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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.

Long Island Covid-19 Cases Double to 200,000 in 2 Months

Blood sample tube positive with COVID-19 or novel coronavirus 2019 found in Wuhan, China

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Long Island has doubled to more than 200,000 in slightly more than two month’s time, New York State health data shows.

Nassau County has 96,112 diagnosed Covid-19 cases and Suffolk County has 106,061 for a total of 202,173 for the region as of Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health. The number of cases on LI had crossed the 100,000 mark on Nov. 1, nine months after the first case was confirmed in the region.

“In 31 days we saw the highest number of new cases since the beginning of this crisis and suffered 100 more deaths than we experienced in the prior six months combined,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “With distribution of the vaccine underway, the goal line is in sight but we must remain vigilant in the weeks and months ahead.”

New York State recently tallied more than 1 million cases of the virus, which is also double what it had about two months ago. As of Wednesday, there were 1,057,676 cases in the Empire State, 21 million nationwide, and 86 million worldwide.

The infection rate on the Island was 9.6 percent as of Monday and the statewide rate is 7.9 percent, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Also as of Tuesday, Covid-19 cases in which patients died rose to 10,965 in New York State, 360,693 nationwide, and 1.8 million worldwide. Those included 4,833 on LI: 2,445 in Nassau, and 2,388 in Suffolk.

The rise in cases comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 5,306,797 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning and distributed 17,288,950 doses.

The tally of vaccine doses distributed and the number of people who received the first dose are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccines as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on Jan. 5, the agency had administered 4,836,469 first doses of the vaccines and distributed 17,020,575 doses.

A total of 3,416,875 vaccine doses were distributed for use in long-term care facilities and 511,635 people in the facilities got their first dose, the agency said.

-With Reuters

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Suffolk Sees Most New Covid-19 Cases in One Day Since March

A medical technician works at a drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility at the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals company in New York on September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Suffolk County reported Wednesday the most new coronavirus cases in one day since the pandemic began nine months ago, officials said.

New York State data showed Suffolk had 1,650 new cases while Nassau County had 1,273.

“To put it simply, today’s COVID-19 numbers are shocking,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.Not only is this the highest number of new cases reported since the onset of the pandemic, but the double-digit positivity rate puts us right back to where we were in early May.”

Suffolk’s positivity rate was 12.8 percent, triple what is was on Dec. 1, while Nassau’s infection rate is 10.5 percent, double what it was a month ago and the highest since the reopening.

 

“Our numbers continue to move in the wrong direction and the last thing we want is to have our businesses and schools close when we are so close to having large-scale vaccine distribution,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “We need to all stick to our commonsense guidance to avoid welcoming the new year with new restrictions. I urge residents to celebrate the New Year responsibly so we can enter 2021 with a clear path to our recovery.” 

Bellone also urged New Year’s Eve revelers to celebrate responsibly.

“We are the only ones who can change these numbers,” he said. “We have seen this virus spread during the holiday season through small gatherings in homes where people are more likely to let their guard down. As we approach New Year’s Eve, I urge Suffolk County residents to limit gatherings and to do what we know works: wear face coverings and socially distance.”

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Suit Aims to Block Forced Retirement of 7 Long Island Judges

vinas

A group of New York State judges who are among those being forced to retire at the end of the year are suing court leaders in Suffolk County court to try to keep their jobs.

Justice Daniel J. Tambasco, who lives in Suffolk, is among four appellate judges who filed suit last month to block state court leaders’ decision not to recertify 46 judges statewide older than 70, including seven who preside over cases on Long Island. Court leaders cited coronavirus-related budget cuts for declining to recertify the judges. 

“These 46 judges will receive full pension payments as opposed to their yearly salaries,” the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit. “The cost to the public is virtually the same.”

State law requires septuagenarian jurists biannually apply for recertification between ages 70 and the mandatory retirement age of 76. The decision not to recertify the 46 came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut the judiciary’s budget by $300 million to help close a $14 billion state deficit. As the Press has reported, the affected LI judges are three in Nassau County, three in Suffolk, and one appellate justice.

“This extremely difficult but necessary determination will save the court system more than $55 million over the next two years,” Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks wrote Sept. 29 in a memo to judges statewide.

A Suffolk judge reportedly issued a temporary restraining order last week blocking the forced retirements slated for Dec. 31 and allowing the judges to remain on the bench while the case proceeds.

“If they win, the resignation goes in the shredder,” attorney James Catterson, who represents one of the judges, told the court Friday during a virtual hearing, according to Courthouse News. “If they lose, it’s all over.”

Related Story: NY Forcing 7 Long Island Judges To Retire

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Winter Storm Dumps 8 Inches of Snow on Long Island

NWS graphic

The first big winter storm of the season dumped more than 8 inches of snow on parts of Long Island overnight Wednesday into Thursday days before winter arrives Monday.

Although the National Weather Service forecast about a foot of snow for the region, the nor’easter fell a few inches short of that prediction, with 8.2 inches in Miller Place coming in as the highest accumulation on LI. Fears of strong winds downing utility lines and causing power outages also were not as bas as expected, with PSEG Long Island reporting nearly 3,500 of its 1.1 million customers losing power, which the utility said was mostly restored the same day.

“This storm brought down trees and wires throughout our service area,” John O’Connell, Vice President, Transmission & Distribution, PSEG Long Island. “We know that being without power for any length of time is a hardship and we thank our customers for their patience as we work through the damage and difficult conditions to restore their power safely and quickly as possible.”

Snow totals are as follows:

Suffolk
Miller Place: 8.2 
Commack: 8.1
East Northport: 8.0  
Nesconset: 8.0 
Islip Airport: 7.4 
E Yaphank: 7.0 
Centerport: 6.9 
Smithtown: 6.7 
Calverton: 6.5  
Stony Brook: 6.4 
Orient Point: 6.0 
Bay Shore: 5.7  
Riverhead: 5.2 
Remsenburg-Speonk: 5.2 
Manorville: 4.9  
Sayville: 4.5  
West Islip: 4.0  
Amityville: 3.5 
Southampton: 3.3 
Islip Terrace: 3.3 

Nassau
Syosset: 8.0 
Melville: 8.0 
West Hempstead: 7.5 
East Williston: 7.3  
1 ENE Syosset: 7.0  
East Meadow: 6.2  
Farmingdale: 5.9 
Merrick: 5.6  
Plainedge: 5.5 
Floral Park: 5.5 
Plainview: 5.3 
Roosevelt: 5.2  

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Long Island Restaurants Still Open for Indoor Dining Amid New Covid-19 Restrictions in NYC

Bar patrons patronize an establishment in Huntington after outdoor dining was allowed to resume. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Long Island restaurants remain open for indoor dining despite eateries in New York City reverting to outdoor dining only for at least two weeks as of Monday amid a spike in coronavirus cases, officials say.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has cited the rising Covid-19 and related hospitalization rates in the city and an inappropriately high rate of transmission as the key reasons for ceasing indoor dining, which had been limited to 25% capacity. The governor warned that if cases continue to surge, dining could revert to takeout only as it di in the spring.

“I will do everything I can to keep [restaurants] open and operating, safely,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “We must help our businesses, small and large, recover from the financial devastation of this pandemic. I will continue to do everything I can to limit restrictions on our restaurants and keep businesses and schools open.”

Curran and city restaurateurs noted that 74 percent of new infections are coming from private household gatherings while 1.4 percent are coming from restaurants and bars, despite moving dining indoors with the change in weather.

The governor suggested that while there would be hardship from the loss of indoor dining in NYC, he expressed hope that the expansion of outdoor dining and the acclimation of New Yorkers to it, even in colder months, might help the businesses get through the difficult period.

Curran noted that bars and restaurants may struggle to keep temporary outdoor structures open this week when a nor’easter is forecast to dump more than a foot of snow are parts of the Island.

“I’m hearing some anxiety from our restaurant owners,” Curran said. “I think some of them will be taking them down, they’ll be taking precautions.”

-With amNY Metro

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Suffolk Police Scandal’s Effect on Gilgo Beach Probe Eyed in Investigation Discovery TV Special, Podcast

L. to R.: Billy Jensen and Alexis Linkletter. (Investigation Discovery photo)

How corruption in the Suffolk County Police Department weighed on the investigation into the unsolved Gilgo Beach serial murders will be the focus of a TV special and podcast coming soon to Investigation Discovery.

Investigative journalists Billy Jensen, who helped revive the Long Island Press in 2003, and Alexis Linkletter, a true crime documentary producer from Nissequogue, teamed up on a seven-part podcast dubbed Unraveled: Long Island Serial Killer, to be released on Jan. 27, followed by a two-part TV special scheduled to air on Memorial Day.

“We’re investigating the investigation,” Jensen said. “We’re not starting with Shannan Gilbert, as everybody does. We’re starting with the police department.”

ID says the duo will expose the untold story of why the case remains unsolved. They promise new revelations stemming from Christopher Loeb, the man who former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke was convicted of beating while Loeb was handcuffed in a police station.

“That’s sort of the thread we pulled on to let us look into Burke’s influence over the Long Island Serial Killer investigation,” Linkletter said. “Once he was promoted, resources that were being put toward solving the case were kind of pulled and put elsewhere.”

Jensen noted Burke severed the department’s ties with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, which initially worked with Suffolk Homicide Squad detectives after police found 10 sets of human remains along Ocean Parkway in 2010 and ’11 while searching for Gilbert. The Press first reported that Suffolk police quit the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force in 2012. The department has since rejoined the task force, re-partnered with the FBI on the Gilgo case, and current Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart is a former FBI agent.

“The idea that if you’re the chief of police of police and you have this gigantic serial killer investigation, the biggest case in front of you, and you kick out the most sophisticated law enforcement detective agency that’s ever been, you kick out the FBI, and says, ‘we don’t want your help,’ you start looking at why would somebody do that?” Jensen said. “You start looking at why would somebody do that?”

Linkletter, who helped create Unmasking a Killer for CNN and Deadly Recall for Investigation Discovery, said Burke’s motivation for the move remains a mystery.

“The very best case scenario is that he sabotaged the investigation to cover up his own illicit behavior, whether that’s indulging in sex workers or drug use,” she said. “That’s really the best case scenario, which is not good.”

Jensen, who helped finish Michelle McNamara’s No. 1 New York Times bestselling book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark about the hunt for the Golden State Killer and penned Chase Darkness with Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders, found the department’s tightlipped nature stood out the most.

He said, “I’ve never worked a story where the law enforcement and the people in power were as cagey as the potential suspects.”

Dec. 11 marks the 10th anniversary of the case. Listen to the trailer for the podcast here:

Related Story: Lifetime Turning Long Island Serial Killer Case Into TV Movie

Related Story: Lost Girls Director Liz Garbus Hopes Her Netflix Movie Will Help Solve The Gilgo Beach Murders

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Suffolk Legis.-elect Caracappa Charged With Domestic Violence, Cops Say

Nicholas Caracappa

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Nicholas Caracappa of Selden was arrested Tuesday for alleged domestic violence less than a month before he is scheduled to be sworn into office, Suffolk County police said.

Officers responded to the 53-year-old’s Hawkins Road home, where he was charged with first-degree criminal contempt, a felony, and a misdemeanor count of criminal obstruction of breathing related to a domestic incident, police said. Judge James Saladino released Caracappa without bail following his initial appearance at First District Court in Central Islip.

“If you think you are going to get 50 percent and give it to a stupid douchebag, I will kill you first,” Caracappa told the victim, according to court documents that authorities filed in the case. Authorities said he also “grabbed and pushed the victim…up against a wall and squeezed her neck and prevented her from breathing.”

Caracappa was elected in a November special election to fill the year left on the term of the late Legislator Tom Muratore, who represented Suffolk’s centrally located fourth district until he died in September. The Conservative Party member is expected to caucus with the legislature’s Republican minority.

Caracappa previously worked for the Suffolk County Water Authority for more than 34 years, was president of Local 393 Utility Workers union, and served on the Middle Country School Board. The district seat he won was previously represented by his mother, Rose Caracappa, whose name adorns the legislative chamber where lawmakers hold their meetings in Hauppauge.

Two Suffolk legislators also are facing criminal charges.

Suffolk Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) pleaded not guilty to drug charges in October after authorities said he tried to trade drugs for sexual favors from an undercover police officer posing as a sex worker. 

And Suffolk Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) was arrested in 2019 on perjury charges resulting from a county ethics law investigation, Suffolk prosecutors have said. Sunderman also pleaded not guilty. Both Sunderman and Spencer remain sitting lawmakers while their cases are pending.

Caracappa is due back in court on Jan. 21. He is scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 4. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
 
“The arrest of and the allegations against Legislator-elect Nicholas Caracappa are very serious,” Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said. “I do not know the specifics of the case and cannot comment further. He was not to be sworn in until January, but these events do not undo the election. He has a right to his day in court. At this time my prayers are with his family.”
 
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Long Island Covid-19 Cases Still Rising

Dr. Saulo Castellano labels a nasal swab sample inside a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Alliant Energy Center complex, as the coronavirus disease outbreak continues in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

The coronavirus infection rate continues to rise on Long Island as local officials sound the alarm that the public must remain vigilant and not get complacent about efforts to curb the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, Nassau County officials reported the latest infection rate is 5.8 percent, the highest it’s been in months, and Suffolk County officials said its latest positivity rate was 6.5 percent. New York State officials said the infection rate for the Long Island region was 5.68 percent as of Monday.

“Today’s news about impending [Food and Drug Administration] approvals for Covid-19 vaccines is monumental, but we must not allow it to lull us into a false sense of complacency,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday. “Our data is beginning to show a more even distribution of disease activity among all age-groups across the county. We have now reached a clear point of community spread, which calls for increased vigilance from all of us.”

There were 135,519 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Long Island — 69,024 in Suffolk and 66,495 in Nassau as of Tuesday, state date shows. There were 722,464 cases statewide, 15.1 million nationwide, and 68.3 million worldwide as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Suffolk saw four straight days of more than 1,000 cases per day last week, and Bellone noted the county saw only 12 days of more than 1,000 new cases per day during the peak of the first wave in the spring. Suffolk had another 1,164 new cases on Monday compared to Nassau’s 863. Bellone reiterated that small gatherings remain the largest risk of spreading the virus, besides not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

“I cannot stress enough the dangers posed by small indoor gatherings,” Bellone said. “Just because you are in your home with people you trust does not mean you are safe. If we don’t change our behaviors quickly our hospital system will be at risk of being overwhelmed and we will lose more lives.”

Suffolk reported that as of Saturday there were 359 patients hospitalized and 57 patients in intensive care units. Nassau’s hospitals are reporting 343 Covid-19 patients, 50 in ICU, and 34 intubated, officials said. LI had 18 percent of its hospital beds available and 25 percent of its intensive care unit beds available on a seven-day average as of Tuesday, state data shows.

“While we may all be tired, it is abundantly clear that this virus is not,” said Bellone. “Everything we do now and over the next few weeks is about saving lives and preventing our hospital system from being overwhelmed.”
 

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6 More Long Island Restaurants Accused of Covid-19 Violations, Face Liquor License Suspensions

Getty Images

Four restaurants in Suffolk County and to more in Nassau County recently had their liquor licenses suspended after authorities said the businesses violated New York State-issued coronavirus restrictions. 

The eateries were Rockwell’s Bar & Grill in Smithtown, Station Pub in Sayville, Buen Ambiente in Patchogue, Best Pizza and Dive Bar in Amagansett, Bachata in Hempstead, and Cabo Sports Bar & Mexican Grill in New Hyde Park, officials said.

“As we move into the colder weather and are forced indoors, it is imperative that businesses stay compliant across the state,” State Liquor Authority (SLA) Chair Vincent Bradley said. “New Yorkers must continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and following the life-saving protocols put into place to keep us all healthy.”

The six local establishments were among 36 statewide that had their licenses suspended for alleged violations in recent weeks. They are among 279 that have faced similar action since the pandemic restrictions began.

At Rockwell’s Bar & Grill, investigators said they spotted patrons standing, drinking, and walking without facial coverings in the packed bar on Nov. 20, shortly after prior violations were issued there.

On the same date at Station Pub, investigators similarly spotted mask-less patrons walking around, no evidence of food being served as required to be served alcoholic beverages, and a bartender not wearing a facial covering. The bar was also allegedly after the state-mandated 10 p.m. closing time.

“The owner refused to wear a facemask and became belligerent with investigators, refusing to provide the establishment’s liquor license or his ID — both serious violations,
independent of Covid-related rules,” authorities said in a statement.  A GoFundMe campaign was started to help raise money to pay the fines, calling the bar’s closure “a loss to all in this community.”

On Nov. 18, investigators found 43 patrons crowded inside Cabo Sports Bar & Mexican Grill, which has a maximum occupancy of 25 under Covid-related regulations, and documented numerous patrons and employees without masks, tables improperly spaced, and a complete disregard for social distancing protocols. When the investigator returned at 10:30 p.m., the patrons were still drinking, congregating, and smoking hookah.

At Buen Ambiente, Suffolk County police responded to a shooting on Oct 24. While reviewing surveillance video, the restaurant was found to have hosted a large event with more than 50 people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, drinking, dancing and smoking hookah, with two exotic dancers performing lap dances, according to the SLA. Two people were treated at a local hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.

At Best Pizza and Dive Bar, plainclothes officers from the East Hampton Town Police
Department entered the establishment and observed about 20 patrons seated
at and standing around the crowded bar, mingling, ignoring social distancing, and not
wearing masks on Nov. 15, authorities said. No food was served with alcoholic beverages, they added. And bartenders also continually removed their facial coverings to talk to patrons, officials added.

Lastly, at Bachata, Hempstead village police and the Nassau County Fire Marshalls Office discovered 71 patrons packed inside the premises, many crowding around the bar, despite a maximum occupancy of 44 on Nov. 8. In addition to patrons ignoring social distancing rules, three employees were observed working without facial coverings and no food of any kind was observed being served, according to the SLA.

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Suffolk Cops Release New Pics of Belt in Giglo Beach Probe

Suffolk police released these new images of a belt found in the Gilgo Beach investigation. (SCPD photos)

Suffolk County police released Monday two new images of a belt recovered 10 years ago this month in the Gilgo Beach serial murder investigation.

The photos were posted on gilgonews.com, the website the department launched in January as a platform for background information and updates on the case, show both sides of the tip of the belt.

“We are hopeful this photo will bring someone forward with information about its origin,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart has said of the first photo of the belt released earlier this year.

Police previously disclosed the evidence — the first new investigatory detail the department shared since the remains were found along Ocean Parkway in 2010 an ’11 — in January on the same day that Netflix released a trailer for Lost Girls, a movie about the case.

The black leather belt embossed with the half-inch initials “HM” or “WH” was found at an unspecified victim’s dump site, police said. Investigators believe the belt was handled by the killer and didn’t belong to any of the victims, but they declined to release the belt size.

Police were searching for Shannan Gilbert, a New Jersey woman reported missing in May 2010 from Oak Beach, when they discovered 10 sets of human remains—half of whom were also identified as escorts — along Ocean Parkway between December 2010 and April 2011. Gilbert was later found dead, but police and medical examiners have suggested she may have drowned in a marsh — although her family insists she was murdered.

Dec. 11 is the 10th anniversary of police finding victim Melissa Barthelemy, one of four young women found nearby one another in Gilgo Beach — a discovery that marked the first time Suffolk police confirmed they are looking for a serial killer since dubbed the Long Island Serial Killer.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart holds up a photo of initials on a belt found at a Gilgo Beach crime scene. (Long Island Press photo)

Related Story: Did Police Name A Suspect in The Long Island Serial Killer Case?

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

Related Story: Questions Remain in Long Island Serial Killer Case

Related Story: Red Herrings Among Tips in Long Island Serial Killer Case

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