This Week in Allegedly: Paul Manafort and a Capitol Rioter’s Cannabis

Good morning, everyone.

We are thrilled to be back and apologize that our time away was longer than expected. We felt bad for stepping away but, as a wise friend said: Family is more important than audience-building. Obviously, we couldn’t agree more. 

We’re going to try something new this week. Today, you’ll get The Allegedly List, featuring updates on New York City’s courts and crime news. Barring any unexpected crisis, you’ll get The Allegedly Original on Monday. It’s about meth in the city. Why the change? Many people have been complaining that newsletters are an unpleasant format for readers. We wanted to address these concerns, and figured that several shorter newsletters might make for a more pleasant reading experience than one long one.

Anyway, thank you for reading. Please remember to subscribe. All you have to do is click here!  

The Allegedly List

  • New York’s highest court upheld a lower court’s ruling that prosecuting Paul Manafort would violate the state’s double-jeopardy laws, according to a Feb. 4 decision that the New York Times revealed Monday. Manhattan prosecutors had charged Trump’s ex-campaign manager with mortgage fraud and other felonies. While Manafort was found guilty in a federal finance fraud case in 2018, the Manhattan D.A. contended that he hadn’t specifically faced charges for alleged crimes “which strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests.” Trump pardoned Manafort in December.  Via court documents, New York Times
  • An ex-NYPD officer who sexually assaulted Abner Louima in 1997 lost his bid for compassionate release from prison. Brooklyn federal court Judge Frederic Block rejected Justin Volpe’s request, which included the former cop’s claims that he had changed and contracted coronavirus in lockup. Volpe in 1999 admitted to forcibly sodomizing Louima with a broomstick. Via New York Daily News
  • R. Kelly’s  Brooklyn federal court sex trafficking trial was postponed until August 9 because of coronavirus-related disruptions to the court system. “We are scheduled for an April trial date but I suspect it’s not going to come as a surprise that that is not a date that is going to work given the current conditions,” said Judge Ann Donnelly during a telephone conference Tuesday.  Kelly also faces federal charges in Illinois for alleged sex crimes, and his trial there is “tentatively” scheduled for September. Via New York Post
  • Bronx prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into Victor Rivera, who headed one of the largest homeless shelter providers in New York City, after The New York Times revealed allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Two of the ten accusers who spoke with the Times alleged that Rivera “coerced them into performing oral sex.” Prosecutors are also probing potential financial misconduct at the shelter organization, which is named the Bronx Parent Housing Network. Via The New York Times
  • Two NYPD officers who didn’t bother to leave their patrol car while responding to a domestic violence call—an incident which ended in a woman’s death at the hands of her husband—got to keep their jobs, according to a Monday report. Cops Wing Hong Lau and Wael Jaber went to victim Tonie Wells’ Crown Heights home on Dec. 22, 2017.  While the NYPD found them guilty of “failure to take police action and failure to properly investigate while responding to a call,” they were just put on “dismissal probation,” which meant they had to stay out of trouble for a year or face firing. Via New York Daily News
  • The Rev. Al Sharpton filed for divorce Thursday from his long-estranged wife, Kathy Jordan Sharpton. A Manhattan Supreme Court entry lists the filing as a “contested” proceeding—which means the couple doesn’t agree on every facet of their divorce. They split in 2004 after 24 years together; since 2013, Sharpton has been in a relationship with Westchester personal stylist Aisha McShaw. Via New York Daily News
  • A Long Island DJ who was arrested Tuesday for his alleged participation in the Capitol insurrection posted Snapchat videos of himself apparently smoking pot in the Rotunda, federal prosecutors charged. Greg Rubenacker said “America, baby, what a time” and “Smoke out the Capitol, baby” in said recordings, per the feds.  Because it’s Friday, here are pix of him allegedly smoking weed. Via EDNY.
  • Authorities seized 1.7 million counterfeit 3M N95 respirator masks from a Queens warehouse, prosecutors announced Thursday. The Queens District Attorney said that Zhi Zeng had been arrested on one count of “ trademark counterfeiting, a C felony, for possessing and selling the fake 3M labeled medical masks.” If found guilty, the suspect faces up to 15 years in state lockup. Via Queens DA
  • The acting warden at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center—where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself—served as the executioner “for at least five federal executions at the end of the Trump administration,” the Associated Press revealed Monday. Eric Williams was named interim MDC warden by the Bureau of Prisons in late January. Williams’ predecessor, Marti Licon-Vitale, suddenly quit following a yearlong stint at MDC that was characterized by Covid-19 transmission, alleged dirty conditions, and the death of at least one detainee. Via AP
  • New York City’s housing courts have gotten less than 2,300 forms from tenants hoping to delay or prevent eviction cases until May 1, “frustrating advocates and attorneys more than halfway through a near-total statewide hold on evictions,” Law360 exclusively reported Tuesday. This is a strikingly low number, given that almost 38,000 residential eviction petitions in New York City since late June, when courts started accepting new cases. The disparity between forms and filings has spurred questions about whether courts and advocates have done enough outreach for tenants. Via Law360

Allegedly Update

Hi, everyone:

There’s not going to be a newsletter this week. But we’ll be back next Friday!

Thank you for reading!


This Week in Allegedly: Police Brutality and Rudy Giuliani’s Lawyer Problems

Hi, everyone! 

This week has left us wondering: How many weeks in a row can a person say “what a week”? 

We won’t try to answer that question in this edition of Allegedly. But we will provide updates on the week’s courts and crime news! 

For The Allegedly List, we’ve got the latest on New York extremism, celebrity divorce, and a rapper’s alleged K-2 use. For The Allegedly Original, Robert Sietsema explores the dialogue surrounding New York City’s crises.

Thanks for reading. And please, subscribe! We haven’t asked you for money yet, so why not sign up? 

The Allegedly List

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department on Thursday “to end its pattern of using excessive force and making false arrests against New Yorkers during peaceful protests.” The suit stems from numerous accounts that NYPD cops roughed up and wrongly arrested protesters this summer. James’ lawsuit is calling for the “implementation of a monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing tactics.” Via NY AG
  • Mary-Kate Olsen’s divorce from her estranged husband Pierre Olivier Sarkozy is almost over. In a virtual Manhattan Supreme Court proceeding Wednesday, her lawyer said in court: “All issues have been resolved.” Judge Lori Sattler was skeptical, given that their proceedings have dragged on, and remarked: “I am going to keep control of this case so we make sure this gets done … let’s get this done and get them divorced.” Via Vulture
  • Rowdy Rebel absolutely did not use K-2 in prison, OK? That’s basically what the rapper, legal name Chad Marshall, told the parole board prior to his release. When they asked about a disciplinary infraction for allegedly having K-2 in his cell, Marshall replied: “Come on, I am not doing no synthetic marijuana and be running around here throwing up on myself.” Via Vulture
  • Several New Yorkers were arrested for involvement in the January 6 Capitol attack including Aaron Mostofsky, who dressed like a cave-man and repeatedly implicated himself by talking about his involvement. MTA employee William Pepe was also arrested. Aspiring Proud Boy Eduard Florea, who was not present at the riot but posted menacing messages online, was busted on charges of illegal ammunition possession, authorities said. Via Intelligencer and The New York Times 
  • Rudy Giuliani, who was Donald Trump’s lawyer until a recent falling-out, faces calls for disbarment for his alleged role in the “violent insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol.” State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Dem who chairs the chamber’s judiciary committee, on Monday officially requested that court administrators strip Giuliani of his law license. The New York State Bar Association has also launched an investigation to determine whether he should be booted from their membership. Via The New York Times
  • The NYPD has determined that deputy Inspector James F. Kobel wrote numerous racist posts about Black, Hispanic, and Jewish people on a message board, using a synonym. Kobel, who was “responsible for combating workplace harassment,” submitted his retirement papers last week. Department officials nonetheless plan on bringing administrative charges against him. Via The New York Times 

The Allegedly Original

Yes, Things Are Bad

By Robert Sietsema

I moved to New York City from Madison, Wisconsin on June 10, 1977, a notorious low point in the city’s history. People often ask me in this era of the coronavirus pandemic, are times as bad now as they were then? Well, here’s my answer: yes.

When I arrived, the city was quite literally on fire. As I pulled up to my new home, a walk-up tenement on East 14th Street, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from disparate points in the East Village and on the Lower East Side. In common with the more famous fires in the South Bronx and Harlem, buildings had been kindled — depending on who you chose to believe — by greedy landlords intent on driving rent-stabilized residents out of these decrepit tenements, or residents who wanted to take advantage of a $3000 relocation allowance then in place.

Either way, vacant lots with buildings in various stages of smoldering demise were springing up on many blocks, to become the community gardens of the next decade. Buildings that survived in more intact shape became squats devoid of gas and electricity, with the block near me on 13th Street, between Avenues A and B, one of several centers of the burgeoning squatter culture. One building even sprouted an electricity-generating windmill on top.

With the economy in turmoil, vacant storefronts were everywhere, and many were illegally turned to residential usages. You could tell which ones by the halfhearted displays of broken furniture, art works, and dog-eared books thrown in the windows to fool authorities. There were also a dozen or so actual junk shops in the neighborhood that specialized in used merchandise gleaned from the trash in more affluent neighborhoods. That was how I assembled my collection of LPs.

Son of Sam hadn’t been caught yet, and the level of fear generated by the guy we now know as David Berkowitz — who claimed he was given instructions by a dog— can’t be overstated, even though he favored couples necking in cars along lovers’ lanes as his victims. In my building, for example, there was a single skinny guy with his pants pulled up under his armpits and hair slicked back whose apartment was furnished with a single stick chair. He must certainly be the Son of Sam, my friends and I thought.

The week I arrived, I was playing Scrabble with some of my new friends when the lights flickered, sputtered, and went out. The electricity remained off for a week in the Great Blackout of 1977. Across the street, hapless tenants on the higher floors of Stuyvesant Town had to pull water up to their apartments with ropes and buckets, since water pressure failed above the sixth floor of any building.

For us, the blackout was an adventure, and the sight of the darkened city from our rooftop was thrilling. However, there were looters everywhere; in fact the auto supply store at the end of the block was picked clean late one night after thieves lowered themselves through a skylight in the near pitch-blackness. We could hear them crashing around in the dark.

One day later that summer, I was sitting in the bathtub in my kitchen and heard a loud explosion. I ran naked and dripping to my living room window to discover the super had been welding his rattletrap van and forgotten to empty the gas line. The thing sent a fireball whooshing past my window that went up five storeys, incinerating cars up and down the block. The burned-out cars remained for weeks.

Drugs were everywhere during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. In the early years it was heroin addicts, who nodded out in doorways and sometimes even died when they got drugs that were too strong. A dentist from Jersey who’d driven into the East Village one evening to score was found slumped over the wheel parked next to Tompkins Square the next morning, needle still in his arm. His patients and family had had no idea he was an addict, an incredulous TV anchor reported.

In the latter half of the 1980s, smokable crack held sway, and the sour smell of its ignition in tiny glass pipes could be smelt in doorways and even on the subway. Visually, colorful little crack vials accumulated in sidewalk cracks. Filled with two crack rocks, each vial would sell for $3, meaning a crack fix was cheap, but you’d need a lot of them in the course of a day. Artists picked up these vials and made art; little children collected them and invented games. Bicycle seats disappeared as they were stolen by addicts and sold cheap.

An image that I stumbled across right as I arrived in the city stuck with me during the whole era. There had been a stabbing in the Third Avenue L station, a station rarely used by anyone since the L train was so infrequent. The victim had dripped blood as he staggered around the East Village, and I’d spot vestiges of the blood trail for months as I explored my new neighborhood, a warning to be vigilant of street crime.

The similarity of the current era occurred to me as I traipsed a few days ago down Seventh Avenue past the St. Vincent’s Triangle, now known as the Aids Memorial Park and the hospital across the street — now turned into luxury condos— where patients were once treated. Once again, I spotted a trail of blood spatters that extended to the corner and turned down Greenwich Avenue, presumably by someone who had just been knifed. Or maybe it was just a nosebleed.

But many other things are similar to the decade 40 years earlier. An economic downturn has ushered in an era of mass unemployment. The number of people living on the streets has visibly increased, and I’ve once again seen people shooting up under scaffolds and on dark corners. Inexplicably, construction on highrise condos continues, even though there must be few takers among potential buyers. The streets in the West Village now seem deserted, principally because the wealthy have departed the city en masse, and the windows of most townhouses are darkened, making the streets palpably darker and scarier after 8 o’clock or so.

Now, as in the East Village of the earlier era, many storefronts are empty. And residential rents are dropping. City services are eroding too, as piles of garbage nibbled by rats have accumulated on the street corners. Covid has closed many restaurants in a protracted and dispiriting process, and estimates range as high as 75% for those that may have closed permanently. Meanwhile, as winter overtakes us, the fanciest restaurants have outfitted their curbs with heated enclosures, where one can dine in full view of the often-hungry populace, usually to the tune of $100 or so per person.

Casting my mind back to the 1970s in the East Village, there were far fewer restaurants back then, many of which didn’t stay open past six in the evening. The density of open restaurants has returned to what it was back then. In front of churches and other non-profits, long bread lines form, a sad sight that recalls the earlier era, but also the Great Depression.

Now there are other visual signatures not common to the late 1970s and 1980s: most wear masks; lines of ambulances pull up in front of emergency rooms; outdoor cafes are everywhere, and one can often see fear in the eyes of the passersby — and not fear of crime either. Now the fear is of disease, a more intangible fear than being simply stabbed and wandering aimlessly in search of help. 

Neurotic and random coughs were once a feature of the city’s soundscape, on the streets and in movie theaters.  Coughing now means all eyes will immediately be upon you, so it’s much rarer. And a visit to a favorite local store no longer occasions a convivial chin-wag with the proprietor. Now it’s buy quick and get out, always conscious of how many virus particles you may be inhaling.


What Mayoral Hopefuls Think about The NYPD, Part Two

Hi, everyone.

We are happy to be back following our holiday hiatus. Unfortunately, 2021 is not turning out to be what anyone had hoped for. This is not a happy time. Trump supporters—among them white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and QAnon followers—stormed the Capitol on Wednesday in an attempted coup. Meanwhile, Covid-19 continues to surge. Deaths are hitting record highs, but life-saving vaccination efforts are moving at an alarmingly slow pace.

Since there is so much going on, Allegedly’s focus this week will be Sean Piccoli’s follow-up interviews with mayoral hopefuls about policing.

Stay safe, everyone.

The Allegedly Original

New York City’s Mayoral Hopefuls on Policing: Part Two

By Sean Piccoli

With the New York Police Department under pressure to justify itself, and a mayoral election coming up, Allegedly is asking candidates for City Hall how they will deal with the country’s largest municipal police force. 

Policing was the subject of street protests that spread across the country starting in May after the death of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Demonstrators in New York City chanted “no justice, no peace” to protest cops who brutalize people of color, and an aggressive NYPD response to the marches—pepper spraying, clubbing, and mass arrests using a round-up technique called “kettling”—spurred even more criticism. A formal investigation found that police used excessive and indiscriminate force against peaceful protestors who were out past curfew. 

At the same time, shootings in a city traumatized by Covid-19 were reaching numbers not seen in more than a decade. On top of the toll of the pandemic, homicides in New York soared (even as other categories of violence fell), according to the NYPD’s own year-end statistics. As NYPD officials were criticized for over-policing protests, the department also heard accusations—which it denied—that cops sat on their hands where more serious crime was concerned in 2020 and allowed gun violence to spiral as payback for having their methods questioned.

A department that had prided itself on being a national model for public safety started the new year with its budget slashed and its status changed to an “election-year issue.”

In Allegedly’s first canvas of would-be New York mayors, four of the ten candidates we contacted talked about how to keep people safe while protecting the city’s most vulnerable, most-policed populations from being harmed by the criminal justice system. Earlier, we posed the same questions to candidates for Manhattan District Attorney. 

For this final installment of interviews on policing with mayoral hopefuls, four more candidates followed suit, taking two questions each on police reform and racial disparities with five minutes allotted for each answer. Their replies are presented in the chronological order in which they were interviewed for this article.

Four candidates did not participate—Eric Adams, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, and Andrew Yang—despite multiple attempts to reach them through their campaigns’ representatives.

Kathryn Garcia

“We need to have clear and consistent consequences for police officers if they aren’t following the rules. They have a code of conduct. They have a patrol guide that they are supposed to follow. And we need to have zero tolerance for folks who don’t follow it.”

Plans for change:

  • Stop kettling peaceful protestors. “I was out during those nights in late May and June, and I’ll tell you that kettling doesn’t work. It instantaneously turns a peaceful protest into a confrontation.”
  • Require new NYPD recruits to live within the city limits. “And increase community policing so there is less of an us-versus-them mindset.”
  • Increase the recruitment age to 25 from 21. “We’re asking police officers to confront our most challenging moments, and we need to make sure that they have the experience that maturity gives you.”
  • Embed medical professionals with police officers responding to 911 calls for mental health episodes or domestic violence. “It needs to be a partnership, not an either-or.”
  • Reconsider which metrics govern police raises and promotions. “Shouldn’t it be that crime is lower in your community, not how many arrests you make?”
  • Invest more in education and job training. “We need to start upstream. If you look at folks on Rikers Island, a disproportionate amount are dyslexic and therefore that creates trouble in school from the very beginning. Make strategic investments in education to break down those barriers. We have to make sure there are options from school into jobs, and break the cycle of the school-to-prison pipeline, as it’s been called. But we still do need to have an effective police force.”
  • Change the culture of the NYPD. “I’m the only candidate with the practical experience of running a uniform agency, and what that means, and how you actually achieve culture change, and how you do the training to really transform from a warrior culture to much more of a guardian culture.”

Dianne Morales

“I was the first mayoral candidate to call for defunding the police. I understand that language is still being debated or framed as problematic and not unifying enough. But I’m not quite sure how many more reports or videos or testimonies we need to support the idea that the institution that is supposedly charged with public safety is doing disproportionate and undue harm to some communities over others, and just in general is not putting the safety of New York City residents at the forefront.”

Plans for change:

  • Redirect a “significant percentage” of police funding to community services. “In many of these communities, what is needed are some of the basic resources to live in dignity, whether that’s stable housing or mental health supports, access to recreation and those kinds of things.”
  • Establish a Community First Responders Department as an alternative to police. “So rather than having a man with a gun respond to the homeless person who’s created a little encampment on the corner, you could in fact have a homeless services specialist intervene and de-escalate if necessary, and then help to connect that person with the appropriate services and supports so that they in fact could move off the street.”
  • Don’t dispatch police to deal with 911 calls for people in crisis when crimes or violence are not involved. “The reality of it is that police are neither trained nor really interested in responding to these types of situations. That’s not what they signed up for. And so by divesting and reinvesting, and providing appropriate services services that can respond in accordance to the situation at hand—we’re actually unburdening them.”
  • Continue to scrutinize the criminal justice system to eliminate inequities in which crimes are prosecuted, who gets bail and how sentences are handed down. “In terms of decriminalizing certain things, refusing to pursue certain things legally … that’s a place where the mayor can play a significant role in terms of shifting the culture.”

Ray McGuire

“It’s clear that we have the evidence that the city can both reduce crime and reduce the reach of the criminal justice system into people’s lives. It shouldn’t be as intimate as it is today, especially in communities of color.”

Plans for change:

  • Launch a full review of the police budget as part of an overall reassessment of policing. “The NYPD has to have what I call R.A.P., respect, accountability and proportionality. And the role of funding and culture has got to be recast. … NYPD will remain critical to the city being safe and secure, and that’s an important part of our platform. But we need to aggressively change the culture within NYPD and the scope of policing.”
  • Don’t send cops alone into situations for which they don’t have training. “We need to ensure that mental health, homelessness and drug addiction experts are part of the first responders to 911.”
  • Support ways to reduce violence that don’t always depend on the presence of police. “We’ve got to increase our investment—which has worked—in the violence interrupters and the other community-based programs.”
  • Fix the parole system. “We need parole reform to ensure we’re not simply setting people up for minor violations and then sending them back to prison. I’d work with Albany to get that fixed.”
  • Re-evaluate who gets arrested, charged and issued summons for lesser offenses with a view toward keeping more people out of the criminal justice system. “Black folks—black kids—are disproportionately arrested and detained, at 2 1/2 times the rate of the white kids or Asians and Pacific Islanders. More of them are killed or injured during policing incidents, more disproportionately imprisoned, and have longer sentences. There is a presumption of guilt that we need to address.”
  • Prepare people who will exit the criminal justice system to return to society. “There are people who clearly need to be separated from society for our safety. But we need to make sure that that’s done humanely. And while they’re incarcerated, we need to be offering services that prepare them for what happens when they re-enter, and right now those systems are lacking. Recidivism rates in many ways are way too high.”
  • Initiate a “cradle to career” program of education, jobs and youth activities for young, at-risk New Yorkers. “You give me a job, you give me dignity that keeps me away from having to commit acts that I would otherwise not commit. Give me summer jobs, which are part of our overall program of how you fix the economy.”

Art Chang

“Does more policing equal more safety? When we look at the staffing of the New York City police, whether it’s just the street patrol or also including civilian employees, New York City ranks in the top four in the country in terms of the number of police officers per population. And even with the uptick in crime, we are still an outlier in terms of the number of police officers per violent crime as measured by shootings.”

Plans for change:

  • Retool CompStat, the controversial crimefighting data program, to show where the city needs resources. “Instead of CompStat being used solely for the police department to organize armed response to potential crime, CompStat should be used as an indicator of areas where we have community distress, and that would actually motivate a much more intensive and coordinated response from all the different components of government that would actually decrease that community’s stress and lead to a more healthy community.”
  • Deploy rapid response teams alongside police that have training in crisis de-escalation, mental health issues and social work. “So these have to operate 24-7-365 like the police do, and that’s really one of the administrative and operational hurdles that we’re going to have to come across.
  • Re-evaluate how police are equipped for their work. “Do we need a more militarized police when 96 percent of police calls across the country are nonviolent? Do we need an increase in surveillance? … Do we need armed responders for every 911 call?”
  • Collect more actionable data on how police act. “We know that black men are 2 1/2 times more likely to be killed by police during their lifetime … [and] black people fatally shot by police were twice as likely to be unarmed as white people. So we know that there’s been this disproportionate, unequal application of policing, particularly to black communities, and we have to be able to react to that.”
  • Emphasize restorative justice and alternatives to jail. “Not every crime is equal. Not every alleged perpetrator is equal. We have first offenders. We have nonviolent crimes. We have youth crimes. And those folks need to be treated differently than people who have repeat criminal records.”
  • Find ways to lessen the trauma of imprisonment. “We need to think also about how we preserve the mental health of the prisoners. Some of them are obviously there because they’re very hardened criminals. But for many of them the process of being in jail actually makes them worse when they come out. So we need to think in that whole life cycle how do we actually reintegrate people back into their communities?”
  • Reassert civilian control over the NYPD by hiring more investigators for the Civilian Complaint Review Board to reduce their backlog and enlarge their role in scrutinizing police, and reduce the police commissioner’s power over hiring, firing and discipline. “This relationship has to be in its proper balance … and what we’ve seen under [Mayor Bill] de Blasio is a complete lack of respect for the mayor and his control, and the sole control of disciplinary actions held in the hands of the police commissioner. That needs to change.”

This Week in Allegedly: Ghislaine Maxwell’s Bail Bid and the NYPD’s Mishandling of Protests

Dear readers:

Why not start with great news? The year is almost over! In two weeks, 2020 will end. The Covid-19 vaccination rollout will continue. There’s good reason to think that 2021 won’t be as terrible as its predecessor!  

This week’s Allegedly will be the last newsletter of 2020. We get that Christmas and New Year’s won’t be as Christmasy and New Yearsy, per being stuck at home and away from loved ones, but we all need some sort of break. For The Allegedly List, we’ve got updates on New York City cops’ handling of protests this summer and new developments in SDNY’s high-profile sex trafficking cases. For The Allegedly Original, Andrew Denney takes us to Downtown Brooklyn, where businesses that depend on courts contend with an uncertain future—and fears of collapse. 

Thank you so much for reading Allegedly. We’ll see you again in 2021! And please subscribe, so we can keep providing you courts and crime news for years to come.

The Allegedly List

  • Ghislaine Maxwell is at risk of suffering the same fate as Princess Diana, one of her security officers actually claimed in court paperson Monday. The shocking statement arose in Maxwell’s latest request for release on $28.5 million bail; this security agent said that she was hiding from aggressive press, not the feds, in claiming that she was never on the lam and wouldn’t flee. The British socialite faces Manhattan Federal Court charges for her alleged involvement in ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking.  Via SDNY filings
  • The NYPD’s “use of force and certain crowd control tactics to respond to the [George] Floyd protests produced excessive enforcement that contributed to heightened tensions,” a New York City Department of Investigation Report found. The analysis, released Friday morning, echoes numerous allegations that NYPD cops mishandled demonstrations and “often failed to discriminate” between lawful protesters and people engaged in unlawful activity. “Kettling, mass arrests, baton and pepper spray use, and other tactics—reflected a failure to calibrate an appropriate balance between valid public safety or officer safety interests and the rights of protesters to assemble and express their views.”  Via Department of Investigation
  • Canadian fashion exec Peter J. Nygard was charged with racketeering, sex trafficking, and other related crimes related to an alleged “decades-long pattern of criminal conduct involving at least dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas, and Canada, among other locations.”  The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, which announced Nygard’s indictment on Tuesday, alleged that he “controlled his victims through threats, false promises of modeling opportunities and other career advancement, financial support, and by other coercive means, including constant surveillance, restrictions of movement, and physical isolation.” Nygard was taken into custody on Dec. 14 in Winnipeg, by Canadian authorities at the U.S.’s request.  Via SDNY
  • Brooklyn rapper Rowdy Rebel was released from New York state prison on Tuesday. Rowdy Rebel, real name Chad Marshall, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and gun possession charges in September 2016, alongside Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda.  Prosecutors claimed that both were part of the same East Flatbush gang, GS9, along with others busted in the same indictment; Bobby Shmurda, legal name Ackquille Pollard, lost his parole bid several months ago. Via Vulture
  • A New York state judge ordered President Donald Trump’s company to produce records relating to an estate that’s being probed by the New York Attorney General’s Office. “We will immediately move to ensure that the Trump Organization complies with the court’s order and submits records related to our investigation,” said state A.G. Letitia James following the judge’s decision. The docs might provide info about an easement at Trump’s sprawling Westchester property, which yielded a $21 million tax benefit. Via Washington Post
  • Lawyers and social workers from the Queens Defenders announced their intent to unionize on Wednesday. If their efforts are successful, they would join three other New York City indigent defense groups unionizing under the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, specifically ALAA-UAW Local 2325. By organizing, they hope to secure more transparency and diversity in the organization. Via Queens Daily Eagle.
  • Lucchese underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso died in federal lockup on Tuesday due to Covid-19 complications. Casso’s lawyers had recently pushed for his compassionate release as he languished in the hospital on a ventilator, but a judge and prosecutors deemed his crimes too awful to allow for compassion. Casso was hit with a 455-year prison sentence after copping to 11 counts of murder in aid of racketeering. Via New York Daily News
  • NYPD officers fatally shot a man after he started shooting around hundreds of people attending a Sunday Christmas concert at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in Morningside Heights. NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea told reporters that the gunman had firearms in each hand and started shooting from behind a pillar. Cops found two “semiautomatic guns,” as well as a bag stuffed with gasoline, knives, wire, rope, tape, and a Bible. Via New York Times

The Allegedly Original

Downtown Brooklyn Businesses Grapple with The Fate of Courts

By Andrew Denney

The Queen Marie Italian Restaurant is a Court Street mainstay, dishing out house-made mozzarella and staples like shrimp scampi for Downtown Brooklyn attorneys and judges since 1958—virtually an eternity for a New York City business. 

General manager Mike Vitiello’s grandfather founded the Queen. Like his father and his uncle, who co-own the white-tablecloth restaurant, he was raised in the establishment, spending his summer vacations sweating it out in the kitchen, and seeing the neighborhood change over the years.

Even though Downtown Brooklyn gentrified, the Queen managed to survive. Clientele from the courts kept the restaurant busy—not dependent on the culinary whims of newcomers. The Queen could count on a packed house for dinner and repeat business from attorneys who became dedicated regulars. 

“We knew these people like family,” said Vitiello, 29. 

When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit New York this March, courthouses throughout the state suspended most of their in-person operations. Most court business moved online, meaning the overwhelming majority of participants started working from home.  The streets that would usually be packed with court staff and other office workers fell silent.  Businesses that depended on a steady flow of judges, jurors, and lawyers lost their customer bases. The Queen made the decision in April to temporarily close its doors for the health and safety of staff and clients, Vitiello said. 

While vaccination efforts against COVID-19 are underway, the pandemic’s second wave has hit New York. The city’s courts, which had started to gradually reopen, have gone back into a defensive crouch reminiscent of this past spring, when the city came to a grinding halt as COVID-19 cases and deaths skyrocketed.

“The streets are desolate. It’s sad,” Vitiello said of the neighborhood. “It used to be vibrant, crowds of people rushing up and down.”

The future of the Queen—and many Downtown Brooklyn businesses—may depend on whether in-person court proceedings rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

“That’s in the thought process of whether we re-open at all,” Vitiello said. “You can only hang on for so many months.” 

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore recently decreed that New York City courts would operate at 30 percent in-person capacity, and that appearances in courthouses elsewhere in the state would be capped at 40 percent.

DiFiore said Dec. 14 in her weekly address that courts have stayed busy in the virtual realm. In the two-week period ending on Dec. 11, New York judges and court staff held more than 52,800 proceedings and justices ruled on 4,666 motions.

“Our operating protocols have been updated to create a court environment where the new ‘normal’ is a virtual appearance and in-person appearances are rare,” DiFiore said. 

“Filings may well increase at some point,” DiFiore continued in the address. “But the fact of the matter is that we are well-prepared to handle an increase thanks to the robust online platform and the many technology improvements that we’ve implemented to strengthen the quality and efficiency of our services—improvements that will become permanent features of the New York State courts when we return to conducting in-person appearances, hearings and trials.”

Elsewhere in New York City, businesses that thrive on activity generated by brick-and-mortar courts are fearful. 

“We’re getting crushed,” Danny Mills, owner of Staten Island steakhouse Ruddy & Dean’s, told Allegedly. 

The restaurant used to depend upon a steady flow of business from nearby courthouses, the New York City Police Department’s 120th Precinct, and tourists wandering in from the Staten Island Ferry dock. That foot traffic has all but vanished, Mills said.

Mills has kept Ruddy & Dean’s open for takeout throughout the pandemic, but said that it has lost more than half its business.

Other businesses in the borough’s St. George neighborhood—which the Staten Island Advance recently described as a “ghost town,” as far as commercial activity is concerned—have remained shuttered.

To be sure, the pandemic has hit small businesses of all stripes, regardless of their proximity to the halls of justice. According to a recent survey by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, half of the businesses surveyed in the borough couldn’t pay their rent in November.

But Downtown Brooklyn differs from many of the commercial corridors in the borough in that it depends more on courts and other government agencies for customers, said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, in a phone interview with Allegedly. 

“The courthouses were such a large driver of commercial foot traffic in Downtown Brooklyn,” Peers said. “It’s clearly had an impact.”

There are four state courthouses located just blocks apart in Downtown Brooklyn and they are among the busiest venues in the state. 

Additionally, the state’s Appellate Division, Second Department and U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York courthouses are located a short distance to the north in well-to-do Brooklyn Heights.

Some businesses there can still depend on local residents to prop them up. But the disappearance of customers from the legal community has delivered a punishing blow to area businesses.

“I have had business owners specifically tell me that the courts not being in session has had a pretty huge impact on them,” Kate Chura, executive director of the Montague St. Business Improvement District, told Allegedly. 

The vacancy rate in the Montague Street business corridor, which hosted about 100 businesses, jumped from 6 percent to 20 percent during the pandemic, Chura said.

Among the businesses that have been affected by the drop in courthouse traffic are dry cleaners and vision care providers that marketed directly to government employees, she said. 

Peers provided names of businesses near courthouses that closed their doors over the last several months. 

For instance, the Metro Star cafe, located across the street from the Brooklyn Supreme Court building at 320 Jay Street and just a stone’s throw from the chamber’s Adams Street office, was a popular destination for court officers, court staff and litigants to grab a slice or cheap steam-table fare.

The cafe went dark in March and has since remained closed, Peers said. 

Metro Star’s owner did not respond to Allegedly’s requests for comment as to his future plans for the business. 

Park Plaza Restaurant, an American-style diner located across Cadman Plaza Park from the Eastern District courthouse, has been popular with jurors, high-profile defendants, and law-enforcement types since it opened its doors in 1983.

During federal trials for Gambino crime family boss John Gotti and other reputed high-profile members of La Cosa Nostra that were held in the 1990s and early 2000s, Park Plaza was a popular joint for purported wiseguys, cops, and even victims’ families.  

Nick Likourentzos, co-owner of Park Plaza and son of founder Peter Linkourentzos, was high-school aged at the time and working in the restaurant. 

The on-trial mobsters would often reserve the private backroom of the diner during lunch. They were coveted customers for Park Plaza’s waitstaff—it was not uncommon for wiseguys to drop a $100 tip for a $20 tab, he said, and they were always cordial.

Park Plaza is also a popular joint for the other side of the law, Likourentzos said, with cops and federal agents often packing its booths.

While it has lost business from courthouse closures, Likourentzos said patronage from Brooklyn Heights residents may help to keep it afloat, at least in the short term. But the future is still uncertain—and there’s still potential for things to “really go south” as COVID-19 infections and deaths surge and any prospect of economic stimulus from the federal government continues to stall in Congress.  

“I feel like I don’t have any control of my future,” Likourentzos said. “It’s a very scary feeling.”


This Week in Allegedly: Donald Trump’s Finances and K-9 Controversy


New York City’s top courts and crime news this week features President Donald Trump’s taxes, coronavirus, and a dead dog at the Department of Correction. More on all that in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Pooja Shah talks with Coss Marte, who hopes that podcastsing can break the cycle of incarceration. 

The Allegedly List

  • The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has ramped up its investigation of Trump’s financial dealings. The Times reported Friday that prosecutors have recently interviewed several people at Trump’s bank and his insurance broker. Meanwhile, the Manhattan D.A. has been in a court battle for more than one year to get Trump’s tax returns; their legal fight is now with the U.S. Supreme Court. Via The New York Times
  • Gigi Jordan, the millionaire pharmaceutical executive whose conviction for giving her 8-year-old autistic son a deadly dose of pills was overturned, was released from prison Wednesday. Jordan was sprung after a Manhattan Federal Court judge threw out her conviction, having determined that the trial judge wrongly sealed the courtroom. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is fighting this ruling, and said prosecutors would retry her case if need be. Via New York Post
  • A onetime Queens prosecutor who tried to keep Black, Latino, and female New Yorkers from juries during the 1990s has reportedly worked as a lawyer for New York City’s largest police union for 13 years. The former assistant district attorney, Christopher J. McGrath, allegedly had handwritten notes as a reminder to keep them from jury pools, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said Thursday. After officials found these notes–and McGrath allegedly copped to using them–Katz recommended that two convictions be vacated. Via Queens Daily Eagle
  • An additional $488 million will be distributed to victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, Manhattan federal prosecutors announced Thursday. This money will be sent to almost 37,000 victims in what’s now the sixth distribution from the Madoff Victim Fund. A total of nearly $3.2 billion has been distributed to date. Via SDNY
  • Coronavirus continues to spread through New York City’s federal jails. As of Dec. 10, Brooklyn MDC and New York MCC have had 105 and 56 positive tests, respectively. From Tuesday to Thursday last week, 55 Brooklyn MDC inmates reportedly tested positive, indicating a sharp surge. Via U.S. Bureau of Prisons, New York Daily News.
  • A Department of Correction dog died after eating a soap container that was left on the ground by a jail staffer. Bingo, who had yet to be trained, was returned to his kennel, languishing overnight. The K-9 was sick the next day, and a veterinarian put him to sleep after unsuccessfully attempting to treat him. Via New York Daily News

The Allegedly Original 

Can Podcasts Break The Prison Cycle?

By Pooja Shah

When Coss Marte was released from New York state prison in 2009, he had $40 and a bus ticket to his name, but he was alive. Marte lost 70 pounds while locked up, after a prison doctor had warned that his weight could cause life-threatening complications.

After Marte returned home to the Lower East Side, things looked and felt different. With a narcotics rap on his record, Marte struggled to find even low-paying work and acclimate to the outside world. 

“People coming out of the system face barriers, not just with employment,” he said. When you are looking for a job, there is so much to worry about: housing, money, food and clothing.”

The problems Marte faced finding a job were just the beginning of challenges for getting back on his feet. They were also the beginning of Marte’s successful fitness business. 

Because traditional avenues to employment weren’t panning out, Marte created his own job, transforming the potentially life-saving workout regimen he developed in his 9 foot-by-6 foot cell into ConBody. The bootcamp-style workouts are taught by former felons, based on their prison workouts, Marte said.

ConBody wasn’t enough for Marte. Although ConBody made a point of employing formerly incarcerated persons who might not otherwise be able to land work, he wanted to give back more, by reducing recidivism rates and stopping the cycle of incarceration in his community. 

This desire gave birth to his next initiative: Second Chance Studios. The nonprofit digital media effort is aimed at training ex-inmates skills focused on podcasting, video, and audio production. Each “fellow” in this New York City-based program would be paired with a mentor to learn technical expertise in podcasting, in the hopes of landing a job with digital media companies. Fellows must be interested in the digital media and, if they’re accepted to a fellowship, will earn an annual stipend. 

It’s a pricey endeavor. Marte’s goal is to raise one million dollars and to eventually expand across the U.S. His fundraising relies on a Kickstarter campaign, donations, and grant writing. He hopes there will be enough money to support 12 fellows for year-long training. So far, Marte has received over one hundred applications from potential fellows and even more applications from companies, mentors, and volunteers, he said. 

Second Chance Studios was originally expected to launch in January but due to the Covid-19 pandemic will now kick off in April 2021. Second Chance Studios’ success will arguably depend on a complex interplay of factors.

The global pandemic has hit fundraising at nonprofits everywhere and spurred mass unemployment. More, the podcast field is saturated with content. However, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to get into podcasting, potentially lessening the challenges posed by barriers present in many other fields. 

“All you need is an idea, a microphone and internet connection,” said multi-media consultant Nick Castner

There are other costs related to production, including editing software and hosting platforms, as well as post-production services, PL8STORY Podcast host Trista Polo explains. While they are worth this investment in the long-run, some parts of the production process can be outsourced, cutting down on initial costs. 

Marte believes that Second Chance Studios wouldn’t just provide former inmates work, but potentially insulate them from unprecedented shifts in the labor market, such as with Covid-19. 

Most former inmates wind up with manual labor jobs, which are often plagued by low wages and discriminatory hiring practices. Most of these manual labor jobs are performed by people of color, Marte said. The work is in-person. Unlike manual labor, many media and tech jobs can be done remotely. 

“When you come out of the system, jobs that are normally given out are in construction or the food industry and it’s a lot of manual labor,” he said. “Even through Covid times, anyone who has a technical job can do it from home, but anyone with manual labor jobs lost it.” 


This Week in Allegedly: Covid-19 in Court and Casanova’s Racketeering Indictment


There’s a lot to cover in New York City’s crime and courts news this week. For The Allegedly List, we’ve got updates on Covid-19’s deep, ongoing impact on New York City’s courts and details on the latest high-profile gang bust. For The Allegedly Original, we’ve got the first installment of Sean Piccoli’s interviews with 2021 mayoral candidates on criminal justice. 

We know you’ll enjoy this week’s edition, so start reading—and subscribe! 

The Allegedly List

  • New data on Covid-19’s impact on city courthouses puts the pandemic’s impact on criminal justice into sharp relief: There have been just nine completed criminal jury trials in New York City courts since the Covid-19 pandemic struck this spring. In 2019, there were approximately 800 criminal trials in New York City’s state and federal courthouses.  Via The New York Times
  • New York City’s federal courts were hit with new Covid-19 restrictions this week, reversing gradual re-openings. Brooklyn Federal Court Chief Judge Roslyn Mauskopf shuttered the building to all in-person proceedings on Thursday because of coronavirus’ resurgence—one week after closing this courthouse to most other matters. On Nov. 30, Manhattan Federal Court Chief Judge Colleen McMahon announced that in-person proceedings would be suspended from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15. Via New York Daily News
  • Manhattan’s top judge for criminal matters and a high-ranking court officer tested positive for coronavirus, a report revealed Monday. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ellen Biben and New York State Court Officer Lt. Robert Gelormino both tested positive Friday. “If you were in the court building of 100 Centre Street, you [may] want to seek a Covid test,” an email sent to attorneys who handle cases in Manhattan court reportedly said. Via New York Daily News
  • The rapper Casanova was charged in a racketeering indictment that involved his alleged participation in the Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation Gang, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday. Casanova, real name Caswell Senior, pleaded not guilty on Thursday. During his virtual court appearance from the White Plains, New York federal courthouse, Senior told a judge: “I took a shot of Henny…before I turned myself in, I took a little swig.” Via Vulture
  • Six people were charged Wednesday with operating a “birth tourism” ring on Long Island, which had allegedly offered pregnant women in Turkey a deceptive way to have their babies in the U.S., so these children would be American citizens. In this operation, which was advertised on Facebook, each woman would pay from $7,500 to $10,000. They’d come to the U.S. with tourist visas and, upon arrival, get medical care and housing at a “birth house,” the Eastern District of New York alleged. Via The New York Times.
  • A new report on the NYPD’s use of body-worn cameras suggests this technology could help limit the type of B.S. stops that have long prompted claims of racism and harassment against city cops. Officers who wore these cameras reported nearly 40% more stops than officers who didn’t wear them. This suggests that these devices could pressure cops who wear them to more accurately report stop-and-frisks they conduct. Via The New York Times
  • Gigi Jordan, the millionaire pharma exec who was found guilty of killing her 8-year-old son with autism, might be freed from prison after her conviction was overturned. On Wednesday, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Manhattan prosecutors’ arguments that Jordan should remain in lockup while they appealed the federal decision that vacated her conviction. Jordan’s bail hearing will soon take place in Manhattan Federal Court. Via New York Post
  • Manhattan federal prosecutors on Wednesday sued the town of Airmont—for the third time in three decades—over alleged anti-Semitic zoning laws. The regulations were forged to keep Orthodox Jewish residents from holding religious services in their homes, or starting private schools. Two earlier court judgements stopped similarly anti-Semitic laws, according to the lawsuit. Via New York Post
  • A Bronx shootout left a fugitive dead and at least two U.S. Marshals injured early Friday. At about 5:30 a.m., Andre Sterling allegedly shot these agents while they were trying to apprehend him on weapons and assault charges. Their injuries are non-life threatening. Via New York Daily News

The Allegedly Original

New York City’s Mayoral Hopefuls on Policing

By Sean Piccoli

One thing is certain in the wide-open contest for New York mayor: Bill de Blasio’s successor will have to do something about the police. The next mayor will decide not only who serves as commissioner, but what kind of police force the city will have as it looks to recover from everything 2020 has thrown at it.

After a bystander in Minneapolis filmed the dying breaths of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, being arrested on Memorial Day, New Yorkers joined in national protests over racist policies in policing. During these protests, calls to downgrade or defund municipal police departments, and end racist practices, grew. 

A spring and summer of sometimes chaotic street protests led to fresh allegations of excessive force—wielded in this case by the New York Police Department against demonstrators. The funding cuts to the NYPD that followed were a product of both the public blowback against the department and the hole opened up in the city’s budget by economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

With elections coming in 2021, and some categories of violent crime rising in New York to levels not seen since the 1990s, Allegedly is asking candidates for mayor to put themselves on the record, in detail, about policing and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

As we did in October with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and declared candidates for that office, Allegedly reached out to ten people who are running for mayor—all as Democrats in Democrat-dominated New York—with a request: Answer two questions in a live interview, with five minutes allotted for each question.

The questions were:

  1. With policing as a major focus in 2020 of protests, policy, budgeting and elections, please explain in detail why you accept or reject the idea—spurred in part by calls to defund the police—that law enforcement in New York City needs rethinking. 
  2. Please provide concrete examples of what you would do as mayor to break the cycle of arrest, jail and prosecution that overwhelmingly falls on people of color and the economically disadvantaged in New York.

Of the ten declared candidates we contacted, four completed the interview. Their answers and policy ideas are presented below in reverse alphabetical order. 

Two, Kathryn Garcia and Scott Stringer, said through spokespersons that they plan to participate at some point. Four more—Eric Adams, Ray McGuire, Dianne Morales and Maya Wiley—have either not responded through their spokespersons to our invitation and follow-up inquiries, or have not committed to being interviewed. 

Allegedly is continuing to reach out to mayoral candidates and will publish these interviews in upcoming editions. We’ll also vary the questions slightly, so no one gains an advantage if they weren’t interviewed in the first round.

Loree Sutton

“Cops need communities as much as communities need cops, which is why I have adamantly opposed the movement to, quote, ‘defund policing.’ I dismiss it and reject it out of hand, and always will.”

Plans for change: 

  • Reassess CompStat, the data program NYPD uses to identify, analyze and combat crime, and create a mayor-led Public Safety Coordination Council that expands the CompStat model to eight city agencies with the greatest responsibility for public safety and quality of life: police, fire, transportation, corrections, emergency management, education, parks and sanitation. “This would be a body that would take CompStat to a whole new level and apply it in a holistic way to the overarching topic and imperative of public safety.” 
  • Change the culture of New York prosecutors’ offices to emphasize “restorative justice”—not just courtroom wins and prison sentences, but the successful diversion of cases away from trial and into alternate programs including drug courts, mental health courts, veterans treatment courts, and community courts. “I think the fulcrum here really lies not on the shoulders of the police—where so often the blame is situated—but it really lies on the shoulders of prosecutors.”
  • Place more public funding and private-sector investment “upstream”—into education, housing, public health, career training, and community and family programs that help to decrease the likelihood of a person coming into contact with the criminal justice system. “I think it’s time where we can imagine what I would call a ‘city covenant’ that pledges to make the investments in all of those social determinants of health.”
  • Re-invest in the NYPD while re-evaluating its practices across the board, from recruitment to discipline to street patrols. “We’re moving from sort of a patrol car-and-arrest model of policing to really a problem-solving model, which teaches our officers to make critical judgements, to analyze things and to be able to apply judgement and to know that they’ve got top cover from their department, because these are the ways that they’ve been taught to think and to respond, instead of to react.”

Carlos Menchaca

“I have been the strongest voice on the City Council to defund the police, and I will continue to be that voice because I’m really connected to what communities are asking us to do, which is to rethink what we understand to be a city budget and the purpose of a city budget, which is to support the quality of life of every New Yorker. And I think that the defund movement is about a lot of different things. It’s about reallocating resources from a bloated agency and bringing them back to communities in need.” 

Plans for change: 

  • Demilitarize the NYPD. “The very nature of the militarized force causes, I think, this reaction that is incredibly human and right: We need to be suspicious of a force that has military grade weaponry in a city, in an urban center.”
  • Shut down the Vice Squad and other specialized NYPD units. “Their only purpose is for surveillance.”
  • Re-assert civilian control over the NYPD and give the City Council joint responsibility with the mayor to hire and fire police commissioners. “The mayor has lost control of this department.”

Zach Iscol

“When it comes to policing, we tend to think of this as just a police issue and just a police reform issue. But I think that there are so many other things that the city could be doing to reduce crime… And instead we’re offered this false choice, and this sort of politically driven conversation that I don’t think is helpful, because it doesn’t think big enough about the resources that are available in this town— that could be applied if we cared more about the real outcomes than the political outcomes to really solve these problems.”

Plans for change:

  • Search out and adopt the most cost-effective models for intervention and assistance to people in need—such as the Missouri-based Veterans Community Project—to help homeless and traumatized New Yorkers get off the streets and into supportive housing. “If we wanted to reimagine public housing so it wasn’t just a place to park people, but it was actually a great place to raise a family and grow up in, we have the resources to do that in this town if we want to.”
  • Increase investment in community-level anti-violence programs—such as Brownsville In Violence Out (BIVO)—that provide counseling and support to at-risk youths by connecting them with credible, respected adults in their neighborhoods who have themselves lived through violence and found a path forward. “They know who the kids are who are at risk of getting into gangs. They know who’s at risk of using drugs, whose parents are struggling. They know who’s carrying guns. But we haven’t armed those communities with the things that they need to address the violence.”
  • Reinvest in shared community spaces—such as neighborhood boxing gyms— that promote healthy activity, mentorship and life learning for young people in communities hardest hit by violence and trauma. “Especially in some of the neighborhoods and communities most affected by gun violence, you see that in a lot of these communities the only people from the city that are showing up are police officers. Where’s all the other city services that could be out in these communities?”

Shaun Donovan

“What we haven’t had is a mayor who really champions scaling up community-based solutions in terms of violence prevention. There are many, many organizations around the city that are doing good work with former gang members and others to reduce gun violence, to take guns off the street, to deal with the underlying trauma that so many young men in particular of color have been subject to. All of those things are things we have models for here and around the country, models that I’ve worked with. But we haven’t had a mayor who’s willing to, first, build the investment.”

Plans for change:

  • Do not use police officers to patrol inside schools and limit their use on emergency calls for people experiencing mental health crises. “We’re asking the police to do too many things at this point, and particularly putting them in situations that put them at conflict with communities rather than in partnership.”
  • Finish the work of closing the New York City jail complex on Rikers Island. “We also need to reorient that system. Parole, all the evidence shows, can make some difference in the first few months but after that, if anything, increases recidivism rather than decreases it.”
  • Embrace programs that are proven to reduce the likelihood that someone coming out of the criminal justice system will reoffend and land back inside. “When I was housing commissioner in New York City, I took—with much criticism— some of our Section 8 vouchers and gave them to folks coming out of Rikers. And people responded, ‘Oh, they’re the undeserving poor. We have other people in line.’ The results we saw were remarkable. Ninety-five percent of those folks after a year were still stably housed.”

Editor’s note: We misspelled Menchaca’s surname in the Substack newsletter that went out Dec. 4. Because Substack is the worst platform perhaps ever, we were not able to fix it on there without sending a newsletter again. Anyway, it’s fixed now. Apologies!


This Week in Allegedly: SCOTUS and Covid-19

Good morning!

We hope that you enjoyed Thanksgiving, even if it was weird and limited this year. Since it’s still kind of a holiday, this week’s Allegedly is a bit shorter, but we do hope that you’ll enjoy catching up on this week’s New York City courts and crime news–which includes reports involving SCOTUS, Covid-19, and Trump. 

The Allegedly List

  • In a decision late Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited New York authorities from enforcing some social distancing requirements at houses of worship in areas with high Covid-19 rates. The 5-4 vote counted Amy Coney Barrett–Trump’s newly confirmed, conservative justice–in the majority.  The three liberal justices and chief justice John Roberts were in the dissent; earlier in 2020, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a justice, 5-4 splits on this issue upheld coronavirus-related social restrictions. Via Associated Press
  • Despite indoor social distancing requirements and capacity limits, news emerged this week that several large-scale weddings were held in the Hasidic community. A report emerged this week revealing that the Yetev Lev synagogue in Williamsburg, which can hold 7,000 people, was packed on Nov. 8 for the high-profile wedding of Joel Teitelbaum, Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum’s grandson; Monday night, two major Satmar families wed in Kiryas Joel in a sizable ceremony, followed by continued celebration in Bed-Stuy Tuesday night. Via New York Post and Gothamist 
  • A shop cat in Chelsea was catnapped by the woman who offered to take care of him during COVID-19 shutdowns this spring, a new Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit alleged.  Zivadin “Chris” Krstic, who owns Chris King of Foliage, claimed that a woman who routinely stopped by the shop to visit Sammy has refused to return him and won’t return his calls and messages. “I don’t have a boyfriend. He’s good company and you don’t clean his teeth,’” Krstic accused the woman as saying. Via New York Post
  • An ex-New York Police Department civilian employee was busted Thursday after attempting to hijack an MTA bus–while dressed like a cop, according to the NYPD. Cops alleged that Joseph McGreevy boarded the bus at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue while sporting an NYPD uniform and demanded that the driver bring him to Brooklyn. The driver recognized that McGreevy wasn’t an actual cop and alerted authorities; he faces criminal impersonation of a public officer, as well as obstruction of governmental administration charges. Via New York Post
  • The NYPD officer arrested for allegedly running a Long Island pill-mill peddled the drugs that led to a 28-year-old’s death, according to the deceased man’s mother. “The death of my son was an extremely traumatic and life-altering event, which not only took me quite a long time to understand and process what had occurred to my son, but was only made more traumatic by way of police investigations along with media coverage,” the woman wrote in court papers. Matthew Rosenblum, who represents the cop, Joseph Recca, reportedly declined to comment, saying he hadn’t looked at these filings. Via New York Post
  • The Justice Department filed a notice of appeal Wednesday fighting a judge’s decision that DOJ lawyers can’t represent President Donald Trump in sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against him. Carroll alleged in 2019 that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman fitting room at some point in the 1990s. He claimed that Carroll was a liar and “not my  type.” Via New York Daily News
  • The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is poised to fight a state appeals court’s October decision that prosecutors can’t bring mortgage fraud charges against ex-Trump lobbyist Paul Manafort. The Appellate Division, First Department had ruled that Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance’s office couldn’t prosecute Manafort because of New York’s double-jeopardy laws, which bar someone from being tried twice for the same offense. Manhattan prosecutors have maintained that while facts in federal and state cases are the same, both sets of laws relate to different aspects of his alleged crimes. Via New York Daily News
  • A domestic call in Queens left two NYPD officers wounded and a suspect dead in a shooting Tuesday. The officers were making a wellness check around 12:45 pm in Springfield Gardens, following-up on a prior domestic violence report, when CUNY peace officer Rondell Goppy allegedly shot at them; he was killed when they shot back, the NYPD said. The officers, Joseph Murphy and Christopher Wells, left Jamaica Hospital on Thursday greeted by supporters and applause. Via New York Daily NewsAM New York

This Week in Allegedly: Cops and Cats

Good morning!

A lot has happened since last week’s Allegedly! Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump in the Election. Trump won’t accept defeat, so he’s filed a bunch of “flimsy” lawsuits. The drama has not ended. The break we all needed has not arrived.

Hopefully, today’s edition will raise your spirits. We’ve got items on cops, conspiracy theories, and most importantly, cats.

The Allegedly List

  • Several layoffs at the Civilian Complaint Review Board on Thursday prompted allegations of retaliation. While the layoffs of four senior officials had been cast as a restructuring that would broaden investigative capabilities, some staffers claimed they stemmed from these officials’ criticizing the CCRB’s response when the New York Police Department doesn’t cooperate with its probes. The CCRB chair claimed in a statement that these high-ranking positions were cut to make available approximately $600,000 for hiring about 20 more investigators. Via The New York Times
  • In two New York City neighborhoods, health workers—not cops—will soon respond to emergency calls that report people “in mental distress.” Come February, “Mental Health Teams” comprised of medics and social workers will respond to these calls in the two “high-need communities.” This pilot program— which comes amid heightened scrutiny of the NYPD, especially how officers treat persons in mental distress—could be expanded elsewhere in the city, officials said. Via Newsday
  • Staten Island man Brian Maiorana was arrested Tuesday after allegedly threatening to kill protesters, politicians, and cops “in retaliation for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election,” and ordering others to do the same, according to the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office.  In one of Maiorana’s menacing social media missives, the convicted sex offender allegedly referred to Chuck Schumer as “the Jew Senator from Jew York” and discussed The Turner Diaries, a novel depicting a race war that reportedly inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, per the feds. “The Turner Diaries must come to life,” Maiorana allegedly wrote.  Via Eastern District of New York
  • The first jury trial in Queens since the Covid-19 pandemic hit started this week and had a “decidedly different” feel that went beyond social distancing. If the defendant wanted to ask his lawyer a question, for example, “he’ll have to pick up a smart phone and chat with his lawyer seated on the other side of a plexiglass barrier.” Explained David Brand: “The design makes the attorney table look like a penalty box.”  Via Queens Daily Eagle
  • An NYPD cop used his position in the department to help drug traffickers—giving them intel on law enforcement procedures, doing warrant checks on his co-conspirators, and distributing coke at least once, Brooklyn federal prosecutors alleged Monday. Amaury Abreu, who made 108,000 in 2019, pleaded not guilty through his attorney.  Abreu’s alleged co-conspirators are reportedly “high-ranking members” of an unnamed drug trafficking organization. Via New York Post

The Allegedly Original

Catnapping Courtroom Drama in Old New York

By Peggy Gavan

On Oct. 16, 1894, the Evening World reported that a Lower East Side cigar dealer accused a janitor of stealing his Maltese shop cat.  According to the story, the large gray shop cat was “the apple of his eye” and spent her days lounging on his Henry Street cigar counter “in snug peacefulness.”

One day, the cat went missing. While searching for his lost feline friend, the cigar dealer found her in the possession of the janitor. He asked the police to arrest the janitor, who lived nearby on Jefferson Street, on charges of petty larceny.

At the court hearing, the judge told the cigar dealer that this was a civil case, and so he would have to take the janitor to civil court if he wanted to get his cat back. The Evening World reporter commented on the fate of the cigar dealer by stating, “He may render himself homeless in pursuit of the feline, for lawyers are ruthless and courts are slow.”

The newsman suggested that instead of turning to the civil court, the shop owner should sit quietly by his cigar lighter and wait patiently for the cat’s inevitable return. “There is no use going to law about a feline. For the cat always comes back.”

Perhaps the lawyers were ruthless and the courts were slow, but that didn’t stop the residents of Old New York from fighting in the courts to get their cats back—especially when their cats were held against their will. Oftentimes, court hearings over a catnapped feline were quite humorous and absurd—so much so, that newspapers throughout the country could not resist picking up stories from the New York press about these comical cat proceedings.

For example, in October 1895, Magistrate Henry A. Brann of the Yorkville Police Court spent 35 minutes trying to settle a cat-ownership dispute between Mrs. Mary Hall and Mrs. Anna Staubstaudt. The ongoing dispute between these two East 40s residents had aggravated their neighbors, many of whom were in court that day to see the matter finally settled.

According to The New York Times, which dedicated a half column of prime newspaper real estate to the story, Mrs. Hall lived in a rear tenement behind Mrs. Staubstaudt’s building. She had one Angora cat named Tommy who was “strong of lungs, and great in fighting qualities.” Mrs. Staubstaudt had a male and female feline of the “plain backyard variety.”

On June 16 of that year, Mrs. Hall’s cat mysteriously disappeared, which is something he had never done before. As she was planning to go to the country for the summer, Mrs. Hall had no choice but to leave two windows and a door open so Tommy could get back into the apartment. She then instructed two gentlemen friends to check on her home and to ship Tommy to her country address when he came back, the newspaper said.

But the cat did not come back.

When she returned in October, Mrs. Hall discovered that Mrs. Staubstaudt had imprisoned Tommy in her apartment. She refused to give the cat back, and even had the gall to charge Mrs. Hall for boarding the cat for the four months she was away, the woman alleged.

“Have you that woman’s cat?” Magistrate Brann asked the cat-napper.

“Yes, I have,” Mrs. Staubstaudt firmly replied, according to The Times.

Then the judge made the mistake of asking her why she had not returned the cat to Mrs. Hall.

“This cat came to my house almost starved ten days after Mrs. Hall went to the country. The cat never had enough to eat.”

“What!?” shrieked Mrs. Hall. “How dare you! You stole that cat. You were always jealous of my cat.”

“I took your cat in and fed him as an act of charity, and he repaid it by clawing the fur of my dear Benny. If you think so much of Tommy, why don’t you pay for his board?”

For the next few minutes, the two women argued back and forth until Magistrate Brann jumped out of his seat and cried, “Stop!”

He told Mrs. Staubstaudt to return the cat to Mrs. Hall, but her attorney, John H. Whitney, protested. “This woman has a lien on the cat for board, the same as in the case of a stray horse picked up and boarded,” the lawyer said.

“Pshaw! Pshaw!” the magistrate retorted. “If you want to collect for the board of this cat, bring action in the civil court. Go home and get your cat, Mrs. Hall,” he said.

Then addressing Mrs. Staubstaudt, he said, “You return this woman’s cat. You have no right to it.” Cat case dismissed.

Although the late 1800s was the most popular era of cat court cases in the news, unusual stories about cats in the courts continued to make the headlines in the early 1900s. The case of Pinky, the cat that winked, was one such case that garnered a lot of media attention. Originally covered by the New York Daily News on March 11, 1931, Pinky’s story was picked up by several city newspapers across the country.

The scene for this cat court case was the second-floor courtroom of the West Side Magistrates Court at 314 West 54th Street, with Magistrate Michael A. Ford presiding. On this particular day, a cat named Pinky appeared before the judge in person, so to speak, to plead her case.

The issue at hand was, did Pinky belong to the defendant, John Bonner of 354 West 52nd Street, or did she belong to the plaintiff, Frances Borrah, of the same address? According to the press, the neighbors had both claimed ownership of the large black-and-white tabby cat. Miss Borrah had accused Bonner of stealing the cat; Bonner claimed the cat had always belonged to him.

“He’s my cat. I’ll show you,” Bonner told Ford. The cat, wrapped in a blanket with a red ribbon and an ornamental chain, was placed on the floor. Bonner called the cat Tom, made a loop with his arms, and told the cat to jump. The cat simply yawned and began washing her face.

Miss Borrah then took her turn to prove ownership of the cat. She told the judge that she had taught the cat to wink, and this would prove she was hers, according to the newspaper.

“Pinky, wink at the judge!” she commanded. The spectators held their breath and craned their necks forward. A “deathly silence” prevailed, broken only by a slight rustle as the judge shifted uneasily in his robe.

The cat turned her head toward the magistrate and slowly, as if aware of her fate and the tremendous weight placed on her, closed her right eye. The spectators cheered.

“My, my,” Magistrate Ford reportedly replied. “It’s your cat,” he ruled. “Take him—or her—and go your way in peace.”


This Week in Allegedly: Flamethrower Guy and Criminal Justice Reform

Hi there!

This week’s New York City crime and courts news is all over the place, as per usual. For starters: There’s an arrest involving a flamethrower. The Manhattan D.A.’s race, meanwhile, is heating up with several high-profile endorsements—and we still don’t even know if Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is running for re-election. More on that in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, we looked at how Joe Biden’s administration could impact criminal justice in New York City.  

And with that, happy reading!

The Allegedly List

Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Tuesday endorsed Alvin Bragg, his former staffer, in the Manhattan District Attorney’s race. “It’s hard for me to imagine anyone better prepared to be Manhattan’s next District Attorney or with the qualities and perspective Alvin will bring to the job,” Bharara reportedly commented. In Bharara’s office, Bragg helmed a section that pursued cases on police-involved killings. Via New York Daily News

That’s not all on the Manhattan D.A. race: several Harvey Weinstein accusers, including one woman who testified against him at trial, are backing ex-prosecutor Lucy Lang to replace Vance. Lang, who worked in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, wants “consent” to be defined under New York State penal code and has promised to launch a sex crimes division that emphasizes justice for survivors. Vance has gotten a lot of flak for his office’s handling of sex crimes involving powerful men, including a decision not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015 and advocating for Jeffrey Epstein’s classification as a low-risk sex offender. Via New York Post 

An Army veteran and mailman who was behind bars 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit saw a Queens judge overturn his conviction Thursday. Ernest “Jaythan” Kendrick, 62, reportedly said in court: “I’m very, very happy today because I never thought this would happen—although I hoped and wished it would.” Kendrick also said: “No one really understands what it is to be in prison when you’re innocent. You know you’re innocent and you’re behind that wall. Civilization is not there.” Via New York Post

Remember that flamethrower guy, who was shooting fire from the roof of a Brooklyn bus? As it turns out, the alleged identity of said flamethrower guy is Brooklyn rapper Dupree G.O.D. He turned himself in to cops on Wednesday afternoon, several days after viral video of the fiery incident surfaced. Via Vulture

Harvey Weinstein does not have Covid-19 again. While he was reported to have coronavirus this spring, TMZ said earlier this week that he was severely ill, and a suspected Covid-19 case. Weinstein’s reps announced Thursday that his coronavirus test came back negative, which makes sense, considering the infinitesimally slim chance of getting Covid-19 twice. Via Vulture

Montoun Hart, who was acquitted in the 1997 slaying of a Bronx school teacher, was arrested for alleged drug trafficking. Prosecutors said that two undercover cops posed as customers, ultimately buying 44 weapons from him.  The Brooklyn D.A.’s office said that Hart’s alleged gun-trafficking ring sold guns originating from Virginia and South Carolina. Via New York Daily News

A fight club in the Bronx, apparently called “Rumble in the Bronx,” was busted by city sheriff’s deputies Saturday night. More than 200 people attended the unlicensed brawl, many of which weren’t wearing masks, officials said. Authorities arrested 10 people on charges such as unlawful assembly and participating in a prohibited combative sport. Via New York Times

The NYPD has overwhelmingly “reduced or rejected recommendations for stiff discipline” made by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, The New York Times reported. Data show that in approximately 71% of 6,900 CCRB-reviewed misconduct charges in the last 20 years where board members recommended significant discipline such as suspension or dismissal, the NYPD didn’t follow these recs. “In case after case, the records show that the Police Department often used its power over the disciplinary process to nullify the review board’s determination that serious misconduct had occurred and that the stiffest punishment should be meted out,” the newspaper said. Via New York Times

The Allegedly Original 

How Joe Biden’s Presidency Could Impact Criminal Justice in New York

By Victoria Bekiempis

President-elect Joe Biden has announced lots of plans for reforming the criminal justice system, including addressing deep-rooted problems in American policing. 

Among them: reducing the number of people behind bars, ending racial disparities and in doing so, foster “fair sentences,” and using the Department of Justice to tackle “systemic police misconduct.” He also wants to get rid of the death penalty, hoping to pass federal legislation and “incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.” 

Of course Biden, like any president, isn’t in a position to unilaterally reform the criminal justice system with the swipe of a pen. Biden has to work with Congress. And if the Senate remains under G.O.P. control, that means Biden and the Democrats would have a lot of work ahead of them to get anything done. (Given that Covid-19 relief can’t even get meaningful bipartisan support, the chances of sweeping criminal justice reform with a Republican senate seem more than a bit slim.)

Perhaps most importantly, a lot of reforms would have to happen at the state and local level. As The Marshall Project points out, there are about 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the U.S., “all with their own rules and regulations.” So, something like Biden’s suggestion to bar chokeholds and no-knock raids wouldn’t be up to him on the local level. 

There’s still a lot Biden can accomplish. Allegedly spoke with several criminal justice veterans to get more info on what he can accomplish and how that affects New York City.  

There are a whole lot of things that, ideally, would get done legislatively,” said David Patton, executive director and attorney-in-chief of the Federal Defenders of New York, explaining: “That obviously takes a lot of time.”

“What the administration can do most directly, from day one, is [put] people in positions that have a lot of influence over how things work on a day-to-day basis in federal courts, starting with the attorney general—so making sure that he appoints someone as the attorney general who’s committed to criminal justice reform, and would issue policies regarding charging and sentencing, and disclosure of evidence, and positions on bail that are all consistent with reform proposals that the president signed off on during the campaign,” he said. “Here in New York, [it’s] who to appoint as U.S. Attorney for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.”

Typically, when the home state senator is the same party as the president, this senator has a lot of say in these appointees.  In New York, appointees “have effectively been selected by Sen. [Chuck] Schumer, and so part of what the Biden administration will need to do is make sure that they’re on the same page with Sen. Schumer about putting in place a real reformer.” 

Schumer’s office did not comment when contacted by Allegedly.

“Every Department of Justice puts forward certain policies as when to charge things and when not to,” Patton also said.

“Even with changes in policy and guidance from main justice, individual U.S. attorneys still have a great deal of discretion about who they charge and what they charge, and how they go about litigating a case once they’ve charged it,” he said. 

Take federal mandatory minimum sentences, for example. Even if they don’t get reformed legislatively, prosecutors have “an enormous amount of discretion” that allows them to make cases that wouldn’t result in mandatory minimums.  

With drug offenses, mandatory minimums are triggered by different amounts of weight that are involved in said offenses. 

“Weight oftentimes is really a poor proxy for culpability,” Patton said. “Somebody can have a very minor role in a drug conspiracy that involves a lot of drugs.”

So, prosecutors could elect to pursue these offenses in a way that doesn’t prompt mandatory minimums. 

“Someone can be charged in a way that takes into account the whole spectrum of issues that we hope could be taken to account in sentencing,” he said, “and it gives judges the discretion to consider those things.”

Rebecca Roiphe, professor of law at New York Law School and former Manhattan prosecutor, said that the U.S. Department of Justice can monitor abuses in law enforcement agencies if there are concerns about civil rights. The feds can investigate abuses and create a report, which can lead to a settlement and the installation of a monitor, who would oversee the settlement’s enforcement.  

This has an impact that exceeds local prosecution of rogue law enforcement officers. While local prosecutors can go after cops directly involved in misconduct, broader Department of Justice involvement can tackle patterns of abuse, potentially reforming police departments. 

(This hasn’t happened with the New York Police Department. As Ali Winston reported in The New York Review of Books, the NYPD hasn’t been subject to a federal “pattern-and-practice investigation and concurrent federal oversight” despite a litany of state-level misconduct investigations and civil rights lawsuits.) 

So how, exactly, would a Biden administration ramp up Department of Justice involvement? 

If Biden prioritizes civil rights in a way that President Donald Trump has not, situations where money is earmarked for certain things can create investigations and infrastructure for them, Roiphe explained. 

Under Biden, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division,  which has been extensively hamstrung under Trump, will likely be funded in an entirely different way, giving it more power.

David M. Kennedy, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and director of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay, similarly spoke to the role of prioritization in an administration’s handling of justice issues.

“We saw police violence, and police misbehavior more broadly, as a real focus of the two Obama-Biden administrations, [but] very much not a focus in the Trump administration,” Kennedy said. “And I think there’s every likelihood it will become a focus again in this administration.”

Kennedy pointed to Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ extensive work with criminal justice. Biden has long made criminal justice and policing issues a priority; Harris worked as District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California.

This will be The White House with the “greatest concentration” of criminal justice experience in American history, Kennedy said. 

“That’s pretty unprecedented—to have that level of experience and commitment at the top of a federal administration, so I think it’s very likely these issues will get a lot of attention.”

An administration’s budget could impact policing and other aspects of criminal justice policy, prioritizing investments into things such as drug treatment and homelessness, for example. 

“There are pretty important budget powers here,” he said.

Allegedly reached out to Biden’s transition team for comment. They did not respond.