Allegedly Weekly

Donald Trump’s Finances and Police Misconduct

Good morning!

As Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis continues to dominate national headlines, this week’s New York City crime and courts news has largely been led by the President’s many legal woes. More on that in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Sean Piccoli looks at Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s handling of high-profile sex crime cases, exploring the complicated interplay of criticism and commendation—and his office’s influence on prosecutors elsewhere in the U.S. 

The Allegedly List

  • The New York State Attorney General’s office questioned Eric Trump under oath Monday, following repeated delays. The deposition, which was carried out remotely, stemmed from the office’s civil investigation of whether the Trump family’s real estate business engaged in fraud. Via The New York Times
  • On Wednesday, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Manhattan prosecutors could enforce their subpoena of Trump’s tax returns. Trump’s legal team had unsuccessfully tried to thwart this subpoena, claiming unsuccessfully that the request constituted sketchy political maneuvering. Via The Washington Post
  • E. Jean Carroll, who alleged that Trump sexually assaulted her in a Manhattan department store dressing room during the 1990s, fired back against Justice Department efforts to rep the President in her defamation case against him. “Only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted,” Roberta Kaplan, who reps Carroll, said in court papers Monday. Via New York Daily News
  • Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love ruled Monday that cops can face criminal charges for violating the city’s chokehold ban as the law’s legal validity continues to be litigated in court. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by 18 police unions in August, claiming New York City’s new chokehold law wasn’t clear enough. Via New York Post
  • Violence erupted in Borough Park this week as some members of the Ultra-Orthodox community protested new coronavirus regulations, with assaults taking place in front of NYPD officers. Longtime Jewish Insider journalist Jacob Kornbluh was assaulted Wednesday during the demonstrations. Via Gothamist
  • Rochester, New York Mayor Lovely Warren pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that she schemed to defraud election law, stemming from a lengthy inquiry into her 2017 re-election campaign. Warren was heavily criticized in September because the city had long stayed silent about Daniel Prude’s death at the hands of cops. Via New York Daily News
  • Baimadajie Angwang, the New York Police Department officer who allegedly spied for China, will remain in lockup pending trial, Brooklyn Federal Judge Eric Komitee decided Wednesday. An ethnic Tibetan, Angwang was recently accused of spying on other ethnic Tibetans in the city; prosecutors claimed that he also offered to give his handler at the Chinese consulate info about the NYPD’s inner workings. Via New York Post
  • NYPD officials said Thursday that anti-police sentiment, and the resulting low morale, is driving officers to retire in droves. While the NYPD remains the largest U.S. police force with 34,488 officers, that number is 7 percent less than last year. Via New York Daily News

The Allegedly Original

What Exactly is Cy Vance’s Legacy on Prosecuting Sex Crimes?

By Sean Piccoli

When federal prosecutors charged a former New York gynecologist last month with sexually abusing his patients, the U.S. Attorney bringing the case issued numerous thank-yous— to the Justice Department lawyers leading the effort, to their investigative partners at the FBI “for their dedication and professionalism,” and to the women who came forward with claims that the doctor, Robert Hadden, assaulted them in his office under the pretense of conducting exams.

“Without them, these charges could not have been brought,”  Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a press conference, calling Hadden “a predator in a white coat” whose victims included underage girls—one of whom he had delivered. “We thank them for their courage and we are proud to stand here today on their behalf in bringing this case.” 

A more muted thanks—“for their cooperation”—went to local prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In 2016, Hadden copped to a lesser charge in a plea deal that cost him his medical license but kept him out of prison—an agreement that infuriated some of his victims.  

Strauss didn’t join the criticism of Hadden’s plea deal. But for, the more serious federal case against Hadden rekindled questions about Vance’s handling of high-profile sexual misconduct cases. 

Elected in 2009 as a champion of women’s issues, Vance has also endured periodic criticism that influential white men with well-connected lawyers got deferential treatment in sex crime prosecutions and other cases. Some of these lawyers were Vance campaign donors until he stopped accepting their contributions. 

It was Vance’s office that dropped a sexual assault case against French politician and financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn, tried to cut billionaire socialite and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein a legal break in New York, declined an opportunity to pursue a groping case against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and let Hadden avoid jail. 

Taken alone, each case came with complications and rationales for how the office proceeded. Prosecutors feared that Strauss-Kahn’s accuser was lying about key details. The initial Weinstein allegation, based at the time on a single complaint of abuse, was thought to be too weak to take to trial. The D.A. considered some Hadden accusers to be vulnerable to cross-examination. Meanwhile, a more aggressive Hadden prosecution might have been derailed by a mishandling of evidencewhen Hadden’s lawyers discovered that the D.A. had neglected to turn over a nurse’s exculpatory statement disputing one accuser’s account. 

Harder to understand, perhaps, was a Vance deputy going to bat for Epstein in 2011 and asking—unsuccessfully, before an incredulous judge— for Epstein to be given a lower and less punitive sex-offender status in New York after his conviction in Florida for soliciting an underage prostitute. (Epstein, later facing federal charges, committed suicide in a Manhattan jail cell.) Vance later said this happened due to a mistake by a subordinate, based on a misreading of the law. 

Despite the criticism, victims’ advocates have praised Vance’s work as a blueprint for prosecuting hard-to-win cases—like Weinstein’s. After declining to pursue the 2015 allegation, Vance brought a case against Weinstein in 2018 that culminated this year in guilty verdicts for sexual assault and rape. A judge sentenced him to 23 years in prison. 

“I have very high regard for Cy Vance doing what he did and taking the risks that he did,” lawyer Gloria Allred, who represented one of Weinstein’s victims in the New York case, told Allegedly. 

Allred called it “a huge leap of faith” that most prosecutors would not have taken, when Vance and his lead prosecutors in the case, Joan Illuzzi and Meghan Hast, let jurors see a complicated picture of the relationships between Weinstein and his victims. “Juries are not used to being presented with that set of facts,” Allred said. “So it’s even more unpredictable as to what the result would be.”

“Based on my experience. I think his office did a really commendable job, an exceptional job,”  Allred said, calling the case “a groundbreaking teaching moment for other prosecutors around the country.”

It appears that Vance might have provided a road map to Los Angeles County, California, District Attorney Jackie Lacey. Her office filed charges against Weinstein in January, April, and again last week for alleged sexual assaults in 2004-2005 at the Beverly Hills hotel. 

The first woman ever to serve as Los Angeles’s chief prosecutor, Lacey assumed office in 2012, the same year a Justice Department study found that rape victims in Los Angeles struggled to get their claims heard and treated seriously by police and prosecutors. 

“With her being the district attorney I suspect that things have changed,” Cassia Spohn, a study co-author and director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, told Allegedly. 

In 2017, in the wake of #MeToo gaining momentum, Lacey’s office established a task force to review old cases in the entertainment industry and bring new ones. After a slow start, the Entertainment Industry Sex Crimes Task Force has charged four people this year: Weinstein, film producuer David Guillod, porn actor Ron Jeremy, and “That ‘70s Show” actor Danny Masterson.  

Allred, who is representing two women in the Los Angeles Weinstein case, said she anticipates that Lacey’s deputies will make every effort to match the work done by Vance’s office. “ I do feel they have been very careful, very sensitive and very diligent in preparing their case,”  Allred said. (A spokesman for the L.A. County District Attorney’s office declined to comment for this article.)

It remains to be seen how much Vance’s high-profile sex crimes prosecutions will impact the race. Nine people have announced plans to run against him in 2021. Six are women, and Manhattan has never had a woman run the D.A.’s office in its 203-year history.

Whether or not political pressure and public censure play a role, Vance’s office in 2020 is making a public pitch for itself as an ally to women affected by sexual violence. Days before the Weinstein verdict, Vance reopened the Hadden case for further review. In May, the office released a report compiling results from one of his most lauded initiatives, the drive to test a backlog of more than 55,000 rape kits using funds seized from banks.

A Vance spokesman, Danny Frost, noted that as far back as 2018 the D.A. launched a task force focusing on sexual violence in the workplace—a unit sometimes referred to as the #MeToo Squad. Frost said the office has conducted a comprehensive internal review of its Sex Crimes Unit, assigned more prosecutors to work directly with police and victim advocates, retrained staff in how to deal with traumatized victims, and lobbied the state to toughen sex crimes statutes. 

Frost also referred to a statement Vance made in September when assault survivors were calling on him to resign: “Our office fights day in and day out for survivors of sex crimes—helping them to obtain justice, vital services, and critical public policy changes—irrespective of the wealth, power, or race of their assailants.”

More, criticism of New York authorities’ handling of sex crimes cases isn’t limited to Vance and other prosecutors. In March 2018, the Department of Investigation slammed the New York Police Department’s special victims unit, saying there were dramatic staffing shortages. These shortfalls, DOI said, impacted the unit’s proper treatment of cases. The department also said that NYPD investigators didn’t do much for acquaintance rape cases compared to those involving strangers. 

With the Weinstein case specifically, one of the six sexual-assault-related counts was dismissed in October 2018 after it was revealed the lead NYPD investigator didn’t disclose alleged discrepancies between one woman’s allegations and a witness. Prosecutors also revealed that this NYPD investigator had told an accuser that she could delete information from her phones before giving them to prosecutors.

One former Manhattan prosecutor told Allegedly that, if anything, Vance could be at risk of trying to do too much to compensate for law enforcement’s historical neglect of rape victims.If his office ramped up prosecution in a way that pursued weak cases for the sake of pursuing more sex crimes cases, it could undermine efforts overall. “I understand the outrage,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School. “But also having been a prosecutor myself, I understand why offices find these cases extremely hard to bring.”

Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: COVID-19 and Manhattan’s D.A. Race

Good morning and welcome back!

Given President Donald Trump’s announcement this morning that he and his wife tested positive for COVID-19, we realize that you probably don’t have the time or attention span to read a lengthy recap of the week’s New York City courts and crime news.

And, we wouldn’t want to keep you from Halley Bondy’s extensive rundown of the 2021 Manhattan District Attorney candidates’ plans for addressing police misconduct and disparities in the justice system.

So, here’s a special edition of The Allegedly List, in brief…

  • Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman was hit with an 81 month prison sentence in the NXIVM sex cult case (Vulture)
  • New York City courts present a huge COVID risk (New York Daily News)
  • The New York state court system cut 46 judges to trim the budget (Queens Daily Eagle)

The Allegedly Original

By Halley Bondy

What the Manhattan D.A. Candidates Have To Say About Police Misconduct

Protests spurred by the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville renewed the national conversation on racism in policing and more broadly, disparities in the U.S. justice system.  

Many believe that the 2021 Manhattan District Attorney race is an opportunity to address these issues in New York City. Nine progressive candidates have thrown their hat into the ring. They all said they want to increase police oversight and address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. However, they offer varying ideas on how to get there.

Allegedly asked eight candidates two questions on these issues. The questions are:

1. What will your office do to proactively address police misconduct?  Please provide concrete examples.

2. Persons of color and economically disadvantaged persons are still overwhelmingly the targets of low-level prosecutions, how will you change that? Please provide concrete examples.

We gave each candidate five minutes to answer each question. Candidate Tahanie Aboushi did not participate despite many attempts to interview her.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. has not said whether he’s running, telling Allegedly: “I will make that decision at the soonest possible time where I think it’s the right time.” However, Vance answered the same questions as these announced candidates, under the same time guidelines. 

Below are the candidates’ answers, in alphabetical order by name. Vance’s responses are below the candidates’ answers. Because he has been in office, Vance’s answers are in the past tense. 

Alvin Bragg

Plans for change:

  • A holistic hiring model within the D.A.’s office
  • A widely available “do-not-call list” that tracks officers who cannot be relied on so that they cannot be called to the stand by prosecutors
  • Advocating for police force to be used as a last resort
  • Advocating for a smaller police presence in general
  • Not prosecuting smaller-level offenses like trespassing, larceny under $250, standalone resisting arrest, or cases where mental health is an obvious contributor

“Having lived as a Black boy first in Manhattan and now as a Black man in Manhattan…I think back on one incident, during a warrant squad arrest. Officers came to my door at 5 a.m., looking for a loved one who lived with me, for an open bottle offense. I think back to that occasion and wonder: Why are we using resources for this? There are issues that are a threat to our safety like gun trafficking that I would want to prioritize.” 

Elizabeth Crotty

Plans for change: 

  • Continuing bail reform
  • Expanding the D.A.’s corruption bureau
  • Transforming the D.A.’s office into a safe harbor for police officers to report misconduct
  • Advocating for ongoing implicit bias training for police officers
  • Not prosecuting many disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest offenses

“I was [with the] D.A. from 2000 to 2006,  and I started my own criminal defense firm 12 years ago. I’ve been representing people for 12 years. When I represent people and I see that someone is being charged with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, that is always code to me that they aggravated a police officer. The D.A. has to be open to dismissing those cases outright rather than, say, giving one day of community service. Sometimes, an arrest is really not appropriate.”                

Tali Farhadian Weinstein

Plans for change: 

  • Investigating police misconduct and officers who lie under oath or make false statements
  • Regularly assessing police officer credibility and disclosing results.
  • Engaging with victims of police misconduct
  • Using hard data to pinpoint where discrimination is happening and making reforms

“I’ve been a prosecutor for a long time, and I was trained that nobody is above the law no matter who they are or what uniform they are wearing… As I’ve always done, I would have my team follow the facts wherever they may lead, to investigate and prosecute misconduct when it happens. In Brooklyn, I helped design and supervise the Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau, which is a dedicated bureau for investigating and prosecuting police officers… First, you find the data, and then you react. “

Diana Florence

Plans for change: 

  • Proactively investigating the worst police misconduct offenders
  • Creating a database of officers who lie under oath
  • Making these databases accessible to public defenders
  • Not prosecuting low-level crimes that are a result of police escalation
  • Working with community organizations to find solutions for drug addiction other than arrest

“It’s absolutely the case that there have been two systems of justice. There’s a concierge system of justice that has existed especially in the last decade in Cy Vance’s office—I know that because I worked there, and I saw how the powerful got a different level of access and ability to get better outcomes to their cases. We need to attack that…We’re disproportionately affecting black and brown communities and over-policing them for low level crimes.”

Lucy Lang

Plans for change:

  • Monitoring police actions and intervening when there’s a risk for misconduct
  • Making the D.A.’s office a safe place for employees to report misconduct
  • Maintaining a database of offending officers and making it available to the defense and the public 
  • Advocating to decriminalize crimes of homelessness, poverty, and substance use 
  • Removing non-credible officers where possible from communities
  • Forging initiatives to utilize community members instead of law enforcement where possible to respond to and interrupt violence
  • Examining discrimination in high-level arrests as well as low-level arrests
  • Ensuring no lawyer or person has preferential access to the D.A. than any other

“I’ve had the incredible privilege over the past two years at John Jay, where I’ve been at the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, working collaboratively with families who have lost families to police violence, police chiefs, and prosecutors from across the country to create a set of protocols and best practices for addressing instances of police violence. The experiences of those families have really highlighted for me the absolute imperative to prioritize clear communication and transparency around issues of police misconduct and violence.”

Janos Marton

Plans for change:

  • Pledging to reduce Manhattan’s jail population by 80 percent
  • Ending war on drugs
  • Abolishing the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor
  • Not prosecuting any drug possession case
  • Establishing an independent unit, outside of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, to monitor police misconduct and lying on the stand
  • Ensuring police misconduct records transparency
  • Eliminating cash bail
  • Advocating for a requirement that police officers live in the city
  • Advocating that police misconduct determinations should not be left to the police commissioner

“As someone who grew up as a young man of color in Giuliani’s New York, I’ve been stopped and frisked, arrested and jailed…I was brought onto the Civilian Complaint Review Board six years ago. We tried to reform the CCRB to make police increase police accountability there. We hit a blue wall. There is too much political power invested in the NYPD because they have a hold over the budget, and people don’t understand the extent of misconduct…I am specifically running so that the public can have taxpayer-funded records.” 

Eliza Orlins

Plans for change:

  • Banning the acceptance of donations from all law-enforcement, including police unions
  • Disentangling the relationship between the police and the D.A.’s office
  • Preventing cases from being charged or prosecuted based on testimony from non-credible officers
  • Putting officers with a history of misconduct on a “do not call” list
  • Establishing an independent bureau for investigating and prosecuting police misconduct
  • Ensuring those tasked with prosecuting police officers are unbiased
  • Reviewing any pending or closed cases involving officers who have been found to have committed perjury in the past
  • Declining to prosecute cases including low level drug possession, sex work, and “crimes of poverty” like jumping a turnstile, sleeping on park benches, or occupying multiple seats on the subway, etc.
  • Ending cash bail

“For years, Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance has allowed the police to operate with impunity by refusing to hold them accountable for their actions…For the past 10 years, I have been working as a public defender. I’ve stood side by side representing more than 3,000 people, fighting for the human beings charged with crimes in this city who could not afford to hire an attorney. And I have seen time and time again, people of color and folks from low income communities be targeted… It is not fair. And it is not humane.”

Dan Quart

Plans for Change:

  • Publicly disclosing the names of officers who are not trustworthy
  • Advocating to empower the CCRB in New York City as an independent agent from the NYPD with substantial authority
  • Revamping the Early Case Assessment Bureau to have a better information vetting process when officers report an arrest
  • Declining to prosecute crimes like fare evasion, many drug possession charges, loitering, sex work, trespassing and more

“We have a D.A. in Manhattan who practices restraint when it pertains to the wealthy and well-connected, but uses incarceration as a first—not a last resort when it comes to Black, Brown and poor New Yorkers. As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve represented so many people who should have not been in criminal court in the first place… Prosecutors are part of the problem in their failure to prosecute police officers who use violence or excessive force against members of the public… My office will not be deferential to police unions or individual police officers who engage in violent or excessive force.”

Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.


  • Decreased the office’s prosecutions by more than 50 percent
  • Ended routine prosecution of marijuana smoking and possession, subway fare evasion, unlicensed vending, nonpayment of fines, loitering for prostitution, and summons cases
  • Launched Project Reset, Project Green Light, and Manhattan Hope to provide free service interventions instead of prosecutions
  • Established first Conviction Integrity Program and first implicit bias review initiatives on East Coast
  • Started first Alternatives to Incarceration Court and hired first immigration-consequences counsel in New York
  • Funded the first statewide college-in-prison program and citywide supervised release program
  • Proactively dismissed 3,000 open marijuana bench warrants and 240,000 summons cases
  • Initiated class action that sealed hundreds of old marijuana convictions

“Our office has been already very proactive in addressing police misconduct in a variety of areas. Our prosecutions of police officers have ranged in instances from police officers committing physical assault, including rape, against individuals, and dealing drugs, and creating and fabricating circumstances to justify street stops or car stops.This is a part of the job that we have done for the time I’ve been in office. As I’ve said, we’ve done it dozens of times. I take no pleasure in it, but it has to be done.”

Victoria Bekiempis contributed reporting. 

Editor’s note: We fixed the spelling of Tahanie Aboushi’s last name. It didn’t have a “t.” Apologies!

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Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Robert Hadden, Kevin Spacey, and Goats


This week’s top New York City courts and crime news involves allegations of sexual assault, including a new criminal case against Robert Hadden. More info in The Allegedly List. In The Allegedly Original, Peggy Gavan’s look at historic anti-goat policing sheds light on present-day disparities in the criminal justice system. As always, don’t forget to subscribe!

The Allegedly List

  • Robert Hadden, the former Columbia University gynecologist accused of sexually assaulting numerous patients, was arrested Wednesday on federal charges. Hadden “enticed and induced dozens of victims, including minors, to travel to his medical offices in New York, New York, at least in part for the purpose of subjecting them to unlawful sexual abuse,” the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office said. In 2016, Hadden got probation in his state sexual abuse case under a plea deal, spurring extensive criticism of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Via Southern District of New York
  • The Department of Justice wants to swap its lawyers for Donald Trump’s private legal team in advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him. Department officials claimed in Manhattan court papers Tuesday that Trump acted “within the scope” of official presidential duties in claiming that Carroll lied when she said he raped her more than two decades ago. “Just when @realDonaldTrump is required to produce documents and DNA in discovery, he sics the DOJ on us,” Carroll said Tuesday on Twitter, also writing “THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED!!” Via New York Daily News
  • Kevin Spacey was accused in a new lawsuit of sexually abusing two 14-year-old boys on separate occasions in the 1980s: actor Anthony Rapp and a man referred to as C.D. in court papers. The suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday, also alleged that Spacey tried to force sex on C.D. Spacey, whose reps couldn’t be reached for comment, previously denied Rapp’s allegations. Via Vulture
  • A Manhattan federal court judge decided that lawyers repping the families of 9/11 victims can question two dozen members of Saudi Arabia’s government about whether the country had a role in these attacks. For years, these families have fought to investigate Saudi Arabia on whether the Kingdon helped Al Qaeda, slamming the U.S. government for a “massive coverup.” Brett Eagleson, whose father was killed on 9/11, reportedly said of the decision, which was disclosed Thursday: “This ruling basically allows us to depose key members of the Saudi royal family.” Via New York Daily News
  • On Tuesday, Rochester’s police chief, La’Ron D. Singletary, and several high-ranking department officials, resigned or were demoted in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death. Three days prior, state Attorney General Letitia James announced that she was impaneling a grand jury to probe the incident. Prude died in March after police put a “spit hood” on him while holding him against the ground, but details were not released until last week, spurring allegations of a cover-up. Via New York Times
  • Jeffrey Lichtman, the lawyer who repped Mexican drug lord El Chapo and Gambino mobster John Gotti Jr., will defend the 15-year-old, who is facing a life behind bars in the December 2019 killing of Barnard College student Tessa Majors. The teen, Rashaun Weaver, is charged with second-degree murder and other related counts for his alleged role in Majors’ murder. Lichtman said he decided to defend him pro bono, after he learned that Weaver was the same age as his twin sons, it was revealed Tuesday. Via New York Daily News
  • Five security officers at Brooklyn Federal Court contracted coronavirus, prompting officials to shutter the courthouse until at least Monday, as they continued tracing this outbreak, it was revealed this week. It’s unclear whether others who work at the courthouse—such as prosecutors, judges, and defense lawyers—have fallen ill, though there does not appear to be indication thus far that any have contracted COVID-19.  Via New York Daily News

The Allegedly Original

When The Goats of Gotham Got Residents’ Goats

By Peggy Gavan

During the 19th Century, the Upper West Side from about 59th Street to Harlem was often referred to as Goat Town or Goatville. Before the extension of elevated railroads prompted new housing construction above Central Park, thousands of goats lived among the hills and large rocky outcrops that once dominated the area. Carmansville, a village situated on the Upper West Side, even had its own squad of policemen dedicated to catching goats called the Nanny Squad. Goat towns could also be found among the rocky hills on the Upper East Side from Lenox Hill to East Harlem.  

In the late 1800s, many city goats received bad publicity for committing criminal trespass and petty larceny. Although the goats’ actions made the news headlines, these stories also had a human element that spoke to residents’ suffering. Many immigrant residents derived their livelihood from selling goat meat and milk; they also depended on the goats for food. They could not afford to pay court fines levied on them, and they also lost their source of income and sustenance when the goats were carted off to the pound. The conflict over these goats touches on policing controversies that continue to this day: Impoverished New Yorkers bore the brunt of enforcement. More, reactions to these purported nuisance animals showed the power of NIMBYism—and its relationship to even early iterations of community policing. 

One short story published in The New York Times provides a glimpse of the tumultuous relationship between the goat-owning residents and the police. On July 30 1880, a squad of police officers in plain clothes descended on the hills in the sparsely-settled neighborhood around East 70th Street. There, they captured as many goats as they could fill in their two-horse truck. 

According to the newspaper, a large crowd of goat-owning residents and their sympathizers, “who were loud in their denunciations of these ‘oppressors of the poor,’” harassed and yelled at the officers as they gathered the goats. Some of the women were reportedly very loud in allegedly making threats, “but a show of force on the part of Police soon quieted them.” One woman reportedly shouted: “These police is all American, with their hundred dollars a month and their peccadilly collars and white neckties, chasin’ ‘goats.’” 

The police officers captured 22 goats on that hot summer day, which was about 15 more than the truck could humanely handle. The Times reporter noted that as the goats trampled each other and stood on their hind legs for want of room, none of the protesting residents seemed to pay any mind to their suffering. He believed that the squatters were not protesting because they cared for the goats, but because they depended on them for their survival.  

In December 1884, some well-to-do residents of Yorkville and East Harlem came together to form the Anti-Goat Protective Association. According to the Buffalo Evening News, the mission of the association, led by attorney Robert W. Todd of 30 East 70th Street, was to help the police eradicate the neighborhood of goats. The association claimed goats had long fed freely on ladies’ skirts and underwear hanging from clotheslines, or had jumped through open windows to feast on indoor plants, paintings, and other valuables. 

According to the upstate newspaper, the group filed a complaint with Police Commissioner Stephen B. French “setting forth the existing state of affairs and begging that the police reserves or the militia be called out to make war with the animals.” The police department agreed the goats were a nuisance and should be removed. But, as the news reporter noted, giving the order was much easier than executing it. In this war on goats, it was the NYPD versus the goats and the immigrant residents.

“The squatters in the shanties on the rocks say they cannot afford to buy hoop skirts and flannel underwear for their animals and declare it will ruin them to provide food,” the newspaper said. “They will defy the law and trust to the agility and butting power of the goats to escape. If the police order that the goats must go, let them carry out the order if they can.”

For the police, rounding up goats was no simple feat. The reporter offered the following comical imagery to paint a picture in the readers’ eyes:

“The average goat, they say, is as elusive as a nickel which has slipped between the torn lining of last year’s overcoat and as hard to catch as a Brooklyn street car. [The police] do not relish skipping over the rocks in pursuit of such agile offenders, and even granting that they can catch a goat, what in the name of justice, they ask, are they to do with it? The law forbids killing it, Henry Bergh says it shall not be clubbed, and there is no cell in the station-houses for it. To take it to the pound sounds easy, but experience has demonstrated that it requires the united energies of four dignified policemen to drag one goat three blocks.”

At an informal Anti-Goat meeting that took place at Todd’s “brownstone palace” on East 70th Street, he pointed out a broken stone balustrade under a front window and some ruined paintings on his parlor walls. He explained that the goats’ voracious appetites “had swollen his dry goods bills to enormous proportions.” The news reporter selected a colorful moment to record for all posterity:

“‘Do you know,’ said he, with an angry quiver in his voice, ‘every week these goats break in to my back yard and carry out the finest pairs of my daughter’s—’

‘Papa,’ screamed the young lady, ‘don’t you dare tell—’

‘I don’t care,’ doggedly insisted the old man, ‘you know they ruined at least a dozen pairs of your—’


‘Silk stockings,’ went on the angry father, ‘and I mean to get even with them some way, if I have to mount a howitzer on the kitchen steps.’”

That evening, each member of the association agreed to rush to the aid of every policeman struggling to capture an elusive buck or doe in the neighborhood. 

There is no further record of the Anti-Goat Protective Association. By the end of the 19th Century, when all the rocky hills had been leveled and the shanties had all been replaced by luxury apartment houses, the Goat Towns of Manhattan were a matter of history.  

Like today, crackdowns boosted by wealthy residents and what appeared to be an early form of gentrification went hand in hand, changing a neighborhood in a way that made it harder for residents of fewer means to live.

A note for readers: Thank you for reading this week’s edition! We will not be publishing during the High Holy Days, but look forward to seeing you back very soon!

Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Deadly Force, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon


New York’s top crime and courts news this week included a police-involved death in Rochester and shocking shooting stats across the five boroughs. More details in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Brittany Gibson examines the state of NYPD precinct community councils—and whether they have any place amid today’s push for police reform. If you like this week’s edition, don’t forget to subscribe!  

The Allegedly List

  • Daniel T. Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died of asphyxiation March 30 after Rochester police officers put a “spit hood” over his face while restraining him, it was revealed Wednesday. Video shows that a minimum of three cops held Prude “prone and forcing his head and chest into the pavement for several minutes until, apparently unnoticed by the officers, he stops breathing.” New York State Attorney General Letitia James is investigating Prude’s death, which has been ruled a homicide from “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” Via The Democrat and ChronicleThe New York Times 
  • Donald Trump has threatened to defund New York City and other “anarchist jurisdictions,” prompting a warning from James’s office: “prepare for legal action.” “Sowing anger and dividing Americans are the last thing we need, and if the president actually decides to move forward with his threat to defund New York City, we will be ready to take immediate legal action,” James said in a press release Thursday, adding, “Time after time, we have beat the president in court and we have no doubt we will beat him again, if necessary.” Via New York Attorney General’s Office
  • Trump scored a court victory on Tuesday—the Second Circuit Court of Appeals barred the immediate release of his tax and financial records to New York prosecutors. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is probing hush-money payoffs before the 2016 election to two women claiming to have had affairs with Trump, has been seeking these records. The U.S. Supreme Court in July rejected Trump’s claim that he was immune to these kinds of investigations as president. Via The Washington Post 
  • The “Electric Avenue” singer-songwriter, Eddy Grant, alleged in a Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit Tuesday that Trump committed copyright infringement by playing the song in a Twitter video. Grant said in his suit that he will keep suffering if this video—which slams Trump opponent Joe Biden—keeps circulating across the Internet. Grant wants damages that would be determined at trial. Via New York Post
  • The fraud trial for former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon was scheduled for May 24, 2021. Manhattan Federal Court Judge Analisa Torres, who’s overseeing the case, recognized that COVID-19 could still delay things, saying Monday that “there are only a few courtrooms that are outfitted” for pandemic-era trials. Bannon is accused of siphoning money from We Build The Wall, an online fundraiser for Trump’s controversial border wall.  Via Guardian US
  • Remember how Steve Bannon was arrested on an 150-foot yacht off the Connecticut coast? Well, the dissident Chinese billionaire who owns said yacht claimed that a supporter of China’s communist party was using “high-powered surveillance equipment” to track him, according to a report Wednesday. The suit also claims that the alleged stalker rented a boat and followed him to Rhode Island. Via New York Post
  • There were 242 shootings in New York City this August compared to 91 the same month of 2019—an 166 percent increase. Murders numbered 291 for the first eight months of 2020 compared to 217 over this same period last year, a 34 percent increase. Rape, which is notoriously under-reported, declined by 22 percent in August 2020, with 126 reported incidents compared to 162 at the same time of 2019. Via New York Police Department.
  • On Tuesday, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark recommended the dismissal of hundreds of summonses issued for alleged curfew violations during the George Floyd protests. While Clark doesn’t pursue criminal court summonses, she intends on filing a motion requesting that the court dismiss these notices against more than 300 demonstrators. “I believe in and encourage our Bronx residents to raise their voices to protest social and racial injustice in a peaceful way,” she said in a statement. Via New York Post

The Allegedly Original

Does New York City Still Need NYPD Precinct Community Councils?

By Brittany Gibson

In 1943, New York City launched NYPD precinct community councils. To this day, members of these volunteer-run groups meet with community affairs officers at their respective neighborhoods’ precinct station house, or spaces such as churches or schools, and voice their concerns over everything from ATM skimming to unruly e-bikes. Snacks are often served. 

“The mission of the Community Council is to establish and maintain working partnerships between the New York City Police Department and community members; to improve public safety, quality of life and police-community relations throughout New York City,” an NYPD document says. “These working partnerships enable the Department in its crime-fighting strategy, build mutual trust and empower community members as stakeholders.” 

Recent protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police have dramatically rekindled the debate over how cops interact with their community, however.  Precinct councils can be considered an early example of community policing, but calls to defund the NYPD—and in doing so, shift many traditional department duties to non-law enforcement entities like social workers—have prompted some to question community involvement with policing outright.  

While some New Yorkers continue to support precinct community councils, others think they’re an outmoded concept, given their inextricable connection to a police department they believe is systematically flawed. The NYPD did not provide comment for this story.

“I think they have the ability to reach people. I’m sure each council is different in some aspects, but I think they have the ability to be the go-betweens, the liaisons between the police department and the community,” said Dr. Alfred C. Titus, a retired homicide detective and current professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “A lot of times people don’t want to get involved with the police not just because of lack of trust, but also out of safety reasons. It’s frowned upon in a lot of communities to communicate with the police.”

Titus recalled one instance in his 23-year career where a police community council leader was able to help his team progress in investigating a homicide on the Lower East Side, by connecting investigators with a witness who was afraid to come forward.

Although it’s in the police community council’s mission to help officers develop a “crime-fighting strategy,” most New Yorkers will be more familiar with their community-building events like the National Night Out Block parties that happen every August (with the exception of this year because of COVID-19).

These block parties happen across the city and attract thousands of people with food stands from local businesses, live music performances, and speeches from NYPD leaders, as well as opportunities to talk with the community officers.

President of the 104th Precinct Community Council Len Santoro said this event is a way for residents and their kids to meet police officers in a “positive way.”

Some people may see this direct engagement as an advantage. Santoro, who’s been president of his council for two years, said: “when people find out they can speak directly to a commanding officer, they’re excited to go to a meeting.” 

Others, however, see police presence at every meeting as a reason not to participate.

“It’s a waste of time because they’re inviting you to come and have a conversation with someone where there’s not an equal distribution of power,” said Monifa Bandele, a member of the leadership table for the Movement for Black Lives and the steering committee for police reform in New York City.

Bandele has been part of a five-year effort to repeal the police secrecy law, 50-A, which prevented police personal records from being made public. Implemented more than 40 years ago, 50-A was overturned this June.

“That would work if police were in any way, shape or form accountable and transparent. You can’t talk about partnerships with an agency that has no accountability, not just to our community but not even to the mayor,” she added. “How am I supposed to go and build a partnership with someone when I have no idea what their discipline records are? If they’re abusive? It’s a lopsided relationship. [Playing] basketball is not going to build trust.”

The City’s history of stop-and-frisk policing, which disproportionately targeted Black and Latino men, and track record of spotty discipline for police officers accused of misconduct, as well as Trump-era use of cops and courts to pursue undocumented immigrants, are just the most recent examples of potentially unbridgeable divides between the police and the communities they’re meant to serve.

The recent surge of grassroots organizing around the Back Lives Matter movement has proposed many different ways to reform policing, including removing police officers from schools and diverting money from its $8 billion budget to other city services and departments. Part of this strategy focuses on using other services to respond to calls currently going to the police department.

But at least one police community council president can’t see the merit in these efforts because of the property damage that’s happened in some protests.

“I don’t see the rioters as possible members [of the community councils],” said Gabriel de Jesus, president of the 40th precinct community council, currently in his 19th year working with the council. “Not once have they been productive members of the Community.”

De Jesus said the biggest problem in his community is rampant drug use and how it affects the safety of residents and their children. In one community council-organized park clean up, his team collected more than 5,000 used needles. He doesn’t believe it’s possible to have social workers or addiction experts respond to the volume of drug problems in his neighborhood.

“What’s the point when the individuals become violent?” he said, of responding to drug use in the community with experts other than police officers. “It’s not an NYPD issue, but there’s no way to help these individuals in a cohesive way.”

However this is what organizers like Bandele want to change. She described the last community council event she attended in Brownsville in 2019 as “frustrating” because the police were always centered in how to respond to complaints.

The divide in participation in police community councils is also generational, according to Titus. He found that younger people would be less likely to want to participate in a police community council meeting or interact with all enforcement at all, instead building community with new grassroots organizing efforts like BLM. But he believes that the volunteer-run police community councils could be a tool to change this dynamic.

Community council block parties and officers taking the time to play basketball or football in the neighborhood are, in Titus’s view, an “important step” to better policing, bringing together local business leaders, clergy, and the mothers of a community. But not everyone is convinced that this will work today.

“It’s a P.R. campaign. We do not need police officers playing basketball with kids,” Bandele said. “There are a lot less expensive ways to do sports and barbecues.”

Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Gun Violence and Wrongful Conviction


Gun violence and police misconduct topped New York City’s crime and courts news this week, with reports on the dramatic uptick in shootings and law enforcement’s response. We’ll have more on that in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Sean Piccoli revisited a wrongful conviction claim involving ex-NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella—which has been complicated by a former judge’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The Allegedly List

  • New York City shootings have surged more than 150 percent from mid-July to mid-August in comparison to the same period of 2019. There have been about 900 shootings thus far in 2020, whereas there were about 500 during this same time in 2019. Meanwhile, gun arrests are down. Via The Washington Post 
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, people accused of illegal gun possession in New York City have been released at “more than double the rate” compared to this same period last year. Between March 16 to Aug. 17, 47 percent of people implicated in alleged illegal gun possession were freed without a judge imposing bail, or 442 accused people out of 945. In this same portion of 2019, just 22 percent of illegal gun possession defendants were released without bail.  Via New York Daily News.
  • NYPD response times have increased this summer; in June 2019, cops took 8 minutes and 31 seconds to arrive at a reported crime in progress whereas this June, they took 12 minutes and 17 seconds. In July 2020, the response time was 9 minutes and 41 seconds, compared to 8 minutes and 29 seconds the prior year. Earlier in August, the response time was 9 minutes and 47 seconds,  compared to 8 minutes and 35 seconds the same month of 2019.  Via NY1
  • NYPD officials are ramping up weekend controls in an attempt to quell the uptick in violent crime. All uniformed cops below captain who don’t work weekends will be impacted by this new mandate; two-thirds of them will be rescheduled to work weekend shifts, and will get days off during the week instead. The initiative starts August 31.  Via The Wall Street Journal
  • A confidential police informant claimed in a Brooklyn Federal Court lawsuit  that she was sexually assaulted by the NYPD detective she provided info to. The woman alleged that this detective threatened her by saying, “How would you like it if I told the people that you gave me, that it was you that gave them up?” The woman also alleged that the detective pocketed some of the cash he gave her out of a fund for anonymous crime tips.   Via New York Daily News
  • A former Metropolitan Correctional Center correction officer—who admitted in March to sexually abusing seven female inmates—was sued by three accusers. The Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit alleged that Bureau of Prisons staff didn’t act on Colin Akparanta despite obvious warning signs, such as escorting females to the showers. The suit contends that Akparanta abused at least 11 other women.  Via New York Daily News
  • The City Council is weighing a change to part of the anti-chokehold law signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in July, following criticism from NYPD brass and unions that the legislation made cops’ jobs more dangerous. News of this revision comes amid suspicions of an unofficial police slowdown, as arrests have dropped by almost 50 percent. De Blasio, who has denied that an NYPD slowdown was taking place, said he supported the revision. Via New York Post
  • Eric Trump refused to answer questions in state Attorney General Letitia James’ probe of the Trump Organization’s financials, her office said. James’ office has been investigating the president and his business since 2019, after Michael Cohen told Congress that Donald Trump gave lenders and insurers an inflated value of his assets. James asked a judge to “compel Eric Trump’s testimony.”  Via New York Post
  • People accused of low-level offenses in New York City, such as jumping turnstiles and urinating in public, must appear in court starting Sept 8. The same day, bench trials will resume in Manhattan and Queens Housing Courts. Bronx Housing Court bench trials will start again on Sept. 15. Via New York Daily News

The Allegedly Original

Nelson Cruz, Louis Scarcella, and Another Plea for Innocence

By Sean Piccoli

In a period of reckoning for the past sins of New York City’s criminal justice system, with dozens of people who were wrongfully convicted going free after decades in prison, one verdict hasn’t budged: Nelson Cruz is as guilty today as he was at age 17, when a jury convicted him of second-degree murder.

Jurors in 1999 found that Cruz had shot a man named Trevor Vieira on a street corner in East New York. Prosecutors said the March 1998 killing followed an argument backed by guns: an associate of Vieira’s pulled a pistol on Cruz and called him a snitch; Cruz later confronted Vieira and shot him twice in the back.

A judge sentenced the teen-aged Cruz to a minimum of 25 years in prison. Now 39, he has spent more than half his life behind bars. Cruz appealed his conviction, first on technicalities, and then on a claim that he is innocent and was framed by a corrupt police detective. His appeals, spanning two decades, have all been rejected. Cruz is not eligible for parole until April of 2023.

“He’s still sitting in prison and he can’t get justice,” Derrick Hamilton, a friend of Cruz’s and a paralegal working on his appeals, said in an interview.  

But a new twist in the case has materialized that could provide Cruz with another opening—or another opportunity to have his hopes crushed.

State officials revealed this month that the judge who presided over Cruz’s last hearing, ShawnDya L. Simpson, is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and is retiring from the bench. Simpson, 54, disclosed her diagnosis to a judicial ethics panel that was investigating her for complaints of “erratic” behavior at work, officials said. Investigators learned that as of February, the disease had progressed to “an advanced stage uncommon for someone of her age,” said a report by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The commission did not address whether Simpson’s condition raised doubts about any of her rulings—those questions are left to the courts. But for Cruz’s legal team, the news confirmed their belief that something had gone inexplicably wrong, and that Simpson had made glaring errors last year when she rejected Cruz’s bid for a new trial.

Within days of sending Cruz back to prison, Simpson went on medical leave and never returned to work.

Cruz’s case is familiar to a lot of New Yorkers because it involves a once-celebrated homicide detective named Louis Scarcella, who repeatedly wound up in Simpson’s courtroom to face accusations that he had fabricated witnesses and confessions.

Scarcella retired in 1999 with a stack of commendations and barely a blot on his record as a closer—touted as a prolific solver of hard-to-crack cases in the city’s most violent years. Scarcella also investigated Cruz in the slaying of Vieira.

But Scarcella’s methods came under scrutiny in the early 2010s, as journalists, then judges, defense lawyers and even prosecutors re-examined his work. Scarcella was found to have coached and bullied witnesses, or simply made them up: One person—a drug-addicted prostitute—was put forward by Scarcella as a witness in six of his cases. (“She was a very intelligent girl,” Scarcella explained in court.)

Some homicide suspects interrogated by Scarcella were later found to have used nearly identical language in their written confessions. Scarcella denied writing the documents himself or extracting false confessions from anyone, court proceedings and filings revealed.

As of today, 15 people convicted of murder or other charges with Scarcella’s input have gone free, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a database that tracks overturned verdicts from 1989 to the present. The city has paid out millions in settlements to Scarcella’s accusers. As many as 70 cases tied to Scarcella have been revisited by a Conviction Review Unit, which the Brooklyn District Attorney formed in 2014 partly because of fallout from Scarcella.

The internal review is not finished and is not limited to Scarcella, a Brooklyn D.A. spokesman said this month.

Simpson, for her part, overturned two murder convictions that she found were tainted by Scarcella’s “malfeasance.”

When Cruz got his turn before Simpson, his lawyer put Scarcella on the stand, and said that he had framed Cruz just as he had other suspects—by manufacturing evidence and testimony, and by tricking him into a false confession. Scarcella—as he had done before—defended his work but said he couldn’t remember the details.

On two occasions, in 2017 and 2019, Simpson ruled that Cruz had not proved his case. At Cruz’s last hearing, in August of 2019, family members wept in court when the judge returned him to a state penitentiary.

This month, the case was reassigned to another judge in Brooklyn.

Cruz’s lawyer, Justin Bonus, also filed a motion in federal court seeking Cruz’s immediate release from prison. Bonus argued that Simpson, suffering from dementia, was not mentally competent to handle Cruz’s case or hear the 18 witnesses that were called to testify in the matter over a six-week period. Bonus offered the last hearing in August of 2019 as proof: The judge contradicted herself, misstated facts and could not remember things already said in court, according to the motion.

In an interview, Bonus said he doesn’t know how long Cruz will have to wait for a federal judge to decide whether to intervene. A lawyer who represented Simpson before the judicial commission, Deborah A. Scalise, declined through her office to comment.

The Brooklyn D.A. has never classified Cruz as one of the wrongly convicted, and has so far opposed efforts to release or retry him. But whatever the facts of his case, the timing may never be better. A resurgent Black Lives Matter movement has put U.S. law enforcement under intense pressure to justify itself and its practices. 

The Brooklyn D.A.’s office, scrutinizing itself, released a report in July on wrongful convictions. Police as well as prosecutors often made “serious errors” and committed outright misconduct including witness tampering and withholding of evidence, the report found.

Legal observers say Scarcella is unlikely to ever face criminal charges because his actions are far enough in the past to fall outside the statute of limitations. Trailed by headlines calling him “discredited” and “disgraced,” he may instead live out his days as a symbol of law enforcement abuses.

“One of the true things that he says—probably the only true thing that he says—is that he has been singled out to carry the entire weight of police and prosecutorial misconduct spanning two decades,” said Ron Kuby, a defense lawyer who has won freedom for three men that Scarcella pinned false murder raps on.

Scarcella’s lawyers, Joel Cohen and Alan Abramson, declined to comment for this story.

Hamilton, the paralegal working with Cruz, is another man who was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit based largely on the say-so of a single witness that Scarcella produced. Imprisoned for two decades, Hamilton also taught himself enough law while behind bars to win his release, clear his name and force the city to settle with him.

He and Cruz met in prison, where they and other inmates discovered they had Scarcella in common, and collaborated on each other’s appeals using the prison law library. Cruz and Hamilton still talk regularly. The setback in Simpson’s courtroom last year was a blow, and learning about her illness did not soften it, Hamilton said. “It’s one thing to be in prison,” he said. “It’s another to have your freedom dangled right in front of your eyes and have it taken away because of the mental deficiency of a judge.”

After Vieira’s death, one of his closest survivors, Iasia Tyre, took authorities at their word that they had found the person responsible.

For Tyre, a social worker, there was more grief to come: The couple’s 17-year-old son, Kaiim Vieira, was shot dead in 2012 on a Brooklyn street by someone he had argued with. No one was ever arrested in the slaying. So who, if not Cruz, killed Kaiim’s father is not a question Tyre dwells on because her losses are “extremely difficult to relive,” she said in an interview.

“I just know that the information that I got was that Nelson killed Trevor, and I never heard anything different,” Tyre said. “If it’s in God’s plan for Nelson to be released because he didn’t do it, so be it.”

Photo of Cruz courtesy of Lonnie Soury. Photo of Scarcella and Simpson by Sean Piccoli.

Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Steve Bannon and Street Vendors


So, a lot has happened in New York City courts and crime news this week—from Steve Bannon’s federal bust to Run-DMC’s DJ Jam Master Jay’s cold case murder. More info in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Catherina Gioino spoke with street vendors about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed reforms to NYPD street vendor enforcement; two months after his announcement, they said little had changed to make their lives easier.

Please enjoy this week’s edition—and don’t forget to subscribe!  

The Allegedly List

  • Former Donald Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon was arrested on an 150-foot yacht off Connecticut’s coast Thursday morning, for allegedly siphoning donations from an online fundraiser for the President’s border wall. Manhattan federal prosecutors charged that Bannon “received over $1m from the ‘We Build the Wall’ online campaign, at least some of which he used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in [his] personal expenses.” Bannon’s lawyer entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment. Via The Guardian
  • Brooklyn federal prosecutors announced Monday that two men were indicted in the 2002 slaying of Run-DMC’s DJ Jam Master Jay. Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. were charged in a 10-count indictment with murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking, and firearm-related murder, for the fatal shooting of Jam Master Jay, whose legal name is Jason Mizell. Lawyers for both men entered not guilty pleas for them at their arraignments this week. Via Vulture
  • A woman sued Cuba Gooding Jr. in Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday, accusing him of raping her at The Mercer Hotel seven years ago. The Jerry Maguire actor, meanwhile, still faces six misdemeanor counts in his Manhattan criminal court groping case. Via Vulture
  • The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office established a special bureau to handle gun cases following a dramatic uptick in shootings, officials said Wednesday. One day prior to prosecutors’ announcement, New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea announced that 50 percent of New York City shootings took place or were linked to Brooklyn. Via New York Daily News
  • The New York Civil Liberties Union published 323,911 “unique complaint records” Thursday, minutes after the organization won a legal fight over their release. NYCLU’s database includes info about 82,000 active and ex-cops; this database features complaints that were “fully investigated” by New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. Via New York Post
  • Trump’s efforts to keep his tax records from Manhattan prosecutors failed Thursday, with Manhattan Federal Court judge Victor Marrero rejecting arguments that the D.A.’s office’s subpoena was “wildly overbroad.” Marrero said in his 103-page ruling that permitting him to prevent prosecutors’ subpoena would result in an “undue expansion” of presidential immunity. Via Reuters
  • Prosecutors in Manhattan on Thursday pushed for the reinstatement of their indictment against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, court documents revealed. Manafort had faced charges for an alleged mortgage fraud scam, but the case was thrown out in December over its purported similarity to federal charges. Via ABC News 
  • The NYPD’s proposed changes to rules governing press credential revocation drew criticism at an online hearing Tuesday, with some journalists saying that cops still had too much power. Some journalists who testified insisted that press passes should be administered by City Hall, or a new “independent body,” not cops. Via New York Daily News
  • Self-described “Lottery Lawyer” Jason M. Kurland was arrested Tuesday on charges that he worked with a mobster to cheat his clients. Kurland misled three of his lottery-winner clients into placing $107 million in investments that wound up losing 80 million, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said. Via New York Times

The Allegedly Original

Street Vendors Still Don’t Have Meaningful Answers on NYPD Enforcement

By Catherina Gioino

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Irena Ariza was selling Disney character masks from a sidewalk table at Junction Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens, hoping young passersby would buy some of her colorful wares. 

Ariza noticed six New York Police Department officers from the 115th Precinct standing on the same corner as her. They were eyeing her table, but Ariza paid them no mind.  After all, Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced in June that the NYPD would no longer enforce street vending regulations. Ariza figured that she had nothing to worry about.

The Ecuador-born Ariza soon learned, however, that she did need to worry about the relationship between police and street vendors like her. In theory, the stated policy change should be positive for street vendors, who have long criticized NYPD enforcement tactics as unfair, heavy-handed attacks on their livelihoods. Street vendors and advocates have maintained that the NYPD enforcement of vendors— who often can’t get licenses because permits are capped—disproportionately impacts persons of color and immigrants. They allege that excessive NYPD scrutiny of vending impacts both permitted and un-permitted street vendors.

More than two months after de Blasio’s announcement, however, street vendors who spoke to Allegedly described working in a state of limbo. These vendors said they don’t have a clear sense of what is happening with enforcement—nor do they know whether police will help in an emergency.

As Ariza went about her work that day, still unconcerned about the police presence, she saw a pair of hands reach under the table and snatch a basket containing merchandise worth hundreds—a week’s worth of income.  Ariza screamed for help. The officers stood motionless, claimed Ariza, who does have a vending permit. Another mask vendor chased the thief, tackling him one block away. The robber dropped Ariza’s items, but the Good Samaritan was stabbed in his right hand during their scuffle. 

“None of the police standing right here helped me, only that man,” Ariza said about the alleged Aug. 8 incident. “He was the only one who ran after the thief, and he could have risked his life to catch a man robbing me of a basket of masks.”

When the man returned the basket to Ariza(pictured above), she brought him to the cops and showed them his bleeding hand. “They did not care, they did nothing but look at us,” Ariza claimed.

“The man was stabbed,” Ariza continued in Spanish. “But they did nothing. They just kept repeating ‘I don’t care,’ that they cannot do anything.”

Elsewhere, street vendors continue to work in fear of the police, due to past experiences and a present lack of information about the new policy.

Maria, who on most days wakes before sunrise to finish preparing the cheese empanadas she sells to commuting laborers at a 7-train station in Corona, said she remained wary of the police after they fined her four years ago. “They told me I cannot sell without permission, and they spilled my drinks,” the Cuenca, Ecuador native said of the strawberry and orange pulp-juice she was selling at the time.  

“The law is the law,” said Maria, who managed to successfully fight the fine with an arepa vendor’s help. “But, that was my work.”

One vendor selling tamarind and spicy mangos on Fordham Road in the Bronx felt that police were still harassing vendors. The only difference, he said, is that they were no longer issuing hefty tickets.  

“They question you for almost anything,” the man said on a recent Sunday afternoon. 

“After the protests, they are always here. See, over there,” he said, pointing to two police cars parked at the corner of Fordham Road and Grand Concourse.

“But they do not seek anything, only to question ‘oh, you have two coolers of water? Is it enough with this heat?’” 

“What can you do? It’s not that important if they tell me I must go, but for others, they are dependent on this type of work,”said the man, who has a financial buffer as he works in landscaping during the week.  Like Maria, he does not have a permit.

The man said that while he hasn’t seen as many officers patrolling for vendors, it’s due to COVID-19, not a legal shift.

“They are not here but also, no one else is, either,” he said.

“Granted, people may not be getting arrested for street vending, the NYPD is still using intimidation tactics to harass vendors,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, deputy director of the Street Vendor Project. 

“When you think the law is unjust and the law doesn’t serve New York City and doesn’t serve the residents of New York, then those laws need to be changed. It’s literally impossible to get a permit or next to impossible,” she said. “That’s a system that doesn’t work for New York City.”

Advocates have estimated that while there are from 10,000 to 20,000 vendors in the city,  a mere 853 can get non-food vending permits, and just 5,000 can lawfully sell food, according to The New York Times.

Kaufman-Gutierrez and her colleagues have been pushing for the passage of Intro 1116, a bill that would increase the number of permits allotted annually—and completely remove the enforcement of street vendor regulations from the NYPD’s control. The bill would also create a “dedicated vending law enforcement unit” and “street vendor advisory board” of vendors, brick and mortars, and community and city representatives. 

 Many city officials support the proposed legislation, echoing these concerns.

“They are subject to harassment, inconsistent enforcement, and exploitation due to a cap restricting the number of permits given to food vendors,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson in a statement. 

While Gibson and 29 other council members co-sponsored Intro 1116, it has yet to be voted on. Neither the mayor’s office nor NYPD responded to requests for comment.

Doña Maria Crespo, who has sold Ecuadorian food since immigrating to New York City more than 34 years ago, was not particularly optimistic about potential reforms. 

“Child, in the 34 years I have lived here, I have never trusted nor been supported by the police,” said Crespo, who does have a permit.  “They were mad, in that working over here, they have bothered me, they made me throw out my food and they told me to leave.”

Crespo, who is Ariza’s sister in law, said the police’s reaction to the robbery attests to vendors’ ongoing frustration. 

“I was happy when they said the police would not give us tickets,” Crespo said, “but this is not what they meant.”

Photo credit: Catherina Gioino

Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Breast-Based Legal Defense and Secret Indictment


New York City’s crime and courts news this week featured developments in sexual misconduct cases involving high-profile men, such as Cuba Gooding Jr. and R. Kelly—and claims of gender-based discrimination among NYPD leadership. We’ll have more on those cases in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Andrew Denney looks at courthouse concessions amid the COVID-19 pandemic—and what potential closures mean for people at court.

The Allegedly List

  • Lori Pollock, who had worked as the New York Police Department’s “first female chief of crime control strategies,” filed a Manhattan federal court lawsuit Monday alleging extensive gender discrimination—claiming NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea demoted her in front of other high-ranking officials on Dec. 9. Pollock, who quit last week, claimed in the suit that she was “forced to retire her police career because of her gender rather than continue to endure no opportunity for advancement and the loss of her staff, authority and management responsibilities.”  Via New York TimesNew York Daily News
  • The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is tasked with probing police misconduct, such as allegations of excessive force, will have to axe staff because of a $726,000 budget cut—4 percent of its $20 million budget.  In June, the board had 203 staffers, which was already lower than the 236 employees mandated by The City Charter. Via New York Daily News
  • Three men were arrested Tuesday for allegedly trying to “harass, intimidate, threaten or corruptly influence” accusers in R. Kelly’s Brooklyn federal court sex trafficking case. One of the men arrested, Michael Williams, is charged with setting fire to a vehicle outside an accuser’s home this June; a witness said they “saw an individual fleeing from the scene of the fire, whose arm appeared to be lit on fire,” per court papers. Via Vulture
  • A judge decided Thursday that Cuba Gooding Jr. can’t use an accuser’s purported breast size-related self-consciousness to undermine her allegations in the Manhattan groping case against him. Peter Toumbekis, one of Gooding’s defense lawyers, told Judge Curtis Farber “yes” when asked whether he thought this alleged insecurity could affect her perception of events. Via Vulture
  • Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice ShawnDya Simpson was “forced into early retirement” after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and a probe of alleged disconcerting behavior in the courtroom. The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct learned that Simpson, 54, had the memory disorder after investigating claims that “her demeanor toward litigants, lawyers, and others had become erratic and at times intemperate.” Via New York Post
  • An Upstate federal judge on Tuesday threw out the lawsuit filed by an Arizona woman who claimed that New York’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from COVID 19-heavy states represented an “invasion” of the “fundamental right to travel.” She also claimed that this requirement wrongly took away her “last chance to see the sights of New York City with [her friends],” which she said “was and continues to be very upsetting.”  Via New York Post
  • Winston Ortiz, 18, died Wednesday after being “stabbed in the chest, doused with a flammable liquid and then set on fire” in an apartment building near his family’s Bronx home—“while he was still alive.” Police allege that his 14-year-old ex-girlfriend’s brother, Adones Betances, killed him after they argued about the couple’s age difference. Via New York Times and New York Post
  • Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein’s accusers are asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact the Adult Survivors Act, which would give adult victims an opportunity to pursue legal action against alleged perpetrators far after the statute of limitations. The act is akin to the Child Victims Act, which was green-lit last August—and spurred numerous civil claims against child sex abusers. Via New York Daily News
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is presently conducting an expansive probe of Donald Trump’s business, could theoretically “secretly secure an indictment and even an arrest warrant” against the President, experts said. This maneuver could help Vance’s office overcome legal deadlines—pausing prosecutions for months or potentially years, until Trump is out; Vance’s office “declined to comment on the possibility of a secret indictment.” Via Law 360
  • A Brooklyn federal jail inmate who died May 19 hanged himself, city officials said. Relatives of Kenneth Houck, who was held on child porn possession charges, previously said that the Bureau of Prisons didn’t tell them he was hospitalized and claimed to have learned this from an organ donation official; one relative called his death “suspicious.” Via New York Daily News 

The Allegedly Original

A Small Concession

By Andrew Denney

For years, Jemaine Mack has held his own court at the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

“You have a headache? Here’s a Tylenol,” says Mack, who has long manned the first-floor concession at the federal courthouse here. “A judge yelled at you? Here’s an aspirin.”  

Mack’s shop sells the kinds of essentials and sundries that defendants, plaintiffs, lawyers, potential jurors, and journalists might need in a pinch—cold Poland Spring waters, hot coffees, and York Peppermint Patties, while chatting about the Mets or sharing garden-variety gossip.  During the four-month trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the coke kingpin’s wife would often drop by for java. 

“The most notorious drug dealer in the world—and his wife is in here having coffee,” Mack says. “Martin Shkreli is down here, slapping high fives with us.” 

But Mack’s days at the Cadman Plaza courthouse may be coming to an end. On a normal day, Mack would have $300 in his till by noon. On a recent Wednesday, there was about $30 by that same point.  His shelves are barren compared to before the pandemic.

Mack and his son—who are both visually impaired and operate the concession through New York State’s program to help blind people establish small businesses—have seen a substantial decline in sales because of COVID-19. The pandemic has spurred slowdowns in the city’s state and federal courthouses—and prompted a shift to remote proceedings. While in-person proceedings are gradually resuming, they are nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. The foot traffic that courthouse concessions and cafes rely upon just isn’t there.

“The New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) Business Enterprise Program (BEP) has been working closely with New York State vendors since the outset of the COVID 19 pandemic  to help offset losses incurred as a result of temporarily closing their businesses. This assistance has included continuing cash payments from prior revenue generated and set aside to offset business income losses,” officials said in a statement when asked for comment about coronavirus impacting vendors. “The NYSCB also deferred loan payments and extended terms on new or outstanding loans. NYSCB is now offering managers training and information to assist with reopening activities and is providing personal protective equipment and plexiglass barriers to the vendors.”

The program has 15 businesses in New York City area courthouses. The commission said that “although these locations are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, none is closed permanently. As the courthouses re-open to the public, BEP operators are re-opening their businesses.”

Mack’s son, who holds the license for their concession, recently told his father that he would need to be laid off for a while, until business picks up. 

The Courthouse Cafe, two floors above Mack’s shop, appears to have shuttered, with no apparent plans to reopen soon.

At Manhattan criminal court on 100 Centre Street, arguably one of the busiest courthouses in the world, Ray’s Candy Stand is now closed.

Ray Lonergan, who has manned the stand for decades, said he will be “tearing down the store and replacing it with vending machines.” When bail reform went into effect this winter, Lonergan said he lost more than half his business.

“And then, this really killed my business,” he said of COVID-19. Lonergan said that he will own and operate the vending machines, and that the state is “offering a lot of assistance,” such as with seeking bids for taking down his stand. When asked for comment on the candy stand, commission officials said, “Each vendor is making an individual decision about their own situation.”

The first-floor cafe at 100, a stalwart for quick sandwiches and caffeinated beverages, was locked, with a paper sign on the door: “SORRY 8/31/2020 OPEN AGAIN ON DATE.”

The cafes at the 500 Pearl St. and 40 Foley St. Manhattan federal court buildings stood quiet during a recent visit; several courthouse staffers said their reopening dates were unclear. The downstairs concession stand at 500 was open, but operating with limited hours, they said. 

For many courthouse regulars, these concessions and eateries provided solace amid their often grim business.

“Almost nothing good happens in 100 Centre Street, so it’s nice to see someone smiling and handing you a regular coffee every morning,” said veteran criminal defense attorney Ron Kuby, who noted that he hasn’t set foot in a courthouse since March.

Kuby recalled that one of his favorite photos is him with his mentor, William Kunstler, scarfing down hot dogs and sipping Diet Cokes in a courthouse cafe.  

“We’ve lost a lot of New York over the past few months. Some of it, it was good to see it gone: all the rich people, the incredibly heavy traffic and the big names,” Kuby said. “But losing things like local businesses, that’s tragic for everyone, for the vendors, for the customers. It hacks away at an important piece of familiarity.”

Despite shuttering his shop, Lonergan is hopeful about the future.

“Honestly, in the long run, it’ll be safer for the customers, safer for me, and I won’t have to come in every day, I’ll have to come in maybe two times a week—and that might work out,” he said.

“I’ll tell you the truth: I was thinking about retiring in June because I’ve been doing this for 30 years. So this is going to be like semi-retirement.”

Lonergan added: “It’ll be alright, I hope.”

This post has been updated with comment from state officials and Lonergan.

Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: New York’s NRA Fight, Tekashi 6ix9ine’s Freedom

Today is Friday! 

New York City’s crime and courts news ranged from the sensational to the serious this week, with headlines on Tekashi 6ix9ine and a lawsuit challenging the National Rifle Association’s very existence. More details in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, author Peggy Gavan recounts a cat-centered courtroom drama from 1878 that makes today’s lawsuits between neighbors look tame. Since you’ll obviously love what you read, don’t forget to subscribe

The Allegedly List

  • New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Thursday to dissolve the NRA, alleging that the gun-lobbying group engaged in “illegal conduct because of their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership.” The Manhattan Supreme Court suit called out NRA head Wayne LaPierre, former treasurer and CFO Wilson “Woody” Phillips, ex-chief of staff Joshua Powell, and general counsel John Frazer, for allegedly “contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA.” Via New York Attorney General
  • Not long after the AG announced her NRA suit, the group counter-sued, reportedly alleging in Albany Federal Court that “There can be no doubt that [James’] actions against the NRA are motivated and substantially caused by her hostility toward the NRA’s political advocacy.” The group also complained that James “maligned” them, “without a single shred of evidence, nor any sincere belief, that the NRA was violating the New York Not-For-Profit Corporation Law, or any other law.” Via New York Post
  • Rikers Island is seeing record-high levels of violence despite a 2015 consent judgment mandating that city and Department of Correction officials fix the problem. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday that a new agreement had been brokered “to address ongoing non-compliance” with the five-year-old judgment; this just-announced agreement will once again call for reducing unnecessary force against inmates, ramping up investigations of use-of-force, and improving supervision of young inmates. Via New York Times and SDNY
  • Tekashi 6ix9ine is officially done with home confinement following his release from prison in April over coronavirus concerns, his attorney said Sunday. Hernandez, who was arrested in November 2018 on racketeering charges related to his involvement with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, still has five years of supervised release, and 300 hours of community service to complete, as well as a $35,000 fine. Via Vulture
  • Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison after copping to campaign finance fraud, has been “offered work as a consultant and to make media appearances for a political action committee,” a Manhattan Federal Court filing revealed Wednesday. The filing also indicated that President Trump’s former lawyer, who was recently released from prison, was working “as quickly as possible” to push out a book on his ex-boss. Via Associated Press
  • The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which has been fighting to get Trump’s tax returns, has hit Deutsche Bank, his “longtime lender,” with a subpoena, suggesting that prosecutors might be digging deeper than originally thought. Prosecutors  also mentioned “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” in a court document earlier this week, indicating they might be probing potential financial crimes. Via New York Times
  • New York state’s “Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts” released a report Wednesday with recommendations on how to resume in-person proceedings, such as “consider impaneling extra alternates or extending service for grand juries to reduce the need for new panels to be picked, where permitted under the law.”  Among the ideas for handling courtroom spectators is to “consider use of pool reporter if significant media attention is anticipated” and “consider livestreaming, where available.” Via New York State Office of Court  Administration
  • Eighteen New York City police unions sued Thursday over new anti-chokehold legislation, saying electeds exceeded their authority in green-lighting the law and that it “fails to give officers notice of the precise sort of conduct not permitted when effecting an arrest.”  The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act classifies choke-holds—which have been banned by the NYPD for nearly 20 years—as a Class A misdemeanor that can result in fines and up to one year behind bars. Via New York Daily News
  • NYPD cops utilized a paid informant to get close to the anti-police protester who was arrested for allegedly attempting to cut the brake lines on a police car, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said Wednesday.  “The information provided by the CS has proven reliable in the past and has been corroborated by independent investigative techniques,” the feds reportedly said. Via New York Daily News
  • Manhattan Federal Judge Jesse Furman on Wednesday expedited the schedule of a lawsuit challenging Trump’s recent changes to the U.S. Census, which include “excluding undocumented immigrants from political apportionment and bumping up the deadline for in-person interviews.” James sued the Trump administration in July, following a memo which sought to change how “persons” were counted. Via Courthouse News Service

The Allegedly Original

Fur, Loathing, and Arsenic on the Upper East Side

By Peggy Gavan

Sitting behind his desk at the Yorkville Police Court on the East Side of Manhattan, Judge James F. Kilbreth could barely contain his laughter during what The New York Times called “the most amusing farce.” Standing before him was the plaintiff, Mr. M. Christensen of 115 East 77th Street, who had filed several complaints against his backyard neighbors, Mr. W. Lunt of 118 East 78th Street, and Mr. W. Haas of 120 East 78th Street. On his desk was the “collateral evidence, rolled up in a towel,” consisting of coal bits, brickbats, stones, and small chunks of wood.

Christensen, a Danish fresco painter, had charged his neighbors with disturbing his peace of mind and domestic comfort by using the items to torture a notorious black cat on his property. Unable to speak fluent English, he presented the judge with a hand-written note on which he wrote, “The circumstances bid us like other people to keep a cat and the law do not forbid it. A cat after my opinion is a evil, but rats and mice is still worse. A cat like other living beings cannot always be kept imprisoned in the house without cruelty to the animal.”

Smothering a laugh, Judge Kilbreth asked Lunt and Haas if they recognized any of the exhibits now splayed on his desk. They said they did not. In turn, Christensen told the judge he could not positively identify the defendants as those who had thrown the missiles. Amid great roars of laughter, the court confiscated the evidence and promptly disposed of it. 

Christensen apologized to the judge for his “hurried writing” and humbly stated that all he wanted was for the court to take notice of the situation and to issue his neighbors a warning.  

With its bumbling antagonist and hapless feline victim, this court story no doubt served its purpose in selling newspapers. Today, however, the 1878 courtroom drama is much more profound than a trivial animal tale. It is a window into the deep socioeconomic divisions of this era, all contained within a small block between East 77th and 78th Streets. 

Here, those residents on the bottom rung of the ladder had shared a symbiotic relationship with the stray cats. They depended on the felines to keep the vermin away from their food crops, and the cats relied on them to share their meager food scraps and provide shelter. Those on the top rung had no use for the cats, and thus viewed them as nuisances that interfered with their lifestyles and lowered their property values. 

Area map from the New York Public Library

The court’s handling of this case is also a good example of how justice was often reserved for the privileged few. By abruptly dismissing the case with a laugh, the judge essentially thumbed his nose at the lower-class citizens while giving a thumbs-up to the upper-crust man who had purportedly tortured a cat, damaged physical property, and committed perjury in court.             

So, how did Lunt and Haas end up in court in the first place? To answer that question, we must travel back in time to the square bounded by 77th and 78th Streets and Lexington and Fourth (Park) Avenues. 

According to the Times article, this area was an interesting mix of “aristocracy and penury,” where half was occupied by “handsome houses of the well-to-do” and the other half by “Irish families of limited means” who lived in two-story wooden cottages resembling “the thatched ones of the old country.” The former cultivated their fragrant backyard gardens with “loving care” while “the plots of ill-kept ground in front of the tumble-down structures bloom[ed] with the emerald cabbage head and the potato.”

Alas, separating the flower gardens of the upper class townhouses and the vegetable yards of the lower class cottages, was a long board fence upon which numerous stray cats gathered at night. Level with this fence was the roof of Christensen’s kitchen, where the felines held choir practice every evening. 

The Times reported at the time that “After the evening shades have fallen, it resounds with a commotion, as if a multitude of Mr. Abrahamsen’s aeolian business harps were singing their discordant solos to the balmy night air. Thereby hangs a tale, or rather thereby hang a number of tails.”

In the summer of 1878, this wooden fence made for unhappy neighbors. The reporter for the Times—possibly touching on a popular stereotype that many immigrants of that era were former pig farmers who allowed their animals to roam at will in their homeland—described the scene in saying, “The poorer denizens of Seventy-eighth Street being unable to rear the perambulating pig in their cottages, as on the other side of the water, endeavor to atone for the deficiency by rearing up whole troops of cats. Each of the poorer families has, by the estimate of the rich, at least 15 cats, with their full accompaniment of kittens.”

Then, switching gears and throwing in some anthropomorphism that the Times was famous for using during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the reporter described the conflict over this cat cacophony in political terms.

“Every night these felines hold meetings, the Thomases resorting to the Democratic cat primary, and their wives and children flocking to the female garden party. Both primaries and garden party are held by common consent upon the great board fence,” the newspaper said. “As the Thomas cats raise their voices in heated discussion of the political topics of the day, and the females expand their lungs in kindred discussion of female suffrage and a united protest against the tyranny and cruelty of the human male, the neighborhood resounds with a loud and discordant chorus, which becomes even more loud and discordant when the discussions are abandoned and the male and female unite in melodious courtship.”

Lunt not only abhorred the backyard concerts; he also believed the cats were using the fence and kitchen roof as a medium for reaching his garden and tearing up his flowers with “relentless vigor.” After watching the cats destroy his garden more than 20 times, he decided to take out a large black cat that was particularly destructive. 

So, one Sunday, Lunt placed some meat—sprinkled with arsenic—in the garden. Then he armed himself with two dozen wine bottles and stood at a rear window in his third-story brownstone, where he had a commanding view of his flowers. He watched the black cat leap onto the kitchen roof, step along the fence, spring into the garden, and drag the meat into a row of flowers. Then he fired every bottle at the cat. They all missed the target. The end result was 24 shattered bottles and a cool cat that never budged. 

Next, Lunt armed himself with a large piece of coal from the cellar, which he threw at the cat. The spry feline sprang upon the kitchen roof and jumped about 10 feet in the air as the coal struck and shattered the fence. In response to a woman in the Christensen house who shouted at Lunt, he threatened to kill the cats if she didn’t keep them out of his garden. The outcome of this threat was “a series of amusing complaining epistles to Judge Kilbreth, and the summoning to the Yorkville Police Court.” 

In the end, the judge dismissed the case. Lunt and Haas promised to return to court, but this time as plaintiffs against the neighborhood cats. The men told the Times reporter that he could expect to see them again in a few days.  

The Times concluded, “The concert of felines arose once more upon the night air in the square last night…” 

Perhaps justice had been served.

Peggy Gavan is the author of The Cat Men of Gotham: Tales of Feline Friendships in Old New York.

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Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Bill de Blasio’s Battle with Courts, Mike Diana’s New York Life

Good morning!

New York City’s crime and courts news was busy this week as per usual, with Mayor Bill de Blasio repeating the same complaints about state courts that he did last week, conflicting with hard facts. We’d make a Groundhog Day joke here, owing to his repetitiveness and troubled past with the animal, but that would just be too easy. More on that in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Craig Pittman catches up with Mike Diana, who still calls New York City home after Florida found his comics to be too obscene. Since you’ll like what you read, don’t forget to subscribe

The Allegedly List

  • Mayor de Blasio, who was “forced to defend his grasp on reality of New York City” earlier this week after repeatedly rejecting the factual premises of reporters’ questions he didn’t like, won’t be able to keep blaming coronavirus-related court slowdowns for a surge in gun violence. Craig McCarthy and Julia Marsh reported that firearms cases are “making their way through the criminal justice system at the same rate as last year,”undermining de Blasio’s claims.  Their Thursday story comes in the wake of a story from McCarthy, Carl Campanile and Aaron Feis revealing the NYPD’s own stats didn’t support officials’ position that bail reform and early prison releases had spurred the upswing. Via New York Post
  • A trove of documents in litigation against alleged Jeffrey Epstein madam Ghislaine Maxwell was released Thursday night. The Manhattan Federal Court documents contained an early 2015 exchange with Epstein in which he wrote: “You have done nothing wrong and i woudl [sic] urge you to start acting like it. Go outside, head high, not as an esacping[sic] convict. go to parties. deal with it.” Maxwell faces charges in New York City for her alleged involvement in Epstein’s sex trafficking ring. Via The Guardian
  • The feds gave up their legal fight to keep Michael Cohen from talking on TV, social media, or in books. Per Ben Weiser: Government attorneys told a Manhattan Federal Court judge on Thursday that they wouldn’t challenge his ruling, which had enabled Cohen to pen a tell-all about his former boss, President Donald Trump. Remember: Cohen was sprung from federal lockup last week after judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that jailing him after several weeks of medical furlough was “retaliatory” over his planned Trump book. Via New York Times
  • Plainclothes NYPD warrant squad officers arrested protester Nikki Stone Tuesday during a demonstration in Kips Bay — placing Stone in an unmarked van; the arrest immediately spurred condemnation, as many said this tactic was reminiscent of federal agents’ behavior in Portland, Oregon.  De Blasio and governor Andrew Cuomo both criticized the NYPD’s handling of this arrest. Stone, whom police say was caught on video vandalizing an NYPD camera near City Hall Park, was released Wednesday. Via New York Post 
  • Manhattan Federal Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla on Tuesday lifted a gag order that had barred the New York Civil Liberties Union from releasing a comprehensive database of NYPD misconduct complaints. While ProPublica had published data on approximately 4,000 NYPD cops over the weekend, the NYCLU’s database was more extensive. Reps for police unions appealed the decision. Via New York Daily News
  • New York City’s first jury trial since the pandemic started Tuesday; proceedings in the 1989 murder case came to a half on March 4 because of coronavirus-prompted court shutdowns. Protective measures such as face shields, masks, and plexiglass barriers were present in the Bronx courtroom, reported Frank Runyeon. Several jurors wanted off of the case, the same issue that had led to a mistrial in what was supposed to be the first post-COVID jury trial in the city. Via Law 360
  • New York City public defenders on Tuesday lost their bid to halt in-person court proceedings over COVID concerns, reported David Brand. These attorneys had filed a Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit against the Office of Court Administration, alleging that officials were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act; they claimed that requiring lawyers and defendants with pre-existing conditions to go to courthouses flew in the face of this law. In rejecting their suit, judge Andrew Carter said: “This Court does not, and indeed cannot, dictate if, when, and how state criminal courts reopen or schedule in-person appearances…To do so would violate fundamental principles of comity and federalism, and would result in federal supervision of state procedures and proceedings.” Via Queens Daily Eagle
  • Men’s rights activist Roy Den Hollander, who killed New Jersey Federal Judge Esther Salas’ son and wounded her husband at their family home, had a lifelong history of resenting women — which became increasingly threatening as time progressed. Hollander, who fatally shot a competing men’s right activist in San Bernardino, California before the New Jersey slaying, blamed his mother for “preventing him from having a girlfriend, and his ex-wife of marrying him only to obtain a green card.” Hollander, who killed himself in Upstate New York not long after attacking Salas’ family, uploaded a chilling “1,698-page manifesto that ended with an ominous epilogue about his determination to fight ‘feminazis’ until his last breath.” Via New York Times.
  • After officials told restaurants and bars it was OK to sell to-go booze, more New York City residents are imbibing outside; this is illegal unless you’re drinking at an establishment with outdoor seating. Danny Lewis reported that the NYPD is disproportionately ticketing persons of color for alleged drinking in public. From his report Tuesday: “Of the 1,250 criminal summonses for drinking in public that the NYPD has handed out since January, 48 percent were given to Black people, and about 43 percent went to Hispanic people” while just 7 percent were given to white persons. Via WNYC

The Allegedly Original

Mike Diana’s Comics Were Too Obscene For Florida.  New York City Welcomed Him With Open Arms

By Craig Pittman

In 1994, when a skinny convenience store clerk from Florida named Michael Diana walked into his local jail, the other inmates asked him what he was in for.

“For drawing cartoons,” Diana said.

“Damn,” one inmate responded. “They’ll throw you in here for anything!” 

It was true. Diana had been convicted of violating obscenity laws by producing a series of home-made comic books that he called Boiled Angel. Each one featured Diana’s crude depictions of murder, rape, dismemberment, child abuse and satanic rituals — all of which, he said, were inspired by real-life events he saw on the news. 

The three days he spent in the Pinellas County Jail made him the first cartoonist in U.S. history to be incarcerated for obscenity. They also made him famous.

Before long, the ex-inmate was appearing on national TV talk shows, displaying paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and delivering speeches in Amsterdam and Berlin. A rock groupie even cast his private parts in plaster – she’d done the same thing to Jimi Hendrix, she said.

Diana owes his notoriety to a real serial killer. His mail-order comic books first came to the attention of detectives while investigating the grisly 1990 slayings of five college students by a murderer tagged as “the Gainesville Ripper.” (The case was later cited as the inspiration for the Scream movie franchise.)

A drifter named Danny Rolling, the son of a police officer, eventually confessed to the murders and was eventually executed. But police believed the crudely drawn comic book scenes concocted by the stringy-haired Diana were so disturbing that they could be a preview of future massacres. 

Diana drew his grotesque creations in his spare time and published them himself. No issue of his Boiled Angel comics circulated to more than 300 readers. An undercover deputy purchased one through the mail, and then charged him with three counts of obscenity.

Although Diana’s work was self-published, he drew support from the comics industry via the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which would end up spending more than $50,000 supporting Diana. The fund hired one of the Tampa Bay region’s best-known free speech attorneys. Luke Lirot had not built that reputation by defending artists and writers. His clientele consisted primarily of strippers, and his arguments concerned whether their dance routines were protected by the First Amendment.

At the March 1994 trial, Diana testified that he did not intend to sexually arouse his readers. He wanted to horrify them.

“I make it as ugly as possible,” he said. “I want to make it really terrifying, because these things really terrify me.”

Lirot brought in expert witnesses from San Francisco and New York to attest to the artistic value of Diana’s drawings. The lead prosecutor professed himself unimpressed. In his closing argument, he told the jury that their area “doesn’t have to accept what is acceptable in the bathhouses in San Francisco, and it doesn’t have to accept what is acceptable in the crack alleys of New York.”

The jury’s deliberations took a mere 90 minutes. They found Diana guilty on all three counts. The verdict came in on a Friday afternoon.

Pinellas County Judge Walter Fullerton – who bore a striking resemblance to George Carlin — said he wasn’t ready to hand down a sentence. He could have sent Diana home. Instead, Fullerton sent him to cool his heels in the county jail for three days before bringing him back into court.

After his weekend behind bars, Diana learned the sentence he’d drawn: three years of probation, a $3,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service. Fullerton also ordered him to undergo drug testing, take a journalism ethics course, get a psychological exam, draw nothing obscene and stay away from minors. The latter condition was hard to follow in Diana’s convenience store job.

Lirot, of course, appealed. Ultimately a higher court tossed out one of the three counts, because it concerned a comic book called Boiled Angel Ate that Diana hadn’t even drawn yet. He had just promised it to his handful of subscribers. The appeals court also tossed the requirement he take a drug test because no one had alleged he was taking drugs. But the appellate judge upheld the other two counts, and Lirot could not get the U.S. Supreme Court interested in the case.

By the time his appeals had run their course, Diana had quit his convenience store job and moved to New York, where he shared a rent-controlled Lower East Side apartment with a member of a band called the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.  He credited his decision to move to an invitation from Screw publisher Al Goldstein to appear on his show, Midnight Blue, which taped in New York.

Because of the move and the passage of time, he says, he lost track of what parts of his sentence were upheld and what parts were not, what he’d completed and what he hadn’t. That led to more trouble.

Because he failed to complete all of his probation, in 1998 he was classified as a violator and Pinellas County put out a warrant for his arrest. No deputies flew to New York to apprehend the ink-stained scofflaw. But whenever Diana would fly overseas for an exhibit or a lecture, his return home would lead to delays. Invariably, the Department of Homeland Security would hold him when he got off the plane, alerted to the presence of his outstanding warrant. Usually, he said, they would turn him loose once they found out Florida authorities wouldn’t pay to extradite him over a mere misdemeanor.

Diana finally decided to settle the matter earlier this year because he was the subject of a documentary called Boiled Angels. Winding up his case after 26 years gave the film a good ending. The two-hour film just came out on Amazon Prime last month, he said.

Diana became a truly free man in February. Now 50, Diana continues painting and drawing the same things that once landed him in so much trouble, although he has yet to produce the real-life massacre that police feared. These days, he says, the rest of the world has seemingly caught up. From his apartment in Long Island City, he watches Adult Swim shows on the Cartoon Network or images in video games, and to him they don’t look all that different from his sketches in Boiled Angel. And nobody is screaming for anyone to go to jail over those.

“Everything seems more open now,” he said.

The pandemic means you may be seeing a lot more of Diana’s artwork. He’s joined forces with a company called Threadlist to put his drawings on coronavirus masks to sell to fans. The horrors that once landed him in jail now seem to fit right in with everything else going on in 2020.

Photos courtesy of PVR.

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Allegedly Weekly

This Week in Allegedly: Michael Cohen and Hells Angels


It was another non-stop week in the world of New York City courts and crime. We break down what happened in The Allegedly List. For The Allegedly Original, Sean Piccoli explores an ongoing legal fight over in-person court proceedings — which might not have any clear winners. And if you like what you read, don’t forget to subscribe

The Allegedly List

President Donald Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, is getting out of prison again. Manhattan Federal Court judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled Thursday that the feds’ decision to jail Cohen following several weeks of medical furlough was “retaliatory” for his plans to pen a book about Trump. Via The New York Times * Ghislaine Maxwell lost her bid to keep some “extremely personal” documents in civil litigation under wraps, with Manhattan Federal Judge Loretta Preska saying Thursday that her concerns “fail to rebut the presumption of public access.” Maxwell’s lawyers plan to appeal, so the docs won’t be out immediately. Via Guardian US * A Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit filed Monday alleges that Fox News is still rife with sexual misconduct, claiming that former host Ed Henry raped a female staffer — and accused Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Howard Kurtz of misconduct. The men reportedly deny the allegations. Via New York Daily News * Tyrese Haspil, who is accused of murdering and dismembering tech entrepreneur Fahim Saleh last week, pleaded not guilty. Haspil was held without bail following his arraignment early Saturday in Manhattan Criminal Court. Via The New York Times * A car thief on Long Island faked his death to stay out of jail — but his phony death certificate had a typo, foiling his plan, prosecutors said Tuesday. Registry was apparently written as “Regsitry;” the “inconsistent” font size and style were also tells. Via New York Post * The “men’s rights” activist suspected of fatally shooting New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas’ son and wounding her husband at their home is thought to have killed “another prominent men’s rights figure.”  Roy Den Hollander, who killed himself in Upstate New York earlier this week, is suspected of taking an Amtrak train to California, killing Marc Angelucci on July 11. Via NBC New York * Two purported members of the Hells Angels, and another man, were charged Wednesday with fatally shooting Frank Rosado — whom police say led the Bronx’s Pagans chapter. Police claim that the three men murdered Rosado as payback for a Pagans attack on the Hells Angels Bronx clubhouse. Via New York Times “Several hundred police officers in riot gear” dismantled the Occupy City Hall “encampment” just before 4 a.m. Wednesday. NYPD brass said they gave those present a 10-minute heads up, but one protester reportedly said: “We did not get a warning. They came in through the back and started to throw tables, started to rip into tents where people, children, sleep there, families sleep there.” Via CBS New York * Mayor Bill de Blasio again blamed New York’s state court system for plummeting arrests and rising violent crimes, claiming Thursday on CNN: “The NYPD has a lot of people they are ready, right now, to see prosecuted. But our DAs can’t prosecute because there’s no court system functioning yet.” Courts system spokesman Lucian Chalfen reportedly commented in response: “The Mayor’s continuing narrative regarding the operation of the State Court System throughout the pandemic is at best totally factually incorrect and at worst an attempt to shift the blame for his inability to manage the increase in New York’s street violence.” Via Queens Daily Eagle * The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday reversed its ban on New Yorkers applying for “Trusted Traveler Programs.” Adam Klasfeld had details on some backstory from a court filing, which said that government officials and lawyers provided “inaccurate and misleading statements” in litigation over the ban. Via Twitter * The New York State Bar Exam will take place after all, albeit online, Oct. 5-Oct. 6. Per Frank Runyeon, the exam is going virtual “on a onetime basis…emergency remote testing option.” Via Twitter * Disgraced ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was hit with a 6 1/2-year prison sentence Monday in his corruption case. The 76-year-old had penned a handwritten letter to Manhattan Federal Court Judge Valerie Caproni, asking her not to give him a sentence that would lead to his death behind bars. Via Associated Press *

The Allegedly Original

We’ll See You in Court?

By Sean Piccoli

On Tuesday morning, the parties in a dispute over the reopening of New York state courts squared off in front of a federal judge and several dozen spectators. On one side were the public defender organizations that represent the city’s poorest defendants. On the other side were representatives for the state court system. The public defenders are suing the state to stop a return to in-person courtroom business after four months of coronavirus restrictions, including video-only proceedings and no jury trials.

A Bronx public defender, Jenn Borchetta, said that judges are in “a rush to bring people to court” and have already refused dozens of requests by people at elevated risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 to reschedule hearings or appear by video. “These are acts of discrimination,” Borchetta said.

A lawyer for New York’s court system, Elizabeth Forman, was skeptical. Forman said the plaintiffs are basically asking for control of the court calendar, using fear of coronavirus — which everyone has to manage — as a pretext. “They don’t even explain how simply going to court is unduly risky,” Forman said.

A U.S. District judge in Manhattan, Andrew L. Carter, Jr., posed questions to the lawyers and said he could rule within a week on whether New York’s courts have enough safeguards to operate face-to-face. In less than an hour court was adjourned and everybody filed out — by hanging up their phones. 

The proceeding on Tuesday in Bronx Defenders et. al. versus the Office of Court Administration was entirely remote, conducted as a conference call with an entry password, the sound quality of a middling AM radio signal and, at one point, almost 80 people on the line (most with phones muted).

A phone hearing in federal court about physical hearings in local courts is where New York finds itself as the state emerges from a long pandemic lockdown. In-person appointments are already happening inside a handful of city courtrooms fitted with virus-blocking plexiglass barriers. Lawyers who spent the spring and early summer representing their clients over Skype connections, without actually being at their sides, are getting their first chance to re-connect in person.

“To me, it is a really big deal to be able to sit next to my client and have that exchange of thoughts and ideas in the middle of a hearing,” Peter Frankel, a veteran criminal defense lawyer in private practice in New York and a former prosecutor, said in an interview. 

Lawyering is also harder without eye contact and interpersonal interactions — the “human tools” that courtroom litigators use to “judge and evaluate people,” Stacey Richman, a criminal defense lawyer in New York, said in an interview. 

But lawyers in New York City aren’t racing back into state courthouses.

When the coronavirus forced criminal courts in New York City to stop doing the people’s business in person, no one in the video hearings that sprang up as replacements looked more challenged by the new routine than defense lawyers and their clients. A New Yorker brought up on charges starting in late March was in a real sense all alone: sitting inside a video booth in the bowels of a city jail; their attorney a talking head on a flatscreen; the judge and the prosecutor in adjacent video windows; everybody piped in from separate locations; and the disembodied voice of a court officer keeping the proceedings on track. 

Without lawyers physically present to listen, explain or reassure, some defendants in pretrial video appearances did what anyone might do when deprived of social cues. They spoke out of turn. They got confused. They overshared. A few might have incriminated themselves while their lawyers struggled through sometimes glitchy remote connections to get them to stop talking.

“You’re on the record,” a public aid lawyer with Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem reminded an especially verbal client in a preliminary hearing in May. The lawyer also tried to sound encouraging. “One of the [jail] officers is going to give you my card,” the lawyer said. “You’re doing really good.”

“It’s obviously been extremely difficult for a variety of reasons,” Frankel said.

One might expect to hear defense lawyers voicing relief at the prospect of fewer video hearings — an emergency workaround that went against their training and instincts, and sometimes weighed heavily on their clients’ Sixth Amendment right to effective legal help. 

Instead, lawyers for the indigent who have had to labor through video hearings are fighting to keep them in place, arguing in their federal suit that the reopening plan violates the Americans With Disabilities Act because it endangers the people who are the most susceptible to the ravages of the coronavirus.

Representatives for all six groups — Bronx Defenders, Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Service, Queens Defenders, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and New York County Defender Services — declined to be interviewed for this article. 

Other courthouse lawyers are watching the case with interest, mindful of the toll that the coronavirus took when New York was the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Two Brooklyn Supreme Court civil judges — Johnny Lee Baynes, 64, and Noach Dear, 66 — died of the disease. Scores of court workers were infected. 

“I think there’s some justifiable concerns,” said Richman, noting that a ban remains in force against indoor public dining in New York City: “We can’t go inside a restaurant, and we’re all going to be standing around a courtroom?” 

The state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, said on Monday in her regular video message that “we have a constitutional obligation to gradually transition back to in-person operations.” 

The backlog of criminal court cases in New York City alone climbed above 39,000 in June and some defendants are languishing in jails. State courts outside the city, where the coronavirus was less prevalent, are a step ahead in restarting. A handful of in-person bench trials are scheduled to resume this coming Monday, June 27, in Brooklyn. The city can convene grand juries again beginning on August 10.

It’s a far cry from the grim tidings Judge DiFiore delivered in March, when court staff were falling ill and courthouses, while remaining open, stood quiet as museums.

Since then, she said on Monday, courts across the state relying mainly on remote hearings have arraigned more than 19,000 defendants, conducted an additional 34,000 criminal proceedings, and held conferences for more than 130,000 “non-essential matters,” resolving more than a third of them. 

Lawyers in New York apparently have gotten used to video hearings in state court, even if they don’t particularly like them. It could be worse, according to Mark Cohen, who is a law partner with Frankel and spends more of his case time in New York’s Southern and Eastern district federal courts, where he said “video capacity is horrific.”

“There is none, basically,” Cohen said in an interview. “In fact, it’s mostly being done by phone and if you think video is bad, try phones.”

Like Allegedly? Then subscribe! We’ll soon be offering paid subscriptions, too. Members will get access to important court documents and eventually, more original stories. 

Want to write for Allegedly? If you’re a  New York City reporter with an idea, email victoriabekiempis [at] gmail [dot] come with [PITCH: Allegedly] in the subject line.  We pay!