Archive for the tag 'courts'

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, facing a 20-count indictment on tax evasion, fraud and illegal hiring practices, may now head to trial in October, a month before elections.

SILive reports:

Speaking at a status conference in Brooklyn federal court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gatta said that motion procedures and hearings in the case could be held by the end of September, with a trial to begin the following month.

… Gatta said that the discovery in the case is “not particularly voluminous” and that the case itself “is fairly straightforward.”

Grimm’s new attorney, Daniel Rashbaum, said that that “schedule may be OK. I don’t know yet.”

He sought a three- or four-week delay so that he could look at the evidence. By then, Rashbaum said, he’d have a better idea “what the discovery looks like in my mind.”

But U.S. District Court Judge Pamela K. Chen said she would give Rashbaum, who notified the court last week that he was taking over the defense, two weeks to “dive into the material.”

Prior to the conference yesterday, observers believed Grimm would not go to trial until after the November 4 elections, when he faces off against Democrat Domenic Recchia. If the prosecution’s request for an October court date is granted, it would be a significant blow to the pol, who will have to fight simultaneously for his seat and his freedom.

Source: .v1ctor Casale/Flickr

A tattoo declaring his innocence did little to stop a Brooklyn jury from convicting a man for a 2012 sexual assault in Brighton Beach.

Giorgi Shevardenidze, 27, was found guilty of attacking a woman at the Brighton Beach subway station on July 28, 2012, with prosecutors alleging he grabbed his victim around the neck and mouth from behind, and choked, smothered and groped her.

Before his trial, though, he sought to clear his name with some permanent ink. He appeared in court with a tattoo of a bell on his right hand, with the word’s “I am not guilty” beneath it.

Jurors didn’t take the hint, finding him guilty of aggravated sexual assault after approximately four hours of deliberations. The crime carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Shevardenidze targeted his 22-year-old victim, riding eight stops past his destination to follow her. But Shevardenidze’s lawyers said it was all just a big misunderstanding. Shevardenidze was drunk, took a stumble, and landed on a butt, they argued.

The Daily News reports:

“He targeted this young lady,” prosecutor Olatokunbo Olaniyan told jurors during closing arguments. “He saw that blond hair, he saw that dress and he saw a crime of opportunity.”

Taking the stand Monday, the defendant contended he was bombed after a night of heavy drinking and that he “lost my balance and… accidentally put a hand on her butt.”

He said he got off at that stop to buy weed.

His lawyers argued the woman suffered no injuries and “overreacted” to an innocent encounter.

The New York Post adds that Shevardenidze was arrested on May 19, charged with misdemeanor assault for punching and biting a man in Midwood.

The teaching center's Sheepshead Bay office (Source: Google Maps)

The teaching center’s Sheepshead Bay office (Source: Google Maps)

A former employee of a New York Methodist Hospital teaching facility in Sheepshead Bay has filed a lawsuit against the facility, claiming staff knowingly exposed the public to potential health risks, and terminated her employment when she tried to make it known.

According to the complaint filed earlier this week with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, plaintiff Shagufta Syed alleges that while working as the program director last year at Methodist’s Center for Allied Health Education, School of Radiation Therapy, located at 1401 Kings Highway, she learned that students who had not received a required health clearance — which would entail providing proof of receiving flu and hepatitis shots and being screened for contagious diseases — were “coming into contact with patients who had significantly compromised immune systems as a result of their cancer radiation treatment,” contrary to the Rules and Regulations of the State of New York.

Those students, she claims, worked with patients receiving radiation therapy at Methodist, SUNY Downstate Medial Center, the Brooklyn Hospital Center, LEROS, and the Lutheran Medical Center.

Upon telling one of her supervisors, Syed claims in the lawsuit that she received this response:

“Don’t worry about it. Nothing’s ever done right here.”

The complaint says Syed then reached out to the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology about the situation, and once her Methodist supervisors learned of this, she claims she was fired for doing so.

The complaint further alleges that upon submitting a claim for settlement, Methodist’s lawyers sent a letter claiming they had “documented facts” that could “prove costly” should Syed decide to pursue the litigation, but that those facts were not presented when requested pre-litigation.

Syed is claiming a loss of income from what she says is a wrongful termination, along with emotional distress, and is suing for the sum of $75,000.

“We cannot comment on the lawsuit brought by the individual whose employment was terminated,” Methodist said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. “However, we can assure you that, as required by regulatory agencies and accrediting bodies, our radiation therapy students receive the same health clearances as our employees before they are allowed to enter into clinical rotations.”

– Mary Bakija

The Midwood building where Hussein beat his wife to death. (Source: Google Maps)

The Midwood building where Hussein beat his wife to death. (Source: Google Maps)

Noor Hussein, 75, was sentenced yesterday to 18 years to life for beating his 66-year-old wife to death in their Midwood home in 2011 after she cooked him the wrong meal.

Hussein was convicted of second degree murder last month, when a jury found him guilty of viciously beating his wife Nazar as she lay in bed, most likely asleep. The assault caused massive head trauma that led to a fatal brain hemorrhage, according to expert testimony during the trial. The medical examiner determined she had been struck more than 20 times.

When he was arrested, Hussein told police that he “disciplined” his wife earlier in the night because she cooked a meal that wasn’t to his satisfaction, but that she went to bed unharmed. Neighbors, however, testified that they had witnessed Hussein abuse his wife for years.

“This defendant viciously attacked his wife as she lay in bed, unable to defend herself. The judge has spoken and now the defendant has been held accountable for this brutal and cowardly act,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in a press release.

Are you a victim of domestic violence, or believe you have friends, family or neighbors who may be? The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence has a number of resources to assist victims. Get help now.

Source: smokershighlife/Flickr

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Tuesday that his office will no longer prosecute first-time offenders arrested for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, suggesting it’s been a waste of resources that unfairly targets young men of color.

The DA laid out the new policy in a press release, saying that he will decline to prosecute marijuana cases where the defendent has no prior arrests or a minimal criminal record, and has given authorities a verifiable name and address. However, his office also provided a list of exceptions that may be prosecuted. The exceptions include cases where a defendant is nabbed smoking in public, is a sex offender, has an open warrant or the marijuana is found as a result of search warrant.

Here’s Thompson’s full statement:

“My office and the New York City Police Department have a shared mission to protect the public and we will continue to advance that goal. But as District Attorney, I have the additional duty to do justice, and not merely convict, and to reform and improve our criminal justice system in Brooklyn,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders. Pursuant to this policy, we will use our prosecutorial discretion to decline to prosecute, and dismiss upfront, certain low-level marijuana possession cases based on criteria concerning the particular individual and the circumstances of the case. For example, cases will be dismissed prior to arraignment for those with little or no criminal record, but we will continue to prosecute marijuana cases which most clearly raise public health and safety concerns.

“This policy does not express approval for the use of marijuana and should not be interpreted as such. The policy will not apply to those who smoke marijuana in public, or in the presence of children. It will not apply to 16 and 17-year-old offenders, who instead will be redirected on to a healthier path through a diversion program. It will not apply to those with a serious criminal history, to those who are known to act in a dangerous manner while under the influence, or to those who have a history of selling drugs to children,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“If the conduct in which the offender has engaged is the mere possession of a small amount of marijuana in public, it would not, under most circumstances, warrant saddling that offender with a new criminal conviction and all of its attendant collateral consequences related to employment, education and housing,” the District Attorney said.

“Furthermore, in 2013, this office processed well over 8,500 cases where the top charge was a class ‘B’ misdemeanor marijuana possession. More than two-thirds of those cases ended up being dismissed by judges, most often because the defendant was offered an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal at his or her criminal court arraignment. The processing of these cases exacts a cost on the criminal justice system and takes a toll on the individual. Given that these cases are ultimately — and predictably — dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit,” the District Attorney added.

The news of Thompson’s decision will not mean a policy shift for the New York Police Department. Regardless of prosecution, possessing marijuana remains illegal, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the announcement “will not result in any changes” at the department, suggesting cops will still make the bust.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers proposed the Fairness and Equity Act yesterday, which seeks to implement the spirit of Thompson’s decision statewide. The act aims to address racial disparities in the arrests by slashing the penalty for possession from a misdemeanor to a violation that carries a fine. It would also allow those previously convicted of possession to clear their record.

faberge

Faberge Lounge at 2007 Emmons Avenue is being sued by the 159-year-old luxury jewelry company of the same name for using its image and trademarked name in a “shameless” attempt to misappropriate the brand.

The suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, alleges that the restaurant is using the name without permission to get a “free-ride” on their reputation. In addition to using the name, the restaurant has duplicated the jewelry business’ iconic purple and gold storefront stylings.

Faberge, the jewelry company born of the House of Faberge in 1855 that invented the famed ornamental eggs for Tsar Alexander III, claims that the restaurant is also flooding search engine results with ads for the restaurant, according to the Daily News.

The restaurant’s owners say it’s much ado about nothing, since they’re clearly not selling anything connected to the jewelry company.

They told the New York Post:

But owner [Vladislav] Yusufova ripped the lawsuit as ridiculous.

“We don’t sell eggs here,” he said. “We don’t sell jewelry. We sell French food in Sheepshead Bay. I don’t know why they are coming after us. I haven’t broken any laws here in America.”

Yusufova, originally from Azerbaijan, said that his lawyers would soon be in contact with Faberge’s legal team to sort out the mess. “We have this name legally, and we have nothing to do with them,” he said, noting that he’s been open for a year.

The restaurant opened in September 2013, replacing Fusion. It’s owned by the same people behind Signature, the restaurant next door that replaced Tzar. Tzar and Fusion were both shuttered after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the property.

grimm2

Grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm faces a 20-count indictment for tax evasion and illegal employment practices stemming from a restaurant he operated before running for Congress, charges he said are because the nation’s commander-and-chief wants to see him gone.

Grimm made the allegations against the Obama administration on Tuesday before a gathering of Republican supporters rallying for gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino. He also compared the United States to oppressive regimes in Iran and North Korea.

New York Observer reported on the statements:

“They change policy, they use regulation to legislate, they circumvent the Congress–this is now the norm for the Obama administration,” Mr. Grimm fumed at the Bay Ridge Manor in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

“And when you look and see why they come after me so hard, every day another negative story [against] the only Republican in New York City, it becomes obvious: they don’t want any opposition. This administration wants to do what it wants to do and they want you to forget about the America that you grew up in,” he said.

… “Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m not sure what country I’m living in,” he said. “Four Americans are killed and murdered in Benghazi–no one’s held accountable …. The IRS, arguably the most feared agency in our entire government targeting people because of their political views. Now this happens in Iran, this happens in North Korea, but this is the United States of America.”

The site reported that the statements “drew loud cheers.”

Grimm has long maintained that the investigation against him, which began as a probe into his 2010 campaign fundraising, was a “political witch hunt” by Democrats looking to see the city’s lone Republican congressman unseated. Prosecutors, however, have submitted paperwork to the court suggesting that Grimm’s own documents show he kept two sets of books and paid employees – some of which were undocumented immigrants – in cash to avoid taxes.

Grimm’s assertion that he is the subject of political retaliation has sparked snark from colleagues, including State Senator Diane Savino. The pol, whose district is largely within Grimm’s, let forth a tirade on Facebook about Grimm’s conspiracy theory back in April:

[G]et a grip folks, Mikey is not that important, he is no threat to the power structure, he is a slick talker with a nice resume who seems to be in trouble. he was not on track for greatness as a national leader, not on track to upset the national scene. Conspiracy, please….

Grimm pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm kept a cell phone registered to his undercover, mob-connected FBI alter-ego years after leaving the job, and continued to use the phone while in Congress, according to a Daily News report.

The paper cites documents released by the U.S. Attorney earlier this week that outlines their evidence in their case against Grimm, who is accused of a $1 million tax fraud scheme, as well as illegal hiring and employment practices.

The paper reports:

Rep. Michael Grimm, who posed as a mobbed-up stockbroker named Michael (Mikey Suits) Garabaldi while working undercover for the FBI, kept his wise-guy alter ego even after entering Congress, newly unsealed federal documents show.

Grimm’s cell phone was listed under a “Michael Garibaldi of Centurian Consulting” as recently as 2012, when prosecutors sought a court order for permission to track all his calls, the documents show.

The embattled Staten Island Republican, who is now under federal indictment, used the phone as his primary number as recently as last year, and even received mail addressed to a Michael Garibaldi, a source told The Daily News.

Grimm, his spokesman and his lawyer did not respond to questions Wednesday about why he used the alias more than six years after leaving the FBI — and for at least two years after entering the U.S. House in January 2011.

The story also reveals the extent of the investigation into Grimm’s 2010 campaign fundraising. That investigation came to light shortly after it began in 2012, first noted by the New York Times, yet it was unclear how far-reaching it was. The new documents show that not only were Grimm’s phone lines were being monitored by authorities, but also that of gal pal Diana Durand, who has been indicted for her alleged role in funneling illegal funds to the Republican pol, and Grimm associates Ofer Biton and Ronn Torossian, who they believed, along with Grimm, has attempted to extort money from prominent Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Pinto.

Biton has also been arrested, and is cooperating in the government’s case against Grimm.

Grimm did not respond to the paper’s requests for comment, or those of the Staten Island Advance.

In fact, he appears to be dodging questions about the investigation, having made headlines yet again this week for jumping into a car and making a getaway from this FOX Detroit reporter:

grimm2

Grimm

Federal prosecutors have released documents outlining the government’s case against Congressman Michael Grimm, revealing that Grimm’s own texts and e-mails are being entered as evidence alongside testimony from former employees and business associates.

The Daily News reports:

The preliminary list of evidence includes emails between Grimm and a “Healthalicious manager,” “documents provided by a cooperat[ing] witness,” and “records provided by a Healthalicious employee.” Also listed are “text messages between Grimm and a cooperating witness.”

The list of evidence indicates a seemingly straightforward federal case. Prosecutors plan to prove Grimm maintained a false set of books and lied in financial filings. They will contrast the phony forms with material provided by cooperating witnesses, and with Grimm’s own statements in texts and emails.

Prosecutors are turning over an extensive list of financial documents. Those include years of tax, health and labor filings by Healthalicious and its parent company, Granny Sayz, records of Grimm’s personal finances, the restaurant’s accounts, bank account and credit card records and financial disclosure forms Grimm filed in Congress from 2009 to 2012.

Prosecutors are also offering as evidence the IRS 1040 forms filed by Bennett Ofraly, Grimm’s partner in the restaurant who prosecutors say has ties to the Gambino crime family, which Grimm once investigated while an FBI agent.

Grimm pleaded not guilty to the 20-count indictment alleging the local pol hid more than $1 million in sales at a business he owned to avoid paying taxes, as well as illegally employing undocumented immigrants.

The charges surround the operations of Upper East Side eatery Healthalicious, a venture he ran from 2007 to 2010. However, he’s also charged with perjury for lying to investigators about the business’ operations when he was questioned in 2013, while already serving in the House of Representatives.

It appears the case will not be resolved until after the November 4 elections, in which he faces a challenge from Democrat Domenic Recchia.

Source: Facebook

Congressman Michael Grimm continues to face fallout from the criminal charges levied against him on Monday, with New York Republican leadership seeking ways to kick him off the ballot, and the national party booting him from programs to aid his reelection bid.

Grimm turned himself in to authorities Monday morning to respond to a 20-count federal indictment alleging tax fraud, systematically hiring undocumented immigrants and hiding more than $1 million in revenue from the government during his time as a restaurant owner before he became congressman. Grimm pleaded not guilty, and is portraying the investigation as a “political witch hunt” to unseat New York City’s only Republican in Congress.

While the congressman vowed to continue his reelection campaign, where he faces an aggressive bid from former Councilman Domenic Recchia, it seems Republican leadership in both his home borough and in Washington are reconsidering their support.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Staten Island GOP leadership are looking for ways to boot Grimm from the ballot altogether:

The road to replacing the Staten Island congressman on the ballot is narrow and complicated because the deadline for a challenger to get on the ballot passed earlier in April. Election-law experts and Republican Party officials said the sole viable option under New York law appears to be to nominate the Staten Island congressman for another office, such as running for an open judge position.

… Potential GOP candidates to run in Mr. Grimm’s place include state Sen. Andrew Lanza and state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a person familiar with the matter said.

The paper reports that a judgeship might be the only route available, but there are no open positions at the moment. Leadership told the paper that could change by September. A defense attorney who has worked on other federal tax evasion charges noted that it’s a tough rap to beat since the prosecution builds its case on documentation as opposed to witness testimony.

Meanwhile, in D.C., Grimm’s Republican colleagues are cooling on his prospects, according to the Daily News. He’s been removed from the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Patriot Program,” which helps candidates in swing district raise money and receive other support from the national party. He’s also been dis-invited from a fundraiser, and House Speaker John Boehner declined to defend the Congressman when questioned about the case.

The change in fortune for one of the GOP’s more charismatic candidates has him speaking in the third person:

“There are people that don’t like Michael Grimm because Michael Grimm is outspoken,” Grimm said. “I’m a Marine. I don’t relent.”

The congressman also took his message straight to supporters, posting a somewhat lengthy update on Facebook yesterday thanking them for their continued support and claiming that the “trumped-up charges against me are false.”

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