You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

American Scene: ACLU say cops wrongly arrest videotapers

PHILADELPHIA — The American Civil Liberties Union alleges that Philadelphia police have a pattern of wrongfully arresting people who videotape officers in public.

The group filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of a college student who used his cellphone to document police arresting several teens downtown.

Temple University student Chris Montgomery was charged with disorderly conduct after recording the arrests in 2011. The complaint says police detained him and erased the video from his phone.

ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper says the lawsuit seeks to confirm the public's First Amendment right to record law enforcement officers.

She says it's the first of several complaints the ACLU plans to file alleging wrongful arrests.

A police spokeswoman says the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

NEW YORK

Court upholds geriatric gangster conviction

NEW YORK — A 95-year-old mob boss who authorities say boasted about killing 60 people in a lifetime of crime must serve his eight-year prison sentence after his racketeering conspiracy conviction, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

John "Sonny" Franzese was sentenced last January after his conviction for extorting Manhattan strip clubs and a Long Island pizzeria while he was underboss of the Colombo crime family.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction, finding that it resulted from a fair trial and his sentence was proper. The court also upheld the convictions and sentencing of two others in the case.

An FBI agent testified that Franzese bragged about killing 60 people over the years and once contemplated arranging his own son's death after he became a government cooperator.

Federal prosecutors had sought to imprison him for at least 12 years after calling one of his sons, John Franzese Jr., to testify against him.

Franzese was once a regular at the Copacabana nightclub, where he could be seen with singers Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. He also had a stake in the classic porn film "Deep Throat."

NEW YORK

32 charged for threats over garbage pickup

NEW YORK — Federal authorities have charged 32 people, including a dozen alleged mob soldiers and associates, with using threats of violence and shakedowns to control garbage pickup routes in New York City's suburbs.

FBI agents arrested 30 of the defendants Wednesday on racketeering conspiracy, extortion and other counts during morning raids around the city and its northern suburbs, as well as in New Jersey. Two more were expected to surrender later in the day.

An indictment identifies 12 of the defendants as either official members or associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese organized crime families. The crime families have a long tradition of infiltrating and extorting trash collection companies at a cost partly borne by paying customers.

"In addition to the violence that often accompanies their schemes, the economic impact amounts to a mob tax on goods and services," George C. Venizelos, head of New York's FBI office, said in a statement.

Court papers allege the extortion ring controlled several trash hauling companies in Westchester, Rockland and Nassau counties in New York, and in Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey. The men extorted protection money from the companies and told them which routes they could use, the papers say.

If any of the controlled companies broke the rules or an outside company sought to compete by offering lower prices or better service, those companies would "face threats of, and actual force or fear of economic reprisal," the papers say.

PENNSYLVANIA

Detective on the case of the bogus Obamas

PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania detective is trying to figure out how a prankster was able to fill out a 2008 voter registration card signed "Barack H. Obama."

Butler County Detective Scott Roskovski says nobody voted using the bogus voter registration card, though filling it out falsely could be a felony.

Elections officials in the county north of Pittsburgh had processed the card, and it went into the state's computerized database with the last name "Obana" — that is, with an "n" in place of the "m." But Mr. Roskovski says that whoever did it was clearly trying to register using President Obama's name.

The card was discovered last week when a jury commissioner was compiling a list of potential jurors to be drawn from voter-registration lists.

MISSOURI

School worker expected to recover from shooting

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis business school where a gunman allegedly shot an administrator before shooting himself says the school employee is expected to fully recover.

Stevens Institute of Business & Arts posted on its Twitter and Facebook accounts Wednesday that doctors believe financial aid director Greg Elsenrath will recover fully after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the chest Tuesday.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce's spokeswoman says charges could be filed later Wednesday against the shooting suspect. He is also recovering from surgery.

Police haven't publicly identified the suspect or discussed a possible motive. Chief Sam Dotson says the shooter was a part-time student in his 30s.

School officials didn't immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment Wednesday.

TEXAS

Picasso vandalism suspect deemed possible flight risk

HOUSTON — A man accused of vandalizing a 1929 Pablo Picasso painting — an act that was caught on cellphone video — must remain jailed on $500,000 bonds because he is a flight risk, a Houston judge ruled Wednesday.

Uriel Landeros, 22, is charged with graffiti and criminal mischief felonies in the June 13 incident. Prosecutors say he spray painted on "Woman in a Red Armchair" at the Menil Collection in Houston.

Each felony charge carries a sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison.

The vandalism was captured in a 24-second video taken by a bystander and posted on YouTube. The vandal left behind an image of a bullfighter, a bull and the word "conquista," which means "conquest" in Spanish.

Prosecutor John Lewis said Mr. Landeros — a U.S. citizen — fled to Mexico after the incident. He surrendered to authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border last week. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez agreed that Landeros posed a flight risk.

Mr. Landeros' attorney, Emily Detoto, said she intends to file a motion asking that his bonds be reduced.

"It's too excessive," Ms. Detoto said. Mr. Landeros intends to plead not guilty, she said. His next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.

Mr. Landeros said little during the court hearing, giving only brief answers to Velasquez' questions.

NEVADA

NASA to test inflatable room for space station

LAS VEGAS — NASA is partnering with a commercial space company to test an inflatable room that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery to the International Space Station.

NASA engineer Glen Miller says that if the habitat proves durable during two years at the International Space Station, it could help lead to stations on the moon and missions to Mars.

Officials detailed the $17.8 million project Wednesday during a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace.

NASA is expected to install the 10-foot-diameter, blimp-like module by 2015.

If it's successful, Bigelow plans to begin selling inflatable space stations in 2016 to countries looking to increase their presence in space.

Mr. Miller says the new technology provides more room than existing options and is far cheaper.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks