DA Vetoes Criminal Sex Charges Against Vito Lopez

Vito Lopez. Photo via YouTube

Disgraced New York State Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, who has been accused by several female staffers of sexual assault will not face criminal charges, a special investigator said on Wednesday, in a Reuters report.

This new decision comes after a thorough investigation, led by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, into the allegations lodged against Lopez. This new determination is in spite of  the findings of The New York State Assembly’s ethics commission that Lopez had violated The Assembly’s Sexual Harassment/ Retaliation policy, according to a 70-page report which they released on Wednesday.

“Certainly, what we found is alarming,” said Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, in a seven-page statement. “However, based on our investigation, there is no basis upon which to conclude that a chargeable crime was committed within the confines of Kings County (Brooklyn).”

Lopez, 71, a Democrat from Brooklyn, was chair of the Committee on Housing before it was revealed that he settled two lawsuits with women who accused him of sexual harassment. Even more astounding was the revelation that Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver authorized a secret payout of $103,080 (which was mostly from taxpayer funds,) on June 13, 2012 to settle the lawsuits.

In fact, the recent ethics commission report revealed that Silver participated in covering up Lopez’s lewd behavior by rewarding anyone who suppressed information about the shady politician’s perverted activities with gifts, raises and plum assignments.

According to a Wall Street Journal story, Lopez’s lechery was so extreme that some women on his staff provided audio recordings of him instructing them to wear low-cut blouses, high heels and  to stay overnight with him at hotels. One female employee even contracted pink eye after Mr. Lopez asked her to put drops in his own infected eyes, according to the report.

Donovan also said that it appears that the New York Assembly was trying to cover Lopez’s tracks and made the settlement deals of Lopez’s civil suits confidential. During a meeting, Mr. Silver accepted the recommendations of Assembly staffers to enter into a confidential mediation, the report said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver implicated himself and admitted that the confidentiality clause was an erroneous decision, Donovan said.

Even Albany tried to tranquilize Lopez by forbidding him from hiring interns or employees under the age of 21 and stripping the 14-term assembly member of his seniority. He was also hastily removed from his position as chair but Lopez refused to resign from the assembly.

Mr. Lopez’s office called the report “fallacious,” saying its findings “are simply not true.”

Lopez is one of a long list of New York politicians — including Shirley Huntley, Hiram Monseratte, Carl Kruger and others—  who in recent history have had their careers tainted by scandal.

Homeless Man Charged in Underage Sex Attack in Queens

By Amanda Andries

This man allegedly sexually assaulted two young girls, said Police. Credit: NYPD

This man allegedly sexually molested two young girls, said Police. Credit: NYPD

A homeless man was arrested on Tuesday evening and charged for the sexual assault of two young girls, in two separate incidents, in the family-filled neighborhood of South Ozone Park, Queens according to reports.

NBC 4 New York reported that Lee Samuel, 25, admitted to police that he attacked the 7-years-old girls, on the afternoon of May 1. He allegedly touched the first girl on her buttocks and later that same day, about two miles away, he exposed himself to the other girl.

Samuel appeared in Queens Criminal court on Wednesday and pled guilty to first-degree criminal sexual act, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child. He was not granted bail.

The neighborhood was on high alert when the news spread that someone had reportedly assaulted two little girls. Crimestoppers even announced that they would pay $12,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator of the crime. Police also released three videos of the suspect to help the public ID him.

According to news reports, Samuel has a history of at least 15 prior arrests — two of which were sexual offenses.

Samuel is due back in court on May 20 and faces up to 25 years in jail if convicted.

Statute Allows NYC Prep School Predators to Avoid Prosecution

By Amanda Andries

The clock on the tower at Horace Mann ticked away, as alleged abuses took place there. Credit: Jim.henderson via Wikimedia Commons

Several affluent parents paid one of New York City’s most prestigious and oldest prep schools an annual tuition of more than $25,000 annually, from the 1970s until the mid-1990’s to give their children the best academic opportunity money could provide. But instead, it is suspected that they were blindly sending their children off to be abused by trusted faculty at the The Horace Mann School, according to a New York Times Magazine article, written by a former student, Amos Kamil and published last summer.

On Friday, April 26, the Bronx district attorney said that anyone who may have perpetrated acts of sexual violence at the 125-year-old school, could no longer be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired. Even though they said that they found a history of abuse that went  stretched from 1970s up until 1996.

After the Times article broke the wall of silence that surrounded the tony institution, a hotline was set up for victims and 25 former students — three women and 22 men — came forward with abuse claims against former faculty. The now adult, past students were being represented by celebrity attorney, Gloria Allred.

According the Times feature, the perverse behavior of several well-known faculty members was common knowledge around the Horace Mann campus. One coach reportedly performed “private-parts inspections.”

“I heard about some teachers who supposedly had a habit of groping female students and others who had their eyes on the boys. I heard that Mark Wright, an assistant football coach, had recently left the school under mysterious circumstances. I was warned to avoid Stan Kops, the burly, bearded history teacher known widely as “the Bear,” who had some unusual pedagogical methods. Even Clark came in for some snickering: he had no family of his own, and he had a noticeably closer-than-average relationship to the Bear, another confirmed bachelor,” Kamil, who graduated Mann in 1982, wrote.

On their website the school has a prominent link addressing the abuse claims. They have been unusually open and upfront about the matter— showing a rare level of transparency about the issue. The school has even posted a letter to the parents of students of the school and a hotline number where abuse can be reported. The administration also refers to rules of action that they recommend and advise students to take, in their Family Handbook. 

According to Allred, 20 of her clients have already settled with Horace Mann.

More White Collar Crime, More White Collar Time

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal for a new class of crimes that would make prosecution of white-collar crimes more accessible was announced just days after one ponzi schemer was sentenced to time served after only six days in jail and $100 in court fees.

Clayton Lewis, the one time advisor for Omega Advisors Inc., pleaded guilty to bribery in 2004 after he lost $126 million of Omega Advisors Inc, according to Bloomberg Businessweek and The FCPA Blog.  A US District Court Justice, Naomi Reice Buchwald, apparently felt the six-days of jail time and a $100 for court fees was appropriate retribution.

So while Gov. Cuomo’s proposal, called the Public Trust Act, aims to make indicting corporate fraud and ponzi scheme operators easier for district attorneys, the state might only be gearing up to hand out more petty sentences.

What makes the Lewis case particularly interesting is that he was granted leniency supposedly because of his cooperation as a state’s witness, but no subsequent indictment against Omega has been filed since Lewis’ 2003 arrest.

Thought Police? Cannibal Cop Guilty Despite Thought Defense

The New York police officer who was accused of an elaborate plot to track down and cannibalize women was found guilty on Tuesday, but his lawyer said the conviction is based only on some “very ugly thoughts,” the New York Times reported. The problem with the “ugly thoughts” defense is that many crimes are based on thoughts.

Nobody wants to think that they can be penalized for their thoughts.  In a perfect world people would be able to think what ever they want.  But realistically, it’s the thought behind a crime that that is often on trial, not just the crime itself.  That was the case for Officer Gilberto Valle.

There’s been a “thought police” debate going on for years now about ending the extra penalization for hate crimes as opposed to other, already illegal, violent acts.  Whether or not the thoughts behind the actual criminal behavior is racist, homophobic, bigoted or “ugly,” many have argued, the crime still looks the same: One person behing beaten, abused or taken advantage of bdy another person.  But the criminality is different.  And it is different because of the aggressor’s thoughts.

Criminality is also judged differently if an act was premeditated or made as a reflex.  Murder as a result of self defense is sentenced differently from murder as a crime of passion, and both carry lighter penalties than premeditated murder.  In all three cases the victim is no less a victim, but the thoughts of the aggressor determine the weight of the crime.

Valle was found guilty because the jury believed his thoughts had been gaining momentum and his behavior reflected a willingness to act on them.  Despite lamentation from defense attorney Julia L. Gatto, her client’s thoughts are exactly what this trial was always about and there’s a long list of precedents that weaken her defense.

DA Trying to Boost Public Appeal

Manhattan’s DA, Cyrus Vance Jr., issued a press release on Thursday, touting the indictment of two men for kidnapping a woman and forcing her into prostitution, but it comes after a big-time butch with another rape case, the infamous “rape cops.”  Is he picking up the lost ground?

Clearly these are cases that need to be tried – and if the suspects are guilty they need to be locked up for life – but after a year of highly publicized losses, Vance might be loading his docket with high profile cases to improve his public perception.  Why? Because it’s an election year.

The New York Times published an article that questioned whether Vance had a shot a re-election, given the host of losses that  include the Dominique Strauss-Khan fiasco and the failure to charge two alleged terrorists with the most potent allegation: attempting mass murder.

Vance’s term expires on Dec. 31, 2013, but a candidate has yet to openly challenge the incumbent DA for his office.  Maybe that’s because Vance’s war chest has a better record than he does.  Or maybe it’s because Vance has been closing high-profile cases at a rate that didn’t look possible two years ago.  He currently wins more than 60 percent of his cases, the most of any New York City DA.

Legal advice

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