TIMELINES 5/1/14

Hudson Valley boat crash case to resume next week

Following an adjournment last week, the manslaughter case of Jojo John, the man at the helm of a fatal boat crash which killed a bride-to-be and her groom’s best man on July 26, is set to resume next week. The ongoing pretrial hearings had occurred until April 22, when Supreme Court Justice William Kelly adjourned the case. No pretrial hearings are expected and the defense is not expected to make any additional motions until then .

John was charged with a slew of crimes including vehicular manslaughter, negligent homicide and driving under the influence for the deaths of Lindsey Stewart, 30, of Piermont and Mark Lennon, 30 of Pearl River. The prosecution is expected to argue his blood-alcohol level stood at 0.15 and cocaine metabolites had been found in his blood shortly after the incident.

John’s defense will likely critique the methods used to gather the samples and counter the prosecution’s narrative by arguing the barge into which the boat crashed was poorly lit.

Rockland prosecutors drop conspiracy from Ramapo administrator’s charges

Rockland prosecutors have decided to drop conspiracy charges against Brian Miele, a Ramapo Central School District administrator who stands charged with falsifying records to boost the pay of several teachers in an alleged plan which prosecutors began to pursue in 2011.

Prosecutor Gary Lee Heavner explained research and interviews conducted with 70 school district employees revealed no evidence Miele acted in concert with other parties when he redirected almost $2.6 million in funds to teacher salaries. Miele, a former Hillburn Mayor and County Legislator, created the alleged scheme by faking teacher records to place unqualified teachers in particular positions.

Miele’s attorney argues the case is a contractual misunderstanding rather than a criminal matter and argued the dropping of conspiracy charges and new theory presented by the DA was an attempt to salvage a shaky case.

Guilty plea to remain in case of fatal Wesley Hills beating

A man who stands accused with brutally beating his former girlfriend to death with a shoe during a domestic dispute will not be able to withdraw his guilty plea.

Riad Dib, 67, initially took a plea deal for the 2013 beating death of his former girlfriend Cecile Garbarino, 68. Then, just before sentencing in January, Dib alleged he was told he would serve 15 years, blamed faulty translations from English to his native Arabic and stated he blacked out and did not remember the murder.

The deal, worked out in September, gave Dib 18 years in exchange for the guilty plea. However, Judge William Nelson refused to allow the motion, pointing to previous statements by Dib that he understood the deal and was satisfied with his legal representation.

Garbarino was killed by Dib on January 25, 2013 when he kicked her and beat her with a shoe for two hours after she attempted to call for help. Investigators found Garbarino’s facial bones had been crushed during the attack when she was struck about two dozen times with the shoe.

State to provide $20 million for Tappan Zee Mass Transit

An announcement was made by Special Advisor to the Governor Brian Conybeare on Monday that the state had budgeted $20 million for bus rapid transit services and will apply for $26.7 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) loans to finance further transportation improvements.

The $20 million will be used to build a mass transit system recommended by the Mass Transit Task Force. The Task Force’s recommendations include an expansion of Tappan ZEExpress routes along Interstate 287, new routes, stops and buses in both Rockland and Westchester, a unified fare system and dedicated bus lanes on the bridge.

Meanwhile, the TIGER funds will be directed toward a variety of short-term goals, including a “smart corridor” on Route 59 and a “transit boulevard” on Route 119 in White Plains, both of which are expected to improve traffic and enhance bus line efficiency. Also included are new bus stations and ramp metering along I-287.

The proposed BRT system. will boost ridership by an estimated 10,150 riders per day and cut commuter times by 20 to 25 percent. It is expected to be in place in 2018.

Man stabbed in Pearl River attack

Police are searching for the perpetrator of a stabbing incident that took place on Railroad Avenue in Pearl River early on Friday. The man was stabbed on the left hand side of his chest at 12:30 a.m. on April 25. After the incident, he called a friend, who in turn called police. The victim was taken to Nyack hospital with what Police Lt. James Brown termed “a pretty serious stab wound.”

Further details on the man’s age and condition have not yet been released. Police are continuing to search the area for clues as to the attacker’s identity.

Investigation launched into garage fire

Investigators are looking into the circumstances of a fire which destroyed a two car garage early this week on Elaine Drive in New City and led to an injury to a responding firefighter.

The fire was reported in the early morning hours when a neighbor found the structure alight and alerted the residents. Though the roof of the garage collapsed and damage might have been sustained to two cars parked inside, the homeowners were able to prevent the flames from reaching a neighboring house with a garden hose.

During the response, one firefighter slipped and fell, sustaining injuries to his shoulder and wrist. He was taken to Nyack Hospital for treatment before being released and will visit a specialist for further examination of the injuries. None of the residents or neighbors were injured in the blaze.

Investigators have not determined the origin of the fire, but stated they intended to comb the wreckage for signs of its cause during the day.

Donations sought to assist Suffern residents displaced by fire

Donations are currently being collected for two families displaced by a fire on East Maltbie Avenue in Suffern early this week.

The fire, which is thought to have begun as a car fire before spreading to two homes, displaced a combined total of four adults and four dogs. The house was already in flames by the time firefighters from Suffern, Mahah, Monsey, Hillburn, Tallman and Sloatsburg arrived.

The families received funds from the Red Cross to pay for lost personal items and were able to find shelter on their own, but remain homeless. The Red Cross recommended donations of gift cards and similar credit which can be used by the families to buy amenities.

Donations can be dropped off at the Suffern Police Headquarters.

Cuomo defends himself amid Moreland criticism: “It’s my commission.”

Amid the fallout from the sudden disbanding of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission and a possible federal investigation, Governor Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his assertion that he was legally entitled to “interfere” with its activities.

Cuomo and his aides have been accused of derailing investigations into campaign contributions by stopping subpoenas. In an interview with the business news outler Crain’s editorial board, he said there was no legal question related to whether it was proper to inject himself into the Commission’s activities.

“It’s my commission,” Cuomo said. “My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow.”

However, Cuomo’s “me, my, mine” bit has drawn even further criticism, with some commentators likening it to Richard Nixon’s infamous ramblings on the power of the presidency.

The Commission was disbanded in March, accomplishing little except a pilot program for publicly-funded State Comptroller elections. Though Cuomo insisted the Commission was instrumental in getting an ethics bill passed this year, government accountability groups remain critical of its failure to pursue the investigations or more comprehensive campaign reform.

Bharara has not yet announced whether or not an investigation would be launched.

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm turns himself in to feds to face fraud charges

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island) surrendered to the FBI on Monday to face charges of tax fraud and mail fraud stemming from alleged failures to report sales and wages at a Manhattan restaurant he once operated. Grimm, who ran the health food restaurant Healthalicious from 2007 to 2010, was charged with 20 counts for allegedly hiring illegal immigrants and paying them off the books and under-reporting sales to avoid paying taxes.

Grimm is also on the FBI’s radar for allegedly using straw donors to raise $10,000 in funds for his congressional campaign, though no charges have been brought and the case is still under investigation. Calling himself a “man of integrity,” Grimm claims he was wrongly accused and that the case is a political smear. In response to the scandal, he resigned from the House Financial Services Committee, but announced no plans to step down.

Federal prosecutor denies deliberate targeting of Dinesh D’Souza

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara recently dismissed allegations made by Dinesh D’Souza that he had been unfairly targeted by the Obama Administration for his criticisms of the president.

D’Souza, who is under investigation for making illegal campaign donations to longtime friend and former Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long, has said at public events that he feels he is being persecuted for his critiques of the Obama Administration. In response, Bharara shot back at D’Souza in a recent court document, calling his claims “entirely without merit.”

D’Souza claimed through his lawyer the $10,000 donation, which was double the limit for private citizens, was a misjudgment. Bharara is attempting to establish that not only did D’Souza know the limit, but that he told his mistress Denise Joseph that he planned to initially plead not guilty until he could make his case known to the public.

EPA finalizes regulations on residential wood heaters

The EPA settled a suit with New York and six other states on Monday, agreeing to update current environmental laws on the use of residential wood heaters to limit air pollution. The new regulations are revisions of previous laws which Schneiderman asserted had not been changed in 25 years.

As a result, relatively new systems like outdoor wood boilers had been left out, prompting New York to join a coalition of seven states to sue for reform. The new regulations were set forward on February 3 and the EPA is accepting public comment until May 5. The issuance of the standards is expected to be finalized on February 3, 2015.

Egyptian judge sentences 683 alleged Morsi supporters to death

An Egyptian judge handed down a death sentence to 683 supporters of ousted former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Monday, striking another blow to the Islamist-aligned opposition to the current ruling party.

The supporters were allegedly involved in a series of deadly riots which rocked Egypt when security forces attempted to forcefully disband Muslim Brotherhood protests in August. Among those sentenced was Mohamed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and the most senior member of the group to be executed since 1966.

However, in a surprise reveal, another 529 Islamists sentenced to death in a previous ruling had their sentences commuted to life in prison by the same judge. 37 defendants in the same case did not have their death penalties reduced.

The final verdicts on the cases are expected to be issued on June 21. Prior to the finalization of the sentences, they must be reviewed by the Grand Mufti, the top Islamic legal official in Egypt. Though this presents an opportunity for the verdict to be overturned, it is largely considered a formality.