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Crime & Tragedy

Four Rikers Island guards suspended after they waited for seven minutes before rescuing teen inmate who tried to hang himself

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As New York pushes to close down Rikers, it is now engulfed in a fresh new controversy. Four Rikers Island guards were suspended this week after they allegedly failed to intervene as an inmate was trying to hang himself. The 18-year-old inmate who tried to commit suicide has been identified as Nicholas Feliciano by the New York Times. He has been placed on a respirator and is in critical condition as of Tuesday at the Elmhurst Hospital Prison Ward, say reports. 

Three guards and one captain are said to have waited for several minutes while the inmate tried to hang himself in his cell at the George R. Vierno Center on November 28 midnight. “The claims being made here are extremely troubling and we are taking them seriously,” DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann said in a statement. “Three officers and one captain have already been suspended and if the outcome of the investigation warrants we will take appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination,” Brann added.

He had been arrested for a parole violation on November 19 and was being held at the jail. He had been moved from the general population to a holding cell after he was involved in an altercation the day before the incident. The incident was caught on video and the NYT reported that it showed the teen inmate wrapping a piece of cloth around his neck with the other end on the ceiling pipe of his cell. 

The video showed that during the attempt, he had tried to find solid ground, attempting to put his feet back on the wall that separated the toilet from the cell that he had jumped off from. He stayed hanging for seven minutes before being rescued.

The building where the inmate tried to commit suicide is the same one where an inmate was brutally beaten by five correction officers who were later convicted for the crime in 2012. Jahmal Lightfoot is said to have been beaten by the officers with their fists and boots as he curled on the floor in an effort to save himself. He sustained eye socket fractures and said he threw up blood and had a blurry vision. He had been in jail for stealing a pocketbook in 2010. 

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Crime & Tragedy

New York’s new bail reform law will tell criminals that there are no ‘repercussions after committing crime’

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New York’s bail reforms that will eliminate bail and pretrial detention for a variety of misdemeanor and felony charges have met with considerable backlash from various fronts. Effective from January 1, 2020, the retroactive law that has been brought forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio’s administration, aims to reduce the number of people held in jails and the amount of time they are held. Inmates who are in jail and eligible under the new law will have to apply to be freed.

The law also aims to address concerns over an unfair advantage that law enforcement had in prosecutions. Grand jury proceedings will not be a secret under this law and prosecution will have 15 days to turn over evidence after arraignment to the defense, which can be made to 30 days in exceptional cases. The defense gets 30 days to submit the case to the state. 

According to the New York Post, nearly 900 people are expected to be released from Rikers under the new law. Critics fear that it would add to crime rates and jeopardize the safety of New Yorkers. (Getty Images)

They also have to show evidence three days before a plea deal expires. The defense will have access to contact information of anyone relevant in the case, including police officers. The defense can also visit the scene of the crime to help build their case, which many critics have said could victimize those wronged further. 

The Mayor’s Office is also putting in place the Atlas program, to help defendants stay out of trouble while they await trial. The program includes free housing assistance, mentoring services, job training and more.

According to the New York Post, nearly 900 people are expected to be released from Rikers jail complex under the new law. Earlier this week, a suspected drug dealer, who almost hit a pedestrian in Manhattan in an attempt to escape DEA task force agents, will be released from jail after the law goes into effect. He is charged with reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an incident, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, marijuana possession and attempted grand larceny. 

Critics fear that it would add to crime rates and jeopardize the safety of New Yorkers. 

“The upcoming bail reform sends a message to criminals that they can do whatever they would like with no repercussions after committing a crime. They will be sent back onto the streets to commit more crimes, which will endanger the public’s safety and cause crime to skyrocket,” Joseph Imperatrice, founder of Blue Lives Matter, a non-profit organization “created to help Law Enforcement Officers and their families during their time of need” told MEA WorldWide, “Politicians need to pull their heads out of the sand and start doing what they were elected to do, keep the people safe and make decisions in their best interest.” 

Probation officers have also come forward telling lawmakers that they do not have the staff or infrastructure to implement these reforms. Mayors across the state have also shown concern over the implementation of these reforms, saying they lack the resources.

Among the offenses that bail will be eliminated for also include charges of animal cruelty and animal fighting, which is also a cause of concern for animal rights activists. All animal cruelty laws fall under this new system.

They are “detrimental” to animal cruelty prosecution said Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Suspects charged with these crimes, including animal fighting, will simply be given desk appearance tickets,” he said, adding that a case can be potentially thrown out if the shelter cannot meet documentation requirements because of a shortage of time. 

“Shelters, many of which are non-profit agencies, will need to quickly document the treatment of abused animals in these cases and present information to the district attorney within the new timeline. If the documentation falls short because of time constraints, the case may be thrown out and the animal returned to a suspected abuser. I don’t believe this was the intent of these reforms, but it’s what we have to work with now,” he said. 

According to the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, those accused of following charges won’t get held on bail: 

• Assault in the third degree
• Aggravated vehicular assault
• Aggravated assault upon a person less than eleven years old
• Criminally negligent homicide
• Aggravated vehicular homicide
• Manslaughter in the second degree
• Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree
• Coercion in the first degree
• Arson in the third and fourth degree
• Grand larceny in the first degree
• Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds or criminal possession of a firearm
• Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
• Criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
• Criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds
• Specified felony drug offenses involving the use of children, including the use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense and criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child
• Criminal solicitation in the first degree and criminal facilitation in the first degree
• Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third and fourth degree
• Making a terroristic threat
• Patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone
• Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child
• Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
• Promoting a sexual performance by a child
• Failure to register as a sex offender
• Obstructing governmental administration in the first and second degree
• Obstructing governmental administration by means of a self-defense spray device
• Bribery in the first degree
• Bribe giving for public office
• Bribe receiving in the first degree
• Promoting prison contraband in the first and second degree
• Resisting arrest
• Hindering prosecution
• Tampering with a juror and tampering with physical evidence
• Aggravated harassment in the first degree
• Directing a laser at an aircraft in the first degree
• Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
• Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor
• Enterprise corruption and money laundering in the first degree
• Aggravated cruelty to animals, overdriving, torturing and injuring animals
• Failure to provide proper sustenance
• Animal fighting

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Crime & Tragedy

Alexis Sharkey death: Cops trawl CCTV footage for clues as experts wonder how her body had no visible injuries

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Alexis Robinault Sharkey, a 26-year-old Instagram influencer, was discovered dead in a ditch on Saturday morning, November 28. Her death has puzzled investigators who are attempting to determine the circumstances surrounding her demise. Sharkey’s naked body was discovered by a garbage truck worker in Houston, Texas, early in the morning, and police have revealed since then that she had no injuries on her. 

Houston authorities are now pinning their hopes on surveillance video in the area where Sharkey’s body was found — a sparsely populated road off I-10 in west Houston. Police have reportedly zeroed in on a surveillance camera from a beauty salon facing the roadway where the influencer was discovered. Sharkey’s friends are hoping that the video may be able to shed some light on how she ended up in the ditch along Red Haw Lane with no external signs of injury.

The late 26-year-old was popular on Instagram and made her career sharing every detail of her skincare routine, and the products she used. She even shared about her personal life on social media, with one of her recent pictures showing her and her husband Tom in Halloween costumes this year. Retired police forensics expert, Jennifer Shen, said that it is likely that police will comb through her online presence, which also includes her followers.

“Always the suspicion falls upon those that she has interaction with and knows,” Shen told Fox 26. “Oftentimes they look at the husband first, so I think it’s going to be a really difficult time for the family.” One of Sharkey’s close friends, Chelsea Turnbow, told the outlet that the moment she learned something was wrong was on Friday night, November 27. She said: “Tom, which is her husband, texted my boyfriend. 11 p.m. is when my boyfriend John called Tom and said, What’s going on, Tom? And he said, ‘Me and Lex got into an argument, and she left. I don’t know where she went. Can you just please let me know if you know anything.'” Sharkey’s body was found hours later at about 8:30 AM nearly four minutes away from her apartment. “We need to get the word spread that someone killed her, and we need answers,” said Turnbow.

Police are not calling Sharkey’s death a murder yet, however, they have not ruled out foul play in the case either and are awaiting the results of an autopsy to give an insight on the cause of her death.

Ally Cale, who worked with Sharkey as a product influencer, revealed that the 26-year-old had decided to divorce her husband nearly a month ago. The couple had been married for nearly a year. Turnbow also commented on their marital relationship, saying: “All I’m gonna say is: they’re going through a divorce for a reason.”

Tom, on Sunday, November 29,  wrote a post on Facebook denouncing people for leaving negative comments. He said: “I just want to say this! While some of you were posting on social media helping us locate my world! And we appreciate all your help, Love and support! Others were waisting (sic) time talking about other things. Basically crap talk! Next time…. stop and think! And realize! You don’t know it all!” He added that he had been assisting the deputies with phonecalls and trying to find out what exactly happened to her. 

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Crime & Tragedy

Trump won’t pardon his family to stop them from testifying against him, says Michael Cohen: ‘He cares for no one’

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Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, claims that the president will not be pardoning his family, in case they are forced to testify against him. As a presidential pardon would remove a person’s Fifth Amendment protections, Cohen claims that Trump is worried that his family members could be forced to testify against him in court if they’ve received a pardon.

In recent weeks, Trump has been exercising his ability to provide presidential pardons, giving them to Roger Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The New York Times has already reported that Trump has brought up the possibility of granting “pre-emptive pardons” to his children with his current lawyer, Rudolph W Giuliani. Trump is apparently worried that the Biden administration may seek to target his family, specifically the oldest three of his children — Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser and Ivanka Trump’s husband.

Michael Cohen, however, claims that the president may not be on his family’s side after all, saying, “the first thing that Donald Trump is evaluating… is ‘what’s in it for me?'” Michael Cohen, who was Trump’s lawyer before being sent to jail in 2018 for arranging payments to silence women who claimed to have affairs with Trump, also spoke to Inside the Hive’ podcast, where he said, “Will Donald Trump pardon Rudy Giuliani? Will he pardon Steve Bannon? Will he pardon Don Jr, Eric, Ivanka, Jared? Here’s my answer: No.”

Cohen claims that Trump has an eye out for the future and trials that might be held against him. “Donald Trump cares for no one or for anything except for himself… that includes his own children. Donald Trump will only do what benefits Donald Trump,” said Cohen. 

A paper published 16 November, 2020, by Frank O Bowman III took a closer look at the nature of presidential pardons. In the paper, Bowman writes, “…because a pardon effectively erases the Fifth Amendment privilege as to offenses covered by the pardon, it might make it easier for criminal and civil investigative authorities and Congress to compel testimony from the person pardoned. Therefore, presidential pardons could inconvenience, but could not prevent, thorough investigations of the private and public actions of a former president or his associates.”

This means that someone pardoned by the President could easily be forced to testify against him in order to reduce their own sentencing in court. “So Donald is now thinking in his head, ‘if I give this guy the pass to keep his a** out of prison, he may be putting mine in,'” Cohen said, during the podcast, “so the question again becomes, ‘if I give somebody a pardon, how can it hurt me more than help me?'”

The report by Frank O Bowman III also claims that the president cannot pardon someone for crimes that have not been committed — making the concept of “pre-emptive pardons” not only void, but possibly a criminal act in itself. “A president cannot pardon crimes that have not yet been committed. Consequently, a pardon issued corruptly might itself constitute a crime that could not be pardoned,” Bowman wrote.

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