Tag Archive | "NYPD"

No closure in cop sexual assault case

The parents of a Bronx girl who was sexually assaulted 16 months ago by an NYPD officer grimaced in the gallery yesterday when the judge announced that closure would have to wait at least another month. Sentencing was expected Wednesday, Sept. 24, for Modesto Alamo, 38, who pleaded guilty in July to sexually abusing, forcibly touching and endangering the welfare of a 13-year-old girl. Alamo resigned from the police force upon his May 24, 2014 arrest. Instead, Judge Laurence E. Busching of the Bronx Supreme Court said he would issue a sentence and determine Alamo’s sex offender category Oct. 23. Bronx Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Militano petitioned Wednesday for Alamo to be designated a Level 2 sex offender, for “moderate risk or repeat offense,” arguing that his betrayal of a position of trust justified the heightened classification. Defense lawyer Solomon J. Schepps argued that the victim “was the one who established the relationship in the first place” through a series of non-sexual text messages. Schepps also claimed there is no precedent for holding police officers to the higher standard Militano endorsed. He encouraged a Level 1, “low risk,” designation. It has been a “lengthy, stressful, disappointing process,” the victim’s mother said in the hallway after yesterday’s hearing. She added that her daughter, now 15, receives counseling and has changed middle schools since the incidents. Although the parents have been fixtures at Alamo hearings, they said they try to shield their daughter from news of the case. “It is ridiculous that he gets away like it,” said the mother, who sobbed in the courtroom when the prosecutor described the abuse. “He was never in custody.” Alamo arrived in court in a long-sleeve T-shirt and blue jeans, donning a baseball cap upon leaving the courtroom to obscure photographs of his face. Busching denied a special request from The New York Daily News to photograph today’s proceedings. Schepps and Militano declined to comment. In the criminal complaint, the victim is said to have referred to Alamo as her boyfriend. She initially reached out to Alamo for help with a bullying situation at school, Militano said in court and the two exchanged frequent texts for several weeks.The complaint states that Alamo visited her multiple times in her apartment lobby, first on New Year’s Day 2013, where he kissed her and groped her rear end. Alamo also sent the teenager lewd photographs via text. The victim’s mother said outside court Wednesday that it was Alamo who initiated contact in November 2012 when he complimented a picture her daughter had uploaded on Instagram. Alamo is released on bail of $1,500.  

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Police seek information on driver in hit-and-run case

After a hit-and-run in the Bronx on Monday, the police have released a surveillance video and have asked for any information on the case, NY1 News reports.

A white sedan hit a 50-year-old woman around 1 pm on Bruckner avenue, according to the New York Police Department.

The woman is in critical condition and has been admitted to Lincoln Hospital.

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Legal Aid Claims Police are Still Making Illegal Marijuana Arrests

Map compares arrests for criminal weapons possession, in red, to drug possession arrests, in green, that resulted from stop-and-frisk in the Bronx in 2011. Created from 2011 New York City Police Department stop-and-frisk data by Selase Kove-Seyram, Juanita Ceballos, and Annaliese Wiederspahn. For 38-year-old Obediah Poteat, being stopped and frisked by the police is just a part of life in the East Tremont section of the Bronx where he lives with his wife and five children. What's worse, he said, is that officers end up arresting people for minor crimes, like disorderly conduct or having small amounts of marijuana in their pockets. “They are always trying to find a reason to put their hands on you," said Poteat,  who has been stopped  multiple times, but never arrested. "To search you, to arrest you for whatever.” Even though the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy is meant to only uncover guns, it has resulted in more and more arrests when officers inadvertently find marijuana in people's pockets instead. According to a July New York Times editorial, the number of arrests citywide for possession of small amounts of marijuana increased from less than 1,000 in 1990 to 50,000 in 2011. Almost 94 percent of the 16-to-19-year-olds arrested last year had no prior convictions and nearly half had no arrest record. In September of last year, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly released a memo instructing officers not to arrest people who have small amounts of marijuana only if the drugs were in public view at the time of the initial stop. The memo cites a 1977 New York State law that changed the treatment of offenders caught with a small amount of marijuana from being grounds for arrest. Instead officers are to issue a summons ticket, similar to a speeding ticket.  The maximum penalty under New York State law for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana that is not burning or in public view is a $100 fine. Nine months later the Legal Aid Society filed suit against the police department in New York State Supreme Court charging officers with ignoring the commissioner’s directive, continuing their "illegal marijuana arrest practices.” Plaintiffs in the case included residents of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The Legal Aid Society drew early support for its case from an unlikely source, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. The former mayor published an op-ed in the Huffington Post in June supporting Legal Aid’s efforts to stop misdemeanor possession arrests. Koch qualified his support for stop-and-frisk saying he would only continue his support for the policy so long as it is not used to falsely make criminals out of citizens. According to analysis by the New York World, in August of last year, the New York City Police Department made 2,486 arrests after police stops. In the month following Commissioner Kelly’s order, the New York City Police Department arrested 2,661 people on misdemeanor marijuana charges. Unlike other boroughs that saw slight drops in misdemeanor marijuana arrests in November and December, arrests in the Bronx continued to rise through the end of 2011. The first half of 2012 yielded encouraging news. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that police made 27,492 arrests for small possession of marijuana between October and May. That represented a 24.4 percent drop from the previous eight months. The lead Legal Aid Society attorney on the marijuana arrest practices case said police need to be bound by court orders, “Our objective is to stop this business of improperly arresting people and taking them down to central booking,” said Thomas O’Brien. “It leaves a troubling stain on their record.” The case is still pending, awaiting a judge to be assigned. Interview with Obediah Poteat by Wiederspahn

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Bronx Students Protest Presence of Police School Safety Officers

Students and Bronx advocacy groups are now trying to work with School Safety Officers  to improve relations and bring peace with dignity to the schools. (JUANITA CEBALLOS/The Bronx Ink)

Grover Vazquez, an 11-year-old former student at P.S. 55 in the Bronx, was terrified when he saw one of his friends get arrested in the middle of class. A police officer assigned to the school was called in when Grover´s classmates started fighting over a pencil. As the officer handcuffed one of the students, Grover hid under his desk because he thought the officer was going to take him too. When he got home that day in March 2011, he asked his mother, Esperanza Vazquez, why police officers arrest kids who misbehave. “He is a little boy,” Grover told his mother. “He is my friend. We´re not criminals.” It took Vazquez weeks to convince her son that school was a safe place. The arrests at P.S. 55 were just a few of the hundreds that take place every year in classrooms across the city. In the first half of 2012, the New York City Police Department’s School Safety Division arrested 540 New York City students; 164 of those arrests took place in the Bronx. Although the borough represents only 21 percent of the city’s school enrollment, 30 percent of the total arrests and 51 percent of the total summons were issued there.

Esperanza Vazquez's son was terrified when he saw one of his friends get arrested in the middle of class. (JUANITA CEBALLOS/The Bronx Ink)

“My son was really traumatized,” said Vazquez, a Mexican immigrant. “There has to be a positive approach to disciplining kids. The excessive use of force is never a solution.” Before 1998, the Department of Education supervised safety officers in schools. But that year, then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani transferred control of the school division to the police department over protests from students, parents, educators and community leaders who claimed that police in schools would disrupt learning. In January 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the Impact Schools initiative, which allowed the presence of New York Police Department to be increased in schools where there was a high level of reported crime. In the years since then, the responsibilities of school safety agents have increased. They now monitor entrances, exits and hallways, operate scanners, cameras and metal detectors and verify students and staff identifications. New York Police Department School Safety Division data reveals that school arrests disproportionately affect black and Latino students in the Bronx. Of those arrested, more than 47 percent were Latinos and 52 percent were black. As reported by the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York -- a coalition of students, parents, advocates, educators and lawyers -- 82 percent of students citywide that have to go through metal detectors are black or Latino. But the city's Department of Education demographic enrollment data shows that Hispanic and black students account for only 68 percent of the city’s school population. The  School Safety Division did not respond to a request for comment despite repeated attempts. Aiesha Vegas, an 18-year-old Hispanic student at Satellite Academy in the Bronx, feels that Latinos have to constantly “watch their backs.” “They look at us as criminals," she said. "We are targeted because they categorize us. When you arrest young students, all you do is harm them. Once you’re in the system, it´s going to be really hard to get a job.” Although there is only a difference of 5 percent in the Hispanic population of the Bronx and Queens, the number of arrests in the Bronx is almost triple those in Queens. While 78 were registered in the Bronx, 27 took place in Queens. For Shoshi Chowdhury, the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York coordinator, the numbers reflect an alarming racial disparity. “It definitely creates a state of fear within the immigrant students because any minimal behavior can become a deportable offense,” said Chowdhury. The immigration consequences of the arrests and summons for Latino students depend on their present immigration status, race, class and origin. The impact can range from expulsion from the United States to the re-evaluation of the present immigration status. As reported by the New York Civil Liberties Union, there are 5,100 school safety agents in the city’s schools and just 3,000 guidance counselors and 1,500 social workers. According to that organization, “police personnel is becoming involved in disciplinary infractions that should be handled by educators.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union claims that the over-policing of schools drives youth directly into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. (JUANITA CEBALLOS/The Bronx Ink)

The civil liberties union argues that the students are being pushed towards the criminal justice system through zero tolerance policies where minor incidents lead to arrests, juvenile detention referrals, and criminal charges. School safety agents receive 14 weeks of training, compared to the six months mandatory training for police officers. The civil liberties union says that the agents don’t receive proper and meaningful guidance on what their role in schools should be. Rosalía Sierra, a parent leader with the New Settlement Parent Action Committee in the South Bronx, said disciplinary responses should start with the school´s teachers and principals. “We want them to reach their goals,” said Sierra, a Mexican immigrant. “We don’t want someone to tie up their hands so that they end up in jail.” Since 2002, the city´s budget allotted to police and security officers has increased by 65 percent to more than $21 million, according to the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York. Schools with metal detectors spend at least $2,000 less per student each year than those without. Research conducted by the civil liberties union found that each day, 100,000 New York City schoolchildren must pass through permanent metal detectors to enter their schools. Muhammad Creasy, an 18-year-old student at Ellis Preparatory on the Kennedy High School Campus in the Marble Hill section of the Bronx, received a ticket when the scanner revealed he had a bottle of water in his backpack. Students are told to remove food and beverages from their backpacks before they pass them through the scanners. “They should invest the money they are paying to the school safety division to buy more books,” said Creasy. “We don´t need police officers in our schools.” “Agents are in every corner watching you,” said Creasy. “I cannot feel 100 percent comfortable, even in the classroom.” Estefan Peña is a 19-year-old Dominican student at Ellis Preparatory on the Kennedy High School Campus. School safety agents suspended him three times last year. One of the suspensions was for ordering take-out food. Shoshi Chowdhury, the Dignity in Schools coordinator, said there isn't a specific set of rules that defines if that type of conduct is punishable or not. "It depends on the mood of the safety officers,” said Chowdhury. “There are two scanners in my school,” added Peña. “Whenever I have to go through them I don’t feel like I’m entering a school. It looks like they´re preparing us for a future in prison.” Students, community leaders and civil rights advocates claim that there is a criminalization of non-criminal incidents. Disorderly conduct charges accounted for 70 percent of the 487 summonses issued in the Bronx schools during the first six months of 2012. Although Abdul Salam Bukanola, 16, student at Bronx Regional High School, hasn´t been arrested or suspended, he feels that the agents are punishing students for minor disciplinary infractions. “Friends of mine have been suspended for coming late to school or for talking in class,” said Bukanola. “This policy it´s not right. Sometimes they treat us like criminals. I don’t deserve it because I haven´t done anything bad.”

Since 2002, the city´s budget allotted to police and security officers has increased by 65 percent to more than $21 million. (JUANITA CEBALLOS/The Bronx Ink)

When asked about the policy, Jaime Koppel, Children’s Defense Fund senior program associate, went a step forward and put the focus on how the police presence is affecting the learning environment. “We’re losing an opportunity to teach children,” said Koppel. “They just have to pay a fine and nobody talks to them about what they did wrong.” According to Akilah Irvin, youth organizer at Mothers on the Move, the school system is failing to provide emotional support to students. “School principals have limited resources at their disposal to address the children’s needs,” said Irvin. “It’s all about the way we communicate with them and the wrong assumptions that are usually made by agents.” Shoshi Chowdhury is confident that the consequences go far beyond the psychological damages. “This policy is affecting families, in particular low-income neighborhoods. Many students cannot pay the fines associated with summons,” said Chowdhury. “That has a negative impact on their credit rating and can be held against them when trying to get a student loan.” Advocacy leaders claim that the policy doesn’t leave much space for educators to question agents’ actions. The arrest of Bronx Guild High School Principal Michael Soguero back in 2005 is an example. He was arrested when he tried to stop an officer from handcuffing one of his students and had to spend the night in jail. He was not allowed back in the school until the charges were dropped two months later. The Student Safety Act, which was signed into law on January 2011, mandates detailed quarterly reports of suspensions, arrests and school-discipline matters. The reports allow civil rights advocates to track School Safety Division practices and allows them to draw a portrait of their disciplinary actions. On June 25, Bronx parents, elected representatives, School Safety Division top officials and New York State Department of Education members, gathered for the first time to discuss the high number of suspensions and arrests in the borough. During this meeting, parents and students claimed that the School Safety Division is creating a criminal environment without a reduction in arrests or violent incidents. According to Dinu Ahmed, a community organizer working on educational justice in the South Bronx at Parent Action Committee, the hearing concluded with a commitment from the Department of Education and the police department to come up with an action plan based on the concerns and recommendations raised during the meeting. Parent Action Committee’s suggested alternatives to school policing, range from restorative practices to peer mediation programs. “We need to provide support to the students and teach them about conflict resolution,” said Ahmed. “The city has to prioritize support for students over policing and metal detectors and not vice versa.” School Safety Division. from Juanita Ceballos on Vimeo.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx, Education, North Central Bronx, Slideshows, Southern BronxComments (1)

Sounding Off On Stop and Frisk

Tension between Bronx residents and police have been smoldering in recent weeks, in the wake of police killings of two unarmed young men. Recent protests have followed a year of public outcry over reports that city police have disproportionately stopped and frisked Black and Latino young men, particularly those in the South Bronx, based on little more than police suspicion. Most recently, a five-borough protest spurred by residents took place last Thursday. On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the Bronx Ink staff decided to find out if Bronx residents thought the stop-and-frisk tactics  might in any way be contributing to the growing unrest. Reporters scoured 12 community districts and collected the stories of 33 people, ranging from the ages of 19 to 72.  Of those surveyed, 43 percent were Black, 30 percent Hispanic, 15 percent White, 9 percent South Asian, and 3 percent Asian. Six were women, 27 were men. Occupations ranged from student to dishwasher to paralegal. The overall population in the Bronx is 30.1 percent Black, 53.5 percent Hispanic, 10.9 percent White, and 3.2 percent Asian. Police argue that the stop and frisk policy has resulted in removing dangerous criminals from the street. But a majority of men interviewed complained about being stopped multiple times, even though weapons were never found. Data released by the New York Police Department last year showed that more than 400 stops occurred in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx last year, resulting in only 10 confiscated guns. Most residents surveyed said they felt they were victims of profiling based on their race. Police data showed that young Black men represent 25.6 percent of the NYPD stops but only 1.9 percent of the city’s population. The same goes for young Latino men, who make up 16 percent of the NYPD’s stops but only 2.8 percent of the city’s population. Some of the Bronx residents' memories were fresh, and raw. Louis Soltren said he was sitting outside his Mott Haven apartment building one evening, dressed in a suit, drinking a Gatorade, taking a rest in the open air after a long day of work. That's when a police officer approached him. I pulled out my ID,” Soltren remembered. “The guy actually refused to see my ID. Instead of treating me like a human being, he treated me like an animal. The officer ordered Soltren to take off his shoes and place his hands against the wall of his apartment building. I look way different than what certain drug dealers look like," said Soltren, a 31-year-old Spanish and Italian resident of the Bronx. "I still fall in that category. The way I see it is because of my Hispanic race.” The New York Civil Liberties Union estimates that police stopped on average about 1,900 people per day in 2011. The policy allows an officer to stop a person for a variety reasons, including walking suspiciously or having a suspicious bulge. The data shows that 88 percent of those stopped were not charged with anything. Police records show that in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, where Soltren has lived for 24 years, officers stopped and frisked residents 17,690  times – the fourth highest number in New York City. Over half of the survey participants said they had been stopped. One-third of them admitted it happened more than once. “One-hundred-one times I have been stopped by cops,” said Joys Reid, 53, a life-long Hunts Point resident, standing across the street from his apartment on Hoe avenue. “Everyday we get picked up for nothing.” Of those interviewed, 77 percent said they opposed the practice. “Stop and frisk I don’t think is going to stop anything because it hasn’t,” said Terrence Wilkerson, 36, a Highbridge resident for 30 years. “Stop and frisk is borderline racism,” Wilkerson added. The Bronx Ink poll reflects a greater trend among Black and Hispanic residents. According to a Quinnipiac University survey, 69 percent of Black voters and 53 percent of Hispanic voters disapproved of stop and frisk. In New York City overall, registered voters are split on the policy: 50 percent against, 45 percent for, and 5 percent undecided. Only five of the people we spoke to supported the policy, two of whom were Hispanic.“I think it’s great. It’s extremely important,” said Robert Flores, 45, a Fordham resident. “I know a lot of people are against it but I feel that it needs to happen. Within this community, we are the only people robbing each other.” Overwhelmingly, those surveyed said more positive police involvement in their community would prevent unnecessary stops. “If they see the same people everyday, they should know the community,” Peter Lorenzi, 19, a criminal justice major at Berkeley College said. “They should know people around them.” Click on photos to hear their stories. dfdsf Additional reporting by Ana Ionova, Andrew Freedman, Annaliese Wiederspahn, Coleen Jose, Jan Hendrik Hinzel, Jika González, Kenny Suleimanagich, Margaret Badore, Natasha Lindstrom, Sadef A. Kully, Selase Kove-Seyram, Sonia Paul, Valentine Pasquesoone, Vidur Malik and Yi Du.  

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Featured, Morrisania, Multimedia, North Central Bronx, Northwest Bronx, Sizing up Stop and Frisk, Southern Bronx, Special ReportsComments (2)

Bernard Kerik Hovers Over the DiTommaso Perjury Trial

 

Peter DiTommaso appeared relaxed during the first day of proceedings in his trial on perjury charges. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Prosecutors argued Thursday in Bronx Supreme Court that construction company owners Frank and Peter DiTommaso lied to the grand jury six years ago about paying for renovations to the Riverdale apartment of disgraced former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. “Back in 1999, these defendants thought that Bernard B. Kerik was a big shot, that he had  juice, power and influence,” Stuart Levy, assistant district attorney told the jury on Thursday.  Prosecutors argued that the two brothers used the relationship with Kerik to gain government contracts and licenses. Kerik is scheduled to testify next month. “He will not take responsibility for their actions,” said Levy. Kerik, 57, is serving a 48-month sentence for eight federal crimes, including lying to White House officials when he was being considered to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Frank DiTommaso's attorney opened her defense with a flourish. "I'm tempted to quote 'My Cousin Vinny,'" said Cathy Fleming, referring to the 1992 Hollywood movie starring Joe Pesci. "What he said is BS," she said, waving her hand dramatically toward the prosecutor.  Members of the jury nodded and chuckled. Fleming then held up a poster-sized copy of her client’s indictment, in an attempt to argue that the district attorney's case is based on conspiracy theories. "The prosecutors blurred the timeline, blurred the brothers and blurred the companies,” she said. Frank DiTommaso, 53, is charged with one count of perjury while his brother, Peter DiTommaso, 51, faces two counts. The DiTommasos own the New Jersey-based companies, Interstate Construction, Interstate Drywall and Interstate Materials. Levy told the jury that the cost of the renovations that included a jacuzzi and a marble foyer totaled $255,000. He added that Kerik often complained to his friend Lawrence Ray that his government salary was insufficient to cover living expenses.

Justice John W. Carter ordered the DiTommaso defense attorneys (above) and prosecutors to refrain from issuing public comments. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Ray loaned money to Kerik for the down payment on his apartment. He was also employed by the DiTommasos from 1998 to 2000 as a business consultant. The defendant’s attorneys also stressed the relationship between Kerik, Ray and the DiTommasos. “How nicely that [Ray] fits in to the prosecutor’s conspiracy theory,” said Michael A. Marinaccio, the attorney for Peter DiTommaso. Ray was convicted of stock manipulation in 2000. The DiTommasos terminated his employment less than a week after his conviction. The trial is expected to resume Friday, Sept. 28, at 10:30 a.m. “I am confident that you will find the defendants not guilty as charged," concluded Levy, "but guilty as proven."

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Bronx Robber Threatens Five More Victims with Hypodermic Needle

A robber who uses a hypodermic needle to threaten his victims was linked to five more incidents in the Bronx. The recent robberies make a total of eight reported incidents in the East Tremont area. The police released a video of the man who is described as about 40 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall and 120 pounds. His victims, all male, and as young as 14 had iPads, cell phones or other electronics stolen when they were stopped, NBC New York reports. The man was last seen wearing a black leather Yankees hat, a black hooded sweatshirt, gray jeans and black sneakers. Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS or atNYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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Family Mourns Unsolved Murder of Bronx Woman

Pamela Graddick, a daycare worker, was last seen by a friend who shopped with her at the Gateway Center mall near Yankee Stadium. Relatives quickly took action two days after she vanished on August 11, posting flyers around Highbridge for clues of her status. On September 4, Graddick, 26, was found stuffed in a trash bag near the Bronx River Parkway, the New York Daily News reports. Graddick was the youngest of four children. Family and friends mourn the loss of a woman who, according to her father, Bernard Graddick, was an excellent student and a star basketball player at Walton High School. She continued her academic and athletic career at Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York. The NYPD and Yonkers detectives are investigating her death.

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