New York City Police Officer Michael Pena Found Guilty On Sex Charges After Raping Schoolteacher At Gunpoint – Will Spend At Least 75 Years To Life In Prison – More Charges Pending

June 7, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A former police officer who grabbed a schoolteacher off the street and sexually attacked her was sentenced Monday to at least three quarters of a century in prison after being convicted of high-level sex charges, though a jury couldn’t decide whether he was guilty of rape.

After staying silent during his trial, Michael Pena apologized to the victim and said he deserved to be punished, though his lawyer later said Pena was shocked at getting the maximum: 75 years to life.

“If I could go back in time, to the day of this incident, and somehow grab myself by the shoulder … I have no explanation for what happened that day,” Pena said softly, his remarks punctuated by long silences. “I will just have that guilt for the rest of my life.”

“My life has been shattered – my sense of security, my sense of safety, any and all independence,” she said, with a supporter by her side, holding her arm. She wept after she finished speaking.

A three-year officer who was engaged to be married, Pena was wrapping up an alcohol-soaked night of trying to pick up women when he accosted the teacher on an Upper Manhattan street early one morning last August, according to trial evidence.

She testified that Pena forced her into an apartment building courtyard and raped her at gunpoint, threatening to shoot her in the face with his police service weapon.

Pena’s lawyer, Ephraim Savitt, said the officer attacked the woman but never had intercourse with her, a requirement for a rape conviction. The defense said the woman was so terrified that she was mistaken about the extent of what had happened.

A resident of the building heard the attack and called police, who learned Pena was an officer only as they arrested him. One officer said he threw Pena’s badge to the ground in disgust.

Pena “showed by his deplorable conduct that he is not one of New York’s finest,” Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers said at the sentencing. “Michael Pena is, instead, a sexual predator.”

Pena told authorities he was drunk and didn’t remember what had happened. No tests were done, so his blood-alcohol level was never established. But the judge took aim at Pena’s claim, noting that surveillance video captured Pena steadily trailing the woman, and that Pena tried to mislead witnesses and the responding officers about what was happening.

“The evidence proved conclusively that Michael Pena acted purposefully and intentionally throughout this dreadful incident,” Carruthers said.

Jurors convicted Pena in March of some of the top charges in the case, including predatory sexual assault, an offense that involves wielding a weapon during certain sex crimes. It carried the potential for life in prison.

But jurors deadlocked on rape charges. Pena is due back in court May 23 for prosecutors to say whether they plan to retry him on those charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. called Pena’s 75-year-to-life term “an appropriate sentence that takes the viciousness of the defendant’s crime into account.” Vance’s office had no immediate comment Monday on its plans regarding the remaining rape charges.

Meanwhile, Savitt said he was exploring a potential appeal for Pena.

Pena was fired from the police force after his arrest.

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Marijuana Laws Creating Criminals And Considerable Judicial And Financial Costs

June 6, 2012

NEW YORK – More than 50,000 people in 2011 were arrested in New York City for possessing small amounts of marijuana — the majority of whom were black and Latino — at a considerable judicial and financial cost. New York City spends about $75 million every year on arresting people for recreational marijuana possession.

But what many people don’t know is that the state decriminalized this offense more than 30 years ago, making private possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana a violation punishable by a $100 fine. Possession of the same amount in public view remains a criminal misdemeanor.

Despite this change in law, arrests for small quantities of marijuana over the last decade have skyrocketed, with more than 400,000 people arrested and unceremoniously run through the criminal justice system. Marijuana possession is now the No. 1 arrest category in New York.

Why is this happening?
Hakeem Jeffries
Hakeem Jeffries
New York decriminalizing marijuana?
Is it time to legalize marijuana?

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people in New York are stopped, questioned, frisked and searched, often without justification, under the “stop and frisk” policy. The vast majority of these people live in communities of color, and almost 90% are immediately released without arrest or even a summons.

Often, however, the police approach young people and instruct them to empty their pockets immediately and show the officers anything they have. People who have a small quantity of marijuana in their pockets take it out and hold it up. The marijuana is now in public view. Thousands of people are then arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession, punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine.

Given the change of law in 1977, had the marijuana remained in the person’s pocket, possession would not have been a crime at all. But in complying with a police officer’s request, otherwise noncriminal behavior is instantly transformed into an arrest and unceremonious journey through the criminal justice system.

This is fundamentally unfair. Many view it as classic entrapment.

A majority of these arrests happen only in certain neighborhoods. Indeed, compounding the injustice is the fact that 85% of the people arrested are black and Latino. Yet studies consistently show that younger and affluent whites use marijuana in equal if not greater numbers.

The consequences of an arrest are severe, especially for young people of color who are already disproportionately subjected to criminal justice system intervention and incarceration. An arrest creates serious barriers to going to college or getting a job, and that person’s future may begin to spiral downward. The damage to police and community relations cannot be overstated.

Another serious problem is that these needless and inappropriate arrests detract from arresting and prosecuting serious criminals. Millions of dollars in law enforcement resources are wasted. Thousands of lives are damaged with the contamination of having a criminal record.

But New York is prepared to take a significant step forward to solve this problem. With the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, we are on the brink of finishing the job that the state Legislature started in 1977. We want to reduce the classification of possession of small quantities of marijuana in plain view from a misdemeanor to a violation.

Justice demands this change. The possession of small quantities of marijuana is either a crime or it is not. But it cannot be criminal activity for one group of people and socially acceptable behavior for another when the dividing line is race.

The connected and powerful — including many in high political office — have frequently admitted to smoking marijuana when they were young. We didn’t unmercifully penalize them. We should stop needlessly criminalizing tens of thousands of our young people for doing the same thing.

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Federal Lawsuit Targets Spying By New York City Police Department In The City And New Jersey

June 6, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in New Jersey to force the New York Police Department to end its surveillance and other intelligence-gathering practices targeting Muslims in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The lawsuit alleged that the police activities were unconstitutional because they focused on people’s religion, national origin and race.

It is the first lawsuit to directly challenge the NYPD’s surveillance programs, which were the subject of an investigative series by The Associated Press since last year. Based on internal NYPD reports and interviews with officials involved in the programs, the AP reported that the NYPD conducted wholesale surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling daily life including where people ate, prayed and got their hair cut. Police infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds more.

Syed Farhaj Hassan, one of the plaintiffs, stopped attending one mosque as often after he learned it was one of four where he worships that were included in NYPD files. Those mosques were located along the East Coast from central Connecticut to the Philadelphia suburbs, but none was linked to terrorism, either publicly or in the confidential NYPD documents.

Hassan, an Army reservist from a small town outside of New Brunswick, N.J., said he was concerned that anything linking his life to potential terrorism would hurt his military security clearance.

“Guilt by association was forced on me,” Hassan said.

The NYPD did not respond to questions about the lawsuit but noted the New Jersey attorney general determined last month that NYPD activities in New Jersey were legal.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said his department is obligated to do this type of surveillance in order to protect New York from another 9/11. Kelly has said the 2001 attacks proved that New Yorkers could not rely solely on the federal government for protection, and the NYPD needed to enhance its efforts.

Hassan said he served in Iraq in 2003 to stop the atrocities of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s secret police.

“I didn’t know they had one across the Hudson,” he said, referring to the NYPD intelligence division.

California-based Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization that meets regularly with representatives of the Obama administration, is representing the plaintiffs in the case for free.

“The NYPD program is founded upon a false and constitutionally impermissible premise: that Muslim religious identity is a legitimate criterion for selection of law-enforcement surveillance targets,” the lawsuit said.

New Jersey lawmakers were outraged earlier this year when they learned of the surveillance. But after a three-month review, the state’s attorney general found that the NYPD did not violate any state laws when it spied on Muslim neighborhoods and organizations. The attorney general found no recourse for the state of New Jersey to stop the NYPD from infiltrating Muslim student groups, video-taping mosque-goers or collecting their license plate numbers as they prayed.

No court has ruled that the NYPD programs were illegal. But the division operates without significant oversight: The New York City Council does not believe it has the expertise to oversee the intelligence division, and Congress believes the NYPD is not part of its jurisdiction even though the police department receives billions in federal funding each year.

Members of Congress and civil rights groups have urged the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD’s practices. A Justice Department spokeswoman said they are still reviewing the requests. Federal investigations into police departments typically focus on police abuse or racial profiling in arrests. Since 9/11, the Justice Department has never publicly investigated a police department for its surveillance in national security investigations.

Because of widespread civil rights abuses during the 1950s and 1960s, the NYPD has been limited by a court order in what intelligence it can gather on innocent people. Lawyers in that case have questioned whether the post-9/11 spying violates that order. The lawsuit filed Wednesday is a separate legal challenge.

The NYPD and New York officials have said the surveillance programs violated no one’s constitutional rights, and the NYPD is allowed to travel anywhere to collect information. Officials have said NYPD lawyers closely review the intelligence division’s programs.

“The constitutional violation that the NYPD did commit was blanket surveillance of a group based on religion,” said Glenn Katon, Muslim Advocate’s legal director. He said a program that treats people differently based on religion, national origin or race is subject to the Constitution. “That’s the crux of our claim,” he said.

A George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, said it would be a challenge to convince the government that the NYPD’s practices were illegal because the courts and Congress have allowed more and more surveillance in the years since 9/11. But, he said, most of these questions have been handled in policy debates and not in the court systems.

Nineteen-year-old Moiz Mohammed, a sophomore at Rutgers University, said he was moved to join the lawsuit after reading reports that the NYPD had conducted surveillance of Muslim student groups at colleges across the Northeast, including his own. He said the revelations had made him nervous to pray in public or engage in lively debates with fellow students — a practice he said he once most enjoyed about the college atmosphere.

“It’s such an unfair thing going on: Here I am, I am an American citizen, I was born here, I am law abiding, I volunteer in my community, I have dialogues and good relationships with Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and the NYPD here is surveilling people like me?”

“We feel as though it was a violation of our constitutional and our civil and our human rights,” said Abdul Kareem Muhammad, one of the plaintiff’s in the case. Muhammad is the imam of the Newark mosque, Masjid al-Haqq. That mosque was listed and pictured in a September 2007 NYPD report on Newark.

“We have a very strong objection to that,” Muhammad said. “We condemn and denounce every form of terrorism.”

Muhammad said he and other Muslim community leaders have not been given assurances that the NYPD is no longer conducting surveillance on their communities.

“That’s become very disturbing, too,” Muhammad said. “There’s a possibility that this is still going on.”

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Pedophile Veteran Troy New York Police Officer Sgt. Patrick Rosney Suspended After Arrest In New York City While Seeking Sex With 14 Year Old Girl

June 3, 2012

TROY, NEW YORK – A Troy police sergeant has found himself on the other side of the law. Patrick Rosney was arrested by New York City Police. They say he entered a chat room this week and believed he was talking with a 14-year-old girl who was actually an undercover police officer.

He is accused of trying to solicit sex.

The 26-year veteran is charged with attempted dissemination of indecent material to minor and endangering the welfare of a child.

Troy Police Chief John Tedesco said the case is taking a toll on the department.

“Officers today after the arrest was made. We’ll continue to do so throughout the day at other role calls. As you can imagine, they’re angry. Certainly take into consideration sympathies for his family but we’re a strong agency, we’re an agency of character and we’ll get through this. We do expect a rough ride obviously but there’s a lot of anger,” said Chief Tedesco.

Rosney has been suspended without pay. He was taken to Queens on Friday for arraignment.

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Crazed New York City Mayor Bloomberg Tries To Ban All “Sugary” Drinks Over 16 Ounces

May 31, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Every single menu in New York City could soon be getting a major overhaul if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way.

The man behind calorie counts is set to announce a new public health initiative to battle obesity, taking aim at super-sized sugary drinks.

In other words, it may soon be time to say goodbye to those Big Gulps, those Slurpees or even Venti at Starbucks, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.

“That’s okay,” one person said.

No it’s not, according to Mayor Bloomberg, who is set to propose a ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces everywhere, all across the city.

“I disagree with it, because it’s the right to choose. If you want to drink a Slurpee, you should be allowed to drink a Slurpee,” said Jamie Sawyer, a tourist from Oklahoma.

“Stupid, he did a lot of good things, but this he shouldn’t do,” added Art Lensvelt, a tourist from Amsterdam, Holland.

Dennis found Lensvelt enjoying his sugary iced coffee. He then found police officers actually fighting over Slurpees. Other items that figure to be banned are Gatorade, those fountain drinks at the movies, and, yes, the popular Big Gulp.

“That’s a good idea. A lot of obese people are in New York,” Canarsie resident Jillian Russell said.

And the mayor apparently agrees, taking aim at the sugar in sodas and some juices in an effort to reduce New Yorkers’ waistlines.

However, the NYC Beverage Association is opposed, saying in a statement: “The city is not going to address the obesity issue by attacking soda, because soda is not driving the obesity rates. The overall American diet is.

Either way, lovers of sugary drinks said Bloomberg should take a dip.

“Mayor Bloomberg, let us have our Slurpees, please,” one resident said.

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