Timelines 10/17/13

Fire damages house in Chestnut Ridge
Ramapo first responders put out a house fire which damaged a Chestnut Ridge home on Sunday but resulted in no injuries. The fire was reported by a neighbor who observed flames coming out of the roof and windows. Ramapo Police and the South Spring Valley Fire Department responded to the report, checking the building for anybody who might be trapped inside but finding nobody. Fire personnel brought the blaze under control by 3:15 a.m. Help was also provided by the Pearl River Volunteer Fire Department, Faist Volunteer Ambulance Corp., Rockland Paramedics and Orange & Rockland, which assisted by securing a downed power line near the home. The cause of the fire is not yet known and is currently under investigation.

High school student commits suicide after threatened with expulsion and sex offender status for streaking
Christian Adamek, a 15 year old from Huntsville, Alabama, hanged himself on October 2 after his school threatened him with expulsion and possible legal reprisal for a streaking prank during one of his high school’s football games. A video was posted to YouTube showing Adamek streaking across Sparkman High School’s football field during a game, earning praise from fellow students on Twitter for the boldness of the act but prompting school officials to consider expelling him for the prank. Going further, Principal Michael Campbell argued there were “legal complications” inherent in the case while Sparkman High School Administrators recommended the Madison County Court system consider prosecution. Alabama criminal law considers indecent exposure a sex crime, meaning that if convicted, Adamek would have been placed on the state’s sex offender registry. School administrators would not comment on the potential case against Adamek, but offered condolences to his family.

Gabrielle Giffords joins State Attorney General Schneiderman at upstate gun show
Former Republican Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, her husband Mark Kelly and State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman attended a gun show in Saratoga Springs, New York to laud the state’s new gun control legislation and collaborative efforts between gun show operators and regulators. Giffords toured the show, the first one she had been to since near fatal shooting by Jared Lee Loughner in Tuscon, Arizona. She stopped at tables to ask questions, look at the weapons and speak about the New York SAFE Act’s new background check requirement for sales at such shows. Though there were some protests from gun rights activists who are in opposition to the SAFE Act, the tone was predominantly cordial toward Giffords and supportive of her continued recovery from injuries she sustained from her encounter with Loughner at a political rally in 2011. New York State’s Model Gun Show Procedures, reached through an agreement between the state and gun show operators, allow vendors to conduct background checks at on-site computer stations. Guns are also tagged and must be verified to have been sold legally at any of a limited number of exits before attendees can leave the show.

State Attorney General targets insider trading
Attorney General Eric T. Schneidermann came out in support of stricter regulation of the use of private information by small groups of investors who make quick decisions with high-frequency trading. Schneiderman wrote an op-ed in the Albany Business Review explaining early glimpses of critical information from the Michigan Survey of Consumers given by Thomas Reuters to a select few traders allowed the traders to make high-frequency trades within a narrow time span of two seconds. Though the traders received the information very shortly before its release, the high-frequency trades allowed extremely fast and profitable trades to occur within that time frame. In response, Schneiderman’s office confronted Thomas Reuters and struck an interim agreement to remove the two-minute advantage. The office reports that since the agreement, insider trading in related cases has slowed down considerably. Schneiderman also announced a financial crime hotline where industry insiders can report abuses at 800-771-7755.

Champlain-Hudson Power Express hearing postponed due to government shutdown
An anticipated public hearing on the Champlain-Hudson Power Express (CHPE) line which was set for October 28 was cancelled last week due to the federal government shutdown. The meeting was meant to gather public input on the project, a proposed energy transit line which would move hydroelectric power from Montreal, Canada to Brooklyn. However, due to a lack of funding typically appropriated through the federal budget, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers postponed the hearings. In its current form, CHPE would run under the Hudson River before grounding itself just north of the Stony Point Lighthouse and running through Stony Point, Haverstraw, and Clarkstown parallel to the CSX railroad line. Arguing it could lead to eminent domain seizures, health hazards and potentially fatal rail accidents, activists with the Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment have been attempting to raise awareness of the project both within and outside of Rockland County. The shutdown entered its second week on midnight of Monday, October 14. Updates on the rescheduling of the hearings will be released after funding returns to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Fast and Furious whistleblower shunned by Border Patrol
In spite of praise for exposing the trafficking of guns into Mexico as part of Homeland Security’s Fast and Furious operation, U.S. Border Patrol agent John Dodson, a l, is now finding that his initial support from the agency has evaporated, thanks in large part to his work with the American Civil Liberties Union. Dodson approached the ACLU for legal support in his fight to publish a book on the case while he was still employed with Border Patrol. Since then, he has been removed from his post as liaison to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Arizona, with his superiors explaining his presence and the controversy surrounding the book could be a distraction to other agents. Dodson and anonymous sources argued the move was due to the ACLU’s often acrimonious relationship with law enforcement. The group has often been highly critical of law enforcement treatment of suspects’ civil rights and the militarization of American police forces. According to Homeland Security officials, the decision would be subject to review because was made by local CPB officials in Arizona without the approval or knowledge of upper leadership.

South Dakota sees record-breaking snowstorm
A massive snowstorm that began late last week and continued through the weekend buried South Dakota in several feet of snow, killing thousands of cattle, snaring streets and creating one of the worst snow emergencies the state has seen in recent years. Five feet of snow fell on areas of Wyoming and South Dakota, forcing the closure of government offices, killing at least four people and breaking the one-day snowfall record by nine inches. By Thursday, October 10, 22,000 people were still without power due in part to the downing of 1,600 utility poles. Additionally, the local economy, reliant in large part on ranching, was placed in peril due to the freezing deaths of about 75,000 cows. Many ranchers do not know how many cattle they have lost yet because they are still digging them out from the snow. According to South Dakota Stockgrowers Association executive director Silvia Christen, losses were significant and the long-term economic effects are likely to linger for years. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that a federal disaster program designed to help distressed ranchers recover losses was effectively defunded by the government shutdown, meaning cattle owners will not receive federal aid until a new farm bill has been passed.

Statewide sex trafficking ring busted
A sex trafficking ring which operated in Syracuse, Watertown, Ithaca and other locations was brought down this week with the arrest of its three ringleaders, one of which directed some of the operations while still incarcerated. Eric Oliver, 30, the ringleader of the operation, directed accomplices Tirra Pate and Jessica Moro, both 19, to recruit and coerce girls as young as 15 into participate in sex acts for money, occasionally using drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and “molly” (MDMA) to ensure they continued work. Following the arrest, an undisclosed number of women were also rescued from the operation. Oliver conducted the operation by communicating with Pate and Moro via phone from behind bars in the Watertown and Ithaca jails, in spite of warnings that his calls would be recorded and monitored for discussions of illegal activity. In the case of Moro, Oliver specifically directed her to supply drugs to a prostitute to encourage her to continue working. Oliver has been charged with a raft of offenses which include sex trafficking, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution and rape, all felonies, and conspiracy, a misdemeanor. Moro and Pate both face charges for promoting prostitution and conspiracy, while Moro faces an additional sex trafficking charge.

Court rules part-time residents can now own a pistol permit
A New York Court of Appeals decision in favor of part-time residents who wish to own handguns was handed down on Tuesday, concluding pistol permits could be given to people whose primary residence was not within the state. The case, which overturns an older 1993 decision in a lower level state court, was pursued by Alfred Osterweil, a Louisiana resident who maintains a summer home in Scholarie County. His attorney pursued an argument directly challenging the constitutionality of the law through the Second Amendment. Though the court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the law, allowing a federal court of appeals to take up the issue, they did rule the permit was allowed. Most of their decision focused on the definition of “residency” as per New York State law and concluded Osterweil’s part-time residence was enough to allow a permit. Not only was the Court of Appeals compelled by Osterweil’s arguments, but the State Attorney General was as well. In spite of recent pushes to tighten gun control restrictions, the Attorney General’s office came out in support of Osterweil, requesting the court to rule that part-time pistol licenses could be granted to part-time residents.

Massachusetts teen suspended for acting as designated driver
Erin Cox, 17, believed she was acting responsibly when she acted as designated driver for a friend who drank too much and could not get behind the wheel, but was slammed with a penalty from her school instead. In response to a text from a friend who needed a driver to return home, Cox drove to a house party just as police busted the gathering. Cox was issued a summons to appear in court, but was not charged charged owing to a written statement from an officer stating she was not in possession of any alcohol. However, Cox was still punished by the school for merely being in the same area as underage drinkers. After receiving word of the incident, administrators stripped her of her role as captain of the school’s volleyball team and suspended her for five games. According to the school district’s attorney Geoffrey Bok, the school was trying to act in accordance to its zero tolerance policy against drugs and alcohol. In response, Erin’s mother Eleanor Cox mounted a lawsuit against the school district in district court. The court ruled it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case. Eleanor is now forming a petition in support of Erin.