Courts

Sheldon Leftenant, the man who allegedly shot police officer Mark Collins, is escorted out of the 3rd Precinct on his way to arraignment in March. File photo by Barbara Donlon

A trial will begin Tuesday for a man accused of shooting an officer after fleeing a police stop in Huntington Station last winter.

Officer Mark Collins was seriously injured when he was shot in the neck and the hip on the night of March 11 during an alleged struggle with the suspect, 23-year-old Huntington Station resident Sheldon Leftenant, who has pleaded not guilty to attempted aggravated murder of a police officer, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said earlier this year that Leftenant faces up to life in prison if he is convicted.

Collins was in plainclothes while working for the 2nd Precinct’s gang unit on the night of the shooting, and helped pull over a car in which Leftenant was a passenger, Spota said. When asked to get out of the car, the suspect fled and Collins gave chase until he cornered Leftenant, an alleged member of the “Tip Top Boyz” street gang, on Mercer Court.

“He had his police-issued Taser in hand,” Spota said. “He never drew his weapon.”

The DA said at the time that Collins, who was unaware the suspect had a gun, used his Taser on Leftenant twice, hitting him in his back.

Sheldon Leftenant, the man who allegedly shot police officer Mark Collins, is escorted to his arraignment in March. File photo by Barbara Donlon
Sheldon Leftenant, the man who allegedly shot police officer Mark Collins, is escorted to his arraignment in March. File photo by Barbara Donlon

“While it brought the defendant to the ground, unfortunately it did not completely immobilize him,” Spota said.

When Collins went to handcuff Leftenant in that Mercer Court driveway, there was struggle, he said. A gun fired four times in quick succession and Collins was shot in the hip and in the neck, close to his carotid artery.

“Collins knew right away he had been shot because he couldn’t feel anything on his right side and he couldn’t move at all his right arm or his right leg,” Spota said.

To protect himself, the injured officer dragged himself over to a stoop and took cover under his bulletproof vest, facing it toward the suspect.

Spota said Leftenant fled after the shooting and dropped the weapon in the backyard of a neighboring property before hiding about a quarter of a mile from the scene.

Canine unit officers arrived and found both the gun allegedly used to shoot Collins as well as Leftenant.

At the time of Leftenant’s arraignment, defense attorney Ian Fitzgerald said his client was sorry to be in this situation, but wouldn’t comment any further.

A handful of the suspect’s family members were in the audience at that court appearance. They would not comment on Leftenant’s case either, but they left the courtroom chanting, “Free Shel.”

This case was not the first time Leftenant’s name had been involved in a shooting. About seven months earlier, he was shot in the groin while standing with a group of people in front of his Tippin Drive home, when two vehicles drove by and someone fired a gun.

At that time, police said Leftenant was originally treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Huntington Hospital and later underwent surgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

Although Collins was seriously wounded in the shooting last March, he has since recovered and returned to work, the DA’s office said recently, calling the officer “a decorated 13-year veteran.”

The two other shots from the .38-caliber revolver were found inside the home on whose property the struggle took place, the DA said, but no one inside at the time was injured.

Opening statements in Leftenant’s trial were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in Riverhead.

 

by -
0 861
Glenn Jorgensen poses with a tree stump at the Montclair Avenue highway yard. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown’s former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen was sentenced to 560 hours of community service and three years’ probation in state Supreme Court on Friday after pleading guilty to charges accusing him of falsifying public documents, records showed.

Back in October, Jorgensen, 64, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct relating back to a construction project he headed in November 2014, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said. He appeared in front of Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead on Friday, where he avoided four months of jail time and received a plea deal that included his community service sentencing as well as a surcharge of $375 to be paid over the next 90 days.

Anthony La Pinta, Jorgensen’s Hauppauge-based criminal defense attorney, could not be reached from comment.

According to the criminal complaint against Jorgensen, the former highway superintendent instructed an employee of Smithtown to alter road construction reports to hide his approval of Medford contractor Suffolk Asphalt Corp. paving as many as eight Smithtown streets in below-freezing temperatures throughout November 2014.

“This disposition compels the defendant to resign from his elected position and his admission of guilt before the court confirms the facts uncovered during the investigation,” Robert Clifford, spokesman for the DA’s office, said in a statement earlier this year. “As the superintendent of highways, Mr. Jorgensen knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met state mandatory specifications.”

Jorgensen resigned from his position Oct. 16.

“It is a sad occurrence and I will have no comment other than I have sympathy for Mr. Jorgensen and his family,” Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said in an October statement.

In April, Jorgensen was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing false records, official misconduct and grand larceny, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Initially, Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, Jorgensen, of St. James, was accused of altering road construction reports and stealing a public work order for an improper repaving. He tried to conceal his approval of paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November and then directed a highway foreman to alter the record of the weather conditions done during the repaving work.

Jorgensen had also been accused of sexual harassment involving his former secretary. The town was issued a notice of claim alleging he sexually harassed her in December. The claim also alleged he had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department.

District attorney detectives found work orders for the improper repaving jobs hidden under Jorgensen’s bed at his Hope Place residence in St. James.

Jorgensen worked for the Smithtown Highway Department for 37 years, and won election for highway superintendent in 2009 and 2013.

A man has pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend outside their apartment and then firing on officers in a subsequent standoff, during which he held his two children hostage.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday that Jose C. Rodriguez will soon be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for his two charges, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated murder of a police officer.

At the time of the shooting, in November 2013, the Suffolk County Police Department said officers responding to several 911 calls about hearing gunshots found a woman, 36-year-old Kimberly Sellitto, lying on the front lawn of the apartment in the Brookwood at Ridge complex, off of Middle Country Road. They moved her body to safety, but authorities later determined she was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Rodriguez, who is now 34, fired several shotgun rounds at those responding officers while he was barricaded in the apartment with his two children, the DA’s office said.

Emergency Service Section and Hostage Negotiation Team officers got Rodriguez to release his two children, police said at the time. Later on, the man fired multiple rifle rounds at officers.

None of the officers were hurt, police said, but bullets struck an armored SCPD vehicle.

The officers fired back, also not injuring Rodriguez. The man subsequently surrendered and was taken into custody, a couple of hours after the incident began.

The children were not hurt, and were released to the custody of their mother. Sellitto was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although Rodriguez originally pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been remanded to jail since the murder, he pleaded guilty during a pretrial hearing in Riverhead this week, the DA’s office said. He was scheduled to be sentenced in State Supreme Court to 30 years to life in prison on Jan. 8.

Double ‘O’ Landscaping Inc. owner Richard Orvieto. Photo from the attorney general's office

The owner of a Stony Brook landscaping company was convicted and sentenced for failing to pay full wages to workers and gaming the state unemployment insurance system, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

Richard Orvieto, owner of Double “O” Landscaping Inc., previously pleaded guilty to failing to pay his employees overtime, refusing to pay them owed wages after firing them and defrauding the state unemployment insurance system by paying workers in cash and not reporting their wages on quarterly tax filings, Schneiderman said. He was sentenced last week to pay restitution of $13,032 to three former employees and an additional $19,856.64 to the state Department of Labor. He must also pay a mandatory fine under state labor law, will be on probation for three years and must complete 50 hours of community service, Schneiderman said.

“It doesn’t matter if you own a restaurant or a landscaping company — you must pay your workers the money they are owed and pay them on the books,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “My office will continue to crack down on wage theft and return earnings that rightfully belong to workers.”

Orvieto’s defense attorney, Paul Kalker of Hauppauge, was unavailable for comment.

Based in Stony Brook, Double “O” Landscaping has provided landscaping and light construction services across Long Island. Between Aug. 24, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2014, Orvieto hired workers to perform those services, but did not pay them overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week, the attorney general said. He also paid his workers in cash off the books, and did not report or pay unemployment insurance contributions for these wages to the state, Schneiderman added.

The attorney general said that in 2013 Orvieto fired three workers and never paid them for their last week of work.

The business owner pleaded guilty to failure to pay wages under the state labor law, a misdemeanor; and Double “O” Landscaping pleaded guilty to falsifying business records in the first degree, a class E felony.

State law requires that employers pay wages no later than seven days after the end of the week when the wages were earned. Employers must also pay one and a half times the workers’ regular rate of pay for any hours worked beyond 40 per workweek. A first offense failure to pay wages is a misdemeanor, while a second offense within five years is a felony.

Thomas Stavola mugshot from the DA's office

A cardiologist has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, drunk driving and leaving the scene of a Smithtown car crash, 16 months after he killed a fellow medical professional and mother of three.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday that Setauket doctor Thomas Stavola, now 56, will spend two years in prison and five years on probation after last year’s crash, during which his Audi broadsided victim Monica Peterman’s Mercedes at the intersection of Routes 25 and 111. It was shortly before 4 a.m., and Peterman, 45, had been on her way to work as an X-ray technician at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center. Instead, the Middle Island resident was pronounced dead at that same hospital she had worked for more than 10 years.

District Attorney Tom Spota said previously that the doctor, who sustained minor injuries in the crash, left the scene without helping Peterman.

“Witnesses who came upon the crash scene said the defendant suddenly left and began walking west on Route 25,” Spota said in a previous statement. “What I found most troubling is the fact that a physician chose not to render any kind of aid or use his cellphone to call 911 to get some assistance for a seriously injured motorist.”

The DA said those witnesses gave police officers a description of Stavola, and a sergeant on his way to the scene spotted the man about 500 feet from the crash, walking quickly with his head down.

According to the DA’s office, Stavola had a .10 blood alcohol content 90 minutes after the fatal incident.

The impact of the collision had embedded Stavola’s front license plate into the side door of Peterman’s car.

Stavola originally pleaded not guilty to his charges. The victim’s family filed a $20 million civil lawsuit against him last year, saying they hoped it would help make punishments stricter for drunk drivers.

But Stavola changed his plea and Peterman’s family supported the two-year sentence and probation, the DA’s office said. Husband Russell Peterman said in a statement that his family wanted to let go of the anger they felt toward Stavola and realized he deserved another chance “to go back to helping people.”

Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen patches a pothole in the Town of Smithtown as another highway department staffer looks on. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) has resigned and pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges in a scheme to alter road-repaving records from last year.

Jorgensen, 63, pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Thursday, Oct. 15, to a felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct as part of a plea deal with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

He will be sentenced on Dec. 11 to four months of jail but will serve an alternative sentence in lieu of jail of 570 hours of community service, and will receive three years probation, according to Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

“This disposition compels the defendant to resign from his elected position and his admission of guilt before the court confirms the facts uncovered during the investigation,” Clifford said in a statement. “As the Superintendent of Highways Mr. Jorgensen knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met state mandatory specifications.”

Vecchio’s office confirmed that Jorgensen resigned from his position as of Friday, Oct. 16.

In April, Jorgensen was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing false records, official misconduct and grand larceny, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Initially, Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, Jorgensen, of St. James, was accused of altering road construction reports and stealing a public work order for an improper repaving. He tried to conceal his approval of paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November and then directed a highway foreman to alter the record of the weather conditions done during the repaving work.

District attorney detectives found work orders for the improper repaving jobs hidden under Jorgensen’s bed at his Hope Place residence.

“State Department of Transportation construction standards dictate asphalt must not be applied to a road surface in freezing temperatures, and in fact, the town’s own engineer has said repaving in freezing weather would result in the asphalt falling apart,” Spota said in an April statement. “The repaving of a residential street doesn’t happen that often and when it does, residents are paying for a job done correctly, not a faulty repaving that will soon need pothole repair work.”

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) has said he felt Jorgensen should resign from his post amid the slew of accusations.

“It is a sad occurrence and I will have no comment other than I have sympathy for Mr. Jorgensen and his family,” Vecchio said in an email on Tuesday morning.

Jorgensen had also been accused of sexual harassment involving his former secretary. The town was issued a notice of claim alleging he sexually harassed her in December. The claim also alleged he had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department. Earlier this year, Vecchio publicly called Jorgensen out for taking his new secretary out to job sites, going against the Suffolk County Civil Service’s job description for the position.

“It seems to me that you are either not comprehending why the position exists, you have a disregard for civil service law or you are mocking the town board and the public,” Vecchio said of Jorgensen bringing his new secretary to the job site in April.

Smithtown Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Maher also called for Jorgensen’s resignation in April, and said it was an outrage that the taxpayers were funding his salary.

Jorgensen worked for the Smithtown Highway Department for 37 years, and won election for highway superintendent in 2009 and 2013.

Jorgensen’s attorney could not be reached for comment this week.

File photo

An animal rights group has a bone to pick with Stony Brook University.

The Beagle Freedom Project, a national laboratory animal advocacy group, has filed a petition in the state Supreme Court against Stony Brook University with hopes of compelling the school to provide documents relating to Quinn, a dog being housed at the university for animal testing and research. The group, alongside supporter Melissa Andrews, made a Freedom of Information Law request to Stony Brook for documents as part of their “identity campaign,” which allows individuals to virtually adopt dogs or cats being held or used in experiments.

The petition accused Stony Brook University of failing to provide a full response to the FOIL request, providing only five pages of heavily redacted documents. Among the five pages provided was a form appearing to indicate that Quinn and his littermates had been purchased from Covance Research Products, Inc., the group said.

Currently, most universities routinely euthanize all such “purpose-bred for research” animals, the group said. In a statement, a spokesman for the Beagle Freedom Project said the group hopes that the documents help to identify opportunities to provoke post-research adoptions of healthy laboratory dogs and cats.

The petition also challenged Stony Brook University’s claim that it has no further documentation relating to Quinn, pointing out that certain documents are required to be maintained by the Animal Welfare Act and that other publicly funded universities responding to similar requests had produced hundreds of pages of documents. In the petition, BFP and Andrews argued that Stony Brook University and the other respondents did not articulate a particularized or specific justification for denying access, as required, and that there is no such justification.

“Stony Brook is either lying about the records they are keeping or they are in violation of federal recordkeeping requirements,” said Jeremy Beckham, research specialist for the Beagle Freedom Project. “Either way this is troubling and the taxpaying public, forced to fund these experiments, have a right to hold this school to account.”

Lauren Sheprow, a spokesman for Stony Brook University, said the university was unable to comment at this time.

The petition asked the Supreme Court of the State of New York to compel Stony Brook University and the other respondents to provide complete, unaltered documentation concerning Quinn. The Manhattan-based law firm Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP is representing BFP and Andrews in connection with the petition, through its pro bono program.

Through the Identity Campaign, the Beagle Freedom Project has uncovered a troubling pattern of laboratories using animals redundantly or unnecessarily for research or experimentation, providing these animals with poor veterinary care, and other abuses, a spokesman for the group said.

State appellate court sides with municipalities in rulings

Northport power plant. File photo

Huntington Town and Northport-East Northport school district’s fight to knock the lights out of a Long Island Power Authority lawsuit that looks to drastically decrease how much the utility pays in taxes on the Northport power plant recently got a big boost.

Last week, a New York State appellate court ruled in favor of the municipalities, clearing the way for both to go to trial against the utility and engage in pretrial depositions and discovery. In 2010, LIPA filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town, claiming the town greatly over-assessed the Northport power plant and that it should be paying millions less in taxes.

Northport-East Northport schools, along with Huntington Town, filed companion lawsuits in May 2011 that claimed LIPA didn’t have the right to file to reduce its taxes and that it breached a 1997 contract promising it wouldn’t. In 2013, a New York State Supreme Court justice upheld the district and town’s rights to sue LIPA and National Grid, and last week’s court ruling upheld that lower court ruling.

LIPA sought to have the school district tossed out of the suit, but the district claimed it was a legal third-party beneficiary of a 1997 power supply agreement between LIPA and the Long Island Lighting Company. Last week’s court ruling upheld that claim. It cites a 1997 letter from LIPA to the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, to which Northport-East Northport belongs, that upon the issuance of a 1997 power supply agreement, “LIPA will immediately drop all tax certiorari cases against all municipalities and school districts,” and that “neither LIPA nor LILCO will initiate any further tax certiorari cases on any of their respective properties at any time in the future unless a municipality abusively increases its assessment rate,” as “spelled out in the [PSA].”

Stuart Besen, the town’s attorney on the case, said he believes the letter from Richard Kessel, former chairman of LIPA, was integral in swaying the judges to rule in favor of the municipalities.

“I just think that Supervisor [Frank] Petrone really deserves a lot of credit for having the foresight for one, making sure the clause was in the [power supply agreement], and two, demanding that Richard Kessel reiterate that position in a letter.”

If successful in the suit, the town wouldn’t have to pay approximately $180 million in taxes the utility claims it overpaid in a three-year period, Besen said. LIPA pays roughly $70 million in taxes on the Northport power plant, town officials have said.

The utility contends the plant is worth less than 11 percent of the value reflected by its current assessment. If LIPA was successful in lowering its assessment and thus the amount it pays in taxes, town residents could be hit with tax increases of up to 10 percent. Those who live in the Northport-East Northport school and library districts could get a whopping 50 percent increase in their taxes.

John Gross, senior managing partner at Ingerman Smith, who represents the school district in the case, said the next step is to move forward with discovery and a motion for summary judgment in favor of the district.

“And if we win that, that means the claims they made to reduce the value of the plant are thrown out,” Gross said in an interview on Tuesday.

The town and the school district are partners in the lawsuit, Gross said.

Asked what town taxpayers should take away from the development, Besen said “that the town is fighting.”

“The town is fighting a big entity, both National Grid and LIPA. But we feel we’re right. We feel that those three years we don’t have to pay, that LIPA and National Grid made a promise to the people of Huntington and the town is going to do everything possible legally to uphold that promise.”

Sid Nathan, a spokesman for LIPA, said the authority couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Franzone to be sentenced to 3.5 years in state prison

Nicholas Franzone photo from Suffolk County DA’s office

A Northport man accused of helping his uncle in carjacking a Commack woman after the uncle ran down two Suffolk County cops in Huntington last year pleaded guilty to charges relating to the crimes in court on Tuesday.

Nicholas Franzone, 23, pleaded guilty in Central Islip at a court conference to robbery, criminal possession of stolen property, unauthorized use of a vehicle, petty larceny and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, according to Bob Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota’s office.

Franzone’s crimes were for stealing gas and participating in stealing a Commack woman’s car and her credit cards as he and his uncle, Chad Moriszan, 35,were trying to dodge capture after striking officers Nicholas Guerrero and Heriberto Lugo.

They fled fleeing the scene of the hit-and-run, leaving Guerrero seriously injured. Guerrero had to be hospitalized for more than three weeks with a severe head injury. He underwent surgery and a regimen of physical therapy during his recovery.

Both Northport men were eventually arrested hours later in a Central Islip Target store on Carleton Avenue when they tried to use a stolen credit card to buy a television.

On July 23, Moriszan was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to assault in the first degree, assault on a police officer, leaving the scene, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, robbery in the second degree and forgery.

Franzone will be sentenced by State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho to three and one-half years in state prison on Sept. 9.

Ian Fitzgerald, a Central Islip-based attorney who represented Franzone, said he felt the sentence term was a fair one. “He had the chance to do the right thing and he didn’t take it so he got himself in this situation,” he said.

He also said the DA dropped prior felony assaults charge against Franzone.

“Our position from the beginning was that he really had nothing to do with Mr. Moriszan running over the officer,” Fitzgerald said.

The attorney said his client didn’t even see the officers struck, and wasn’t even aware that there was a second officer on the scene. The pair of officers pulled over Moriszan and Franzone during a traffic stop.

“He’s glad that it wasn’t worse,” he said. “He’s glad that officer Guerrero survived.”

Franzone has cleaned up his act since the incident, Fitzgerald said. The attorney said his client was on drugs — prescription pills — and since being incarcerated he’s gotten clean.

“[He] seems to be a pretty intelligent young man who unfortunately got wrapped up in some bad stuff.”

DA to recommend maximum prison term

Maureen Myles. Photo from Suffolk DA's office

An East Northport woman has been convicted of stealing $30,000 meant to fund a van with a wheelchair lift for a Huntington teen with cerebral palsy.

Maureen Myles, 62, was convicted on Friday of grand larceny, scheme to defraud and petit larceny following a seven-day trial in Central Islip, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota’s office. DA detective-investigators arrested Myles in December 2013 for making off with the money, which donors raised at a benefit dinner in Northport.

The DA’s office said State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho found Myles guilty of one count of third-degree grand larceny, two counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, scheme to defraud and petit larceny.

Myles was previously convicted of a felony — in 2004, a jury found her guilty of grand larceny and scheme to defraud, for buying $40,000 worth of Bermuda cruise tickets using credit card numbers she stole from her employer, according to the DA.

Spota said the office will recommend the maximum prison term of three and a half to seven years when Myles is sentenced on Sept. 2.

Myles’ attorney, Garden City-based Richard Benson, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Monday.

Social

9,389FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,154FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe