense for several ongoing lawsuits.

Steven White and Betty Carmand, residents of Spring Valley and parents of children in the district, served a petition on Friday, backed by Advocates for Justice, a New York City public interest law firm. The petition asks the state education commissioner to stop the district from using up to $2 million of district money for the legal costs.

The original class-action lawsuit that district officials are defending themselves against was filed on behalf of about 200 parents, who accuse the defendants – Superintendent Joel Klein and other officials – of using millions of dollars in public money to support private religious schools. The suit also accuses the district of separating the students in the district’s special education programs based on race.

Those in favor of the petition argue that instead of allocating money for legal defenses, that money should be going toward education. Lawyers representing school board members have said the accusations have no weight and would be better handled through the electoral process.

It has been confirmed that the petition was received, and the district has 20 days to respond before the commissioner decides whether or not to grant a stay.


Flu Shot Testing the County’s Preparedness

It was all business on Thursday as Rockland County had its first drill to test the county’s preparedness in case of an outbreak of any sort.

The vaccine being distributed at the BOCES center in Nyack was only the flu shot, but workers showed they are capable of handling an outbreak of anything worse. They set a goal of vaccinating 50 people in under 15 minutes, which they met.

The drill was set up to resemble a real emergency. Workers were bused to the center where residents lined up to receive their shots. Two more of these events are scheduled, one on October 23 at Westchester Community College and another on November 6 at Brewster High School from 3 to 7 p.m.

These programs are a required by the Center for Disease Control to show that it is possible to immunize a large number of residents in a short period of time.


Pakistani Teen Survives, So Does Her Message

A Pakistani teen is alive after being shot in the head by Taliban fighters for speaking against their campaigns and advocating women’s rights.

Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was attacked on October 9 while walking home from school. Two of her classmates were also shot. Doctors in Pakistan were able to remove the bullet from Yousufzai’s head, and she was airlifted to the United Kingdom on Monday, where they will fix her shattered skull.

The Taliban took over Swat region, where Yousufzai’s lived, in 2007. She publicized what they were doing – blowing up schools for girls, banning women from the market, making men grow beards, etc. – and demonstrated her support for women’s education. Pakistani military reclaimed the area in 2009, only strengthening Yousufzai’s voice.

Three suspects have been arrested, but the two gunmen have not been caught.


Memorial Park Playground in Need of Repair

Nyack’s Memorial Park playground is nearly bare now because of unsafe equipment conditions, and the village is asking for the community’s help to restore it.

The playground’s swing set, sandbox, and other smaller objects failed safety inspections last July and were removed. The town used $20,000 to install a new swing set, but decided not to put any more taxpayer dollars toward the park’s restoration. They are hoping to raise between $30,000 and $60,000 through donations.

The Nyack Park Conservancy, a nonprofit group, and Nyack officials hope to put this money toward resurfacing the walkway and buying new equipment. An anonymous donor gave $5,000 and the Nyack Parks Commission will be looking into possible grants for funding.

Everyone involved with the project is trying to make it a community effort, and plan to ensure all new equipment meets the standards of the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission and is in agreement with the American Disabilities Act.


Lottery Case A Mistrial

A dead locked jury has resulted in a mistrial in the case of three men accused of stealing a winning lottery ticket from an illegal immigrant who resided in Spring Valley. A jury consisting of 12 members spent more than five hours deliberating the case on Friday and Monday, before the judge declared a mistrial on Tuesday evening.

They tried to determine whether or not Atif Ali of Spring Valley, 28, Riaz Khan of Monroe, 45, and Mubeen Ashraf also of Monroe, 24, are guilty of felony first-degree grand larceny.

The three men are accused of having forced Elfido DeLaRoca, 45, into crossing his name off a winning $10 scratch-off ticket and allowing Ali to sign it instead. They told him if he did not cooperate, he would be deported to Guatemala, never to see his 2-year-old daughter again. The prize from the ticket was payments of $150, 000 a year for 20 years.

The winning ticket was purchased February 3, 2011 in a Hickory Street deli owned by Khan. Ali and Ashraf were employees at the deli.

DeLaRoca told the court he does not speak or read English, though he was able to sign contracts with the three men. A lottery investigator claims to have told DeLaRoca not to give up his winnings and that he could still receive them though he is in the country illegally.


Bus Driver Fired Over Comments to Student

Even more than 20 years of service without incident was not enough to save an 81-year-old bus driver’s job after she exchanged words with a 12-year-old student.

Joey Hartlaub, a student in New Berlin, Wisconsin, was reportedly harassed for weeks before one day being called to the front of the bus. He and his friends had been sitting in the back chanting, “Romney! Romney!”

The driver is accused of telling the boy he should have been aborted because of his support of Mitt Romney. The boy’s mother, Debbie Ann Hartlaub, reported these remarks to Durham School Services. The driver was immediately suspended and, upon investigation, fired.

The driver commented that this case is not clear-cut and that everyone is taking the word of a 12-year-old boy.


Ramapo Town Board announces opening of saltbox environmental center

The Ramapo Town Board announced the opening of the Saltbox Environmental Center at their 8 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, October 10. The project, which was developed by environmental educator Chuck Stead, consisted of the refurbishment and renovation of an 19th century house in the Torne Valley region of Hillburn, New York. It will be used as a center to study and educate the public on contamination from Ford Motor Company’s dumping of paint sludge in the Torne Valley.

The Environmental Center had been unanimously approved by the town board. It was constructed with help from volunteers with the BOCES Program, Antioch College, and Cornell Cooperative Extension and was opened on Sunday, October 7.


Jill Stein, Green Party Presidential Candidate Arrested Outside of Presidential Debate

Police arrested Jill Stein this year’s Green Party Presidential Candidate along with her Vice Presidential running mate Cheri Honkala.

Stein and Honkala attempted to enter the debate area without the proper credentials and were stopped by police. The two, along with a of group supporters then held an impromptu press conference protesting the debate format which keeps other political parties from debating unless they are polling at 15 percent nationally.

Police arrested the two for blocking traffic after they sat down in the road outside of the debate hall. According to Stein, her and Honkala were held at an unnamed police station and left tightly handcuffed to metal chairs for eight hours before they were released.

The Green Party Presidential Candates will appear on about 85 percent of ballots nationwide, and the pair is currently polling at about 2 percent nationally. Stein has won the endorsement of notables such Noam Chomsky and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges.


Apparent Pause in Global Warming According to New Report

According to a report released by the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, global warming has not been a problem during the last 16 years.

In the report, aggregate temperatures are shown to have remained relatively stable from early 1997 to August 2012. Temperatures seemed like they were rising after 2010 because that was a particularly warm year, but the new data shows otherwise.

The scientific community is divided over the findings. Some researchers are up in arms over the findings, saying the study was too simple, and that 16 years in not long enough to draw definite conclusions. Others say that older computer models that predicted the drastic increase in the earth’s temperature did not accurately account for the complexity of the climate.

The figures were released quietly, with small reaction from the media, but they could affect policy changes. Currently, energy costs are rising in part because of subsidies paid to make renewable energy affordable. If global warming is not as prominent an issue as was once believed, these policies may change.

To further support the idea of a pause in global warming, the ice at the South Pole this season has expanded to cover a record area, despite the decrease of ice in the Arctic.


Poll Shows Akin in Lead for Missouri Senate Race

In a poll conducted by Republican polling firm Wenzel Strategies, Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) currently has the popular lead over Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

The numbers are close according to the poll, which surveyed 1, 000 Missouri voters on October 12 and 13. Akin has the lead with 49 percent, McCaskill coming close with 45 percent. A mix of Democrats, Republicans, and independents were sampled, and it is expected that more Republicans will turn out this year than in 2008.

McCaskill has the advantage among women, while Akin holds the advantage among men. People are once again beginning to fund Akin’s campaigns, having stopped after his controversial comments regarding “legitimate rape.”


Proposal to Increase Metro-North Fares

Commuters may be asked to fork over more money thanks to the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s new fare hike plan. Metro-North ticket prices may increase an average of about nine percent, if the proposals pass the MTA board on December 19.

Chairman of the MTA, Joseph Lhota, told the media this increase is due to a rise in other costs that are beyond their control. Such other “non-discretionary” costs include pension payments, energy costs, and employee and retiree health care benefits.

Prices of tickets differ depending on the length of the journey, but everyone would see an increase from the old fares. “Everyone” also includes subway and bus riders, and drivers. A series of public hearings will be held prior to the vote by the board.


Military Absentee Ballot Numbers Down From 2008

Voter registration is down for U.S. troops, according to the number of absentee ballots being requested for this November’s election.

Deadlines for registration have already passed in 18 states and territories, but most states will accept ballot requests up until the end of October. According to a recent report, the number of military absentee ballots is down by nearly 30,000 in Florida and 17,000 in Virginia, compared to 2008.