Julia Moro

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Ex-Chief Deputy Nassau Exec Admits Obstructing Justice

Left: Former Cihef Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker. Right: Ex-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his attorney address reporters outside Central Islip federal court.

The former chief deputy Nassau County Executive has admitted to lying to federal investigators for trying to cover up a $5,000 cash payment he received from a county contractor.

Richard “Rob” Walker pleaded guilty Wednesday to obstruction of justice at Central Islip federal court.

“[Around] August of 2017, I met with an informant working for the government and he informed me of the grand jury investigation,” Walker said while his plea. “I asked if he could not bring up the $5,000.”

Prosecutors said the 43-year-old Hicksville man a accepted the cash in 2014 from a contractor who was performing work for the county. He then tried to persuade the contractor to conceal the existence of the payment from a grand jury when Walker learned federal investigators were looking into the payment.

Walker said he was not aware that the contractor was working with the government at the time they met in a park in Hicksville to discuss the grand jury investigation.

Prosecutors had outlined the evidence that would have been used if the case had gone to trial. It included testimony from the informant, a witness who was instructed to deliver $5,000 to the unnamed informant to influence the testimony, and text messages between defendant and the informant.

Walker, a former New York State Assemblyman who was arrested in 2018, faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced by Judge Joan M. Azrack, who accepted Walker’s plea to “corruptly impeding or obstructing a grand jury,” as the government had put it.

Walker’s defense attorney, Brian Griffin, estimates from previous guidelines that the sentencing will be between 10 to 16 months.

“There’s a whole host of reasons why someone enters a plea,” Griffin told reporters outside the courthouse. “One is they want to accept responsibility for their actions. Another is … so people can move on with their lives.”

Walker’s former boss, ex-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, and Mangano’s wife, Linda, were convicted in March of taking bribes and kickbacks following their re-trial at Central Islip federal court.

“Those who swear an oath to serve the public are expected to promote transparency, not obstruct justice,” said Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

Suffolk Judge Vacates Man’s 1976 Murder Conviction

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A Suffolk County judge overturned Wednesday the rape and murder conviction of a 62-year-old man who spent 33 years in prison for a crime authorities now say he did not commit.

Keith Bush’s first-degree sexual assault and second-degree murder convictions were vacated at the request of the Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini, whose investigators determined Bush could not have killed 14-year-old Sharese Watson in 1975 during a North Bellport house party.

“We believe Keith Bush did not commit this murder,” Sini told reporters during a news conference in Riverhead. “We believe that justice was done today with the exoneration of Mr. Bush’s conviction, sentence, and the dismissal of the indictment.”

In 1975, then 17-year-old Bush and Watson went to a house party, but Watson never returned home that night and her body was found two days later in an empty lot near the house. She had been the victim of attempted rape, physical assault, and murder by strangulation.

Bush was arrested and convicted by a jury in April 1976 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He spent three decades in prison, all while maintaining his innocence. Bush claims that he was beaten and coerced into signing a confession written by Suffolk homicide detectives.

Bush and his attorney recently learned that the authorities at the time had another possible suspect, which was not disclosed prior to the trial in 1976. Withholding such evidence is a violation of the Brady rule, which mandates that all evidence must be turned over to the defendant in a criminal case.

The alternative suspect, then 21-year-old John W. Jones Jr., in a statement said he tripped over the dead body and left his plastic comb, which was found next to Watson.

The new-found evidence by Bush’s defense sparked an investigation by Sini’s newly created Conviction Integrity Bureau last year. Sini said this investigation entailed interviewing dozens of witnesses, reexamining all of the evidence, and obtaining new evidence.

“At the end of the day we came to some very simple conclusions,” said Sini. “We don’t believe Bush committed this murder, we believe Bush was denied a fair trial, and we believe that John Jones is a more probable suspect in this crime.”

Sini said that what brought them to this conclusion were multiple findings. One of which was the discovery of documents listing Jones as a suspect being found more than 40 years later. Jones’ statement said that he was at the party that night and had walked home to Wyandanch. He said that while walking he tripped over the victims dead body, dropped his black plastic hair pick, and never said a word to anyone.

Sini said that no witness puts Jones at the party since he was 21 and from Wyandanch, while the party was mostly younger people from Bellport. Sini also said that at the time Jones was being questioned, he was engaging in the statutory rape of another girl. Additionally, the murder weapon that Bush was accused of using to stab the victim was found to be inconsistent with the marks left on the body.

“Any prosecutor, any investigator and any person who has brain functioning is going to investigate that individual for the possible murder of Sherese Watson,” said Sini. “But instead what the detectives and the prosecutor on the case did was they washed it and they covered it up.”

Jones was arrested in April of 1975 for an unrelated crime. He died in 2006 with long criminal record, according to Sini.

Bush’s confession, which was critical at trial, was also proven false, Sini said. The confession, which Bush claims was coerced by police beatings, was proven forensically impossible by a medical review of how the murder occurred. When a former police detective was interviewed about the case in 2019, the detective alluded to using coercive tactics. The former prosecutor’s theory of how the crime was committed has also been proven false by forensic evidence.

“Because of my attorney and the current DA office… They shook up my pessimism, now I know that there are good people in the system, as well as bad,” said Bush. “I don’t hold back [my anger] I create outlets for it. The greatest outlet is love, the love of people you care about.”

Sini said his office is here to make sure justice is done in each and every case.

“We’re doing amazing work here in Suffolk County on a daily basis, creating a culture of excellence and professionalism, fighting crime, reducing crime, but none of that matters if we don’t correct injustices of the past.”

Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach Takes Flight Memorial Day Weekend

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron are headlining the 16th Annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this Memorial Day weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Denise A. Rayder)

Dozens of aeronautic daredevils will fill the skies over Long Island with flips, loops, and countless other thrilling airplane stunts for the 16th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this weekend.

Headlining this year’s show is the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the performance squadron that wows crowds nationwide with their F-16 Fighting Falcon trickery, including their signature “bomb burst” routine.

Also performing this year will be the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights, Team Oracle stunt pilot duo Sean Tucker and Jesse Panzer, Long Island’s own David Windmiller, Lt. Col. John Klatt, and many more.

With nearly a half-million attendees each day, this is the largest annual event on Long Island, so arrive early to get a good spot on the sand.

George Gorman, the regional director of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said that this day is to really remember and honor those who have died fighting for our country.

“I’d like to make sure we pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country, the veterans and everyone who has given their lives for our country,” said Gorman. “That’s what Memorial Day is all about, so thank you for your service.”

For those at Jones Beach, the air show means the start of beach season and the unofficial kick-off to summer. Kristen Jarnagin, the president of Discover Long Island, said that the show also bring other good news as well.

“When [the air show] brings visitors from all over the world here, it supports more than 100,000 local jobs,” said Jarnagin. “So, on behalf of the $5.9 billion annual tourism industry, we are so honored to be a part of this event.”

Maj. Ray Geoffroy of the U.S Air Force’s Thunderbirds said that they are truly excited to be at Jones Beach this weekend, again to remember our fallen heroes. Geoffroy said the 130 men and women who make up the Thunderbirds are honored to represent the U.S. Airforce at Jones Beach for Memorial Day.

“We hope you get a small taste of what we do as airmen as you hear that wonderful jet noise this weekend,” said Geoffroy.

Jones Beach State Park, Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, bethpageairshow.com. Free. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. May 25, 26.

Long Islanders Join Nationwide Anti-5G Rally

Protesters rallied against 5G cell sites on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Long Island Press photo)

Parents and supporters of a group called Citizens for 5G Awareness picketed Wednesday outside a Verizon store in East Northport to protest the increase in small cell wireless antennas in their neighborhoods.

Debbie Persampire, 46, of Huntington, started the organization about two years ago when a small cell antenna was put up five feet outside her backyard fence. When she researched the technology, what worried her most was the unknown impact she felt it would have on her children — but the cell phone industry maintains that the devices are safe.

“I worry every single day,” said Persampire, a former teacher in Commack. “Every time I put my children to sleep in their beds and kiss them goodnight, I worry. I wonder what’s going to happen to them after this long term exposure that they’re being forced to deal with.”

The local rally was just one of many in a nationwide day of protests calling on wireless companies to stop deploying small cell wireless microwave antennas in residential areas “until their technology can be proven safe.”

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which represents the U.S. wireless communications industry, says the technology is safe.

“The science shows that the organizer’s claims about the health effects of radiofrequency energy are false,” the group said in a statement in response to the rally. “Radiofrequency energy from wireless devices and networks, including 5G, has not been shown to cause health problems, according to the consensus of the international scientific community.”

According to Verizon, small cells are mounted discreetly on street lights, utility poles, buildings and other structures, delivering the media and information that users need.

“Verizon has been investing heavily in small cells over the last several years to stay ahead of growing demand on our 4G LTE network, but this technology is also integral to laying the groundwork for our upcoming 5G network,” wrote Verizon spokesman John O’Malley.

Citizens for 5G Awareness remain unconvinced. Some of the organizers of the event cited a U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) report According to an article from Environmental Health Trust,in which scientists concluded there is “clear evidence” linking cell phone radiation to the development of cancers in rats.

The protesters wish others would take it more seriously.

“This was a 10-year, $30 million study done by our government,” said Persampire. “We do have some very good science showing that this is not safe and that we need to take the precautionary principle with our children.”

Persampire was not alone in worrying about the effect on children. Many other parents stood beside her with children’s health at the forefront of their minds.

Pam Fischetti, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom from Centerport, attended the rally with two young kids holding both of her hands. After hearing about a proposed cell tower in her town, she decided to show her support for the group.

“I’m definitely concerned for my children’s health and safety,” said Fischetti.

Patti Wood, the executive director of the nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education, which works to educate the public on the links between common environmental exposures and health, also attended the rally.

“If you’re not a techie type and you’re just a normal American family raising young children in a neighborhood, you don’t want to be exposed 24/7,” said Wood. “[Carriers] are saying, ‘Too bad, we’re going to expose you, your family and your kids whether you like it or not.’”

According to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), “Radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular … transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits.”

The FCC says that these safety limits were adopted based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by federal government agencies responsible for health and safety. Therefore, the FFC says, there is no reason to believe that such devices could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents.

Anne Mayer, another organizer of the group, is a former safety certification engineer on industrial and commercial equipment at Underwriters Laboratories for 21 years. She says that we don’t need 5G.

“[The companies] make it sound like you can’t have your cell phones without it,” said Mayer. “Yeah, you won’t be able to download a Netflix movie in two seconds. We don’t need to put our whole planet, privacies, and protections at risk so that we can download movies from Netflix in two seconds.”