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District Attorney

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini speaks at an event in Huntington Station. File photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Suffolk County now has a new drug program that judges and prosecutors hope will offer nonviolent offenders a means to get clean before they repeat offenses.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) along with several drug court judges announced Aug. 13 the creation of the new Comprehensive Addiction Recovery and Education Program that will allow people charged with low-level drug crimes to instead be sent into a drug treatment program rather than being matriculated through the standard legal system. If the participants finish the program clean, they are promised the charges will be dismissed.

“We consistently heard that in some cases requiring defendants to take a plea prior to accepting treatment is a disincentive [to seek court treatment options],” Sini said at the press conference. “By connecting these individuals to treatment, we will not only be helping to tackle the disease of addiction … we will also be improving public safety by addressing the underlying motivation to commit crimes fueled by drug abuse.”

Those charged with misdemeanor drug crimes can participate in the program without having to enter a guilty plea. Those who sign up for the program work with members of court staff to develop a treatment plan and determine what services will be available. The program lasts for 90 days, but the person involved in the program can ask for a longer term.

“It should result in increased numbers who receive the benefit of treatment given the crisis that we’re facing both locally and nationally,” Suffolk County District Administrative Judge Randall Hinrichs said.

What makes the program remarkable, according to Karen Kerr, the supervising judge of Suffolk County District Court, is that without having to plead guilty more people will be more willing to participate.

“For many people, particularly those people with minimal to no record, it was just too much of a risk for them to take [the plea],” Kerr said. “I felt there was a group of people who really could use the help but who just didn’t want to take the chance.”

The timing for this program comes as the numbers of opioid-related deaths have peaked in the past two years. Suffolk Chief Medical Examiner Michael Caplan said in June the office has data on approximately 360 county deaths from opioid overdoses in 2017. The office is expecting a decline in the number of deaths this year by more than 100, but officials won’t know the results until they compile all data at the end of the year.

The program is open to defendants who have minimal or no criminal record and who have no history of violence or gang involvement. Those charged with misdemeanors of petit larceny, criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal trespass, criminal possession of hypodermic instrument, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct or loitering are eligible for the program as long as the drug court determines they are addicted to any kind of hard drug.

Kerr said that the district attorney determines whether a person should be screened for a drug problem and then the person is referred to the CARE court date, always held on Tuesdays, and then the court treatment team will ask a number of questions to determine if there is an issue.

Officials said they expect many people to be eligible for the CARE program. District attorney spokeswoman Sheila Kelly said the office noted from April to June of this year approximately 600 people would have fit the criteria to be allowed to enter into the program.

Violations of the program include being arrested on new charges, not participating in the treatment program as recommended or not reporting to scheduled court appearances. Participants are drug tested prior to finishing the program.

Hinrichs said the court and the DA’s office will be monitoring the program to see results and identify its efficacy and inclusiveness.

High school educational component created to combat teen drunk and districated driving, opioid abuse

A public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment. Video from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

With graduation approaching comes a new outreach program to keep kids safe.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced an initiative aimed at educating high school students and their parents on the dangers of impaired and reckless driving May 14. The program, Choices and Consequences, is described as a dynamic, engaging presentation that is provided by assistant district attorneys and detectives assigned to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Vehicular Crime Bureau.

“Whether it’s texting and driving, drinking or doing drugs and driving, these decisions can be fatal,” Sini said. “The Choices and Consequences program drives that message home to teens and their parents by using real-life examples that unfortunately have changed lives forever, have taken lives from us prematurely and have devastated victims’ families and friends here in Suffolk County.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between 15 and 24 years old is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are impaired driving and reckless or distracted driving.

During Sini’s tenure as Suffolk County police commissioner, motor vehicle crashes within the police district were reduced by more than 30 percent as a result of a multi-pronged enforcement effort to increase traffic safety.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions.” — Tim Sini

“I’m proud to say that the Suffolk County Police Department and its partners have been successful in reducing motor vehicle crashes that result in serious physical injuries or fatalities, but enforcement is just one piece of our approach,” Sini said. “We need to educate — we need to raise awareness of making bad decisions behind the wheel.”

The Choices and Consequences program is based on a presentation created in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and later adopted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. It comprises facts and statistics on impaired and reckless driving; interactive skits that show how police officers respond to motor vehicle crash scenes and detect impairment; and demonstrations of the impacts of alcohol and drugs on motor skills.

In partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, the scope of the effort has been expanded to educate participants about the dangers of substance use in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic.

LICADD, in conjunction with the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, a family charitable foundation concentrated on alcohol use disorder and addiction, and on educating the public that addiction is a medical illness, recently released a public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” that highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment.

“LICADD is proud to partner with the district attorney’s office as it takes the lead in making sure that this life-saving education is provided to every student and every parent in Suffolk County,” said Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD. “It’s so important when dealing with a disease that is potentially preventable to get this message out in every Long Island school. This is how we are going to turn the corner on this epidemic.”

Sini invited school districts and community groups across Suffolk County to participate in the program by emailing InfoDA@suffolkcountyny.gov or calling 631-853-5602.

“We have proms, graduations and the summer months coming up, so it’s the perfect time for schools to invite us in to provide this presentation,” Sini said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions. It is that powerful.”

Incumbents win back Brookhaven, Suffolk County legislator seats

The race between Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon appears to be over. Photo on left by Alex Petroski; photo on right by Rita J. Egan

By Desirée Keegan

In a landslide victory, Suffolk County will have a new district attorney, and with that a new chief of police.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) defeated Ray Perini (R) with 62.08 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 general election. Perini, who came up with 106,773 votes, ran a contentious campaign against Sini, who campaigned as a reformer hoping to restore reliability to the office.

“Together we have ushered in a new era of criminal justice in Suffolk County, an era of integrity, fairness and doing the right thing,” Sini told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Hauppauge. “We are going to return the office to the honorable institution it once was.”

With Sini’s victory, he will leave his post at the start of 2018, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) will appoint a new police commissioner.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini talks to supporters after learning about his landslide win for district attorney. Photo by Greg Catalano

“I will immediately begin to assemble a top-notch transition team consisting of local and federal officials,” Sini continued. “This team will conduct a thorough top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top assessment of the office and we will do whatever it takes to ensure the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office works for the people. Under my administration, the office will work for the people and not politics. For far too long this office has been used as a tool for those who are politically connected. That ends today.”

The race for the new sheriff in town was too close to call at the end of election night, with Democrat Errol Toulon, a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, holding a slim lead over Republican Larry Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University. The last update from the Suffolk County Board of Election’s unofficial results showed Toulon had 141,006 votes to Zacarese’s 139,652.

Toulon said he believes he will maintain his advantage.

“I feel very confident,” he said from the IBEW Local 25 building in Hauppauge. “I feel incredibly overwhelmed with the support considering I have only been in this race for five-and-a-half weeks, and the people of Suffolk County recognize they want someone with experience, and I feel confident that when the absentee ballots are counted I will be sheriff of Suffolk County.”

Zacarese said he knew it was down to the wire, and couldn’t wait to see the results once the 15,000 absentee ballots are counted.

“For anybody here who knows me, you know I don’t do anything the easy way, so what else did you expect?” he said. “This is far from over. We’re going to get to work starting tomorrow.”

Incumbents swept Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town in TBR News Media’s coverage area on election night.

In the most contested legislative race on the North Shore, incumbent 6th District Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) edged out Rocky Point resident and local business owner Gary Pollakusky to secure her fourth term. After winning by 17 votes in the 2015 election, Anker finished the evening with 10,985 (54.93 percent) votes to Pollakusky’s 9,004 (45.03 percent).

Diane and Ed Romaine celebrate the Brookhaven Town supervisor’s re-election. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We had such an amazing victory, and this shows you all the hard work that I do, that my office does,” Anker said. “This is what we do — we are public servants. We work for the people. The people make a decision to vote and it’s a victory for everyone. There are so many initiatives and projects that I started and I want to continue with.”

Pollakusky thanked the members of his team for their hard work in putting together what he called a “great campaign.”

“Blood sweat and tears,” he said went into his preparation for election night. “Really, we ran a great race.”

In the 5th District, Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is looking forward to continuing her environmental work. She came through with 63.39 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Ed Flood, who finished with 36.56 percent of the vote.

“I love our community, and I work hard every day to make a difference and to help people,” Hahn said. “I’m just thrilled to be able to continue to do that.”

Returnee Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) claimed her second term in office at the helm of the 12th District with an overwhelming 67.40 percent of the vote to challenger Kevin Hyms’ 32.55 percent.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was in a race that nearly doubled in turnout total from the last time he ran. With 61.9 percent of the vote, the longtime politician secured his seventh and eighth year as the head of the town.

“Thank you to all of the voters in Brookhaven,” he said from Stereo Garden LI in Patchogue. “Thank you for the overwhelming mandate for myself and all those who ran with us. We got the message. We’re going to keep on making sure that taxes stay low, we’re going to keep on moving Brookhaven forward, we’re going to keep on doing the right thing.”

Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also secured their seats.

Voters anxiously and nervously watch results come in. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cartright, representing the 1st District, won with 60.3 percent of the vote to Republican James Canale’s 39.66 percent.

“I am just extremely humbled and honored to have been given this amazing opportunity,” Canale said. “I may have lost, but you can not keep me down. I will be back and I will be better than ever.”

Bonner, representing the 2nd District, said she was happy with her win. She pulled away with 63.54 percent of the vote to Coram resident and software developer Mike Goodman’s 36.43 percent.

In the town’s 3rd Council District, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) lauded what he called “amazing results” (65.53 percent of the votes).

“Well I guess the word is out — good Republican government is back in Brookhaven,” LaValle said. “I look back at this town board — this is a great team we have here with supervisor Romaine, highway superintendent [Dan] Losquadro — this is a team that’s going to get the job done and has gotten the job done for the residents of Brookhaven.”

Losquadro (R) maintained his highway superintendent title, securing 60.32 percent of the votes to Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy’s 39.65 percent. Donna Lent (I) will remain town clerk with a 57.26  to 42.7 percent win over Democrat Cindy Morris.

Lent said of the results, “when you run on your record and you run on your integrity you always win.”

Rita J. Egan and Alex Petroski contributed reporting

New York voters on the North Shore overwhelmingly approved passing all of the proposed budgets and extra propositions, despite low voter turnout May 15. Stock image

Follow @TBRNewspapers or check #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

Proposal 1: Constitutional Convention

Yes: 13.38%            No: 86.61%

Proposal 2: Amendment on public pension forfeiture

Yes: 69.19%            No: 30.8%

Proposal 3: Amendment on use of forest preserve land

Yes: 48.63%            No: 51.36%

 

Suffolk County District Attorney

    Ray Perini (R)               Tim Sini (D)
        36.41%                        62.08%

 

Suffolk County Sheriff

 Larry Zacarese (R)      Errol Toulon Jr. (D)
         48.93%                        49.41%

 

Suffolk County Legislator
5th District:
    Kara Hahn (D)              Ed Flood (R)
       63.39%                         36.56%

 

6th District:   
    Sarah Anker (D)      Gary Pollakusky (R)
          54.93%                       45.02%

 

12th District:
Leslie Kennedy (R)        Kevin Hyms (D)
         67.4%                         32.55%
13th District:
      Rob Trotta (R)        Coleen Maher (D)
           67.62%                     32.32%
16th District:
 Susan Berland (D)      Hector Gavilla (R)
          54.93%                      45.03%
18th District:

William Spencer (D)      Dom Spada (R)
          53.12%                      45.65%

Town of Brookhaven

Supervisor

  Ed Romaine (R)        Jack Harrington (D)
        61.91%                        38.06%

 

Councilperson
1st District:

Valerie Cartright (D)   James Canale (R)
          60.3%                      39.66%
2nd District:

   Jane Bonner (C)        Mike Goodman (D)
         63.53%                       36.42%
3rd District:

  Kevin LaValle (R)       Alfred Ianacci (D)
         65.52%                       33.98%

 

Highway Superintendent

Dan Losquadro (R)     Anthony Portesy (D)
         60.32%                      39.65%

 

Town Clerk

    Donna Lent (I)         Cindy Morris (D)
          57.26%                      42.36%

Town of Huntington

Supervisor
Tracey Edwards (D)    Chad Lupinacci (R)
         43.87%                       53.85%

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards conceded to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. “I want to wish supervisor-elect Lupinacci congratulations on a hard-fought race,” she said. “I have no regrets about not running for town board. I could not be prouder [of my party]. We ran together and ran a positive race talking about issues important to us.”

Town Board

Mark Cuthbertson (D)    Emily Rogan (D)
         25.49%                        23.91%

   Jim Leonick (R)             Ed Smyth (R)
          24.92%                        25.6%

Emily Rogan on her loss in her first political race: “Not the way we waned, but I feel so blessed and full of gratitude,” she said. “This is one election. We are not done yet.”

 

Town of Smithtown

Supervisor

  Ed Wehrheim (R)        Kristen Slevin (I)
          56.79%                       7.85%

 

     Bill Holst (D)
          35.07%

“I feel terrific,” Ed Wehrheim said of winning. “It’s been a long, long campaign because of the primary, which was a very tough one, but this is the culmination of all of it. It feels great to be here with all my supporters and family and friends — they’ve been with me the whole way. It’s a great victory for Smithtown in my opinion, a great victory for my supporters and the residents. I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work in January.”

Town Council

 Tom McCarthy (R)      Lynne Nowick (R)
        22.45%                       24.45%

    Bob Doyle (C)           Tom Lohmann (C)
           9.63%                        9.18%

Amy Fortunato (D)    Patricia Stoddard (D)
         17.62%                      16.44%

All percentages are unofficial results as per the Suffolk County Board of Elections

Ray Perini and Tim Sini are campaigning to replace current Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on Election Day 2017. Photos by Kevin Redding

In life, timing is everything.

Thanks to the indictment of current Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota (D) Oct. 25 for his alleged involvement in the cover-up of former Suffolk Police Commissioner James Burke’s civil rights violation — a charge the ex-police chief pleaded guilty to in 2016 — the high-profile race to be the next DA in Suffolk just got a brighter spotlight.

The next DA — be it Burke’s replacement in the police department, Democrat Tim Sini, or Huntington resident and criminal lawyer with more than 40 years of experience, Republican Ray Perini — will be tasked with restoring public faith in a position now synonymous with corruption. The two candidates have publicly traded barbs during the campaign, and that didn’t stop during their individual interviews at TBR News Media’s Setauket office in October.

Huntington resident and former Suffolk County narcotics bureau head Ray Perini is running to replace Thomas Spota as the county’s next District Attorney. Photo by Kevin Redding

Perini said a key distinction in this race is he is not a politician. His first attempt at political office came four years ago when Perini decided to challenge Spota because he said he was concerned the incumbent would be cross endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.

“You’ve lost your moral ability to lead an office,” Perini said of Spota, after his announcement that he would be stepping down before the end of the year. “He had to step down for the good of the office.”

The challenger began his career as a lawyer in the 1970s in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, and he spent time working on both narcotics cases and homicides while in Brooklyn. In 1976, he moved to Suffolk County to head its narcotics bureau, where he tried one or two major cases each year, he said.

“There’s nothing I haven’t done as a criminal prosecutor, and I’m very proud,” he said. “I believe I have had a very successful career.”

Perini said he believes his background suits him perfectly to be the next Suffolk DA.

“It’s what I’ve trained my whole life to do,” Perini said. He added his experiences have prepared him to tackle two of the county’s biggest problems: drug addiction and gang infiltration. “I was successful because I actually worked on a daily basis with the [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] task force and you can’t do that kind of work without working with the FBI and the DEA.”

Sini also got his foot in the door as a lawyer to the west. He was the assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York working as a federal prosecutor under Preet Bharara, where he said he specialized in violent crime cases.

“I loved my job — I loved bringing justice to victims or family members of victims,” he said.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, who did not plan to run for re-election, was indicted Oct. 25 and will retire prior to the completion of his fourth term in office. File photo

The Babylon resident said he always wanted to make his way back to Suffolk. He eventually returned to serve as the deputy county executive under County Executive Steve Bellone (D), specializing in public safety initiatives. As the successor to Burke, he said he has experience taking over a department in turmoil.

“I have a proven track record of leadership in difficult situations,” Sini said. “I walked into the police department during a scandal and if I’m elected DA I’ll be walking into the district attorney’s office amidst a scandal.”

He explained why he thinks he’s a fit for the position.

“This is, in my opinion, the most important position in Suffolk County,” Sini said of the DA. “The level of responsibility that the district attorney has is enormous. I’m running for district attorney to restore integrity to the leadership of the district attorney’s office, which is sorely needed.”

Both were critical of the other’s assertions that their background has prepared them to serve as district attorney.

Sini pointed out Perini’s resignation from the narcotics bureau amid allegations of illegal wiretapping. A New York State Commission of Investigation report named Perini more than 100 times, according to Sini. The police commissioner has also been vocal about annual parties his opponent chartered for local district attorneys and judges, which Sini saw as a sign of impropriety.

Perini attributed the issues to two narcotics officers within his 12-person department who “went bad,” and said he investigated when allegations arose, eventually forcing the pair to resign, making no attempt at a cover-up. He defended his decision to host the boat parties as standard operating practice amongst defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors who work together closely.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini is running to become the county’s District Attorney. Photo by Kevin Redding

“People have this image of a yacht and call girls — it wasn’t that,” he said. “We don’t do X-rated parties. I never thought it would be this kind of issue. Would I do it again? Of course not.”

Perini, in turn, swung back at Sini for claims the police commissioner’s campaign ads made about some of his accomplishments while working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, saying they were inflated.

“I believe what he’s been doing has been to raise his profile,” Perini said. He referenced Newsday’s endorsement of Sini, which referred to him as “a low-level and undistinguished” prosecutor.

Perini also criticized Sini for telling the Suffolk County Legislature he did not intend to run for DA when being confirmed as the police commissioner. Sini said at the time he didn’t intend to run for DA, but things changed.

The candidates did find some common ground on dealing with gang issues and drug addiction. The pair said they see prevention as the most effective method to deal with addiction, and both suggested plans to reach kids earlier before the problems spiral out of control. Each also preached interdepartmental cooperation and intelligence sharing as the primary solution to dealing with gang-related violence, especially by MS-13.

Perini suggested the county should utilize the existing “kingpin” statute, which sets sentences from 20 years minimum to life for dealers making at least $75,000 during a six-month span.

“Quite frankly, I think that has to be used more aggressively with less plea bargaining to get the word on the street that, ‘If you do this in Suffolk County, you’re going to pay dearly for it,’” he said.

Sini stressed the importance of reaching Suffolk County immigrants, who are recruited by gang members upon instruction from crew higher-ups in home countries, with programs and social service resources — prior to recruitment — as a means to stomp out gang activity.

Legislator Rob Trotta, left, calls on Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to resign. Photo by Alex Petroski

Corruption is a word used often relating to Suffolk County government recently, and at least three legislators have had enough.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) spoke at a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature, Evans K. Griffing Building in Riverhead on Tuesday in which he called for the resignation of County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and District Attorney Tom Spota. Trotta also called for Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer (D), who is also the Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman to step down from one of the two jobs.

“At this point we are calling for the district attorney to step down and to let normalcy come back,” Trotta said, adding stories that continue to come out relating to former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, who pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice in February, are “disgusting.” Spota, Bellone and Schaffer were all critical in Burke’s career rise and promotion despite evidence reported by Newsday the men were warned of Burke’s troubled legal past.

Trotta’s calls for Spota’s resignation also stem from his backing of Chris McPartland, a corruption prosecutor in Spota’s office, who Newsday reported in January is under investigation by a federal grand jury for political corruption.

“People need to be held responsible for their actions and right now, in this county, they’re not being held responsible,” Trotta said. “I don’t mean in federal courts or being arrested, I mean morally and socially.”

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) joined Trotta at the press conference. Cilmi stopped short of calling for resignations when pressed, though he made a statement condemning Bellone and Spota’s alleged actions relating to Burke.

“People always have a sense that their political system is corrupt,” Cilmi said. “But day after day, week after week, year after year they’re seeing those fears play out right before their eyes in Suffolk County and it’s disgraceful. Whatever integrity Suffolk County has left is evaporating in a murky haze of finger pointing and deceit.”

Cilmi also echoed Trotta’s sentiments about Schaffer and suggested Schaffer’s two positions created a conflict of interest.

“The people of Suffolk County didn’t elect Schaffer,” Cilmi said. “The people of Babylon elected him town supervisor. Is he able to keep his government role separate from his political role?”

Schaffer could not be reached for comment but Bellone responded to Trotta’s comments in an email through his spokesperson, Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

“Rob Trotta and Tom Cilmi are partisan politicians who just don’t get it,” she wrote. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office. I regret that I trusted the word of the district attorney regarding Jim Burke, and I have learned from that error in judgment, which is why I nominated former federal prosecutor Tim Sini as police commissioner after vetting him for more than a year.”

Bob Clifford, a spokesperson for Spota, responded in a similar fashion.

“This predictably partisan press conference calling for the resignation of the duly elected district attorney is nothing but a political challenge to the effective leadership of Thomas Spota, who has spent the last 14 years putting criminals in jail,” he said.

McCaffrey and Trotta refuted any claims that the legislators’ motivation was driven by anything other than morality.

“I can tell you there’s Democrats in there that want to be standing here with us,” McCaffrey said, gesturing toward a legislative meeting going on at the same time. “They are ashamed of what’s going on in Suffolk County right now.”

Trotta said he invited Democratic legislators, though none attended.

“This is not about Republicans — this is not about Democrats,” Trotta said. “This is about corruption. Our job as representatives is to look into this. My constituents don’t have the ability to look into it like I can. Having been a former detective for 25 years I came to this job and I am sickened by what I see. Sickened.”

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Terrill Simmons mugshot from SCPD

By Elana Glowatz

A heroin task force has just busted four people living across the street from the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Port Jefferson Station, including one who was found trying to flush drugs down the toilet, authorities said Thursday.

Terrill Simmons mugshot from SCPD
Terrill Simmons mugshot from SCPD

Agencies within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Heroin Task Force executed a search warrant at the two-story Jayne Boulevard home on Monday, the DA’s office said in a press release, seizing raw heroin, 100 grams of crack cocaine, 50 grams of powdered cocaine, scales, wax packets and other supplies.

Authorities arrested one of the suspects at the scene, 38-year-old Terrill E. Simmons, charging him with criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of marijuana, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, endangering the welfare of a child and tampering with evidence, after he allegedly was found flushing heroin down the toilet as detectives entered the house.

Police have also charged a father-son pair, 48-year-old Daniel Dumas and 27-year-old Daryl Dumas, with criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. The son also faces charges of criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal sale on or near school grounds.

Moneke Alexander mugshot from SCPD
Moneke Alexander mugshot from SCPD

A fourth suspect, 38-year-old Moneke Alexander, listed as a legal resident of Rhode Island, was charged with criminal possession, use of drug paraphernalia and endangering the welfare of a child.

A previous attorney for Daryl Dumas, Patchogue-based Daniel Henthorne, said he had not yet taken the defendant’s case, but “if we take the case then we’ll know more information.” Other attorney information for Dumas was not available. Alexander’s attorney, Riverhead-based Annette Totten, did not return a call seeking comment, while Simmons and the elder Dumas are both listed as representing themselves on the state court system’s online database and could not be reached for comment.

According to the DA’s office, each defendant pleaded not guilty to their respective charges in court on Wednesday.

The child endangerment charges stem from the alleged location of the drugs in the house: District Attorney Tom Spota said most of the heroin, crack and cocaine was found in boxes next to a 2-year-old’s bed — they were allegedly in the bedroom of Alexander’s son.

According to the DA’s office, Suffolk County Child Protective Services is caring for the child.

Daniel Dumas mugshot from SCPD
Daniel Dumas mugshot from SCPD
Daryl Dumas mugshot from SCPD
Daryl Dumas mugshot from SCPD

“Dealing drugs across the street from a school and the storage of these dangerous narcotics within feet of a child’s bed tell you all you need to know about these defendants’ disregard for everything other than getting and selling heroin and other drugs,” Spota said in a statement. “The shutdown of this operation is good news for the community.”

The heroin task force, which is made up of investigators from the DA’s office, county sheriff’s office and police department, had been investigating heroin trafficking within Brookhaven Town for several months at the time of the bust.

Bail was set at $15,000 cash or $30,000 bond for Alexander; $35,000 cash or $70,000 bond for Daniel Dumas; $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond for Daryl Dumas; and $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond for Simmons.

Christopher O'Brien mugshot from the DA's office

A Port Jefferson Station man pleaded not guilty on Monday to a slew of charges that include murder and driving drunk, three months after a wrong-way crash that killed another driver.

Authorities allege 54-year-old defendant Christopher O’Brien was impaired and driving an Audi A4 east in the westbound lanes of Sunrise Highway two days before Christmas when he hit a Toyota Corolla head-on in the left lane shortly after 5:30 a.m., killing driver Thomas D’Eletto, 57, of Aquebogue.

“At the scene, police observed that O’Brien was unsteady on his feet, had bloodshot, glassy eyes and was slurring his words, and he gave oral admissions to the police about drinking and driving,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said in a statement.

Police at the crash scene, just east of Horseblock Road, charged the suspect with driving while intoxicated, the DA’s office said, and a blood test two hours after the crash showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 as well as cocaine.

While D’Eletto was pronounced dead at the scene, O’Brien was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Center in East Patchogue.

According to Spota, another driver allegedly saw the defendant drive into oncoming traffic three times about 20 minutes before the fatal crash, at a location north of the Long Island Expressway.

“Then on Sunrise Highway, several drivers reported to police they had to go onto the median or the shoulder of the road to avoid a collision with O’Brien,” Spota said.

The DA’s Office said O’Brien has been remanded to jail for the now numerous charges, from an indictment unsealed Monday, which include second-degree murder by depraved indifference; aggravated vehicular homicide; second-degree manslaughter; second-degree vehicular manslaughter; first-degree reckless endangerment; aggravated driving while intoxicated; driving while intoxicated; driving while impaired by a drug; driving while impaired by the combined influence of alcohol and a drug; and reckless driving.

O’Brien’s attorney, Hauppauge-based Scott Gross, called the crash a “significant tragedy” but maintained his client’s innocence.

“We’re going to evaluate the evidence,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday, “take a look at what the prosecution provides and then make our determination as to how to proceed from there.”

Gross added that the DA’s office had until recently pursued the case as a misdemeanor and said that would not have been true if it had a strong case.

“Their delay is indicative of provability issues,” the attorney said.

O’Brien is due back in court before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on April 4.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota outlines the investigation on Wednesday. Photo by Alex Petroski
A makeshift memorial is erected at the scene of the fatal Cutchogue crash. Photo by Phil Corso
A makeshift memorial is erected at the scene of the fatal Cutchogue crash. Photo by Phil Corso

By Phil Corso & Alex Petroski

Story last updated 3.17.16, 8:15 a.m.

A fatal crash was the result of a limousine’s dangerous U-turn at a busy intersection in Cutchogue, and on Wednesday, a special grand jury placed the blame on the driver.

Carlos F. Pino, 58, of Old Bethpage, surrendered to police Wednesday and was arraigned on four charges of criminally negligent homicide, four counts of assault, failure to yield the right of way, reckless driving and other traffic violations, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Pino was attempting a U-turn near the intersection of Depot Lane and County Route 48 on July 18 when Steven Romeo, 55, of Peconic, T-boned the limo, killing four and injuring six.

The crash killed Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack, who were all riding in a limousine in the middle of a weekend wine tour on the eastern part of the Island. The collision also injured passengers Joelle Dimonte, 25, of Elwood, Melissa Angela Crai, 23, of Scarsdale, Alicia Arundel, 24, of Setauket, and Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn. Romeo, the DA said, was operating the truck under the influence of alcohol and was charged with driving while intoxicated the day of the crash.

Pino pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday and was given a cash bail $50,000 and bond of $100,000. His next court date was scheduled for April 19. Romeo also pleaded not guilty to two counts of driving while intoxicated and one charge of driving while ability impaired by alcohol on Wednesday and was released with his next court date set for April 26.

“I think they may have been somewhat surprised,” Spota said when family members of the victims were notified that Pino, and not Romeo, would be indicted as a result of the crash. “They either expected that it would be the other way around, that Romeo would be the party who would be completely at fault, or perhaps it was just a totally unavoidable accident. Indeed, what the grand jury has found out is that it was totally unavoidable, only as to Romeo, but not as to Pino.”

At the scene, Pino had told police he did not see any oncoming traffic, Spota said. But the subsequent investigation revealed why.

The county had been investigating the crash over recent months, and on Wednesday, the DA announced that while Romeo may have been driving while impaired, the risky U-turn still made it nearly impossible for the collision to be avoided. The grand jury conducted a five-hour investigation of the crash and found that Pino had “limited sight lines looking into westbound traffic” because a Jeep Liberty was positioned in the intersection waiting to turn left onto Depot Lane, Spota said in a statement.

Spota said the Jeep Liberty “completely blocked the limo driver’s view of the oncoming traffic in the main travel lanes.” And despite the fact that the main westbound travel lanes were not visible, the DA said Pino failed to take any precaution to make sure he could safely enter the westbound travel lanes and he continued to make the U-turn.

“A perfectly sober Steven Romeo could not avoid this crash. An intoxicated Steven Romeo could not avoid this crash. It was simply unavoidable from Romeo’s perspective,” Spota said. “Romeo can be held criminally responsible for driving while intoxicated but he cannot be held criminally responsible for the crash.”

Related: Vineyard visit ends in tragedy for Commack, Smithtown West grads

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said during the press conference that unfortunately many limo drivers exiting Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue try to make the dangerous left U-turn that ended up being fatal, because it is the fastest route to head back west.

“There are other ways to head back west, but that’s the easiest way for them to do it,” Flatley said.

There is now a traffic light at that intersection, Flatley said.

Spota said Romeo was heading west at about 55 miles per hour when the crash occurred. He did not see the limo enter the intersection until he was about 200 feet away, the district attorney said.

“Mr. Romeo had only 200 feet to react to the hazard he saw, and stop his vehicle,” Spota said. “Traveling at 55 mph, it would have taken 1.6 seconds to perceive the limo in his path, to realize he must apply his brakes, and then to begin braking.  This would leave Romeo with even less distance, 129 feet, to avoid a crash — impossible for him to do. In fact our experts tell us that at 55 mph it would have taken anyone 263 feet to stop and avoid the crash.”

After investigating the crash, Spota said the incident was “unavoidable,” thus keeping a grand jury from indicting Romeo for vehicular manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

From left, Amy Grabina, Brittany Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook
From left, Amy Grabina, Brittany Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook

Belli, Baruch and Schulman were all decorated members of the national and language honor societies by the time they graduated from Smithtown High School West. Over the summer, schools Superintendent James Grossane said Belli, a 2010 graduate, had an infectious smile and was an enthusiastic student and member of the district’s championship kick line team. Baruch, a 2009 graduate, was best known for her booming laugh and unforgettable smile, Grossane said. Schulman, he said, was another 2010 graduate and had a profound love for her family.

Grabina graduated in 2010 from Commack High School and went on to pursue accounting at Florida State University, ultimately landing a job at Ernst & Young in Tallahassee, Fla.

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.

 

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