Billy Porter’s Divorce Now Involves a Dog Visitation Dispute

As Billy Porter and husband Adam Smith’s divorce winds through Manhattan court, their cockapoo, Lola, has emerged as a key point of contention, Allegedly has learned. 

During a November 15  proceeding, the Pose actor’s lawyer claimed that Smith “blocked access” to the curly haired pooch. Porter claimed that Smith even “took me off as being the father.”

The fur flew following a discussion of the couple’s financials, a court transcript reveals.  Porter’s attorney, Margaret Brady, told judge Douglas Hoffman that there was “just one other small matter…the parties owned a dog.” 

“It’s not a small matter. Depends on what kind of dog it is,” Hoffman said. 

As Brady started to answer, Porter interjected: “cockapoo.”

“A cockapoo, your honor,” Brady said. “An adorable little dog.”

“You’re talking to a former cockapoo owner,” Hoffman said.

“Oh. Well, I hope you’ll be sympathetic,” Brady said. “Defendant has refused to give plaintiff access to the dog since the middle of this summer. We would like an access schedule.”

“Your Honor, it’s not their dog,” said Dana Stutman, Smith’s attorney. “It was given as a gift.” 

“It’s a marital asset,” Brady said. 

“It may be. It was a birthday gift to my client from Mr. Porter. I understand that it doesn’t make it separate property,” Stutman said. “However, for seven months, this dog, except for one small week—for seven months, this dog has been with my client and not one request has come asking for time with him.”

“It was refused from the get-go,” Brady said. “I had a conversation with my client and he would still like the opportunity to spend time with his dog.” 

“When would he like to see the dog?” Hoffman asked. 

“Well, as long as he can promise that he’s not doing drugs, that he’s not having parties,” Stutman said. 

“You will not scandalize my name like that,” Porter said.  

“These are based on fact, your honor, and I’m not trying to do anything that would harm anyone’s reputation here,” Stutman said. “But they brought up the dog, and I’m telling you what the concerns have been from the get-go.” 

“Could we have an agreement in which they both agree that they would not do any drugs or drink any alcohol when the dog is in their possession or they will exchange it—or a neutral third-party will exchange the dog?” Brady offered. “My client would like to see the dog when he gets back from London [at] the end of November.”

“I can certainly arrange for him to see him, but to stay overnight with him is something that’s very difficult,” Stutman said. “If you want to have a trial on whether or not there’s fitness for taking care of a dog, we’ll do that. But I don’t think that that’s really what Mr. Porter wants.”

“I do not intend to appoint a forensic veterinarian,” Hoffman said, referring to a process in child custody cases during which the court appoints experts including psychologists to weigh minors’ best interests. 

“But for seven months, he hasn’t seen the dog and it wasn’t worth asking for,” Stutman said. “I’m sorry, your honor. I don’t buy it, actually.”

“Counsel, will you arrange for at least daytime, a substantial daytime visit? A Saturday for several hours, something like that?” Hoffman said. 

Stutman said they would have to talk because this was the “first time they’re raising it before your honor.”  

“Okay,” Hoffman said. “And very importantly, what is the dog’s name?”  

When Stutman responded “Lola,” this revealed still more acrimony over the canine. 

“He changed the name,” Porter said.  

“The dog’s name was Bader,” Brady added. 

“Bader Lola Majors,” Porter said. 

“And when he blocked access to the dog, he changed the dog’s name,” Brady added. 

“And took me off as being the father,” Porter also said. 

“What is the dog’s name now?” Hoffman asked. 

“Lola, the mini cockapoo,” Porter said. 

“Lola,” Smith said.

“Lola?” Hoffman asked.

Smith responded, “Lola is her name.” 

“Okay. You came to the right court in terms of a dog,” Hoffman said.  

“So, in any case, try to arrange for reasonable access. If it’s a daytime access visit with the dog, we can take it from there,” Hoffman said.  “Okay? Just — the dog is a member of the family. He can visit with the dog. Let’s work that out reasonably. Okay?” 

Stutman said yes.

Porter and Smith announced Lola’s arrival in January 2021. He reposted Smith’s Instagram post on Lola, which said: “delighted to have you all meet the newest addition to our family: Bader Lola Majors (BLM) aka Miss Lola. You can follow her adventures over at @baderlolamajors.”  At present, Lola’s Instagram appears inactive.

It was unclear at press time whether Porter has had a visit with Lola since the court proceeding. It was also unknown whether Porter and Smith had agreed to a visitation schedule. 

When e-mailed for comment on the dog dispute, Porter’s publicist responded: “seriously?!” Allegedly followed up on the request for comment. The publicist responded they wouldn’t be commenting and said “aren’t there more important things you could be writing about?” Smith’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


Betrayal, Murder, and Money

Good morning, Allegedly readers. 

We are back! 

Since an explanation of our sporadic schedule is a bit boring, let’s get right to today’s edition: We chatted with longtime New York Post reporters Rebecca Rosenberg and Selim Algar whose book, At Any Cost: A Father’s Betrayal, a Wife’s Murder, and a Ten-Year War for Justice, came out several weeks ago. 

Their book chronicles the life and death of Shele Danishefsky, a successful Wall Street financier who eagerly wanted to build a family. Enter Rod Covlin. The Ivy League graduate, whom she met at a Jewish singles event in 1998, seemed to be the man of Shele’s dreams, quickly sweeping her off her feet. They married shortly thereafter, but Shele’s hopes for a fairytale life quickly faded. While they had the children Shele so desperately wanted, Rod lived off her financial and emotional labor, indulging in dalliances and an obsession with high stakes backgammon. Shele decided to divorce Rod in 2009 and planned to cut him out of her will.   

On New Year’s Eve that year, Shele’s lifeless body was found in the bathtub of her Upper West Side home. The New York Police department decided that Shele’s death was an accident. Disputes between Shele’s family and the Covlins over child custody and money fanned the flames of suspicion that her death wasn’t an accident. In 2019, Rod was convicted of second-degree murder for killing Shele and hit with the maximum sentence—25 years-to-life. 

Allegedly didn’t think it would be appropriate for us to review the book, as we’re friends with Rebecca and Selim, but we have been talking with them about the reporting and writing process anyway and figured, why not write this down? 

Anyway, here is Allegedly’s interview with Rebecca and Selim. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

Allegedly: Rebecca, you’ve covered courts for a long time. Out of all the crimes you’ve covered, what made this one stick out? 

Rebecca: I think what was most interesting about it was just that he almost got away with it, and how long it took for them to finally build a case. And that had Marc Karstaedt [Shele’s brother-in-law] and her family not pushed so hard,  he never would have been brought to justice. The other element that fascinated me was that it was such a circumstantial case.  It was just so different from some of the other cases you cover. You don’t have that smoking gun. You have all these little strands, woven together, where it’s like, it couldn’t be anybody else. It actually was an incredibly powerful case, even though it was circumstantial, I think, also, the characters in the courtroom were perfect for that courtroom theater. 

I think, also, just the stuff with the kids, which is so incredibly tragic. They went through what they went through, and even at the end of the day, the daughter wrote a letter of support. The kids just couldn’t accept that their father did this. I think, also, just the failure of the family court system to protect them. Even with everything going on, the kids remained with the Covlins—even though every single warning sign, because there was such a strong [mandate] to keep kids with a parent if you can . Even in this case, when there was every reason not to. You just wonder: how differently would their lives turned out had they been raised with the Danishefskys or Karstaedts rather than the Covlins?

Allegedly: For someone who’s not familiar, could you explain how this is an example of family court family failing?

Rebecca:  The courts already knew that there was a problem here, right before she was killed. There was a restraining order against Rod. There were threats. There was all kinds of really alarming stuff going on. And then she dies, he’s the prime suspect, yet the two kids are still with him. And then at one point, the kids end up technically in the custody of his parents, but he’s living in the house and has full access to them. And all these really terrible details emerge about what he’s doing with them, his instabilities. 

He’s trying to do these manipulative things to get his hands on the money. They still do not remove these kids from this really dysfunctional environment. You have all these lawsuits going on at once. They’re really slow. They take forever. And the courts are just always favoring Rod. And the longer the kids are with his family, the less the courts want to move them, even in the face of all of this. 

Selim: I think the custody issue just sort of illuminated how dysfunctional the bureaucracy in the city is on that front. And I think it really sort of drove home how prejudicial the courts are in favor of simply going for the easiest route. In other words, they don’t want to take them from the primary parent, because they think, automatically, that it confers some basic stability for the kids, even when it’s pretty plain that it doesn’t. To me, that was one of the sort of bleaker aspects, how the safeguards, the societal safeguards that are supposed to be put up for kids who really have no control over their own fate, failed them.  

Allegedly:  You’re parents. So as you’re both writing this, the more that you go into it and confronted what these kids were going through, how did it feel? 

Selim: We have two young kids, eight and three now. I think it certainly adds another dimension of just comprehending what they’re going through. And the latter part of the book, where it sort of becomes plain that these kids are simply unable to fathom that perhaps their father was involved in something like this, to me, it was really sad.  I mean, it’s a form of love, I guess, to think that your father or your mother, perhaps in another instance, are simply incapable of these things. It shows sort of that bond, between parent and child. In most instances, that is a positive, uplifting thought, and this one, it, it’s sort of the flip side of that, and it was pretty depressing, I would say. 

Allegedly: You both have full-time jobs, and did this book with full-time jobs and two kids? How did you manage to do it?

Selim: We came to the realization pretty early that this was going to be a challenge. Our days are pretty hectic, with the newspaper job. So when we filed our stories for the day, we would get to work. Initially, we tried to do it at home and then kids would start rampaging through the house. It quickly became clear: We just simply wouldn’t be able to do it. When you have this deadline, staring you in the face, and a lot of people sort of depending on you, you have to take evasive and extreme action, which in my case, was accepting the residence of my mother-in-law in the house for four months.  She was kind enough, let me rephrase: she was kind enough to come from Seattle, where Rebecca is originally from, to help us out.

Rebecca: I would probably say we only made it out, with our work schedules,, maybe one day of the week, maybe toward the end it would be two days. Or when we took time off work, it was every day. But every weekend, when my mom wasn’t here, we had to pay a babysitter. We would go for 10 hours. We had three cafes we would switch  between. I’d go to the pie shop and I’d have all the sort of pie. So I’d have pie for breakfast and lunch. And then we would go to this ramen place for dinner and work there. It was really a punishing schedule. It was not easy. In the end, we got an extension from six months to maybe, eight. Had I not covered the trial before we started writing it, I think it would have been impossible, honestly. I had basically done the this huge chunk of work already. I already had read through all the motions. I had been covering the case since he was arrested, and so it was just a matter of reviewing things I’ve already seen and obtaining more things, and then doing these additional interviews. Had that work not been done before, I don’t know how anybody could have done that.


Thank you for reading Allegedly this week. As Allegedly mentioned earlier, our reason for a sporadic publishing schedule is boring, but here it is: We are exhausted after 13 months of the pandemic and everything else in 2020 that has continued into 2021. 

We care about bringing you New York City’s courts and crime news— so very much–but things might be a little less frequent for a while. So, please be patient while we figure out how to bring you more stories.  <3


Allegedly Special: Covid-19 in New York City’s Jails

Hi, everyone!

As part of this week’s series on New York City’s criminal justice system one year after Covid-19 spurred the closure of courts, Sean Piccoli reported on the status of coronavirus in local jails.

Thanks for reading and please, don’t forget to subscribe.

How Are NYC’s Jails Handling Covid-19 One Year After Coronavirus Hit Courts?

By Sean Piccoli

With paperwork in hand and a disposable mask looped around his ears, Marco Santiago of Brooklyn walked out of the Rikers Island jail on a chilly March afternoon and sat down on a concrete ledge to wait for the Q100 bus. Santiago, 28, had no coat and no phone. But he was going home after seven months in lockup that saw more Covid-19 cases seeping into the New York City jail system.

He was also fully vaccinated. “Both shots,” he said, with the second jab delivered two weeks ahead of his release. 

Santiago said he served his time without catching the virus. He counted himself fortunate. He was tested for Covid-19 multiple times, he said, and inmates did not have to share cells. But he also got into a fistfight, and he often found social distancing difficult to maintain outside of his cell during the day. “Everybody’s all over the place and together, even though we should be six feet apart,” Santiago said.

Does his experience mean the city’s jails are safer today than they were one year ago, when New York City’s chief jail physician called them a “public health disaster” on Twitter?   

“It’s a good question,” said Ross MacDonald, whose viral Twitter thread last March sounded the alarm from inside Rikers’ walls. MacDonald is Chief Medical Officer for Correctional Health Services (CHS), the city-run NYC Health + Hospitals division that provides inmate care. But in a brief telephone conversation with Allegedly this month, he referred questions about the state of the jails to a CHS spokesperson, who did not respond to follow-up inquiries.

More than 1,200 jail guards out of a uniformed force numbering more than 8,000 tested positive for the virus in the first two months of the pandemic. At least six died and several filed suit against DOC for forcing them to work 24-hour shifts in life-threatening pandemic conditions. 

More than 500 inmates across the city’s nine detention facilities — seven located on Rikers Island — tested positive in the same time frame. Their numbers included the only three inmates whom DOC officially considers Covid-19 deaths in custody, although more got sick while in jail and died after being released 

Among the uncounted was Raymond Rivera, 55, who fell ill at Rikers awaiting a hearing on a minor parole violation and died at Bellevue Hospital in April.  

The city freed hundreds of people to reduce jail populations and took other steps to blunt the disease’s transmission. But crowding persisted as people in custody waited their turns in a court system backlogged by the pandemic. As bail reforms intended to keep people out of jail were partially undone, and the jail population rebounded, infections ticked up and then climbed more sharply in the winter, in a trend that roughly tracked the city’s overall struggle to contain Covid-19.  

To date, more than 1,100 inmates have tested positive for the virus  and almost 1,890 Department of Correction employees, uniformed and not, have been infected

The picture today is mixed. The incidence of Covid-19 in jails — the percentage of jail patients newly testing positive — is at 0.12 percent through March 15, down sharply from the spikes of this past winter and the spring of 2020. But it’s climbing again through the first two weeks of the month alongside other indicators of the disease’s reach into the jails.

The jail population has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with more than 5,550 people in custody. It’s unclear how many of them have been vaccinated while inside, or how many jail staffers have received shots. Infection figures kept by the Correctional Health Service and the Board of Correction don’t discuss vaccinations. A city correction spokesperson declined to speak on the record about pandemic safety and did not provide a statement before deadline. 

The DOC did respond to an article in The City this week about undercounted inmate Covid-10 deaths, with a written statement that the jails are employing “every possible measure” to keep staff and detainees safe, and that Covid-19 transmission inside the jails “is, and has remained, lower than the citywide average.”

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit against the city’s jails filed by current and former inmates is crawling through preliminary hearings. Another lawsuit, filed this month by jail guards, accuses the DOC of deliberately misdiagnosing Covid-infected staff to dupe them into staying on the job and working longer shifts amid an epidemic of absenteeism and early retirements. 

A spokesperson for the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the union representing the city’s uniformed jail staff, did not return calls seeking comment about the pandemic and officer safety.

Marco Santiago, the Brooklyn man who entered the system in August, said his confinement at Rikers was his first time inside and, he hopes, his last. “You live and you learn,” he said on the bus ride to Queens Plaza. Asked about his future plans, he said he has a girlfriend and four young children — the oldest age four. “I’m going to see my girl and see my kids,” he said, “and try to find a job.”


Allegedly Special: Covid’s Impact on Courts, One Year Later

Good morning, everyone.

At 5 p.m. on March 16, 2020, New York City’s courts ground to a halt. All non-essential state court functions were postponed until further notice. The shift toward virtual proceedings took hold the next day, with videoconference-based arraignments starting in New York City’s criminal courts. While many non-essential functions have resumed via remote platforms, the change has dramatically impacted court proceedings this year. News emerged several weeks ago, however, that jury trials would kick off in March. “As you know, the COVID metrics have improved and the vaccination campaign is expanding to reach more and more people in New York State. As a result, we are moving forward with our plans to incrementally expand in-person operations and re-start a limited number of civil and criminal jury trials on Monday, March 22nd,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said Monday.

As part of our efforts to show how Covid-19 has impacted courts over the past year, and what these impacts might mean for the future, Allegedly will be publishing several stories this week about what’s happening in New York City’s halls of justice.

Our first installment is brought to you by Andrew Denney. Please enjoy!

Jurors Are Returning To Court. Things Will Still Be Weird.

By Andrew Denney

New York City’s courthouses are sputtering back to life, which means that residents may soon find themselves taking on a role they’ve largely avoided for many months: jury duty. Even as jury duty resumes, the pandemic will likely have longterm effects on how court business is conducted. Masks and witness testimony by Zoom will be de rigueur. Potential jurors should expect temperature checks and even regular COVID-19 tests.

The slow resumption of trials has put into sharp relief just how much their postponement has impacted New York City’s defendants, plaintiffs, and prosecutors.  Defendants in civil cases have been under less pressure to settle with plaintiffs without a pending jury trial looming over them. At the same time, defendants in criminal cases who are presently held pending trial have had to wait longer for their day in court. 

But those who are out might have benefitted from the fact that charges against them largely depend upon witnesses’ fading memories. Prosecutors might be increasingly willing to seek lesser charges just to lessen case backlogs, attorneys told Allegedly.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Joel Rudin, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney representing Kareem Bellamy, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1995, and who is still locked in a lawsuit against the city. 

“It depends on the nature of the case,” Rudin said. “If it’s a criminal case, where the government holds all the cards, if the government seems to have a strong case, then generally the defendant is not going to be in a rush to go to trial…a civil defendant may hope the case [weakens] over time, the plaintiff’s case may weaken over time, a criminal defendant may hope that the prosecution’s case [weakens] over time.”   

In the federal courthouse for the Southern District of New York in Lower Manhattan, two men are currently standing trial for accusations of laundering more than $160 million in transactions for the San Francisco-based marijuana delivery service Eaze Technologies, the so-called “Uber of weed.”  The trial for Los Angeles businessman Hamid Akhavan and German consultant Ruben Weigand  is the first, in-person criminal jury trial held in the city this year.

Rakoff’s courtroom has all the signs of the new normal for any public gathering. Jurors and attorneys are socially distant and masked up. Witnesses deliver testimony from behind a plexiglass barrier or by videoconference platforms. Despite the precautions, one of the jurors tested positive for COVID-19 a few days into the trial and had to be swapped out. “That’s why we have alternate jurors,” Rakoff said from the stand.

The trial for Akhavan and Weigand began almost one year after New York City’s bustling courthouses—perhaps the busiest in the United States—went mostly pin-drop quiet as judges and court officials took steps to limit the number of people in their halls. That included pausing jury trials, a process that places perfect strangers shoulder-to-shoulder for periods of time that range from a few hours to several months. There were about 800 criminal jury trials in New York City’s federal and state courts in 2019. From March to December 2020, there were just nine completed jury trials, The New York Times reported

The trial for Akhavan and Weigand is one of three held so far this year in the Southern District. In February, two Southern District judges each held a jury trial for civil cases, according to a court official.

As for New York’s state court system, officials have set March 22 as the start date for a “slow ramping up” for trials to resume, starting with less-complex civil cases and criminal matters involving jailed defendants, said court system spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

Chalfen said that about 7,300 jury summonses are already in the mail. Service dates will be staggered to reduce the headcount in courthouses during jury selection. “Anyone uncomfortable with reporting will be excused,” Chalfen said.

State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel, Brooklyn’s administrative judge for civil matters, presides over the highest-volume civil court in the state. He said that there are eight jury trials planned for the week of March 22.

Prior to the pandemic, the courthouse at 360 Adams Street in Downtown Brooklyn held more than 900 jury trials annually on matters that include medical malpractice, personal injury, and divorce cases. 

Knipel’s courthouse was especially hard hit in the opening months of the pandemic, before widespread adherence to edicts for mask wearing and social distancing. Knipel himself was “very, very ill” last year when he became infected with Covid-19. Two of his fellow judges at 360 Adams, Johnny Lee Baynes and Noach Dear, died from coronavirus last spring. They were 64 and 66 years old, respectively.

Knipel said that safety measures such as required masking, temperature checks, and questionnaires asking about exposure to coronavirus, will be in place as in-person proceedings resume. He said the court plans to start holding trials for relatively simple matters, such as slip-and-fall cases and auto-accident disputes, that won’t need lengthy periods of deliberation, before moving on to more complicated issues like medical malpractice.

“We want to do shorter cases,” Knipel said. “We don’t want to do longer trials. At first, anyway.” 

The headcount in the jury pool room on the ground floor of the courthouse, which can fit roughly 400 people, will be limited to about 80, Knipel said. Jury selection will be held in courtrooms and the number of spectators will be limited, he said.

Additionally, Knipel said that the court used to call up jurors to its central part for possible assignment to 120 cases each day. That number will likely be reduced to 30 or 40 for the foreseeable future, he said. Knipel also said that he expects videoconferencing of some court matters to remain a lasting change. Generally speaking, he said, courts are going to be a “different world.” 

“The courts, we’re a very conservative institution. And we adopt changes slowly,” Knipel said. “But the world itself has been more digital all the time. The old attorney who practiced 50 years ago, if he popped up in our courthouse one year ago he would be very familiar with what’s going on, because nothing changed much. But now it’s changed. Now we’re digital.”

He added: “A lot of these changes, a great saver in time and energy. And they will not go away.” 

For plaintiffs in civil matters, the virtual disappearance of jury trials means they might be waiting longer for their adversaries to throw up their hands and make a settlement offer, Rudin said. 

“Settlements have slowed down tremendously,” Rudin said. He said that, while technological improvements have helped cases move along more quickly—now depositions are increasingly handled online—it’s been difficult for attorneys and judges to nail down trial dates.

Rudin, who is fighting on Bellamy’s behalf in the federal court for the Eastern District of New York, also said that federal judges are giving preference for trial dates to criminal cases over civil matters. 

On the criminal side, the disappearance of jury trials have been either a curse or a gift, depending on the defendants’ situation.

Criminal defense attorney Robert Tsigler noted that some defendants also face immigration consequences—such as potentially getting deported or missing their shot at getting their asylum applications approved—while they wait for their day in court. 

But Tsigler said that others are aided by the fact that district attorneys are subject to re-election every four years and that some of their assistants may feel pressure to resolve cases—and thus cut deals with defense attorneys for lesser charges—knowing that a trial date may be far down the road.

“For some clients of mine, this is a benefit,” he said. “For other clients of mine, it’s a disaster.”   

Tsigler also noted that for state court defendants who are waiting in jail to see a jury, the amount of time they spend in lockup gets knocked off their sentence.

Spoliation of evidence is a concern for attorneys in any practice area. For prosecutors, cases often hinge on the accounts of witnesses and victims whose memories—and even their willingness to take the stand against defendants—may fade over time.

Former Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino Jr., who last year lost a bid for re-election after one term in office, said that time is not always on the side of the prosecution. In some cases, a far-flung trial date may allow for more time for violent threats to witnesses to keep them from testifying.

“From the prosecution side, you’re always concerned about the nature of the delay, the loss of witnesses, the problems with their memory, whether they leave the area, whether they get COVID, whether they became ill or we lost them,” Scarpino said. “You’re also worried, in certain types of cases as time goes on, [about] their reluctance to testify based upon their own personal safety.”

Criminal defense attorney Patrick Brackley said that the drop in jury trials has also made life easier for the defense bar because they have not been faced with the complicated task of working on jury selection, an often subjective affair in which lawyers weed out potential jurors based on small details, like the way they look when they answer questions, or the books they bring to court.

Brackley said that in an environment where in-person trials might be months or even years away, prosecutors are feeling increased pressure to get matters resolved more quickly, especially since cases have been piling up throughout the pandemic.

“In the same way as any other organization or any other business has to move product, if that’s what it is,” Brackely said. “And these are all people, cases involving witnesses. How many witnesses can they bring in? How many cases can they try? So, it benefits defendants because there is a clear motive to separate the serious cases from the not-so-serious cases.”


What Manhattan’s D.A. Candidates Say About The Trump Investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s announcement Friday that he wouldn’t seek reelection left eight Democratic candidates vying for the office. Vance’s decision spurred questions about what would happen to his office’s investigation into Trump after he left. (For details, read my Intelligencer story here.) Prior to Vance’s announcement, I asked each of the candidates how they would handle an investigation into Trump if elected D.A. I also asked whether they had experience investigating and prosecuting finance and corruption crimes, as well as similar questions. I reached out through their reps.

None of the Manhattan D.A. candidates said whether or not they would pursue a case against Trump, but this is to be expected: It would be inappropriate for a would-be prosecutor to say who they’d go after before they’ve reviewed the info. Showing their hands now could jeopardize any possible case, attorneys I’ve spoken with said.

Here’s what the D.A. hopefuls had to say about the Trump probe:

Tahanie Aboushi (answers forwarded by rep via email) 

On approaching Trump investigations, Aboushi said: “I will inherit many cases from the incumbent and my approach to any case—whether it’s high-profile or not—will be the same across the board because I am not running for DA to try a particular case.” Aboushi said she’s  “running to change a system that has historically made people of color the face of crime while enabling the rich and powerful to run this city with impunity. As DA, I will bring about transformational change by being free from influence and focused on justice.”  Aboushi, a civil rights lawyer, responded to the question about prosecutorial experience by saying: “I have been a civil rights attorney for over 10 years in this city and during that time I have gone up against many big-city agencies, including the NYPD and NYFD.” 

Alvin Bragg (statement from rep via email)

“Alvin will set up a dedicated team of top prosecutors to continue ongoing cases and evaluate new ones. His rule has always been to do the right thing, for the right reasons, in the right way. And as he’s done throughout his career, he will follow the facts, and not shy away from a case no matter the status or power of the person being charged,” a rep for Bragg said in response to the question about continuing the investigation. Bragg, who most recently worked as chief deputy attorney general in the New York Attorney General’ office and prior to that, a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said he helmed cases against Trump and his business interests. Among them: a lawsuit against Trump’s foundation that resulted in a $2 million judgement, which stemmed from claims that he used the charity’s money for political purposes.

Liz Crotty (via phone)

“I think that the answer is standard amongst all of us in that we cant discuss a case, a pending investigation, where we don’t have the facts. … If there is an indictment, if a grand jury votes na indictment, it doesn’t change bc of who the D.A. is, in general terms,” Crotty said. “If they have a voted indictment where there’s reasonable cause to believe a crime was committed,you would continue with any indictment. It’s not like because the D.A. changes, [an] indictment goes away.” Pressed further on this, Crotty said:  You can’t conjecture about a case like this, about a hypothetical about what you would do or wouldn’t do… I would have to look at all facts before I made a decision about anything.” Crotty, who worked in the Manhattan D.A.’s office from 2000 to 2006 and then opened a criminal law firm several years later, pointed to her work there when asked about past handling of financial crimes, including the oil-for-food case

Tali Farhadian Weinstein (answers forwarded by rep via email) 

“If you hurt the people of New York by cheating and stealing, you should be held to account no matter who you are or what power you may have. Under my watch, prosecutors will do what I always have, which is to follow the evidence wherever it takes them. We don’t know where the evidence will take us here, of course, because we have not seen it,” Farhadian Weinstein said of approaching Trump investigations. The candidate pointed to her past work as a federal prosecutor when asked about experience, saying she conducted “complex investigations and prosecution of corruption and financial crimes, as well as violent crimes.” She claimed to be “the only candidate who has worked across American legal institutions — from the Supreme Court to the Office of the Attorney General at the Department of Justice to federal prosecution and local prosecution — and that puts me in a unique position to take on an investigation that may well present unprecedented challenges.” 

Diana Florence (via phone) 

The candidate, a prosecutor in the office for more than 25 years, most recently helming the Construction Fraud Task Force, said she was “the only person, the only candidate in this race, who has taken on big real estate and construction fraud—the very same industry that Trump works in.” Florence said she’d redirect resources to focus on “crimes of power” and corruption, ranging from tax fraud to human trafficking. When she worked under the late Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau, “we were the gold standard for prosecuting white collar fraud, and I learned my chops from the finest lawyers under Morgenthau— and that’s what I want to restore the office to.”   “It means redirecting our resources to crimes of power,” said Florence, who resigned the D.A.’s office in January 2020 amid claims she withheld evidence. “The majority of the lawyers in the office are focused on low-level crimes of poverty. That’s not only an unfair system but it allows this corruption and fraud to reign. She said there would be harsher tactics that fines and civil action for corruption. “Criminal enforcement is game-changing.” 

Lucy Lang (answers forwarded by rep via email) 

“It would be inappropriate for any candidate for Manhattan district attorney to make commitments about any specific case before the office. As the next Manhattan District Attorney, I will ensure that the powerful and well connected are held to the same standard of justice as every New Yorker. No one is above the law,” Lang said in response to the question about approaching a Trump investigation. Lang, who worked as a prosecutor in Manhattan, said she’d handled complex criminal cases. She pointed to a “years-long” investigation into murder, financial crime and narcotics which, she said, “reclaimed an entire block in East Harlem for local residents.”  Lang pointed to her past work in explaining how she’d provide a smooth transition to continuing possible Trump-related investigations. “For an investigation of this magnitude—no matter who is under investigation—the most important qualities the next Manhattan DA can bring are a full understanding of New York criminal law and procedure, Manhattan criminal courts and experience building and managing complex investigations.”

Eliza Orlins (answers forwarded by rep via email) 

“As a public defender, I’ve seen firsthand how our rigged criminal legal system protects the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else. That’s why as DA, I will implement a Decline to Prosecute policy that will free up resources for investigations of those who have always benefited from their own system of justice. This includes Donald Trump,” Orlins said in an email. Orlins criticized Vance as a “career prosecutor who let Donald Trump and his friends off the hook again and again. Why would we want someone with that same experience to take over the role?” saying that “the only person we can trust to prosecute people like Trump is someone with courage, motivated not by their friendships with the powerful, but by helping the people of New York City. That’s the experience I will bring to this role.” She said “it would be irresponsible for me to say with certainty how I would or would not prosecute any case before seeing the evidence, I will most certainly continue these investigations. Unlike our current DA, if Donald Trump has broken the law, I will prosecute him.”

Dan Quart (answers forwarded by rep via email)

The state Assemblyman, when asked about continuing Trump-related investigations, said “his most dangerous actions related to undermining the rule of law and the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs free of bias and prejudgement. We must not follow his example.”  “As District Attorney, I will evaluate any and all ongoing cases and prosecutions when I take office. It would be my responsibility as the next Manhattan DA to ensure that all investigations and prosecutions have sufficient resources including investigators and ADAs to properly address that case,” Quart said. He recognized that he’d been publicly critical of Trump, but that it was “separate and distinct from how I would approach this case as District Attorney. As DA, I will judge each case based on the facts and if there is evidence a serious crime has been committed, I will prosecute it. That is true for the President as much as it’s true for anyone else.” Asked about his experience with financial crime cases, Quart said he had two decades of experience “on all sorts of cases, including complex commercial litigation, financial litigation, and appellate work and I know how to prosecute these effectively.” 


Allegedly Alert: Cy Vance Not Seeking Reelection

Good morning, everyone.

There was a huge development this morning in New York City’s criminal justice world: Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection for a fourth term in the office.

So, who’s running?

Halley Bondy spoke with eight of the then-nine D.A. candidates last fall about their views on police misconduct. Read it here.

Want more info on Vance’s legacy?

Sean Piccoli examined Vance’s handling of high-profile sex crimes cases, such as the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein. Here’s a link.

We’re still waking up—so, apologies for any typos—but will continue to cover this story.

Below is Vance’s memo to staff about his decision:

Dear friends and colleagues –

Eleven years ago, I asked our Manhattan community to return me to this extraordinary office where I began my legal career – a place where hundreds of the nation’s best attorneys, supported by an exceptional professional staff of hundreds more, work every day to deliver justice, keep us safe, and leave behind a fairer system than the one we inherited.

At the time, I told my family and friends that I didn’t aspire to be District Attorney for decades like my predecessors. I said that this wouldn’t be a “forever job” for me or even my last job, although the fact is, serving the People of New York is the best job and biggest honor I’ll ever have. Instead, I said I would give it my all for two or three terms, then begin a new chapter in my life and open the pathway for new leadership in the D.A.’s Office. I believed then – and I believe now – that change is a fundamentally good thing for any institution.

Today, I’m writing to let you know that I will not seek reelection as District Attorney. Knowing this wouldn’t be a forever job doesn’t make this announcement easy. I love this office. I love the community we serve. I love the work we are doing right now to uplift our neighbors, balance the justice system, and advance racial equity during this uniquely challenging, watershed moment in our City and country’s history.

Most of all, I am grateful to all of you – the incredible people who have made this office the powerful and unwavering force for justice that it is today. Your unparalleled commitment to justice, public service, and community safety make me reluctant to leave. Your hard work and dedication, in thousands of cases that never make the news, continue to inspire me every day. But I have zero doubt that you will continue to serve, support, and advocate for New Yorkers with the same level of dedication that you have shown me and our community since 2010.

Looking back today over the last eleven years, I’m proud of what we accomplished. We’ve made our neighborhoods stronger and healthier, not only through proactive prosecutions that dismantled violent gangs and took thousands of guns from City streets, but with catalytic investments of the millions we seized from banks to support young people and reentering New Yorkers to help prevent justice involvement and recidivism. We’ve used discretion and diversion to slash our caseload by 58% – massively reducing our criminal justice footprint and the inequities that underlie unnecessary prosecutions. And we’ve expanded the perimeter of 21st century crimefighting in New York – having built a world-class cybercrime operation, a counterterrorism practice that has convicted international and white nationalist terrorists, and an aggressive approach to economic crime that has yielded billions in fines and forfeitures from big banks and executives.

In the past year alone, as an ongoing pandemic and racial justice reckoning have tested our City and our profession like never before, we have secured landmark victories in Trump v. Vance and People v. Weinstein, provided crucial lifelines and credible messengers through our Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, seamlessly transitioned to a new remote practice, and guaranteed the right to peaceful protest in the crossroads of the world. We are, every day, moving our justice system and our community forward.

There are no small cases – every case you handle is important to those affected by it, whether they are the survivor or the person accused. But for each of us, there are cases that speak to us about why we do this work. For me, when I think back on all of the cases of our time together, I keep returning to Etan Patz and his family. Because of this Office’s unmatched talents and relentless pursuit of justice, we were able to solve one of the City’s most infamous and formative unsolved crimes: the murder of a 6-year-old boy who left to catch the school bus on the Friday before Memorial Day in 1979, and was never seen again. For Etan and for his family, this Office never gave up. For thousands of crime survivors and their families – from small children to seniors – you have never given up. I know the emotional toll this exacts from each of you, and eleven years in, I continue to be amazed by your resilience every day.

Working here in the 1980s, I recognized quickly that the Manhattan D.A.’s Office – thanks to its jurisdiction, its expertise, and especially its people – was a uniquely special institution. Working here in 2021, I have never felt more optimistic about the future of this office after witnessing daily on Zoom and in socially distanced meetings the everyday acts of heroism in your public service. Thanks to you, the People of New York are in excellent hands.

Over the next few months, while the election goes on outside, our work – powered by your talent, ethics, and unbending professionalism – will continue. Inside, our investigations and trials – from the high-profile to the ones that never make the newspaper – will proceed. Our investments to uplift our neighborhoods during this hour of need will continue. And our mission to move our justice system forward will remain our driving force, because that mission is, by definition, never complete.

Muhammad Ali once said, “don’t count the days, make the days count.” For me, now that I’ve tipped the hourglass over, every minute of every day left as District Attorney counts to me more than ever. It’s hard to convey the excitement and pride I feel about the continued opportunity to do this work over the next months with you, the finest group of lawyers and public servants I’ve ever known.

The work continues.

With great admiration and affection,


This Week in Allegedly: Shomrim Scandal, More Trump Legal Drama

Hello there!

We’re almost done with this week, so you know what that means: another edition of The Allegedly List

We’ve got updates on the Manhattan District Attorney Office’s investigation into Trump’s business dealings—and details on misconduct in the law enforcement world. There’s a lot more, of course. Without further ado, let’s get to our weekly roundup of New York City’s crime and courts news. 

The Allegedly List

Jacob “Yanky” Daskal, who founded Borough Park’s Shomrim, was hit with a Brooklyn federal court indictment for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl in two states, prosecutors said Thursday. The 62-year-old was first charged almost three years ago in Brooklyn Supreme Court for allegedly abusing this same victim—but the feds’ indictment means he could face way more years behind bars if convicted. The judge in his federal case ruled that Daskal would be released on $4.5 million bond, backed by five properties and signed by eight family members. For those who aren’t familiar, Shomrin is an Orthodox Jewish crime-patrol association linked to the New York Police Department’s 66th Precinct. Via New York Post

New York Attorney General Letitia James will investigate sexual harassment claims against Governor Andrew Cuomo. He formally referred the allegations to James on Monday, a decision that spurs an inquiry into the longtime pol. Three women have recently come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior; when Cuomo made this decision, the third accuser hadn’t yet come forward. Via The Washington Post

The prosecutors in Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance’s office who are probing Donald Trump and his family businesses are focusing on his company’s longtime CFO. They’re asking people questions about Allen H. Weisselberg’s dealings at the Trump Organization, according to a report. The intensified look at Weisselberg could increase pressure on him to help prosecutors if they found that he’d done anything wrong. Via The New York Times. 

There’s more legal drama for the Trump clan, as we’ve come to expect: Donald Trump Jr. is poised to be deposed in the lawsuit over Michael Cohen’s legal bills. Remember, Trump’s former fixed wants his ex-boss to pay for legal costs that relate to his decision to cooperate with authorities. During a Manhattan Supreme Court hearing Tuesday, it was revealed that another Trump son, Eric, was already deposed in Cohen’s case. Via New York Daily News

Several New York City jail guards filed suit against the Department of Correction over Covid-19 risks on Saturday, alleging that authorities “purposefully” misdiagnosed inmates and staffers—going so far as to use flawed thermometers that provided low temperature readings. The correction officers’ Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit claims that they had to work without proper protective gear, and “in some instances [were] prohibited from wearing masks.” “The defendants act of misdiagnosing and purposefully failing to diagnose infected persons and track and trace inmates and staff breached the defendants’ duty of care,” the lawsuit claims. Via New York Post

The 75th Precinct’s commanding officer is being moved to a lower-profile post following a campaign from area activists; inspector John Mastronardi will be transferred to the Chief of Detectives’ office sometime this month, according to Graham Rayman’s report Monday. Mastronardi, who’s been on the force 21 years, was criticized for his handling of a fight—that was captured on video—between civilians and his officers about mask rules. Mastronardi was alleged to have pushed a detained person’s head against the sidewalk in this incident. Via New York Daily News

More than $2 million in seized bank assets will fund the Manhattan D.A.’s new initiative that aims at helping young New York residents escape sex trafficking, his office announced Monday. “The Phoenix Project” aspires to help sex trafficking survivors, and those at high risk of being victimized by commercial sex traffickers, for young persons from age 12 to 21. The project will work by “helping survivors obtain housing, health care, and education,” Vance said. Via New York Daily News

Mike Sisak gave us an update Thursday on Civilian Complaint Review Board records. The CCRB’s database on disciplinary complaints against NYPD cops has been posted, in the wake of an appeals court decision that lifted a stay on releasing them. Take a look at those public records here

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Mew Crime: A Cat Named ‘Tipsy’ Helped Solve This New York City Murder in 1912

Good morning, Allegedly readers!

As promised, this week’s Allegedly Original features a cat who helped solved a murder. Since you’ll obviously enjoy reading this twisted cat tale, don’t forget to share it—and subscribe to Allegedly.

Tipsy, the Expert Mouser Who Helped Solve a Murder

By Peggy Gavan

Two weeks after an unidentified woman’s body was discovered in a Connecticut mill pond, a New York City cat found the murder weapon in a five-story brick tenement on East 40th Street. This weapon was key to identifying and confirming the suspect in a baffling, high-profile murder case.  

The story had everything a news editor could possibly want: murder, sex, mystery, and gore, as well as a beautiful teenage girl and a suspicious male boarder who might have been her lover. 

The grisly case also featured a cat named Tipsy, who had a reputation as being an expert mouser in this tenement building. The suspect Tipsy helped nab was a “little” and “weazened man” called Salvatore “the mouse” Geracci.

The Unidentified Body

On Saturday, November 9 1912, a woman’s body was found in the Gilbert & Bennett mill pond in Georgetown, Connecticut. The body was wrapped in a tablecloth and a sheet, which was marked with the initials “CG” and bound in wire. There were four holes in the woman’s skull. 

At first, police thought the woman was Grace Carbone, a Connecticut prostitute who had gone missing about four weeks prior. Grace and her friend Genevieve Cavalieri had both been scheduled to serve as witnesses at a trial of sex traffickers who operated in New Haven and Bridgeport. Police thought the woman had been killed to prevent her testimony, according to reports. The news media had a field day with this theory. 

Grace Carbone had several aliases, including Nellie Carmelia and Antoinette, so the initial theory was just a weak hunch. Assuming the woman had been killed somewhere near the pond, the Connecticut State Police explored every inch of ground around the pond looking for evidence of a struggle. They also canvassed the neighborhood to inquire about anyone with the initials “CG.” 

The Mysterious Trunk 

Things got a bit more complicated when Lester Olmstead, a local carpenter and hunter, found remnants of a burned trunk about one quarter mile from the Branchville train station. All that remained of the trunk was its zinc lining and some fragments of wood. Among the cinders were a woman’s shoe, three buttons, a safety pin, some wire, and a six-inch piece of rope that matched the rope used to tie the sheet around the woman’s body. The dirt around the site appeared as if someone had tried to dig a large hole and had then given up. Nearby, a stream entered into the mill pond. 

One report inThe New York Times said the trunk had been shipped by express service from New York City to Branchville. Several witnesses told police they had seen two men and a young woman wheeling the trunk on a hand cart to a little yellow house on a hill overlooking the site where it was found. 

With this new evidence, New York Police Department Deputy Police Commissioner George Samuel Dougherty reportedly changed direction and ordered detectives to start tracing the trunk’s point of origin. NYPD Detectives Clinton W. Wood and Ralph Mitelli were assigned to assist the Connecticut State Police in the investigation. 

According to Giuseppe Napoli, who was a boarder in the yellow house, Salvatore “the mouse” Geracci and two other men had carried the trunk to the house and left it in the backyard. (Napoli said he knew Geracci from when he had lived there while working as a laborer on the railroad.) Police also found a second-hand shop owner who had sold the trunk to Geracci. They discovered that the origin of the trunk was 315 East 40th Street. Dougherty sent his men, and reportedly a female detective, to the tenement building to further investigate this new lead. 

The Tenement

According to the New York Tribune, when detectives interviewed Mrs. John Preston, the janitress for 315 East 40th Street, she confirmed that an Italian woman named Carmelina Geracci had disappeared two weeks earlier. Carmelina was a 40-year-old seamstress who had lived in the first-floor apartment with her 54-year-old husband, Salvatore Geracci, their “markedly beautiful” 15-year-old daughter, Turiddi, and two male boarders, Salvatore Lombardi and Giuseppe Lombardi. 

Two tenants in the building told police they had heard a woman scream the night before Election Day, November 5. Other neighbors alleged that Geracci often beat his wife. A few people said the girl had also gone missing. They worried that she had also been killed. 

Armed with this new information, detectives began canvassing the neighborhood for Salvatore Geracci and Lombardi—who they thought was Turiddi’s 28-year-old lover, reports said.

Inside the apartment’s bedroom, detectives found stains as would be made by silver nitrate on a blood-stained mattress. These stains matched those on the sheet used to wrap the body. They also found dust outlined in blood on a rear window, and two clearly defined fingerprints on a closet. Bloodstained wire nails that matched the size of the four holes in Carmelina’s skull were scattered throughout the apartment. There were also some charred pieces of wood in the apartment, which led them to believe that the men may have tried to burn the body before shipping it to the mill pond. 

Despite all this evidence, the detectives had not yet found the murder weapon. That discovery, it appears, would take some feline curiosity. 

The Murder Weapon

On November 18, Tipsy, the tenement’s resident mouser, meandered into the open apartment to satisfy her curiosity. According to The Sun, Tipsy snooped around for a while and then settled down in a dark corner under the kitchen sink. Detectives tried to coax her out, but she refused to budge. When they reached under the sink to grab her, they discovered a short-handled, blood-stained bludgeon. Sharp carpet tacks had been driven into the tool, to cause more bodily damage and pain. 

The Motive

Based on this new evidence, detectives decided that Carmelina’s killer had used the bludgeon to drive the nails into her skull as she lay bound and gagged on the bed. At that point, however, the motive remained a mystery. 

On March 25 1913, police in Buffalo, New York tracked down and arrested Geracci. The man who had sold the trunk identified him. Detective-Sergeant Vincent De Guide traveled to Buffalo to interrogate him and have him extradited to Manhattan. During a three-hour grilling, Geracci eventually confessed to the murder. As The Sun and other newspapers described it, Geracci drew out a little crucifix from his pocket and pressed it to his lips, saying, “As I kiss the cross, so will I tell the truth.” 

Geracci reportedly said that his wife had been living the life of a prostitute and had been taunting him about her affairs with other men. He, Turiddi, and Salvatore Lombardi held a meeting during which they all decided that she must die. So one night, after she had come home late and kicked him out of bed, Salvatore drove the nails into her brain while she slept. Then he, their daughter, and Lombardi took the trunk to Connecticut, according to reports. 

“It is our law,” Geracci told a horrified courtroom. “My wife tormented me. I have done right.” He said he had wanted to go to the police and confess his crime right away, but Turiddi and Lombardi convinced him to dispose of the body in the mill pond. 

Shortly after Geracci’s arrest, police in Italy arrested Salvatore Lombardi at his home in Sicily. He promptly confessed and charged that Geracci single-handedly murdered his wife. Geracci pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree, and was sentenced to no less than 20 years in prison. 

The fates of Lombardi, Turiddi, and Tipsy the cat are unknown. As for the building at 315 East 40th Street, it was demolished in 1929 to make way for the large Tudor City housing complex that stands there today.

A version of this Allegedly Original originally appeared on Gavan’s website, The Hatching Cat, in December 2019.


This Week in Allegedly: Bobby Shmurda and Trump’s Tax Returns

Good morning, everyone!

There was a lot of courts and crime news around New York City this week. For The Allegedly List, we’ve got developments on Bobby Shmurda, and an update on that New York man-turned-Florida man who happens to be the former president. Since we got some positive feedback on breaking our lovely newsletter into two weekly installments, we’ll be back Monday with The Allegedly Original. Of course it involves a cat.

Thanks for reading. Please subscribe!

The Allegedly List, from Catherina Gioino:

  • Rapper Bobby Shmurda was released from prison Tuesday after more than six years behind bars; he will be under community supervision until 2026, state correction officials said. The Brooklyn rapper, legal name Ackquille Pollard, was “conditionally released” from Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York; he spent two years in city jail and four years in prison following his December 2014 arrest. Pollard pleaded guilty in September 2016 to weapon and conspiracy charges. Via Vulture.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied Trump’s final effort to keep Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance from seeing his personal and business tax returns. “There were no dissents noted” on SCOTUS’ rejection of Trump’s “emergency request” to block Vance’s subpoena. Trump lambasted the court’s ruling Monday, describing Vance’s investigation as “the continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country … It just never ends!” Via New York Times.
  • So…this means that Vance has finally gotten his hands on Trump’s tax docs. A spox for the D.A. said prosecutors have now received eight years’ worth of Trump’s returns, right after U.S. Supreme Court rejected Trump’s Hail Mary request. Earlier this month, Vance hired Mark Pomerantz, a career prosecutor who took down Gambino crime family boss John A. “Junior” Gotti and other mobsters, for this probe; last week, Pomerantz conducted the office’s fifth interview of Michael Cohen. Via New York Daily News.
  • The two lawyers accused of hurling a Molotov cocktail into an NYPD car during last summer’s George Floyd protests were offered a plea deal on Feb. 11, recent court documents indicated. Feds didn’t provide details on their proposed plea deal for Urooj Rahman and Colinford Mattis relating to their alleged actions on May 29. Prosecutors maintained that Mattis was caught on tape driving with Rahman—whom prosecutors said tossed a burning gas-filled beer bottle into an empty NYPD vehicle. Via New York Daily News.
  • Queens Republican leader Philip Grillo was arrested Monday for allegedly breaking into the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, authorities said. Grillo, a state committee member for Assembly District 24, was arrested at his girlfriend’s house after two people saw him on CNN and called the FBI, prosecutors claimed. The self-proclaimed “Republican Messiah”—who referred to his Glen Oaks neighborhood as “Trump’s Hometown District” on Facebook—was purportedly caught on tape entering the Capitol building after jumping through a broken window and holding a megaphone. Via New York Post.
  • State court trials are expected to resume in March with New Yorkers receiving jury summons as early as next week, court spokesman Lucian Chalfen said. Many prosecutors and defense attorneys are worried about COVID-19 when in-person civil and criminal trials begin on March 22, as they are still ineligible to receive the vaccine. Chalfen said the state will plan a “slow resumption” of in-person proceedings and that officials would offer to scale back depending on the infection rate. Via New York Daily News.
  • Peter, Paul and Mary tenor Peter Yarrow was accused on Wednesday of raping an underage girl in a Manhattan hotel room in 1969, according to a lawsuit brought by this accuser. The “Puff, the Magic Dragon” co-writer was accused of “grooming” the minor, who was a fan of his music and had allegedly met him several times during the band’s performances. The Manhattan Supreme Court suit, brought under the Child Victims Act, alleged that the accuser “has been suffering the effects…ever since.” Via New York Post.
  • A Rochester grand jury decided not to charge the police officers who put a hood over the head of Daniel Prude, and pushed his body against the ground until he stopped breathing, in March. Prude, a Black man who was mentally distraught during this encounter with police, died several days after this incident. Authorities had ruled that his death was a “drug overdose”—but body cam footage emerged in September showing that police roughly subdued him. Via New York Times.
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that police would step up investigations and subway patrols in an effort to combat hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans. Last year, there were 28 coronavirus-related hate crimes against Asian people in New York City, the NYPD said. In the most recent reported incident, a man allegedly used hate speech against an Asian man before punching him and stealing his phone in Harlem. Via Wall Street Journal.
  • A Manhattan federal court judge promised to handle lawsuits filed against the city involving arrests of protesters, during this summer’s George Floyd demonstrations, on an accelerated timeline. Judge Colleen McMahon told city lawyers to avoid dragging out suits. “My attitude toward these cases is they’re going on a rocket docket,” McMahon remarked Monday during a hearing. “I don’t like cases to hang around for a long period of time.” Via Gothamist.

Editor’s note: Although Catherina Gioino is running for office, we don’t think that disqualifies her from writing a roundup of city courts and crime news. We’ve worked with her for quite some time, and we know that she’s an excellent reporter—who’s more than capable of separating this summary from her other work.


How Covid-19 Impacted New York City’s Drug Market: The Allegedly Original

Good afternoon!

Here at Allegedly, we wanted to start the week by looking at how Covid-19 has impacted New York’s drug trade. It’s been almost a year since everything shut down, which in turn interrupted drug supply—driving prices through the roof. We were wondering what else was up, and saw something interesting: even though Mexican drug cartels have long been unable to establish a significant meth market in New York City, they appeared to be ramping up their efforts amid coronavirus.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division said in late January that there was a 214% increase in methamphetamine seized in fiscal year 2020 compared to 2019. In this same period, there was a 59% uptick in fentanyl seized in New York. Officials believe fentanyl is involved in about 60% of New York City’s overdose deaths. 

We wanted to find out more, so Allegedly spoke with Ray Donovan, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York Division. 

Allegedly: Is more fentanyl and more meth winding up, generally, in the market ?

Donovan: More Fentanyl, especially in New York City, seems to be the drug of choice. Methamphetamine here in New York City is a relatively new thing. We would see meth, but it wasn’t really destined for New York City. It would come in, and then it would spread out throughout the Northeast.  The reason for [the increase] is they’re both synthetic. We see a lot more meth production in Mexico, and fentanyl production in Mexico, than ever before.

Are meth and fentanyl also winding up in other drugs? 

Do we see it in other illicit narcotics? We see fentanyl get mixed in. Originally, we saw fentanyl get mixed with heroin, for the purpose of making the heroin stronger. That was around 2011, 2012. It was really to make it more potent. And then from there, it slowly went from okay, a mix for heroin, to being sold solely as fentanyl and they called it on the street with such things as “China White,” because it was so much more powerful than heroin. 

We do see fentanyl get mixed with other narcotics, such as methamphetamine and cocaine. We’ve had some instances where fentanyl has been put in marijuana. And for those reasons, we believe that particular dealer or network is lacing the narcotic with fentanyl because of the addictive properties of opioids. So, it’s a stronger addiction, and it brings their client base coming back. 

The problem is, for those individuals that are using that particular drug, they’re unaware that they’re getting cocaine laced with fentanyl. And so it’s that much more deadly. They assume that they’re going to buy one drug but in fact, they’re actually purchasing fentanyl.

Coronavirus-labeled heroin-fentanyl, photo courtesy of DEA.

With the distributor, do they think that someone’s just going to get more addicted to pot with fentanyl in it? Or do they think they’re going to be chasing after fentanyl specifically now? 

It varies from organization to organization. There are some that very purposefully lace their drugs with fentanyl, to bring them back. There are other organizations that would put fentanyl into substances, like cocaine or methamphetamine, to give the user a different feeling, with hopes of bringing them back. It always comes down to money. It always comes back to the user population. That’s what the drug dealer is shooting for is to get as much money as possible, so that they can make their brand of a drug more attractive. 

One of the things that the cartels did, while […] states would shut down because of COVID, they were stockpiling their drugs. It was causing the prices to go up and the demand never really subsided,  And so they were making more money. That’s why we see a lot more fentanyl, a lot more methamphetamine, in the city. 

So the cartels capitalized on COVID. If they stockpiled things, there would be increased demand, is that their reasoning? 

The demand for fentanyl, here in New York, really never subsided. It’s more and more becoming the drug of choice. The demand pretty much was on the rise, regardless. The unique thing is about meth coming into the city. We’ve never really seen, historically, a market for methamphetamine here in New York, until literally this year. We’ve seen the meth markets Upstate, and places like Buffalo and Rochester.  We see it in southern New Jersey, in Philadelphia. But we didn’t didn’t see meth really take a hold here in the city. So it is unique. 

The other thing that the Mexican cartels were doing: They were stockpiling the drugs there in Mexico. Because of the border security, and now heightened security there, they chose to stockpile it—number one, making the increase in price. Also, [stockpiling] so that they didn’t lose loads coming in, trying to get smuggled into the port of entry and then smuggled from state to state, when less people were traveling.


Meth seized in the Bronx, Photo Courtesy of DEA.

Is there increased demand for meth here because more people have been introduced to it? Or, has it become easier to get than other stimulants? Or, is it like, the cartels are really making a push to bring this into the market, but it hasn’t necessarily taken hold yet?

It’s a combination of variables. When you talk about 2014, and even going earlier than that, if you think about what is a common drug for manufacturing in Mexico, it’s not cocaine. What’s happening with cocaine is the market has really gone worldwide, Europe, Australia, Asia, Canada. The demand for cocaine is much higher now than ever before throughout Europe. Many of the [southern Andean] criminal groups and networks are pushing their cocaine worldwide. 

It’s not necessarily just destined for the United States. That leaves the Mexican cartels with: What can they produce there? They can produce heroin. They could bring in fentanyl from China. They can produce methamphetamine. And so that’s why they stockpile it, because they have a lot more access to it. They didn’t have access to cocaine, like they do down in Colombia, and Peru and Ecuador and Chile. And that’s why the Mexican cartel said: “What can we produce here?  We’re going to continue to produce in the super laboratories, methamphetamine.”  

Eventually, it’s like any other place. If there’s a slight demand, and they keep on pushing it, the Mexican cartels—in particular, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel New Generation—it’s going to start picking up. That’s what we saw happen. 

This is totally unrelated,  but I figured, because Covid makes everything so weird, I would ask: has there been any activity with drugs that  you haven’t seen for a very long time, like quaaludes? 

Like pharmaceuticals, hallucinogens? From time to time we do, but they’re more one- 

off. What we are seeing is a relatively new trend in the city. You have these street distribution organizations that would normally put heroin in a glassine bag, and distribute it on the street. They are now receiving fentanyl and pressing that fentanyl powder into pills. 

We see a lot more organizations trying to get the powder and press it into pills. The reason why they are doing it is because from fentanyl, you could generate millions of dollars just from one kilo. You could literally make 500,000 pills from one kilo of fentanyl, at two milligrams a pill. 

Wait, 500,000 pills? One kilo? 

Yeah. Two milligrams of fentanyl is potent. Potent enough to kill someone. You can press so many more pills from one kilo of fentanyl. What’s happening is they’re looking for different clients. So, if an individual who is afraid of doing drugs, like in a powder form, they get a pill. 

They think that behind the production of that pill, “Well, this was made in a lab. And so there’s some kind of quality control, and therefore it’s safer.” It’s not. It’s fentanyl that some street organization pressed into a pill, and they’re selling it as if it’s an oxy, oxy-30, which is not the case.  

How much does a pill go for? 

A pill goes for about $30; $25, $30 a pill. 

A bag of heroin? 

A deck: ten, $15. It truly varies on that. Here’s something to consider: Why are synthetic opioids taking hold in America and why are the cartels pushing it?  It’s the business model. If it takes a cartel three to four months to fully produce three kilos of heroin in a poppy field, by the time they pick all the poppy, they grind it down, they get all the powder turned into paste, they refine it into heroin, that’s about a four-month process. And in that field, they may generate two-and-a-half, three kilos of heroin.  You can buy a kilo of fentanyl for as little as $4,000 from China, and you can make millions of dollars from that one kilo. And then, it’s an unlimited supply because it’s synthetic. It’s manufactured in a laboratory. And now we see more fentanyl labs popping up in Mexico. That is the difference. The business model is more lucrative for synthetic drugs. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.