Friday, August 14, 2009

Woman Charged with Promoting Prostitution of 15 Year Old in Parlor Bust in Midtown

A woman was arrested in connection with a bust at a Midtown massage parlor and charged with 'permitting' prostitution, police said Friday.

Noreen Williams, 64, of 929 West End Avenue was arrested Thursday and charged with promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a minor, and permitting prostitution, police said.

A 15-year-old female was found working at the parlor, located at 35 West 38th Street, and police say several other prostitution arrests have been made at the location as well.

Police say the investigation into the massage parlor is ongoing.

Harlem Store owner kills shoots 4: 2 Dead during daylight Robbery

From the Daily News by BY Kerry Burke, Alison Gendar and Bill Hutchinson:

A shotgun-wielding owner of a Harlem restaurant-supply company blasted two robbers to death and wounded two others on Thursday when he caught them pistol-whipping his employee, police said.

Turning the tables on the brutish bandits, 72-year-old Charles (Gus) Augusto (photo: wearing blue shirt & Glasses opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun he kept handy for such occasions, cops and witnesses said.

"He's been robbed before, so I'm not totally amazed," said Stefany Blyn, who rents a space above the store from Augusto.

"They ran into some tough stuff today," witness Vernon McKenzie, 48, said of the stickup men, including one whose bloody corpse was splayed on the sidewalk in front of Augusto's store on W. 125th St. near Amsterdam Ave.

The robbers stormed into the business, Kaplan Brothers Blue Flame, just after 3 p.m. demanding cash.

"He did a large cash business," a police source said. "They were probably watching the place and made a move after a sell."

Neighbors said Augusto, who was not charged last night, had sold a stove earlier in the day.

The stickup crew - three 21-year-olds and a 29-year-old - came prepared with a pistol and plastic handcuffs. They tried to tie up two of Augusto's employees - a 35-year-old man and his 47-year-old female co-worker, said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne.

"The male employee started to struggle, and then, as he did that, the perp with the gun struck him once in the head," Browne said.

"... That's when the owner opened fire with the shotgun."

As the bandits bolted from the store, Augusto squeezed off three blasts from the pistol-grip shotgun from 20 to 30 feet away from the pistol-whipped employee.

He was deadly accurate. The four bandits - who were all from Manhattan - were hit.

Two of the robbers were struck in the back. One, identified as James Morgan, dropped dead inside the store among the sparkling gas stoves, a pistol near his body.

The other - Raylin Footmon, a nephew of a cop in the NYPD's 25th Precinct - made it across the street before collapsing on the sidewalk, police and witnesses said. He was later pronounced dead at St. Luke's Hospital.

The furious employee who had been pistol-whipped ran out of the store and leaned over the mortally wounded Footmon, cursing at him, witnesses said.

The worker went back into the store and dragged Morgan's body onto the sidewalk, yelling at him and kicking him, witnesses said.

"He stood over the body cursing him and shaking him, even though he was dead," said Matthew Viane, 38, who lives in the neighborhood. "He was screaming at him and stomping him. "He [the employee] said, 'You were going to kill me? Now you're dead!'"

Viane said he overheard the 35-year-old employee - whom cops took away from the scene in handcuffs, but later released - thanking Augusto.

"Gus, you saved my life. You saved my life," Viane quoted the worker as saying.

A man who worked at Blue Flame a couple of years ago unloading trucks said Augusto was just sticking up for himself.

"He's a respectable businessman. ... He wouldn't hurt a fly. He found a deer by his house and nursed him back to health. He loves animals," said the man, who declined to give his name.

Cops followed a bloody trail to Amsterdam Ave., where they found the third suspect, Bernard Whitherspoon. He was in police custody last night at St. Luke's where he was being treated for his wounds. He was in stable condition.

The remaining robbery suspect, Shamel McCloud, was nabbed at 128th St. and St. Nicholas Terrace after being identified by a witness. He was also in stable condition at St. Luke's last night.

Augusto told cops he bought his shotgun after a robbery nearly 30 years ago. Browne said it was unclear Thursday night if Augusto has a license for the weapon.

"He's being treated as a witness and the victim of an attempted robbery," Browne said of Augusto. "He has not been arrested or charged."

A police source said that if Augusto is hit with a charge, it will be a minor one. "It doesn't look too bad for him," the source said.

FAA: 2 Employees Investigated In Midair Collision

From by Joan Lowy:

WASHINGTON - Authorities have removed from duty an air traffic controller who they say was talking on the phone during last week's deadly midair collision over New York's Hudson River, along with a supervisor who was out of the building at the time.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that while there was no reason to believe thus far that the employees' actions contributed to the accident, which killed nine people, such "conduct is unacceptable." Air traffic controllers are expected to be alert at all times while on duty and are given regular breaks, sometimes hourly, for that reason.

The two employees, who were not identified by the FAA, were placed on administrative leave with pay. The FAA said it has begun disciplinary proceedings against the controller, who was handling the small plane that collided with a tour helicopter, and against the supervisor on duty at the time. Three members of a Pennsylvania family on the plane and five Italian tourists and a pilot on the helicopter were killed when the two stricken aircraft plunged into the river.

The FAA said the controller at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey was involved in "apparently inappropriate conversations" on the telephone at the time of the accident. The agency said the supervisor was not in the building at the time as required.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the labor union representing controllers, said in a statement that it supports a full investigation of the allegations "before there is a rush to judgment."

The FAA's action came as an amateur video surfaced that captured the moment of impact between the two aircraft. The images, taken by an Italian man practicing with a new camera while on a boat tour, shows the helicopter flying overhead when suddenly a single-engine plane appears behind it, apparently climbing and turning. The plane clips the helicopter's rotor blades, and a wing shears off. Debris rains down, and the plane flips. Both aircraft plunge toward the water.

On the video, aired Thursday on "NBC Nightly News," one or more onlookers can be heard in the background saying, "Oh, my God!"

Teterboro Airport, located directly across the Hudson River from New York City near the George Washington Bridge, handles corporate and private aircraft.

It is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and handles nearly 200,000 flights a year.

Prisoner Says DNA Test Exonerates Him of Rape

From the NY Times by James Barron:

William McCaffrey met Biurny Peguero on a hot night in Upper Manhattan in September 2005. The next morning, Ms. Peguero said he had raped her on their way to an after-hours party.

Swabs and other samples taken at a hospital did not provide DNA evidence against Mr. McCaffrey, but in 2006 a jury in State Supreme Court in Manhattan convicted him.

Last year, after he had served 2 years of a 20-year sentence, a new DNA test showed that bite marks on Ms. Peguero’s arm and shoulder the morning she reported that she had been attacked could not have been made by Mr. McCaffrey — the genetic material lacked a Y chromosome, meaning it could not have come from a man.

This March, according to court papers, Ms. Peguero, now married and known as Biurny Peguero Gonzalez, went to confession and told a priest that her story about the rape had been a lie. She told the Manhattan district attorney’s office the same thing.

Mr. McCaffrey remains in prison. On Wednesday, his lawyer, Glenn A. Garber, founder and director of the Exoneration Initiative, a nonprofit legal group that handles prisoners’ claims of innocence, will ask a justice in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to vacate the conviction and order him freed.

Ms. Gonzalez, 26, said through her lawyer, Paul F. Callan, that she supported Mr. McCaffrey’s release and had been cooperating with the district attorney’s office.

Mark Dwyer, the chief assistant district attorney, acknowledged that the DNA test and Ms. Gonzalez’s about-face had raised questions about Mr. McCaffrey’s conviction. “We are committed to completing a full, thorough investigation of the matter and have been conducting one,” he said, adding that he hoped to finish it in September.

But the case creates a touchy situation: Ms. Gonzalez could face perjury charges for her testimony at Mr. McCaffrey’s trial. Court papers filed by Mr. Garber say that she has refused to cooperate with the defense and has indicated that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify if called again.

Through Mr. Callan, she refused to be interviewed for this article. Mr. Callan said he had been pressing the district attorney’s office not to file criminal charges against her and to let her testify on behalf of Mr. McCaffrey.

The court papers say she invented the rape to cover for a fight she had had with some of her women friends. The fight had been so fierce that one of the women kicked and broke a window in a car, according to the papers.

The next morning, Ms. Peguero went to Christ Hospital in Jersey City, saying she had been raped. Officials notified the police in Manhattan, and soon Mr. McCaffrey was in custody.

He testified at his trial that he had met Ms. Peguero at the corner of Broadway and Dyckman Street in Inwood. She was in a parked car with at least one friend. Mr. McCaffrey invited her to an after-hours party. He got in the car and they drove off with Ms. Peguero at the wheel, trailing some friends of his who were in another car.

According to Mr. McCaffrey’s court papers, he soon decided that Ms. Peguero was too drunk to drive, and he took over. A friend of hers got out of the car, leaving Mr. McCaffrey and Ms. Peguero by themselves. Mr. McCaffrey drove to a parking garage, where they left the car and got into a friend’s van to continue to the party.

They soon turned back after Ms. Peguero got a barrage of cellphone calls from friends, the court papers say. The garage attendant testified at the trial that some of Ms. Peguero’s friends eventually showed up and got in her car with her, “yelling and hitting each other.”

Ms. Peguero testified that the rape took place after they left the car at the garage and before they returned. She said that Mr. McCaffrey pulled out a knife, and that his friends in the van parked on a dark street. She said she fought with Mr. McCaffrey.

Mr. Garber, who took over as Mr. McCaffrey’s lawyer after the trial, first asked in November 2007 for the DNA samples taken at the hospital. He said in court papers that the district attorney’s office refused to agree to additional testing or to release the samples.

In February 2008, Mr. Garber filed a motion to have the samples released so they could be checked using a new testing method. In May 2008, the two sides agreed to let the medical examiner’s office begin testing two samples.

Neither was found to have a Y chromosome, so the two samples could not have come from Mr. McCaffrey or his friends in the van, all of whom were men. The medical examiner’s office also ruled out the possibility that the DNA was Ms. Peguero’s.

Last October, Mr. Garber asked the district attorney’s office to join in asking the court to vacate Mr. McCaffrey’s conviction. The court papers say the district attorney’s office refused and argued that the DNA could have come from tears shed by Ms. Peguero’s friends.

16-Year-Old Is Charged in Beating Pratt Student, Eddy Sanchez

From the NY Times by Andy Newman:

After two days of questioning suspects, detectives from the 88th Precinct arrested a 16-year-old boy in connection with last week’s brutal assault on Eddy Sanchez(Photo: left), a 22-year-old Pratt architecture student .

The 16-year-old, Eugene Adams (Photo: right), was charged on Wednesday morning with assault, robbery and criminal possession of stolen property. He lives at 1100 Bedford Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, three long blocks east from the site of the attack at Grand and Lexington Avenues. The police said they found Mr. Adams, one of at least five youths sought in the attack, through a tip called in to the Crime-Stoppers hot line, (800) 577-TIPS.

Mr. Sanchez is in critical condition in a medically induced coma at Kings County Hospital Center, the police said. (On Tuesday, we reported that Pratt was saying that Mr. Sanchez’s condition was serious, which is better than critical. Pratt now defers to the Police Department on this issue. The hospital itself is not giving out that information.)

Mr. Sanchez was attacked around 10 p.m. on Aug. 4 by a group of at least five teenagers who demanded his money and cellphone. When he resisted, he was beaten, kicked and hit him in the head with a crowbar, the police said. The police posted a video of them trying to use Mr. Sanchez’s bank card a short while later at the A.T.M. inside Classon Avenue Grocery at Classon and Putnam, six blocks from the scene of the attack.

Update | 2:36 p.m. Detectives are still questioning two other suspects, the police said.

Second Child Falls To Death From Window This Week

From by Jen Chung:
Yesterday, a toddler fell from a second-floor window in a Brooklyn home; he later died from his injuries. According to the Daily News, 3-year-old "Devin Joseph Jr. landed in a cement alleyway after plunging out the window of a three-story home on Westminster Rd. where his parents are temporarily living." The family was living with friends because their home went into foreclosure. A witness said a crowd gathered by the alleyway, "Everybody was just in hysteria. It was really sad," and the News reports, "A safety guard could be seen in the window." And on Monday, a 1-year-old fell to his death from a second-story Flatbush home's window; WABC 7 says, "According to investigators, Marcus Olivier's mother had just given him a bath and went to get some clothes. He apparently broke through the blinds and fell out the window, hitting the concrete driveway." Mayor Bloomberg said, "The law requires guards if you have children and it also requires the managers to ask every year whether or not you need them. If you have a kid, please don't take any risks, we don't need tragedies like this." But the law only requires apartment buildings to have them—not private homes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Police are Searching for Rapist In Hamilton Heights

From by Kathy Carvajal:
The NYPD needs your help finding a rapist who has attacked two women in the Hamilton Heights section of New York City.

The most recent attack occurred on on Monday at around 2 a.m. in an elevator.

Police say a 23-year-old woman was raped and robbed in a building at West 144th Street and Broadway.

The rapist attacled a 59-year-old woman on August 1 at around 3 a.m.

The assault happened in an alleyway near West 148th Street and Broadway.

The rapist is described as a male in his 30s, 5'9" to 6'0," medium build, wearing a black hoodie, blue jeans and white sneakers with red stripes on the sole.

If you have any information about the attacker, contact police:
Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477)
Text your tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.

3 Men Arrested for beating a Cop with a bat in front of his home

The NYPD officer pummeled outside his home in Staten Island's Rossville community this weekend was defending his father against a group of unruly outcasts from a party down the block, police said today.

Public court documents identified the off-duty officer as Fred Klein, 39. Authorities say he sustained a cut over his left eye that required stitches to close, ligament damage in one arm, and back pain, after three men set upon him with a baseball bat Saturday, according to authorities.

The violent episode happened shortly after 2 a.m., while one of Klein's young neighbors was throwing a house party, according to police.

The three alleged assailants -- Matthew Catanese, 20, of the 200 block of Monahan Avenue, New Springville; John T. Lafrancesca, 20, of Bradley Avenue, Meiers Corners; and Wayne Laborante, 19, of Adam Court, New Springville -- showed up at the party uninvited and were kicked out, said NYPD spokesman Det. Joseph Cavitolo.

So they took to roaming the neighborhood, loudly, and Klein's father told them through his window to quiet down, Cavitolo said.

"They start cursing him out," Cavitolo said, so Klein's dad came outside to confront them.

When the men started beating on his father, Klein's mother woke him up, and the officer came out, identifying himself as police, Cavitolo said. Klein is assigned to the North Shore's 120 Precinct.

The men then ganged up on Klein, authorities said, punching him in the face and body, and hitting him with a baseball bat.

Police arrived on the scene and arrested Catanese and Lafrancesca. They caught up with Laborante later that day.

Mark Fonte, Lafrancesca's lawyer, tells a different version of events.

Lafrancesca was leaving the party -- he wasn't kicked out -- with a female friend when he spotted "some monster-looking guy, apparently the off-duty cop, pounding on some guy," who turned out to be Catanese, Fonte said.

Lafrancesca got out of his car to try to stop the fight, Fonte said.

"He didn't even get a chance to break it up before the uniformed officers were on the scene," Fonte said. "He was not a part of the fight. He was not involved in the fight... He merely witnessed his friend being beaten by the off-duty cop."

Catanese presented his bruises to a Stapleton Criminal Court judge at the men's arraignment yesterday, Fonte said, adding that Lafrancesca's female friend can verify his side of the story.

All three face felony and misdemeanor assault charges misdemeanor weapon charges. Laborante, who police say was carrying pot and Xanax at the time of his arrest, also faces misdemeanor drug charges.

Laborante remains locked up on $2,500 bail, while Catanese and Lafrancesca have both been released on $1,000 bail.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two brothers arrested in murder of Holocaust survivor Felix Brinkmann

From the Daily News by Melissa Grace and Alison Gendar:

Two sicko siblings with 50 prior arrests were busted Friday in the slaying and robbery of a feisty Holocaust survivor.

Aljulah Cutts(photo to the right),27, was one of two killers inside the upper East Side apartment of Felix Brinkmann when the 90-year-old was asphyxiated during a botched robbery, police sources said.

Cutts insisted "he didn't mean to kill Brinkmann, it was an accident," one source said after the arrest outside a Bronx restaurant.

His brother, 30-year-old Hasib Cutts(photo to the left), drove the getaway car after the July 29 killing, the sources said. He was arrested in a van near his brother's place.

The duo were low-level hoods busted in the past for street crimes ranging from stolen property to trespassing, sources said.

The slain man's son praised the arrests. "Now I can work on a memorial celebration for my father, to celebrate his life," said Rick Brinkmann.

The brothers have 50 prior arrests between them, a mix of low-level charges for criminal possession of stolen property, trespass and marijuana.

Hasib was not involved in the killing, and should face lesser charges, sources said. Both brothers were in custody at the 19th Precinct, where they were appearing in lineups.

Brinkmann's doorman identified Aljulah Cutts as the man who went upstairs into Brinkmann's apartment with Angela Murray, the sources said.

Murray's jailed boyfriend apparently hooked her up with the Cutts brothers after she identified Brinkmann as an wealthy and easy mark, sources said.

But Murray and Aljulah Cutts were stunned by "what a tough old guy he was," a police source said. It was unclear if Brinkmann was choked to death manually or accidentally asphyxiated during the robbery, the source said.

Murray, 30, was charged with murder and robbery for killing Brinkmann in his fourth-floor apartment. She and a man were later captured on videotape using one of the victim's credit cards, police said.

Police said Brinkmann was bound, beaten and choked after he refused to surrender the combinations to a pair of safes in his apartment.

The killers lugged one of the safes downstairs. Brinkmann's car was also stolen and recovered later in the Bronx.

The ex-owner of a Manhattan disco fought for his life. He was found with his hands bound and bloody head wounds.

Police said Brinkmann was killed after refusing to surrender the combinations to two safes. Cutts fled with one safe, but couldn't crack it; sources said it was recovered with jewelry and Brinkmann's ID still inside. Brinkmann's Honda Accord was also stolen.

Man Shot to death over Jet Ski in Brooklyn

From the Daily News by Jonathan Lemire:
nvestigators are hunting for a cold-blooded gunman who calmly shot two men, killing one, after a seemingly minor quarrel at a Brooklyn marina, police said Sunday.

"It was low-key, like they were just shooting the breeze," said a police source. "That's why witnesses said what happened next was so surprising."

The killer opened fire on Michael Mazzara, 37, who was wounded, and Paul Moghab, 33, who was killed, after chatting with them and their friend at the Venice Marina in Sheepshead Bay on Saturday afternoon.

The shooter, who seemed to know Mazzara, struck up a conversation with the men. He then began gesturing at them, but at no point did their fight become loud or violent, witnesses told police.

Suddenly, the man pulled a gun out of his knapsack and fired a single round, hitting Mazzara in the face at point-blank range and causing him to topple off the boat and into the water.

Moghab dove into the water in an attempt to escape, but the shooter simply tracked his movements with the gun and waited for him to come up for air, police said.

When Moghab emerged, the gunman unleashed several more shots, fatally striking him in the chest.

The suspect then dashed across the Belt Parkway and remains at large, police said.

Mazzara's other friend, whom police did not identify, hid on the boat and was not injured.

Witnesses told police the shooter was a white man in his 30s, wearing a light-colored shirt and camouflage shorts.

Mazzara was rushed to Lutheran Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition Sunday.

Investigators said Mazzara served time this decade for attempted robbery and also has been arrested for assault, weapons possession and grand larceny.

It was unclear if his criminal history was connected to the shooting.

Cops were exploring whether the shooter believed Mazzara owed him money or a Jet Ski, police sources said.

One of Mazzara's relatives declined to speak with reporters when reached at the victim's Gravesend, Brooklyn, home.

With Edgar Sandoval