Timelines 11/28/13

NYS Pension Fund sees gain in second quarter

New York State’s Common Retirement Fund recently reported its status in its second quarter, and the current outlook seems to be promising.

According to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the fund saw a 4.61 percent increase in its estimated rate of return for the quarterly period ending September 30, representing a $160.4 billion increase in the value of the fund.

The Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension plan in the nation, covering over 3,000 current and former state employees. 37.2 percent of the Fund is publically traded, with the remainder invested in cash, bonds, mortgages, private equity, real estate, absolute return strategy and opportunistic strategy alternatives.

The fund is partly self-sustaining, with 82 percent of cost of benefit payments coming from investment returns.

Child in critical condition after Spring Valley hit-and-run

A 6 year old boy is in critical condition after a hit-and-run incident in Spring Valley left him with serious injuries on November 18.

The boy was leaving the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Purpose Center on Bethune Boulevard when a pickup truck raced by, striking him as he crossed the street to reach his waiting mother. After striking the boy, the truck continued north along Bethune toward Ewing before disappearing from sight.

After police and Spring Hill Ambulance Corps responded to the call, the boy was taken to the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, where he is being treated for critical head injuries.

The driver of the truck remains unidentified, though police did say it was thought to be colored white or grey with a ladder rack. Anybody with information may call Spring Valley Police at (845) 356-7400.

Bomb squad responds to suspicious package at County Executive’s office

A suspicious package arrived at the office of County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef on Wednesday, prompting a temporary evacuation before it was determined to be harmless.

The package arrived in at the Allison-Parris Building via mail and was flagged by one of Vanderhoef’s staffers for being heavily taped. The county’s Bomb Disposal Unit arrived shortly before noon to examine the package, after which it was determined that it contained no explosives or other hazardous materials.

Shortly thereafter, office employees were cleared to return to work. The package appeared to have been sent by somebody well-known to Vanderhoef and no investigation has been initiated.

Prosecutor: Hudson boat crash suspect admitted guilt

During an arraignment hearing, Executive Assistant District Attorney Steve Moore claimed Jojo John, who was at the helm during a recent fatal Hudson River accident, admitted he had been drinking before the fatal accident to first responders.

The crash, which killed bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart and best man Mark Lennon, occurred when the boat John had been piloting collided with a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge. After being tested following the accident, John was found to have almost twice the legal alcohol limit in his blood, as well as traces of cocaine.

Neither John nor his attorney have commented on the alleged admission of fault. Instead, John has continued to maintain his plea of not guilty to 18 separate counts which include vehicular manslaughter, negligent homicide and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Bail was set at $25,000 and the next scheduled hearing will occur on January 3.

Cuomo: Cancelled insurance plans may not be renewed

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently clarified that New York is not currently planning to re-offer insurance plans cancelled because they do not meet Affordable Care Act requirements.

According to Cuomo, the New York State Health Exchange has not seen as many problems as the federal health exchange. Though he expressed reluctance to alter the current system, he maintained there was a possibility the plans would be re-offered if outcry was loud enough.

At present, 88,020 insured New Yorkers were removed from their Healthy NY plans and another 15,992 were kicked off their individual direct pay plans. An undetermined number using employer-purchased policies have also been removed.

Raccoon attacks child in Bardonia

A mother her 12 year old son were attacked by a raccoon which somehow managed to get into the car on Wednesday, resulting in minor injuries.

The raccoon attacked the pair at around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, shortly after they had left in the car. It bit the boy’s leg before the mother came to his aid. After it attacked her in turn, the mother and son escaped the car, locking the raccoon inside.

After calling 911, Clarkstown Animal Control caught it, tested it for diseases, and had it euthanized. The mother and son were treated for their bites at Nyack Hospital and tested for diseases.

It is not known exactly how the raccoon got into the car, but it may have entered the car the night before while the door was open.

Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force to submit recommendations for Route 59, new routes

The Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force is expected to submit its recommendations to the governor in January for an updated transit system.

The recommendations, which were discussed at a presentation at Dominican College on Friday, included additional traffic signals between Monsey and Nanuet which can adapt to changing conditions. Route 59 is expected to be the foundation for the revamped system due to its numerous public transportation hubs compared to the New York State Thruway.

Altered bus routes are expected to be included in the plan, with new service to Yonkers and all-day access for commuters to White Plains. Also included are four new locations for buses to use as head starts.

Commuters will continue to have access to Tarrytown, but only during rush hours. Though Rocklanders have expressed concern over this change, Task Force Co-Chair Joan McDonald explained additional service would be contingent upon increased demand for particular routes.

Rockland woman not liable for crash after passenger untied bikini top

An Appeals Court ruled that a fatal crash in Rockland was not the fault of the driver, who was distracted when a passenger untied her bikini top and caused her to cover herself.

Fellow passenger and plaintiff Jason Pelletier claimed Brittany Lahm was negligent in taking her hands off the wheel, but both courts held the undoing of the bikini top constituted a “sudden and unforeseen emergency” which could not have been anticipated. Hence, they found Lahm not liable.

The accident occurred just south of Suffern on the New York State Thruway on July 12, 2008. Lahm was driving home from the Jersey Shore with friends when Passenger Brandon Berman, who had been distractingly joking around for most of the trip, untied her bikini top. She took her hands off the wheel after covering herself, leading to a crash which killed Berman and injured others in the car, including Pelletier.

Family claims they did tip gay server, did not leave note critical of her sexuality

A New Jersey family accused of stiffing waitress Dayna Morales out of a tip because of her sexual orientation came forward with evidence that they had not written the note and did tip her.

The family, which wished to remain anonymous, was accused of writing “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle” on a receipt Morales gave them at the Gallop Asian Bistro.

The image went viral last week and drew attention to the store, but the family responded by presenting their own copy of the receipt to NBC 4, which showed an $18 tip and no note to Morales. They also provided a copy of their Visa bill, which shows the exact date and time of the transaction with the amount paid, including the tip.

Morales responded by saying she was unsure of how they got the receipt but stated the handwriting on the receipt was not hers. A manager at the restaurant insisted they had a copy of the receipt showing no tip, but refused to show it to reporters.

Approximately 40,000 convictions called into question by chemist’s fraud

Annie Dookhan, a chemist for Massachusetts police, was sentenced to three to five years of prison for falsifying test results for 27 individuals, though the number may be as high as 40,000.

Dookhan was accused of a range of inappropriate behaviors including falsifying reports, failing to perform tests, inflating her credentials, tampering with evidence and improperly conducting tests. The revelation has already led to a deluge of requests for retrials and release. About 600 convicted drug offenders were set free as a consequence.

Though the case has come to a conclusion, some, such as Republican Rep. Bradley Jones Jr., have commented that given the hefty financial toll the state incurred fixing the damage Dookhan inflicted and the personal toll on the wrongly-accused.

The case also made many citizens uneasy, considering the possibility that some individuals might be wrongfully released. One person affected by the fraud, Donta Hood, has already been accused of first-degree murder charges after being set free.

International talks yield nuclear deal with Iran

An agreement on the enrichment of Uranium and oversight of operations was reached with Iran on November 24, laying the groundwork for further talks and deals.

The basics of the deal require Iran to cease production of uranium enriched beyond a certain level and dilute their existing uranium to a lower level. In exchange, the United States, European Union, China and Russia will relax sanctions, providing Iran with $7 billion in temporary relief.

Also, uranium mines, centrifuges used to manufacture depleted uranium and two of Iran’s existing nuclear facilities are expected to undergo additional inspections. Iran also agreed to release the design plans for a new nuclear reactor the country is planning to build.

This deal, which took four years to make, was due in part to cooperation with newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who replaced previous hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While foundational, the deal is not expected to be a lasting solution and will extend only 6 months while further talks are held.

Duke Lacrosse accuser sentenced for murder

Crystal Gail Magnum, the North Carolina stripper who fabricated allegations that she was raped by members of Duke University’s lacrosse team, was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years for killing her boyfriend.

Magnum, 34, stood accused of stabbing her boyfriend Reginald Daye to death during a domestic dispute in 2011. According to Magnum, she was attacked by Daye and was acting in self-defense with no intent to kill. However, after six hours of deliberations, the jury decided unanimously that Magnum was guilty of murder.

Magnum first gained notoriety when she accused members of the Duke lacrosse team of raping her at a party. During the controversial trial, it was revealed she had lied about the incident, resulting in the disbarment of the prosecuting attorney and the acquittal of the accused team members.

State agency overtime hits $462 million, could set record by year’s end

2013 is shaping up to be an expensive year for the state in terms of overtime, with the first 9 months of 2013 seeing more than $462 million in overtime costs alone.

The figure is up $62 million from 2012 and could surpass $600 million by year’s end. The Department of Corrections, Department of Transportation, NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Mental Health saw the greatest dollar increases, accounting for a total of 70.3 percent of the state’s overtime expenses.

Across all state agencies, overtime rose more than 16 percent. The Office of Information Technology Services saw the largest percentage increase, with overtime expenses up a staggering 437 percent from 2012.