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Timothy Bolger

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.

83 People Being Monitored for Possible Coronavirus in Nassau

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Credit: NIAID-RML

Eighty-three people who may have been exposed to the deadly coronavirus following recent travel to China are being monitored in self-quarantine in Nassau County, health officials said Wednesday.

The news came on the same day that California health officials announced it may have the first case of coronavirus contracted in the United States and President Donald Trump tapped Vice President Michael Pence to lead the nation’s response to the outbreak.  

“There are no cases confirmed in Nassau County,” Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence E. Eisenstein told reporters. “So far our residents have done very well. And there are no cases. We’re going to hope to keep it that way and certainly we’re going to take whatever actions we have to to keep our residents safe.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned the public to prepare for the likelihood of the virus impacting daily life. There have been 60 cases confirmed in the U.S. to date. Suffolk County has 29 people it’s monitoring and Nassau reports six people who were tested were found to be negative.

While there is currently no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, there are preventative actions that can help stop the spread of the virus and other respiratory viruses. 

Officials are urging people to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you’re sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to these areas should call ahead to their healthcare provider before presenting for treatment. 

Additionally, the department has a dedicated website which was created as a resource with updated information for New Yorkers.

-With QNS

Suffolk Corrections Officer’s Child Sex Abuse Victim Blasts Sentence As Too Light

Robert Weis

An ex-Suffolk County corrections officer has been sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to sexually abusing children over a nine-year span, but one of the victims is calling the sentence too lenient.

Robert Weis was sentenced Tuesday in Suffolk County court after pleading guilty in December to felony counts of sexual conduct against a child, criminal sex act, criminal possession of a firearm, and criminal possession of stolen property. Weis faced up to 25 years in prison, prosecutors recommended 10 years, but Judge Mark Cohen gave him five.

“The sentence itself is absolutely disgusting,” one of the survivors, Michael Neary, told the Press after the sentencing. “He stole our childhoods … I can never forget, never forgive.”

Prosecutors said the investigation into the 55-year-old Hampton Bays man began after a man reported to the Southampton Town Police Department that Weis had sexually abused the victim from from the ages of seven to 16. When authorities executed a search warrant at his home, they said they seized three illegal handguns, 32 rifles, and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition. Police also said investigators recovered stolen property belonging to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, including bulletproof vests and EMT equipment.

Weis, who is the adoptive parent of five males and has been a foster parent for approximately 15 years, had been employed as a Suffolk correction officer since 1995. Following his arrest by local authorities last year, he was terminated by the sheriff’s office, where had previously been placed on modified duty after he was arrested in South Carolina in 2016 for allegedly sexually abusing a minor.

Neary, who was one of two survivors in the Suffolk case, told the Press that he wanted to go public with his story in the hopes that other victims will come forward. He believes there are more than a dozen others out there, including some in other states and overseas who were victimized while Weis served in the military.

“I’m not hiding anymore,” Neary said. “I really just want one more to come forward.”

He said he personally witnessed more cases and knows of others who came forward but believes charges related to some weren’t pursued because the victims didn’t want to proceed.

Neary, who’s now a 32-year-old married father of four working as a butcher in New Hampshire, said Weis began abusing him at age 11 and continued to do so until he was 18.

“He would bring us to his work at the Westhampton Air Force base and rape us their on his training weeks their each summer,” Neary recalled. 

Neary said later, when he was 22 and was arrested for failing to perform community service he was sentenced to after being convicted of theft, Weis sexually assaulted him while incarcerated for 30 days at Suffolk County jail in 2010.

Neary said the only thing that the only thing that got him through being victimized as a child was knowing that he was sparing another boy of being raped that day.

“I knew if it wasn’t happening to me, it would be one of the other boys,” he said. “That’s what got me trough the hundreds of times he raped me. Was if its happening to me, it’s one less time for the other boys.”

Fire Island Dune Rebuilding Crew Diverted To Fix Beach Near Mar-A-Lago

A dredge crew pumps sand onto a Fire Island Beach in 2013.

Contractors fixing storm damage on Fire Island beaches are being diverted to Florida so they can instead work on a beach near President Donald Trump’s country club, stirring a wave of controversy.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) questioning the decision to divert crews slated to rebuild dunes flattened by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Two dredge ships finishing beach repairs along Dune Road in Westhampton Beach were slated to work on FI next, but instead are being sent to repair a beach just north of Mar-A-Lago, the president’s so-called Southern White House in ritzy Palm Beach.

“The South Shore of Long Island and the communities on Fire Island still deal with the daily threat that the occurrence of another extreme weather event similar to the scale of Sandy could bring catastrophic levels of devastation,” Schumer wrote Sunday in a letter to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commander general of ACE. “That is why the timely completion of coastal resiliency projects like [the Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet project] is imperative and the sudden re-location of these dredges deserves scrutiny.”

The local work is part of the $281 million federally funded FIMI project that has been rebuilding dunes and berms along the oceanfront on the 32-mile barrier island that protects mainland LI from the Atlantic. 

Weeks Marine, the dredge company pumping sand from offshore onto FI, was slated to complete work on beaches in front of Ocean Bay Park and Point ‘O Woods, two communities in the middle of the island, when the ships were called to Florida.

“The FIMI project was designed to bring much-needed sand to Fire Island after Hurricane Sandy,” a Point O’ Woods representative told the Press. “We are anxious to see the project completed and continue to work with the Army Corps and Weeks Marine in good faith toward successful completion by the June 19th deadline.”

A spokesman for ACE declined to respond to Schumer’s letter, but said the diversion won’t cause delays on FI. Barring equipment or weather issues, the two dredge hoppers are scheduled to finish in the Hamptons by early March, sail to Florida for a month, and be back in New York by April with enough time to finish the work on FI before beach season. ACE termed the work in its Jacksonville District as emergency beach renourishment, although Schumer disputed that.

“The work in Jacksonville District is expected to have no impact on that schedule,” ACE spokesman James D’Ambrosio told the Press.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has reconfirmed to Congressman Zeldin that the Westhampton Beach project will be completed on or about March 9 and the Point O’Woods and Ocean Bay Park project will be completed on or about May 18, which is prior to the contracted completion date of June 19,” said Katie Vincentz, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

David Ruderman, a spokesman for the Corps’ Jacksonville district, told the New York Post, which first reported the story, that the diversion has “absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Trump happens to live down the beach from where this is happening.”

Westchester Victim May Be Tied To Gilgo Beach Murders, Police Say

Do you know Cherries Doe, who had the above tattoo? If so, police want to hear from you.

A woman whose torso was found on a beach in Westchester 13 years ago and legs washed up on the North Shore of Long Island could be tied to the Gilgo Beach murders.

Suggesting the possible connection in interviews with local media in Westchester were Village of Mamaroneck Police investigators reportedly renewing their efforts to identify the victim known as Cherries Doe, due to her most identifiable feature: A tattoo of a pair of cherries.

“The violence that was done to these women was very similar,” Mamaroneck Village Police Det. Sgt. Mark Gatta told WNBC-NY on Friday. “Are they related? It’s possible. It’s possible because this sort of thing is not an every day occurrence.”

Of the 10 sets of human remains that Suffolk County police found along Ocean Parkway about a decade ago while searching for Shannan Gilbert, who was also found dead, four were similarly mutilated in what’s been dubbed the Long Island Serial Killer case.

“We are aware of the case but will not comment further,” Suffolk police said in a statement when asked to respond to the Mamaroneck police speculation about a possible Gilgo connection.

Related Story: Suffolk Police Release New Gilgo Beach Murder Evidence

Cherries Doe’s torso was found in a suitcase on Harbor Island Beach on March 3, 2007. Because that was the initial discovery, Mamaroneck police are leading the investigation into her case, but her remains were scattered across three counties.

Her right foot and leg washed up in Cold Spring Harbor in Suffolk County on March 27, 2007. And her left leg and foot washed up on the property of Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan’s Oyster Bay estate in Nassau County the following day. But her head and arms have not been found.

Similarities appear in the cases known as Peaches, whose torso was found in Hempstead Lake State Park in 1997 and limbs and remains of her child were found off Ocean Parkway in 2011, and Fire Island Jane Doe, whose legs were found in 1996 at Blue Point Beach on Fire Island and skull was found near Tobay Beach in 2011. Similarities also appear in the cases of two women whose torsos were found in Manorville in 2000 and 2003 and skulls were also found off Ocean Parkway in 2011: The woman known as Jane Doe No. 6 and a young woman named Jessica Taylor.

Related Story: Who is The Girl With The Peach Tattoo?

In the Mamaroneck case, police are hoping that by re-releasing the photo of Cherries Doe’s tattoo, they may generate tips from the public that could help identify her and eventually find her killer. They are also hoping to find her family through her DNA.

“Our hope is if we can identify her then maybe that would give us an investigative lead to move the case forward,” Gatta told the Journal News. “Maybe someone believes that this might be, based on the description we have, which isn’t the best, this might be aunt so-and-so, this might be my mother’s sister that we always heard about but never met. That’s kind of what we’re hoping for.”

Cherries Doe is believe to be between 35 and 45 years old, was wearing a size medium Coconut Republic brand v-neck velvety camisole, and a size 33B bra with an underwire, according to investigators.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Det. Sgt. Mark Gatta at 914-825-8588.

Related Story: Long Island Coroners Seek ID for 38 Unidentified Human Remains

Judge Jack Weinstein of Great Neck, Nation’s Longest-Serving Federal Judge, Retires

Judge Jack Weinstein

Judge Jack Weinstein, a Great Neck resident who is the nation’s longest-serving federal judge and the last current judge appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, retired Monday after 53 years on the bench.

Weinstein, a World War II veteran and former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York — which includes Long Island in its jurisdiction — presided in Brooklyn federal court until retiring at age 98.

“I felt that I could not really go on and have the assurance that I could give full attention and full energy to each one of these litigants,” Weinstein told the Daily News. “It seemed to me highly desirable to turn it over to the other judges on the court.”

He ranks 11th for longest-serving federal judge ever. The Kansas native whose family moved to Brooklyn when he was five clerked for Justice Stanley Fuld of the New York State Court of Appeals after he graduated from Columbia Law School. Before being appointed as judge in 1967, Weinstein worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he helped Thurgood Marshall litigate Brown v. Board of Education, the ruling that found school segregation unconstitutional, before Marshall became the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice.

He served as Nassau County Attorney for two years under then-Nassau County Executive A. Holly Patterson a decade before being appointed as federal judge. 

High-profile cases that Weinstein presided over include awarding a $180 million settlement for those poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and ruling in favor of New York City in a suit against gun manufacturers that was later overturned. He was known for his leniency in sentencing.

Legal observers say he is sometimes called the father of mass tort litigation, having an impact far beyond his Brooklyn courthouse. Had Robert F. Kennedy won the presidency, he may have been appointed to the Supreme Court.

$35M Transit-Oriented Development Proposed in Roslyn

A proposed $35 million mixed-use, transit-oriented development that would include 60 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail space is currently up for debate in downtown Roslyn.

Roslyn-based J.K. Equities, a father-and-son team of real estate developers, submitted a proposal requesting the Village of Roslyn to consider changing the zoning for part of Warner Avenue near the Roslyn Long Island Rail Road station to a Transit Oriented Development District.

“These districts are increasingly popular throughout the region in order to encourage young commuters to stay on Long Island,” Roslyn Mayor John Durkin wrote in a letter to residents last month. “The first step in his process is for the board of trustees to consider and weigh the impacts that this change would incur.”

The proposal comes as The Roslyn Landing project is in its final stages and a new apartment complex on Lumber Road was completed and fully occupied. The board is also considering a pair of mixed-use project in its Waterfront Overlay District on Lumber Road. The village has hired outside experts, including urban planners, traffic engineers, and geotechnic engineers, to assist with the reviews.

J.K. Equities’ plan calls for demolishing a building erected in 1947 and containing 11 storefronts located at 281-301 Warner Ave. Built in its place would be a four-story apartment building with room for seven stores on the ground floor

“There are essentially three options: to leave Warner Avenue zoned as it has been for many years, to modify the zoning compatible with the developer’s vision, or to modify the zoning in some other way,” the mayor said. “After that, a developer, knowing the parameters we have established for the zone, could submit an application … This will be a lengthy, thoroughly vetted process, which at best will not reach fruition until the middle of the year.”

Lindsay Lohan’s Dad, Michael Lohan, Arrested for Domestic Incident

Michael Lohan

Michael Lohan, father of actress Lindsay Lohan, was arrested Monday for allegedly assaulting his estranged wife in her Southampton home, Southampton Village Police said.

Lohan, 59, was charged with misdemeanor criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and second-degree harassment, a violation.

“Mr. Lohan is accused of becoming verbally and physically abusive,” police said in a statement. “While in custody, Mr. Lohan complained of chest pains and was transported to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.”

He was arraigned Tuesday at Southampton Village Justice Court.

“He got extremely violent and threatened to stab me,” Kate Major said a police report, according to the Daily Mail, which first reported the story. “Put his hand around the left side of my neck with his hand. My neck hurts and is bruised.”

He was previously accused of attacking Majors in 2011 and Majors was accused of assaulting Lohan the following year.

Lohan and Major were married in 2014, separated a year later, and have two children. Lohan has custody of the kids. 

His arrest comes a month after Lindsay Lohan’s mother, Dina Lohan, pleaded not guilty to felony driving while intoxicated following an alleged hit-and-run crash in Merrick.

Thomas Valva Case Sparks New Questions For Suffolk Authorities

L. to R.: Thomas Valva was a third-grade student at East Moriches Elementary School. The boy’s father, Michael Valva, and live-in fiancee, Angela Pollina, were charged with murder in the boy’s death.

The tragic death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva, whose father allegedly left the boy overnight in a freezing garage at their Center Moriches home last month, has sparked another round of tough questions for Suffolk County authorities.

Suffolk Child Protective Services (CPS) is the subject of an internal probe to review its handling of the case, county officials are conducting an outside inquiry into agency protocols — especially into how it handles cases of children with disabilities, as the victim was autistic — and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services is also investigating the incident. That’s on top of the police investigation that resulting in charges of second-degree murder and endangering the welfare of a child against the father, suspended New York City Police Department Officer Michael Valva, and his fiancee, Angela Pollina, both of whom pleaded not guilty and were ordered held without bail. The victim’s body was just 76 degrees when he was taken to the hospital the next morning after police said the father reported the boy fell on his way to school.

“Daddy says to me that I can’t listen to you and I can’t hug you and I can’t say, ‘I love you, Mommy’ and ‘I miss you, Mommy,’” Thomas’s 6-year-old brother, Andrew, who also has autism, said in in one of many videos documenting alleged child abuse that their mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, posted on Twitter before Thomas died. When asked why, Andrew replied: “Daddy’s going to put me outside.”

It’s not the first time CPS has come under fire. In 2017, a Suffolk grand jury issued an investigative report suggesting that the understaffed agency dropped the ball in properly alerting foster care agencies to avoid placing children with a man who was accused, and later acquitted, of sexually abusing foster children in his care. And in 2007, a Press investigation found multiple instances of school officials in Suffolk abusing CPS’ anonymous reporting system by retaliating against parents of children with special needs who were at odds with administrators over students’ learning plans.

This is the county that recently had its former district attorney and his chief public corruption investigator convicted in federal court of covering an ex-police chief’s beating of a handcuffed suspect. The attorney and the investigator are appealing.

In the Valva case, the boy’s teachers made about 20 calls to the state child abuse hotline after the boys showed up at school with signs of abuse such as a black eye, being unfed, and missing days at a time, the Daily News reported. The boy’s mother also reported allegations of child abuse in 2016 to police in Nassau County, where the couple lived before their divorce, but again, no action was taken. Nassau legislators held a Feb. 5 public hearing on the Valva case.

“This hearing will help us identify any potential areas of improvement within our departments so that they may be corrected to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” said Nassau Legislator James Kennedy (R-Massapequa).

In addition to the probes of CPS in Suffolk and Nassau’s review, advocates are also calling out Family Court judges who handled the case for their role in failing to prevent the boy’s death. A rally was held outside Nassau court in Mineola on the week of the boy’s funeral calling for the judges involved to step down. Judge Joseph Lorintz denied the victim’s mother’s pleas to grant her custody of the boys and she insisted that their lives were at risk in their father’s care, the News reported.

“I can’t remember everything you’re saying because you’re saying so much,” the judge told her, according to the News.

The case is shaping up to be a wake-up call that business as usual will not stand for CPS and the Family Court system.

“As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “As county executive, I want to know if there’s anything else that could have been done under existing law to prevent this from happening. Beyond that, I want to know if anything in this case suggests that changes should be made to existing policy or law.”

 

Nassau Detectives Contract Deal Aims To Lessen Shortage of Investigators

Nassau County lawmakers have approved a new contract with the Nassau County Police Department’s Detective’s Association (DAI) that county and union officials hope will solve a detective shortage.

County legislators voted Jan. 27 to approve the contract, which runs eight and a half years. The same day, the Nassau County Police Department has promoted 24 police officers to Detective, helping to fill gaps in the detective squads in the Sixth and Eighth Precincts. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority approved the pact last week.

“This deal will boost law enforcement’s ability to fight crime and safeguard our communities,” said Nassau County Executive Curran.

The deal is the first deal that the Curran administration has struck with one of the county’s unions. Negotiations are ongoing with the larger Nassau Police Benevolent Association that represents the county’s patrol officers and the Civil Service Employee’s Association, which represents thousands of other county workers.

“This contract with its raises and new grade structure provides a career path not only for police officers, but just as important it will retain many of the current senior members of the detective division who will train and mentor these new detectives,” said DAI President John Wighaus. “The contract will incentivize police officers to apply for the designation of detective.”

Wighaus said the county has about 300 detectives and had a shortage of 60 when the contract was passed. Seven detectives had gone back to being patrol officers before the deal was struck because financial incentives had been better. Since the deal, he’s gotten 20 requests from officers asking to be promoted to detective.

The new contract, which was ratified by the DAI in late December, includes a total wage increase of 15 percent and shortens the period to get to top pay from 75 months to 48. The contract also remedies the chronic shortage of detectives by establishing a career path to recruit and retain detectives by creating a second tier for those who don’t want to become supervisors. 

In addition, it offers concessions to help the county grapple with perennial financial trouble. Detectives will work more hours, which will increase police presence, and they will begin contributing to their health insurance starting next year. It will also slowly reduce the entitlement to termination pay over time.

“With this agreement, Nassau County has implemented a long-term framework that the Legislature’s Independent Office of Budget Review has determined will increase the level of dedicated public safety resources by addressing the critical detective shortage in a manner that effectively manages future costs to Nassau taxpayers,” said Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams (D-Freeport).

Long Island Native and Dad of Parkland Victim Ejected from State Of The Union Address

L. to R.: President Donald Trump delivered his State of The Union address Tuesday, Feb. 4; Fred Guttenberg with his daughter, Jaime.

A Long Island native who’s been calling for new gun laws after his daughter was killed in a mass shooting was ejected Tuesday from President Donald Trump’s State of The Union address. 

Fred Guttenberg, an LI native who has lived in Florida since 1989, made the outburst that got him removed from the audience when Trump said that he would “always protect your Second Amendment right to bear arms.” What exactly Guttenberg was yelling was unclear, but he later apologized on Twitter for the outburst.

“I am thankful for the overwhelming support that I am receiving,” he tweeted. “However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety.”

Related Story: Long Island Native and Dad of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Mass Shooting Victim Advocates for Gun Safety Laws

His 14-year-old daughter, Jaime Guttenberg — along with 16 other students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — lost her life to a 19-year-old gunman who opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on February 14, 2018.

Guttenberg attended the address as a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who caused a stir with her own act of protest. After Trump gave his speech, Pelosi, who was seated behind the president, tore up a copy of the address that Trump gave her before he began giving his remarks. That came after Trump refused to shake her hand.

Guttenberg previously made headlines in the nation’s capitol when he tried to shake U.S. Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh’s hand during the justice’s nomination hearings. Kavanaugh rebuffed Guttenberg.

After his daughter’s passing, Guttenberg established two organizations: Orange Ribbons (www.orangeribbonsforjaime.org), a nonprofit foundation aimed to honor his daughter and all her life’s passions, including anti-bullying programs and the Humane Society; and Orange Ribbons For Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun safety reforms and candidates who will pursue gun safety.